The track coaches at Center Grove High School clearly are doing something right.
Last year, Conner Stapleton won a state championship in the 300-meter hurdles.
This year, Trojan senior Justin Veteto won the state title in the 300 in a school-record time of 36.85 seconds. In addition, he finished second in the 110-meter high hurdles (a remarkable repeat of his 2013 finish), and he ran the anchor leg of Center Grove’s fourth-place 1,600-meter relay team. Veteto’s points were instrumental in helping Center Grove finish in third place as a team at the state meet.
By the way, only one Indiana high school athlete has run the 300 faster than Veteto.
Even in victory, though, the future Purdue Boilermaker track performer was humble and appreciative.
“It feels pretty good,” he said simply. “We just have to go hard and try our best. If there’s another guy that runs a better time than you ... you both do your best. It’s about going as hard as you can and just relaxing.”
Stapleton, who just finished his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame, was in the stands to cheer on his former teammate.
“Justin is a man of not many words, but if it had been anyone else breaking my record I would probably be more upset,” Stapleton said, laughing. “He’s going to hold this over my head until I die, but I’m really happy for him.”
After the meet, Center Grove coach Eric Moore said of Veteto: “The first hurdle was awesome, the second about what we expected. But Justin today had a great finish. It’s well-deserved. He runs four events in a track meet no matter how big the meet is.”
Veteto is quick to deflect praise for his accomplishments and instead focus on the process it took to become a competitor, let alone a champion.
After he was named Johnson County Male Athlete of the Year, Veteto said, “Coming into high school, there is way more competition. It was intimidating. It wasn’t until my junior year that I thought I could do more.”
Then he added a characteristic afterthought: “The most important thing coach Moore taught me was hard work and dedication.”
While a state championship in any sport requires a great deal of natural ability to begin with, it is that hard work and dedication that transform and channel that ability.
That lesson from a champion is one we all learn from.