David Dalton won’t have to deal with the initial awkwardness that comes when strangers are paired as college roommates.
The former Greenwood Community High School distance runner already knows the tall blond kid who’ll occupy the other half of their dorm room in Tarkington Hall at Purdue University.
Justin Veteto is his name. Supposedly a pretty good hurdler.
Since being named Purdue’s men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field coach in 2012, Lonnie Greene has made a concerted effort to keep the state’s elite high school athletes at home.
Dalton fits this criteria perfectly, as does Veteto, the Center Grove product who in June won the state title in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles and placed second in the 110 highs.
Dalton and Veteto officially become roomies Aug. 17.
“I’m really excited. Once I graduated high school I just wanted to go and not have a summer,” said Dalton, whose senior year included a runner-up finish in the IHSAA Cross-Country State Finals and a 10th-place effort in the 3,200-meter run at the track finals. “I’m just ready to move on and start living my own life.”
“I think it will be exciting because it’s the next stage in your life,” Veteto added. “There is way more competition next year. I’m excited to get to travel and just be with the team.”
Both have been training this summer.
Veteto’s offseason regimen was unexpectedly delayed when on June 11 — only four days after standing atop the award’s podium at state — he was hospitalized with an emergency appendicitis.
The 6-foot-5 athlete, normally in the 160- to 165-pound range, saw his weight drop to 152.
He’s been working with former Center Grove teammate and Notre Dame sophomore hurdler Conner Stapleton in an attempt to regain his technique and endurance.
“Conner is kicking my butt right now. I sat there for two weeks and didn’t do anything,” Veteto said, laughing. “Right now I’m adjusting to how hard college athletes work.”
The most challenging aspect of Dalton’s summer has been the two weeks off he gave himself immediately after the state track finals.
“It’s horrible,” Dalton said.
“I hate taking time off. I get really irritable.”
If there are any nonbelievers as to Dalton’s grumpiness while idle, he claims his girlfriend, parents and five siblings would likely be happy to back him on his claim Greene looks forward to working with both Johnson County athletes.
Dalton by competing in both cross-country and track for the Boilermakers will benefit by training alongside juniors Matt McClintock and Tate Schienbein.
McClintock came in second individually at the 2013 Big Ten Cross-Country Championships in November, with Schienbein placing 34th. In May, McClintock was 10th in the conference in the 5,000-meter run.
“The beautiful thing about David is he won’t have to lead right away. This first year is going to be more of an adjustment. There are guys in front of him that will take the pressure off,” Greene said.
“He can run free, and when an athlete can do that, that’s when they’re dangerous. But David is a tough cookie. His demeanor is very focused.”
Greene can see Dalton running either the 1,500 or 5,000 meters for Purdue next spring. As was often the case at Center Grove, Veteto could be plugged into as many as four events — 110 high hurdles, 400 low hurdles, 400-meter dash and 1,600 relay.
“As a 400 hurdler he’s really special in my mind. To run in the 36s (seconds) in high school (in the 300s) is impressive. Justin’s upside is phenomenal to me,” Greene said. “We were sitting at the state meet, and (Purdue hurdles coach) Norbert Elliott said, ‘(Veteto) is going to walk real tall.’”
Don’t be surprised if his new roommate does, too.