Justin Veteto’s signing to compete for the Purdue University men’s track and field program starting next winter brings with it a promise: One of Indiana’s premier hurdlers is going to be watched that much closer this spring.
The Center Grove senior, a 6-foot-4, 160-pound rail who glides effortlessly over the hurdles, is coming off a season in which he placed second at the IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals in the 110 high hurdles and sixth in the 300 lows.
“I thought it was a great season because my teammates needed me in the relays,” said Veteto, who notched three firsts and a second at last year’s Connersville Regional in unpleasantly cold and windy weather conditions.
“But the most enjoyable part was probably competing against the best in the state.”
Veteto’s time of 14.24 seconds nearly pushed him over the top in the 110 high hurdles at the state meet. However, another junior, Bowman Academy’s Marsalis Gibson, clocked a 14.19 for the win.
Therein lies Veteto’s incentive.
“This season I definitely want to win state in the 110 hurdles and at least be in the top three in the 300s,” Veteto said. “I compete better in the high hurdles, plain and simple. I feel it’s easier for me. The 300s aren’t hard, but it’s more challenging.”
Veteto admits that as a middle school athlete he wasn’t someone Center Grove track coach Eric Moore necessarily kept tabs on as a potential future star.
He hurdled primarily because Moore, who also coaches varsity football, encouraged his fall athletes to also compete for him in the spring.
“I really wasn’t interested in track in middle school. I did it because I knew I would have to do it in high school,” Veteto said, laughing. “I wasn’t very good. Nowhere near where I am now.”
At some point he became good. Really good.
Moore said he believes the transformation might have begun when Veteto was a ninth-grader looking up to the likes of then-senior sprinter Nick Stoner, who helped lead the Trojans to the 2011 state title.
Or it might have been the influence of fellow hurdler Conner Stapleton, the defending state champion in the 300 lows.
“Justin started showing potential his sophomore year but had little confidence. Conner really took him under his wing, and Justin just started doing things the right way and really blossomed toward the end of the year,” Moore said.
“He’s got good confidence now and is a good teacher, too, when he’s showing stuff to younger kids. The problem Justin is having now a little bit is leadership because he’s a quiet kid.”
That, too, is an area in which Moore anticipates progress as the 2014 season plays out.
Center Grove’s brief indoor track and field season starts Saturday with the Hoosier Qualifier at DePauw University. The Trojans’ initial outdoor event is slated for April 2 at Bloomington South.
The challenges only intensity after that.
Moore’s squad is scheduled to compete in invitationals hosted by Columbus North, Ben Davis, Hamilton Southeastern, North Central, Martinsville and Noblesville. Then there are the Johnson County Meet at Franklin Community High School on April 22 and the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference Meet at North Central on May 2.
No shortage of hurdles for a young man who literally and figuratively has made his way over many.
“Justin is such a great example for other kids. Honestly, he’s one of my all-time favorites because he was in the back of the line, and at some point he decided he wanted to do it,” Moore said.
“The big thing we do here at Center Grove is we don’t give up on people. Hard work and commitment will win out in the end.”
TAKING OBSTACLES IN STRIDE
Parents, Gary and Denise; sister, Hannah, 15; brother, Andrew, 12
Favorite TV show
“The Walking Dead”
World-class hurdler Aries Merritt