Tri-C Graduate Hits His Stride
May 15, 2015
When Hunter Heaton was in sixth grade, he attended a track and cross country meet to watch his brother run, and he fell in love.
“I remember that I came away from that thinking, ‘I have to run. I have to be out there,’” the junior at University of Oklahoma and Cuyahoga Community College alum said.
Run he did. The middle distance runner from Medina competes on the University of Oklahoma’s track and field team and owns a personal best in the 800-meter of 1:53.85, which he clocked this year at the John Jacobs Invitational, held at UO.
The classroom? Not so much.
When he graduated from Medina Senior High School, he had his eyes on Youngstown State University. However, he did not have to grades to get in. So, he enrolled at Rend Lake College in Ina, Ill. But before long, he dropped out.
“I didn’t balance [athletics and academics] out at first,” he said.
Heaton was not sure what to do.
That’s when a chance meeting changed things. Heaton met Don Alexander, an area track coach who told him that if he wanted to take his running to the next level, he needed to compete at a four-year college. Heaton didn’t think he could do it, but Alexander helped him develop a plan: enroll at Tri-C, transfer after earning an associate degree. (Alexander also coached Jason Dunn, who would become Heaton’s coach at UO. Alexander helped direct Heaton to University of Oklahoma.)
“The first semester, I was like, ‘I’ll just go with the punches and see what happens,’” Heaton said.
Heaton ran under Alexander’s tutelage while a student at the College. However, he competed unaffiliated since Tri-C doesn’t have a men’s track team. However, he met professors at the College that would help him train in the classroom such that, today, Heaton has found the balance he earlier lacked. He credits, in part, the early influence of Michelle Nicopolis, Ph.D., a counselor, professor and adjunct psychology faculty member at Tri-C.
“I still talk to her. I give her updates,” he said. “I just learned from my mistakes.”
These days, Heaton is cruising. He earned an associate degree at Tri-C. He intends to earn his bachelor’s degree in sociology and become a physical education instructor. He carries a 2.9 GPA at UO.
“It is challenging,” he said. “You have to balance it, but throughout the years, I have gotten better.”
He also plans to keep running. He puts in about 50 miles each week training and said he likes to run the hills in Hinckley when he makes it back to Ohio.
“Running is my passion,” he said. “It’s my life. I’ll do whatever it takes.”