UPDATE: Dustin Horter ran a personal best 4:04 at Mason on May 4. Watch in the video player above.
LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Lakota East Athletic Director Rich Bryant was preparing to close up Thunderhawk Stadium on a Tuesday night this past September when he received an unusual request.
The Lakota East boys' soccer team had just played Princeton to a tie; it was 9:30 p.m., and soon fans and teams would be headed for the exits.
But for Lakota East cross country and track standout Dustin Horter, the night had just begun.
Horter arrived at the stadium after returning to the area from a college visit on the West Coast. He needed to get a 12-mile workout on the track.
Bryant knew nothing could keep Horter from maintaining his focus – even after a long flight.
"It would be so easy to skip that workout," Bryant said. "No one would've known. He had the perfect excuse. But he is out there doing it."
Horter had just flown back from a college visit at Northern Arizona University and his mother, Betsy, had picked up him at the airport gate an hour earlier. Together, they drove to the high school.
Horter ran 20 laps around the track, then proceeded to run by the Kroger nearby and other area businesses. With the stadium lights turned off, Horter ran the final two miles on the track with Betsy's car lights as his guide.
Neither darkness nor spotted thunderstorms in the distance could keep him from accomplishing his training goals that day.
"I've told people for years he's not right," said Byron Horter, Dustin's father. "He wants to do athletics and everything else the best he possibly can. If he's going to do it, he's all in. And he's willing to work until he gets there."
Horter, 18, is the most accomplished individual student-athlete ever at Lakota East. The Indiana University signee has won five state titles, including a national indoor title in the 1,600-meter run this past March.
He wants to be an Olympian. He also wants to compete professionally. No one is doubting his goals.
"He's the fiercest competitor I've ever met," said Bryant, who has been the Lakota East athletic director for the past 10 years and was a Colerain head wrestling coach and football assistant prior to that. "He hates to lose or fall short in any way. He puts himself in a position where he can't second-guess himself based on things he can control."
As the final weeks of the spring season and the school year draw near, it's only natural seniors start looking forward to their collegiate careers.
Horter manages to stay in the moment. He's locked in. And the standout runner isn't satisfied just yet. On April 27, Horter ran a 1:50.72 in the 800-meter run at the Huber Heights Wayne Invitational.
That time was the No. 6 all-time highest in the event in Ohio, No. 3 nationally this spring, along with a school, district and meet record, according to Lakota East coach Adam Thomas.
This Friday night, Horter has another opportunity at the national spotlight.
Horter has made it clear he would like an opportunity to break the 4-minute-mile mark at the Mason Invitational. Only 10 high school male athletes have ever accomplished that feat anywhere in the nation.
"I know him and his coach," Mason boys cross country coach Tom Rapp said. "It is possible."
The Mason Invitational starts at 4 p.m. Friday, with the fast mile race likely starting at 8:30 p.m., according to meet organizers.
Horter feels good about the training this week and said Friday will be a good opportunity for a precursor to the state meet in Columbus on June 1-2.
"That's something that nobody can really take away from me, so I've worked really hard for it and I think I am ready for it," Horter said. "But if for some reason it wasn't to happen – maybe in the moment I would be upset about it – but in reality it's just trying as close to four (minutes), if not sub-four if I can. It's a big deal to me. I want to do it really bad. But at the end of the day everything is secured. I am just going to go out there and risk it all and not really have a worry about anything."
Horter is naturally wired to compete. He wants to win. Anything less than No. 1 will add extra fuel to his motivation. But he also has perspective. He's appreciative of the opportunities to take multiple trips to the West Coast and also to be able to run in Scotland a few months ago.
Horter wants to be a role model to others -- whether that's posing for a photo or answering direct messages from others seeking running advice on social media. At times the spotlight has been surreal.
"It's been unbelievable," Horter said. "God has sent me on this path. He had a plan. Just taking that into account I am very blessed with all the people I've had around me. Every teammate, every person cheering me on in the stands -- it just means a lot to me. It's meant a lot to my life. It's been a huge part of my life."
Horter's Christian faith is his most important motivation. He says a prayer before every race. He also wants to represent his family well.
"In order to be great you have to have something bigger than yourself that you are running for," Horter said.
Horter, who has over a 4.0 grade-point average, won back-to-back Division I state cross country titles in 2016 and '17. He was the state indoor and outdoor champion in the 1,600-meter run in 2017. He won the national indoor title in the 1,600 at the New Balance Indoor National Meet on March 11 in New York.
But he isn't finished yet.
"It's easy for seniors to kind of lose focus on the current season and start looking forward," Lakota East coach Adam Thomas said. "He's not happy with five state titles. He wants two more this outdoor season, so he's pretty geared up."
"He obviously has an incredible amount of talent," Thomas said. "I think he is still learning about how much talent he has and what his limits are. I think beyond that the thing that makes Dustin at the next level is just his work ethic. Having talent is one thing but being willing to put everything you have into almost every single workout – there has been very, very few workouts – I could probably count them on one hand – that he wasn't able to master."
Horter, who plans to study business at Indiana University, is also cognizant of being a good competitor who shakes hands with his opponents. He has remained humble and approachable in his example.
"He's not just all about a sport," said his mother, Betsy Horter. "He embodies more than just a fast runner. Since you want to be remembered in the end, you want to be remembered as the person you are, not just the sport."
Even though running is his passion, Horter likes the Indianapolis Colts. He also enjoys collecting shoes as a hobby of sorts. He likes being around other people and sharing his sense of humor.
Thomas likes to kid with his standout runner that when they go to Subway, the Lakota East senior always gets the "Dustin Horter Special" as Thomas likes to call it.
"Literally it's turkey on bread – that's his sandwich," Thomas said. "It's hilarious watching the people that work there. They are like, ‘No, seriously, what else do you want on it?'"
Depending on how close it is to race time, Horter will eat a 6-inch sub about five hours out and another six inches 2 ½ hours from the meet.
It's that type of focus and discipline that has proved to be the recipe for success for one of Greater Cincinnati's most accomplished individual high school athletes in recent memory.
It wouldn't be any surprise to see him earn more hardware in Columbus the first weekend in June. He is scheduled to compete in the Brooks PR Invitational Meet in Seattle on June 8.
"He's just an amazing kid," Bryant said. "A phenomenal human being. Just a vicious competitor and a work ethic to achieve anything that he ever wants to put his mind to."