With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, Carson Horspool, a distance runner and student at Pine View High School, has found his stride.
Carson and his three siblings were born and raised in Washington, where their family’s roots have been for generations. Both of his parents grew up playing sports; his mother, Mishaun Horspool, was on the basketball team at Pine View.
Though athletic, Carson wasn’t much of a runner before his freshman year. He was introduced to cross country and track on a whim, through friends, while looking for an after-school activity. He liked it enough to stick with it, but admits he didn’t take it too seriously at first.
He soon realized that he had a shot at breaking 5:00 in the 1600m, noteworthy for a freshman. Reaching that benchmark time right before the end of the year left him hungry for more, so his coach, David Holt, challenged him to take his running to the next level and aim for a varsity slot.
After putting work in all summer long, Carson was neck-and-neck with some of the school’s top athletes during practice runs, but in the first race of the season, his pace fell off about halfway through, finishing near the back of the pack. It was a tough, but ultimately valuable, lesson to learn. “I talked to my coach, and he told me that it was all mental. I just have to really think about it and try my hardest,” Carson says. “From there, I just went up through the whole season and ended up getting it, but it was hard at first because I didn’t understand why I wasn’t there already.”
The 2015 cross country season was Pine View’s best since taking the state title six years ago, and Holt says that Carson played a major role in that success. In his first varsity race, which just happened to be at Region, he placed fourth on the team and 10th overall. At State, his performance (14th in individual results) helped propel the Panthers to a second-place finish behind Desert Hills, the leader in Region 9 running. He put in the best time of any 10th-grader in the 3A division. “He came out sophomore year and went absolutely insane. No one could have called it, except for maybe our coach,” says Preston Warby, a senior and captain of the cross country team.
Holt, who has coached cross country at Pine View for 12 years, has known Carson most of his life. He attended the same elementary school as Holt’s children. “Back then, I used to say, ‘That kid drives me crazy. He’s all over the place; off the wall with energy,’” says Holt, “but he has learned how to focus that now, in a very good way!”
Carson wakes up at 6 a.m. every day to go running with the team. After school, he usually runs again before heading back to his house to do homework. He enjoys playing sports, especially basketball, with friends in his spare time.
Finding the right balance isn’t easy with such a busy schedule. Carson says that he tries not to procrastinate and then allow himself to get overwhelmed. He says he’s grateful to have plenty of support, both at home and on the field. “My teammates are all such great people. When I took some of their spots to race at Region and State, they were still there for me,” he says. “They wanted me to do good for our team. And even when I wasn’t that good, my coach still cared about me individually in hopes that I would do my best.”
Before every race, Carson spends a few minutes alone to sit quietly and visualize the task ahead of him. “It’s 90% mental, I’d say,” he explains. “You just have to see yourself doing good, and then follow through with your visions and do the best that you can do. Running obviously hurts, but it’s worth it in the aftermath.”
“He’s very independent,” Mishaun Horspool says. “He doesn’t need a lot of push from us. He does it all himself.”
Carson says that sports have helped him find the motivation to reach his academic goals as well. He has a 4.0 GPA and hopes to get an athletic scholarship. He doesn’t have any specific schools or fields of study in mind yet, but says that at age 16, he’s got plenty of time to think about it. “I definitely want to continue running just because I love it so much, and there’s so much fun that comes out of it,” he says.
Heading into his junior year, Carson has set his sights on two main goals: making the top five on his varsity team and dethroning multiple-time Desert Hills champs at State. He knows that the bar is set high. There’s no shortage of solid runners, not only in Region 9, but throughout Utah. However, he believes that the Panthers have a real chance if they train hard and get in the zone mentally. “We have a lot of guys that really want to succeed,” he says. “We’ve been talking, working together, and planning to do the best that we can and help each other.”
“Carson has some big goals,” Holt says, “but I wouldn’t put anything past him and his teammates.”
Win or lose, Carson hopes that his presence on the team will inspire his underclassmen, the type of runners that he was a little over a year ago, just waiting to realize their full potential. “They can be just as good as anyone on the team if they try their hardest,” he says. “I want them to look at me as an example that anything is possible.” • HSSI