LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- For several weeks this past summer, Dustin Horter headed out the door for a “lighter run” of seven or eight miles starting at 5:45 a.m.
The solo exercise was meant to build up the mental and physical endurance for the 16-year-old Lakota East cross country standout. His aim was distance and not necessarily speed at that point of the year.
Horter, a junior, put in 52 miles weekly until a break in late July. He’d run either at Voice of America Park, Fort Liberty Park or his neighborhood and beat the heat with an early workout.
Horter had a plan entering this season: That included breaking the school record first and winning a state championship. Step one is already accomplished. An opportunity for step two appears near.
He also had plenty of motivation. Horter finished fourth in the 3,200-meter run at the Division I state track meet in Columbus in early June. He was bypassed in the final 400 meters despite setting several new records for himself and the school district.
Even now, Horter thinks about the final 400 meters and remembers the disappointment of the result this spring at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“I don’t want to ever have that feeling ever again,” he said.
Horter also competed in a national meet this past summer and was disappointed by his performance.
“I used that as my motivation to come back and really strike hard this cross country season and make sure I was really making a bang in the nation and Ohio,” Horter said.
He has done just that.
He worked on his speed early this season. He broke the 18-year-old school record Oct. 14 when he ran 15:01.2 at Voice of America. The previous Lakota East record was held by Brian Godsey with a time of 15:08 the same year he won the 1998 Division I state title.
Horter wanted a sub-15 but he was pleased with the outcome. In fact, he broke his own previous course record of 15:11 he set as a sophomore.
Now his focus is on that state championship.
Horter won the district title Oct. 22 at Voice of America Park when he ran 15:02.09, an average of 4:50.4 each mile. The regional meet is this Saturday at Troy.
His performances aren’t surprising to Lakota East coach Adam Thomas. Horter has been impressive since middle school. He’s led by example early in high school career.
On a chilly, windy afternoon the day before district, Horter was with his teammates for a five-mile warmup run.
Maybe even more impressive is the fact that the standout shakes the hand of every runner who finishes after him in a the race.
“He’s kind of the perfect storm of talent, work ethic, the mental aspect of the sport and sportsmanship,” Thomas said. “So when all that stuff comes together in one person big performances like that happen.”
Others have noticed. Lakota East football coach Rick Haynes, who is an assistant principal at the school, says Horter’s level of sportsmanship is unmatched.
Haynes, a longtime area football coach, was a longtime assistant under former Colerain coach Kerry Coombs and the powerful Cardinals teams in the early 2000s.
“(Horter) might be the humblest, most well-behaved superstar I have ever been around,” Haynes said.
Horter doesn’t make a big deal of what he does. He simply wants to hear other runners’ stories including his sister, Lakota East freshman Danielle Horter. She’s taken her brother’s advice on meets this season and knows how amazing this season has been for him.
“I don’t know how he couldn’t love this sport,” Danielle said. “He’s always working. He’s always striving to be better.”