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Hornocker, White finish high school careers as all stars

FAST GRADS: Oak Hill’s Margo Hornocker and Eastbrook’s Connor White each closed out their high school track careers on Saturday by competing for Team Indiana in the Midwest Meet of Champions at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Hornocker and White graduated from high school recently with the fastest girls and boys times in 1,600 in Grant County history. Both records were set at the state championship meet.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

Aside from winning a state championship, there is no greater honor for a high school athlete than earning a jersey with Indiana across the front and competing against the best athletes other states have to offer.

Recent Grant County graduates, Margo Hornocker from Oak Hill and Eastbrook’s Connor White, each wrapped up their competitive high school days on Saturday in the 1,600 meter race in the Midwest Meet of Champions on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing. 

It was fitting the duo were there together to represent Grant County, because each recorded the fastest mile times in county history to earn medals at the state championships just a week earlier. 

Hornocker graduated from Oak Hill just two days after she set the girls county mark of 4:57.49, besting the record of 4:58.8 she ran in the Marion Sectional.

White first eclipsed the 2005 mark (4:16.74) set by Josh Foss of Marion with a 4:16.09 in the Marion Regional. He then shaved even more time and finished eighth in the state with a 4:15.9 to earn his all star bid.  

“I was amazed. I did not expect that,” said White after he learned he ran the fastest mile in county history. “I was also really thankful that my last race was not only a PR, a school record and all state title, but also a county record. So that just added to my thankfulness for this year and everything I’ve done and how it all ended.”

White and Hornocker encountered far different conditions in East Lansing on Saturday than the hot and humid days from the state meet in Bloomington on June 1-2. A steady rain and temps in the the mid-50s coupled with the best senior runners from Ohio and Michigan made it a tough but memorable day.

Hornocker also came down with a cold just a couple of days before making the trip north which made for an even tougher race. Her goal was to run another PR, but all the different variables she faced the morning of the race stacked the odds against it happening.

The race was supposed to have nine runners, the top three from each state, but Hornocker was the only girl from Indiana to take the starting line. 

“When I woke up Saturday ... I was super stuffed up and I felt really tired, my eyes felt really heavy,” said Hornocker by phone Monday evening, the sounds of said illness still lingering in her voice.

“I was going into it wanting to run a fast time and hopefully trying to PR, but Saturday morning when I realized I wasn’t feeling that great, I was just hoping to go out and run fast, especially with the weather,” she added. “I started to realize that might not happen so my goals changed a little bit going into the race. In my mind I was just wanting to stay as close as I can to my seed which was third. Or just like trying to get a medal or run the best I could and see how I felt.”

Hornocker didn’t quite equal her third-seed position or the PR, but her 5:02.62 placed her fifth and on the medal stand. 

She was quite aware the top six of the seven entrants would be medalists and she was able to gauge where she needed to be throughout the four laps to finish where she wanted to. 

“I wasn’t really thinking that much about time, but after I was done I was like ‘Okay that’s actually better than I thought it would be with how I was feeling.’ I was pretty happy with that,” Hornocker said. “There was only seven of us which was really weird because there’s normally like 20 girls over the last few weeks. I think I led the first lap or so just because we were all so close together.

“The first couple laps I felt pretty good and some girls started making some moves, and I definitely didn’t feel like I could go with the girls that were leading but I felt like I could stay with the second pack,” she added.

“The whole time I was thinking, ‘Alright just don’t get last so at least you can get a medal. We all finished within about 10 seconds of each other so it was nice to see everybody. The last couple laps I felt like I was pushing, obviously I was racing, but it definitely felt like I was pushing a lot and didn’t feel like I had a ton of kick that last lap ... I was just pushing a lot to try to hold my place.”

Hornocker’s appearance also made her the first Grant County girl to be an all star in both track and cross country. Foss was the first athlete from Grant County to be a double all-star as a runner.

White and Hornocker both talked about the relaxed nature of the event and their respective races in general, along with the conditions.

White narrowly missed earning a medal by finishing seventh with a 4:26.51. He welcomed the chance to run for his state, but also said not having that edge he carried through the state tournament series may have hurt him a little bit on Saturday. 

“It was tough competition, tough conditions and it was kind of hard to come back after state mentally and just be prepared for another race at that level, but it was still very cool to do,” White said. “Overall it was tough.

“Pressure and nerves sometimes helps me a little if they’re controlled,” he added. “So missing that kind of hurt me a little I think, but it was nice not having any (nerves) at all.”

White said his race went out much slower than did the state championship 1,600 and stayed tightly packed through the opening paces. 

“The leaders started moving and I attempted to go but there wasn’t much there,” White said. “It wasn’t the race I wanted, it was just a bad day for me, no excuses, but I was very glad to be there. 

“It was a huge honor to be a part of something that historic and to be around people who are the best in the state and the surrounding states, it was very cool,”

Hornocker agreed with White’s assessment of the experience.

“It was awesome. Both of the meets, the cross country and the track were really fun, and I’m just really thankful that I got to be a part of both of them,” she said. “It was just a cool experience. Both times it was fun to just have one more race that wasn’t as high pressure. I went right from the state meet in both to a meet that I wanted to do well at but it was more of a fun meet for a lot of people. It’s good to end on that.”