STATE TRACK: East’s Horter finishes strong to win 1,600 in D-I

When another runner passed Dustin Horter on the final curve of the 1,600-meter run, the Lakota East High School junior wasn’t about to let someone overtake him down the stretch yet again at his third straight state track meet.

This time, Horter regained the lead over Thomas Worthington’s Arjun Jha with about 25 meters to go and sprinted to a first-place finish at the Division I state track and field championships Saturday at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

Horter, who entered as the top seed with the seventh-fastest time in the nation, had led the entire race until that last 200 put his victory in jeopardy as Jha ran a 59.2-second final lap to make his push for first. Horter won it with a time of 4:08.38, while Jha settled for second in 4:09.09.

“I seem to be notorious for getting outkicked at these state meets, so when I saw him come up on me, it was a little bit of a déjà vu moment,” said Horter, who finished fourth in the 3,200 last year and fifth in that event as a freshman. “But I’ve been working on that in training, doing things like hard 150s to combat that. I had to fight off (Colonel Crawford junior) Chad Johnson at a local meet and he’s a solid 1,600 guy, so I’d seen it before, and I was well prepared. I didn’t doubt myself at all when he made his move.”

Also the Division I state cross country champion, Horter had hopes of sweeping all three of the distance titles this year as he also was the favorite to win the 3,200-meter run. However, while warming up for that race less than an hour later, he decided he didn’t have enough left in his tank under hot conditions, so he dropped out to save himself for the Brooks PR Invitational elite race he was invited to attend June 17 in Seattle.

This was his first season running both the 1,600 and 3,200 after focusing only on the latter the past two years. No one has won the 1,600 and 3,200 since the 1990s, Horter said, but next year he plans to “get revenge on the weather and the track” and try again.

“I wouldn’t say it took everything out of me,” Horter said. “Obviously in that last 100 meters, it was pretty intense. I felt good the whole race, but with weather, I was a little dehydrated and pale. We doubled all the way up and were thinking I’d double all the way through. It was my first year running the 16, so I feel good about how it went, but I’ve got work to do to prepare for Seattle.”

Middletown sophomore Conant Smith hopes to be challenging Horter next season, but for now, he is satisfied with winning his own medal.

Smith placed fifth in the 3,200 with a time of 9:14.04 in his first state meet.

“I just wanted to come into this race and make the podium,” Smith said. “All these fans, this is new to me, so I had no idea what I was doing when I came here.”

Several other area athletes also earned medals Saturday, but Lakota East freshman Serena Clark took home the most hardware.

Clark placed third in the 100-meter dash (12.07 seconds) and eighth in the 200 (25.01) while also earning a runner-up finish in the 400-meter relay along with Kaylyn Heath, Dani Stoughton and Jasmine Floyd.

“I’m excited,” said Clark, who developed cramps in her right hamstring before the 200. “In the 100, I wasn’t expecting it. We had two false starts and then I was nervous, but everyone was cheering my name so I had to keep focused. It was still the same race I’ve been running, so I just had to push it. In the 4x1, we were aiming for that state championship, but it is what it is. We still fought hard, so next year we’ll get them. In the 200, I wanted a better outcome but couldn’t get it. … I’m just so happy. I’m the only freshman that ran and I made it on the podium too.”

Fairfield’s Tyra Kennedy was the top-placing area athlete in the girls competition, taking second in the long jump in her first state trip in that event. Kennedy went from sixth place to first with her last jump of 18 feet, 4.75 inches — an eight-inch improvement — before Lancaster’s Hope Purcell pulled back ahead with a 19-1.25 on her final attempt.

The Indians also got points from the sixth-place boys 400-meter relay team of Adrien Givens, Joseph Hayes, Joshua Hayes and JuTahn McClain.

“Our expectation was not to come in last and get on the podium and we did, so we’re cool,” Joseph Hayes said. “It’s been fun. We went through I wouldn’t say a lot of chaos but we went through a lot of injuries this season. (Joshua) went out for a while but when we got him back we did pretty good, and now we’re here.”

Other area placers included Lakota West’s Andrew Whitaker (sixth in the 300 hurdles) and Lebanon’s Jordan Campbell (sixth in the 100) and Kelby Caplinger (eighth in the 800).

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