LEBANON — For many top high school athletes, track and field is a secondary sport. It’s something they do to stay in shape during the spring as they get ready for the fall and winter seasons.
That’s not the case for Lebanon junior Luke Norris, who shunned promising careers in football and basketball to concentrate on track and field.
“Back in eighth grade, I decided I wanted to run track exclusively,” Norris said. “I can’t tell you why, I just love track more than the rest. It’s an individual sport and a team sport at the same time.”
The decision has paid off for Norris and the Warriors.
Norris has posted the fastest time in the 300-meter hurdles in Ohio this spring (37.34 seconds) according to milesplit.com, and the 17th fastest time in the nation.
He’s a favorite to make his second straight appearance at the state meet in that event and also is a top 110 hurdler and a key member of Lebanon’s 400 and 1,600 relay teams — which also rank among the best in Ohio.
“I don’t know what Luke’s ceiling is,” Lebanon boys track coach Steve Poitinger said. “He’s got tremendous potential and can be as good as he wants to be. He destroyed a very good field at the Wayne Invitational in the 300 meters.”
Norris is an introspective athlete — his hobbies are reading and flying remote-control airplanes — but don’t mistake his quiet demeanor for a lack of competitiveness.
“I hate to lose,” Norris said. “That’s probably why I like the 300 hurdles the most because that’s what I’m best at.
“I love the challenge of having to control yourself and run your own race and trust your own steps when people are right beside you, pushing you. Your eyes and focus have to stay on the hurdle in front of you. You can’t get ahead of yourself.”
That discipline was critical to Norris’ development over the winter as he was fully committed to the Tekulve Speed Training regiment.
Though he qualified for the state meet as a sophomore, he wasn’t satisfied with a finish that ended in the semifinal round.
“I’ve dropped four seconds in my time since freshman year,” Norris said. “And most of that is because of the speed training.
“In the events I run, the competitors are separated by just tenths of a second. Anything can happen, so I have to be willing to put every ounce of work into it that I can to be at my best.”
Norris knows that now is the time to be at his best. The quest for the state meet begins at districts Wednesday, May 19.
“Luke got a taste of the big stage last year, and he wants to take a bigger bite out of it this year,” Poitinger said. “He’s got the unique combination of work ethic, competitive fire and genetic talent. It’ll be exciting to see what he does throughout the rest of his career.”
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