As a newcomer to cross country in junior high, Lucas Houk had no idea how far distance running would take him. He just had to get past those first two miles.
Houk, now a senior at Wayne High School, recalled his early introduction to the sport – and not fondly.
“Oh my gosh. Two miles was forever. It was horrible,” Houk said. “I thought it was absolutely miserable and I didn’t want to do it. Probably my second race in middle school, I remember seeing my mom mid-race and telling her I hated it. I can’t remember if I was crying or not, but I hated it. I enjoyed being around the people so I stuck with it. I started experiencing success in track and I was like, this isn’t that bad. But no, two miles hurt.”
Houk has since turned pain into prosperity. He holds every indoor distance record at Wayne and is closing in on the outdoor ones, too. He’s also the record holder in cross country (3.1 miles) and the steeplechase.
Houk started running to get in shape for the spring baseball season. He dropped baseball for track, much to the delight of track coach Mike Fernandez. During the indoor season Houk finished second in the 800 meters in a school-record 1:56.47 to help the Warriors win their second straight indoor team title.
He also holds the school indoor records in the 1,600 (4:28.39), 3,200 (9:44.12), cross country 5K (15:45.90) and steeplechase (6:17.46).
As for those events outdoor, he’s run similar times in the 800 (1:56.03), 1,600 (4:24.31) and the 3,200 (9:44.12). He’s about three seconds off the school record in each of those events.
“I can practically taste it. I just have have to do it,” Houk said. “It’s just a matter of getting in the right race and getting in the mindset. I hope I can get a few of those at the conference meet.”
“He always wants to get better. He’s his toughest critic,” Fernandez said. “He’s part of team right now that he doesn’t have to be the guy. We’re so balanced and so loaded on other events that he’s the distance guy for us. He’s just a great guy to be around.”
The Warriors boast a state-caliber lineup that includes Zarik Brown (100, 200, 400), Justin Harris (110 and 300 hurdles), Brian Hill (long jump) and Brendan Hill (high jump), among others. The Warriors are a favorite to win the Division I state title and were contenders last season until Brown pulled a hamstring in the 400 relay state semifinals.
As for Houk, he’s competed in everything for Wayne from the 200 to the two-mile. With his speed and footwork Fernandez calls Houk a sprinter in a distance runner’s body. Houk is a member of the 1,600 relay team that qualified for state last season.
“I would say the 1,600 is his best event,” Fernandez said. “He’d probably say the 800. But man, he can run the 3,200 as well. … That’s a great question. Every four years we seem to get a Lucas-type of kid. He really relished that distance role as a freshman. It’s going to hurt not having him next year. He elevates everybody. Even our sprinters look up to him.”
Next season Houk will run cross country and track for Xavier University. Not bad for middle of the pack runner – at best – when he first started competing.
Houk credits Fernandez and fellow coaches Todd Anderson and Brian Shaw, among others, for getting him to go the distance. He also speaks highly of his teammates, who have helped push his competitive spirit.
“They’ve watched me over the last six years and shaped me into the athlete I am,” Houk said. “They’ve been there through everything. I’ve been very lucky. … It’s been an absolute blessing.”