By Rob Kiser
RUSSIA — Russia High School senior Lauren Heaton has been part of several amazing moments in Russia track history — along with excelling at whatever she does.
So, it seems only fitting that the daughter of Brad and Angie Heaton would accept an appointment to the Naval Academy and continue her track career.
“They showed a lot of interest,” Heaton said. “And when I visited there I fell in love with the place immediately.”
It will be the continuation of amazing athletic career for Heaton — who not only is talented but won’t except anything less than the best at anything she does.
Her father Brad — also the Russia girls track coach — remembers fondly how competitive his daughter was from the start.
He recalled it youth basketball waiting several days after any loss to talk to her about the game.
It is no surprise to him to see what she has accomplished.
“She has always been very competitive,” he said. “You could see in junior high she was a very talented athlete. She took eighth grade off because of a stress fracture.”
That’s probably the last time she wasn’t busy — doing amazing things in a blue-and-gold uniform.
“I think it was probably good to go into high school fresh,” Heaton said.
In a cross country program that has produced numerous D-I college runners and one All-American (Katie Borchers, Ohio State), Heaton has the fourth fastest time ever run (18:58). She was All-Ohio as a freshman and helped Russia to four straight appearances in the state meet.
“First, Lauren (Heaton) is just a quality kid,” Russia cross country coach Doug Foster said. “She is so mentally tough. Of all the kids I have coached, she is probably in the top five in mental toughness. She ran through injuries and she always gave her best.”
In basketball, she was a three-year starter before not playing this year.
As a point guard, she helped Russia to three straight Buckeye Insurance Group Holiday Classic titles and one district title.
But, it is in track where Heaton has had some of her biggest moments.
She currently holds the school record in the 200, 25.86; 400, 56.75; on the 800 relay, 1:46.25; and 3,200 relay, 9:32.62.
And it didn’t take long for her to make an impact.
“She won a state title as a freshman,” Brad Heaton said. “So, she got thrown right into it.”
That came in the 3,200 relay (with Lauren Francis, Claire Sherman, Emily Borchers).
The Lady Raiders came into the race with the eighth fastest time, only to have Heaton anchoring them to victory in 9:36.12, more than nine seconds faster than their qualifying time.
“The thing about that was nobody really expected it,” she said.
Her sophomore year, she had her sights set on a state title in the 400.
Coming to the finish line, Heaton was in a battle to hold off Eleanor Smith of Columbus School for Girls.
That was when her competitive instincts kicked in and she dived across the finish line, sacrificing a little blood for a state title.
She won in 57.29, while Smith was clocked in 57.33.
“It is worth a little blood to be state champion,” Heaton said at the time with a smile.
So, while most would have been excited with a sixth-place finish in the 400 at the state that Heaton had last year, all it did was drive her.
“Definitely, it motivates me,” Heaton said.
And as her prep career winds down — with the regionals this week and the state the week after, Heaton is taking nothing for granted.
“Hopefully, it is two more weeks,” she said. “We have to get through regionals first.”
And Heaton has cherished the time she has spent with her Russia teammates.
“Definitely, I just want to enjoy this and go out and have fun,” Heaton said. “That is what it is all about.”
But, she still has lofty goals.
“Hopefully, we can get enough people through regionals to do well at state as a team,” Heaton said. “That’s the goal (winning). Getting to the top of the podium.”
Then, she will take her talents to the Naval Academy.
“I will probably run the 400 and 1,600 relay,” Heaton said.
And continue at the Naval Academy what she has already done at Russia — except nothing less than the best.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.