Margo Hornocker To Run Cross Country/Track At Butler

Posted on December 5, 2017 in Fall Sports, Girl's Cross Country, Girl's Track, Spring Sports

BY SCOTT HUNT
shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

MIER–When Margo Hornocker turns the tassel on her graduation cap at Oak Hill High School this coming spring, she’ll do so as perhaps the best female high school distance runner in Grant County history.
On Monday afternoon at Oak Hill, with her parents, Golden Eagle teammates and coaches by her side, Hornocker signed her national letter of intent to continue her track and cross country career at Butler University in Indianapolis, where she’ll compete in the Big East Conference.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Hornocker to make,  as the whole recruiting scene changed on Sept. 9. After shattering  Grant County’s all-time 5K record in the Brown County Invitational by more than 30 seconds, clocking a 17:56, the number of suitors for Hornocker grew. 
“It was such a whirlwind for her,” said Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner. “Margo, literally has been being recruited since maybe July, by one or two schools and since September by about 20 schools. You had all these schools telling her we want you, but we need to know by tomorrow and I think that put a lot of pressure on her the last two or three weeks of the season and put a lot of pressure on her the last month.
“At end of the day, we think she made a great choice,” he added. “She couldn’t have gone wrong with the last two or three schools that she was looking at, but ultimately, for what she was looking for, knowing her and how she fits in in certain areas, I think  (Butler) gives her the best opportunity to grow personally and as an athlete.”
Butler was one of the first NCAA Division I programs to contact Brunner, and did so last spring after watching her compete in Franklin Central’s annual Miracle Mile, a race featuring many of the state’s best 400 meter runners. Hornocker finished fifth in 5:09. She was the first Grant County girl to ever run a sub 5:10 time in the mile and did it three times. Hornocker concluded her junior season with running 5:00.3 to finish fourth at the outdoor state championship. 
But it was the sub 18-minute 5K, which Hornocker accomplished twice, the opened a lot more eyes to her potential.
Schools from the Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East all came calling.
Two other schools Hornocker visited were MidAmerican Conference powers Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan. NAIA-power Taylor University and Butler, who finished third at the NCAA DI national championship in 2013, were also in her final four. 
The differences between schools were minimal, and that was the hardest part in Hornocker reaching her decision.
 “I think it was just that the other school I was looking at, I knew I would be really happy there too,” Hornocker said. “There wasn’t anything about either of the two schools I really didn’t like. I really wanted to get it right the first time so it was hard to narrow it down.
“I know I prayed about it a lot,” she added. “I just felt like I have more opportunities with Butler. Not just with running, but with my education and to hopefully make an impact on that team with running and as a person too.”
Brunner, who has aided in Hornocker’s development over the past four years and went through the recruiting process  before spending  a year in Auburn University’s
track program, said his only advice to Hornocker was look for challenges. 
“What we talked to her about through the (process) was looking beyond what’s on the surface of the school and seeing what gives you the best opportunity to be challenged,” he said. “There are some schools she could have gone to that are great schools and great programs, but I think the feeling was she may have stepped in right away and never had to progress or grow.
“Personally we wanted, as a coaching staff and a program, to see her in a situation where she got challenged, where she had the opportunity to go against the nation’s best and Division I gives her that opportunity,” he continued.  “With what she wanted out of a school…the moment Butler came on board and came and watched her at run New Haven and started talking to us, we thought it was a perfect fit.”
Hornocker plans to study exercise science at Butler and is happy that she now can get back to running and training in preparation for track season in the spring of 2018. 
“There were a couple of things I was thinking about and a couple of things that happened that made me feel like (Butler) was the right place to go,” Hornocker said. “I had a really good time on my visit and I really like the team and the opportunities I’m going to be able to have.
“It’s been really hard, just because obviously I’ve never done it before, no one in my family ever has” she said of the recruiting process. “It was hard just to keep track of everything, especially remembering all the specifics. I would have to write down where this coach said this, this coach said that. That part was hard.”
Hornocker has taken a break from running since competing as an Indiana All Star in Kettering, Ohio on Nov. 18. But immediately after signing her letter, she was out the doors of Oak Hill to put in four miles with her teammates from cross country. 
Hornocker’s transformation from outstanding high school runner to Division I athlete started last winter with an increased strength training routine while cutting back road miles slightly. And her preparation for track season starts this week.
It’s that type of work ethic and motivation Brunner has seen over the past four years  that has him excited for Hornocker’s future.
“I think the sky is the limit. I’m not going to sit here and say she’s going to be a national champion or anything along those lines,” he said. “Coach (Matt) Roe at Butler has had a lot of athletes like Margo, that have been under the radar and been maybe late bloomers in high school. He has taken them to new heights especially on a national level.
“I don’t think anyone is going to argue that she’s not a great runner, but in terms of national recognition, I think they can get her there,” he continued. “If she buys in and stays healthy – managing academics becomes an issue at Butler as well – but I think she’s somebody who can compete at a high level there for four or five years and be an All-Big East performer and hopefully maybe be an All American.”

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