Lakota East’s Horter dominates regional meet, will head back to state

Lakota East’s Dustin Horter completes his Division I regional championship race Saturday in Troy. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY GREG BILLING
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Lakota East’s Dustin Horter completes his Division I regional championship race Saturday in Troy. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY GREG BILLING

Entering the Division I regional cross country championships as the defending champion — and winning last year’s race by 20 seconds — Lakota East High School junior Dustin Horter figured he might find himself running alone again Saturday.

He did.

So Horter visualized a competitor ahead of him — former Mason standout Zach Wills. Horter’s goal was to break the regional record of 15:15.8 set by Wills in 2010.

Warmer temperatures than the past several weeks and a strong wind sabotaged his chances, but Horter still clicked off another impressive 20-second victory.

Horter won his second straight regional title, this one in 15 minutes, 30.19 seconds on the 3.1-mile course that winds its way around the Troy levee. Middletown sophomore Conant Smith gave chase, but finished in 15:50.43 for second place.

“I was looking for a course record. Me and my coach knew it was going to be pretty windy today,” Horter said. “He said if the wind hits you, relax and finish strong. He said win big and win comfortably. Every year there’s wind that comes from that direction. It’s expected.”

Horter leads a strong group of area runners into Saturday’s state championships at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. East finished fifth as a team to grab the final qualifying spot. Seniors Dan Leonard finished 13th and Max Sellers 16th to help the Thunderhawks advance.

Middletown’s Smith was joined by Fairfield senior Zach Birdsall, who finished 18th to qualify as an individual.

With another season before he can challenge Wills’ regional record, Horter is going after his own personal best. Horter wants to break the 15-minute barrier for the first time. And what better place than state?

His personal best is 15:01.2 set at Voice of America Park, which serves as Lakota East’s home course.

Horter ran a 15:14.4 at state last year for third place. That time would have won state by 20 seconds in 2014.

“Ohio is getting faster,” Horter said. “I did what I needed to do today. I achieved my goals, so I’m pretty happy with the result. (Now it’s) what can I do next week?”

Monroe coach Seth Darrell wonders the same thing about his 1-2 punch of senior Alayna Garver and junior Rachel Ploeger. Both advanced to the Division II state meet again Saturday.

“It’s great to have that caliber of athlete and you have two of them on the team. They definitely push each other,” Darrell said

Ploeger led portions of Saturday’s race but was caught by Oakwood senior Elizabeth Ordeman late in the race. Ordeman won in 18:53.2 to top Ploeger’s 19:07.3. Garver came in at 19:17.6.

“We thought Rachel had a shot to win it and Alayna second or third,” Darrell said. “They did what they were supposed to do.”

Badin’s boys advanced to the D-II state meet by placing fourth at the regional. Senior Josh Wolpert paced the Rams with his 20th-place finish in 17:23.57.