It was supposed to be a happy sendoff for Lorenzo Wells as his family moved to Texas.
He would qualify for state in the 300 hurdles and help Portage's 400 relay earn a spot on the awards podium.
Then, something went terribly wrong.
"It was pretty much like, set, I went, and go," Wells recalled.
Wells jumped the start gun for the relay at the Portage Sectional, disqualifying his top-seeded team.
"I was feeling it every time I looked at a person on the relay team, that I let them down," Wells said.
Portage lost the sectional by seven points and the regional by five, margins they likely would've overcome without the DQ.
"It was like a festering sore that wouldn't go away," Indians coach John Kappes said. "From that point on, things didn't click for him. He's a passionate kid. He wants more than anything to be successful and he felt responsible for taking that opportunity away from the other guys.
"My heart certainly went out to him."
A few weeks later, Wells left for Frisco, Texas. He tried to run during the summer, but it just didn't feel the same. Fortunes didn't fall into place for the family in the Lone Star State, and Wells' mom talked to him and his sister about moving back.
"She asked me, 'What about track?' and I said there isn't anything that beats Portage track," he said. "I'd probably give my life to come back. It was the first time I've seen her break down and cry."
In January, as Kappes was in the process of updating the roster, Wells walked into the office. What he thought was just a visit turned out to be the best news he could get.
"He said they had moved back," Kappes said. "He was a sight for sore eyes. You could tell he was excited. 'Zo's got a great smile. When he walks through the door, it's the first thing you see, and it was great to see it again.
"He's one of those utility guys you can build a team around."
Wells' favorite race is the 300 hurdles, the event he qualified for regionals in last year. He is targeting Kyle Sweeney's record of 38.8.
"I can beat it," Wells said.
He's also one of Portage's top sprinters, a role taking on added importance with state medalist Jeron Blake recovering from a leg issue.
"I just want it for the team, to help them get points, to get the win," Wells said. "With Jeron out, I realized I have to be more of a leader, help the other guys get faster. When we're running and we're on rep eight of 10 reps, my legs hurt and I want to stop, I can't because I know that's how it's going to be feel at state on the final stretch.
"I'm determined to make it and I know I will accomplish my goal."
Long term, Wells figures to run the second leg on the 400 relay, but there will come a time when he's back in the same position he was in at the sectional.
"We're going to re-visit that situation," Kappes said. "I told him he came back here for a reason. He's got a renewed sense of purpose. It was an anomaly. He's going to learn from it, grow from it and we're going to put it to bed."
Wells would prefer to leave it in the past now. He doesn't want to start the relay, but deep inside, he knows he has to, for closure's sake.
"I have to do something to try to make it right," he said. "It still bothers me. It's something I should be able to overcome. My grandfather (David Peterson) told me to look at it like maybe it's a sign.
"It's somebody telling you you're at the bottom and now all you can do is get better, get faster. I'll use it as motivation to keep going."