Dustin Horter watched his dreams of graduating with his Lakota East High School classmates wash away last Friday in a series of rain delays at his state-qualifying track meet.
A half-dozen downpours kept the track state champion — and one of the most honored student athletes in Lakota East’s history — from finishing his runs and then heading to his class’ commencement ceremony at the Cintas Center at Xavier University.
Friday evening after his track meet finally finished late he learned — via a text message from school officials — that he had missed the once-in-a-lifetime event.
But over the weekend Lakota officials hatched a plan, dashing together to put on a special Monday morning graduation ceremony just for Horter as part of the school’s annual parade honoring track and other spring sports teams qualifying for state tournaments.
School officials scrambled to assemble a stage and podium, unpacked their ceremonial graduation gowns and as thousands of cheering Lakota students lined the school’s “main street” hallway, Horter was given his own, personal graduation ceremony complete with music and confetti.
“I honestly didn’t expect to go this big with setting up a stage and put it on Main Street,” said a wide-eyed and grateful Horter, who is both a national and state champion in track.
“To have the whole student population here witnessing it was pretty darn cool,” said Horter.
Lakota wanted to make sure it was special to reflect Horter’s extraordinary career at the Liberty Twp. high school.
He is a five-time state champion in track and the district’s record holder for the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter events.
And as of May 11, Horter holds the fastest one mile time in the country at 4:04 minutes and the fastest 3200 meter time in the nation at 8:48 minutes.
But the true measure of Horter’s high school career for the Lakota Thunderhawks can’t only be measured by a stop watch.
Earlier this school year he was selected for the prestigious Thunderhawk of the Year.
Lakota East Principal Suzanna Davis said Horter was a natural choice because the award is voted on by faculty and staff at Lakota East to determine the recipient of this award.
“The Thunderhawk of the Year recognizes a well-rounded student who is actively involved in daily life at East. They epitomize what it means to be a Thunderhawk. Quite simply, they are Lakota East,” said Davis.
“On Friday night, Dustin was running to qualify for regional champions and, unfortunately due to weather delays, he was unable to make it to the graduation ceremony,” she said. “It is our honor and pleasure to be able to present Dustin with his diploma in front of his family, friends and Lakota East family.”
“His mark will forever be felt at Lakota East High School,” said Davis.
Horter said “everybody kind of re-enacting everything was definitely special and definitely something I won’t forget.”
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