Thursday October 24, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
PATH TO SUCCESS — State-title contender T.J. Hornberger will take his running talents to Syracuse. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
T.J. Hornberger was sold on Syracuse, when its running coaches told him they intend to win a NCAA championship.
The Lake Shore senior has done a lot of winning during his cross-country and track and field career, and he said he’s prepared to continue, in college.
The Orange’s cross-country team is ranked ninth in the nation; Hornberger was told the track and field program focuses heavily on distance running.
The heavily-recruited Hornberger, who is a three-time defending sectional champion who finished second and third at states in cross-country the past two seasons, respectively, recently verbally committed to Syracuse University.
“The program wants to win the NCAA title in a few years, which is pretty cool,” said Hornberger, who finished 20 –0 in winning every division meet during four seasons. “On top of just words, they have also shown what they can do. There are a lot of guys they have really built up there and they’re running really well now. They’re really good at making guys faster and keeping them healthy.”
Lake Shore head coach Mike Brinkerhoff said that Hornberger has left the type of legacy around Western New York that may not be seen again from another runner for quite some time. He said he is happy that he and Hornberger’s teammates have gotten to come along for the ride.
“Looking back at the four years with him, you knew this was how it was going to end up; you just didn’t know what was going to be laid down in front of you to get to the outcome,” Brinkerhoff said. “To see the many records he’s set on the different courses he’s run, to see the accolades and the victories, it’s been exciting.”
Hornberger said that, in addition to being proud of the wins and records, he also feels good about his dedication to keep bettering himself.
“I have come a long and just not winning, but how much I’ve grown as a runner and my knowledge of the sport and using the ability I’ve been blessed with to just keep getting faster and faster,” he said.
He is not done yet. Now that the college decision is over, Hornberger is focused on his goal of winning a state title in Class B. He has already qualified for the Nike National Invitational, where he said he hopes to capture a top 15 finish.
He has a rival for the state Class B title in Pearl River’s Brian Cook, who beat Hornberger by 2 seconds at the Queensbury Invitational on Sept. 21. Hornberger said that he has gotten faster since running a 15:19 that day, and is “excited to get a rematch” at states.
“It is nice to get that over with, because traveling every weekend to colleges does get tiring. Now, I can just relax and focus on high school running,” said Hornberger, who has been getting more mileage than usual, during the cross-country season, to build up his base. He said he will taper off, to get the full effect of the workouts for the final few weeks of the postseason.
Hornberger has also helped bring a focus on distance running and cross-country and to the athletics program at Lake Shore. There are already are many runners waiting in the wings, to win their share of races.
With Hornberger’s taking a race day off to do a workout, junior Calvin Butlak won his first invitational on Oct. 18, at the Eden Invitational. Butlak qualified for the state meet last year as a sophomore. Ian Yargeau, who finished just off the state-qualifying mark in 2012, and Butlak both have earned Section VI runner of the week designation, this season.
Lake Shore has transformed into one of the more competitive teams in Western New York. The Eagles finished 4 –1 in Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division III, losing to perennial-power East Aurora, and finished 12th at the McQuaid Invitational. There, Hornberger won the AA-seeded race, while Butlak took 33rd, Yargeau 44th and Josh Wheeler 71st.
Lake Shore’s girls team continues to improve, with running coming from some of the younger harriers. Freshman Natalie Cummings is the top runner with sophomore Kaylee Majuk, captain Rachel Youngers, Alyssa Kij, Emily Becker, Madeline Kromer, Caitlin McKinnis, Micaela Gzyl, and Alyssa Zuch all improving throughout the season, according to Brinkerhoff.
Cummings won individual honors in the dual meet against Springville and led the team to a 1 – 4 record in league meets. She is looking to improve upon last year’s Second Team All-Division honors and place in the top 7 on Saturday, Oct. 26 in the ECIC championships at Alden. The Section VI Championships for boys and girls will be run a week later, on Friday, Nov. 1 at Long Pointe State Park.