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Hornberger takes the one-mile mark

TJ Hornberger began his senior season watching his Lake Shore track team form the sideline as friction in his IT band kept him from running.

In fact, there was a point even a point late in the year where the Syracuse-bound runner was unsure if he’d touch the track during his final high school season.

That’s how close a Section VI record was to possibly stay unbroken for another 27 years.

Charlie Kern of Sweet Home set the mark for the 1,600-meter back in 1987 with a time of 4:13.07, but Hornberger’s 4:12.77 trumped the 27-year-old mark at the Section VI Track and Field Championships at Olean High School to give the Lake Shore runner another sectional mark just weeks after doubting if he’d run in a Lake Shore uniform again.

“Honestly, I had no idea what was going to happen,” said Hornberger, who owns the section’s 800-meter mark, as well. “If you would’ve asked me four weeks ago, I would’ve said that I wouldn’t make it to sectionals.”

“But here I am now and just not looking back. I’m just going forward and trying to get in the best shape I can before states.”

Coach Chuck Kowalski was also surprised to see Hornberger back on the track three weeks ago, but it didn’t take much convincing him that his senior was ready to compete again.

“The progression has been great. Even faster than expected,” said Kowalski. “He just came back to me one day like ‘Coach, I’m ready to go.’ You can just see it in his eyes and he really was. There was no more fatigue when he was running and you could see that natural competitiveness come right back.”

Once Hornberger got back into his stride, it was only a matter of time before more records were to fall. And as the sectional champion in the mile and the 800,

Hornberger saw a pair of familiar names become section champions in Olean. His teammate, junior Ty Becker, won the pentathlon, even though “this was an experimental year.”

“I wasn’t supposed to do that well,” he said before he scored a 2,941 at sectionals.

Hamburg’s Peter Rindfuss will go to states in the two-mile. Cal Butlak won the event, but he wants to focus on the steeplechase.

“The times I’ve been hitting are surprising because I don’t hurdle them,” he said. “I didn’t know I could go that fast and not hurdle them. My times have just been getting faster and faster, so I feel more comfortable doing it.”

Frontier is sending eight athletes to states, the program’s largest group ever.

Five from that group are boys.

The 4x400 foursome of Colton Argo, Adrian Cannon, Griffin Fitzpatrick and Markus Diehl took the crown with a 3:27.82.

Fellow Falcons Trevor Koch won the pole vault title with a 14-feet, 4-inches mark.

As the locals head into the state meet and try to extend their seasons, some may not have even reached the peak of their powers. That goes for the likes of Hornberger, whose season is still young, despite how late into the season it is.

“As we get closer to sectionals and states, he’s really reaching his stride,” Kowalski said before sectionals. “He’s hitting it at the right time. The break almost, in essence, helped him rest and recover.”

“I think he’s going to hit his peak right at the right time…at the state meet. I think that’s what we’ve all been waiting for.”
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