The distance from Millersburg to Toledo is 134.5 miles via byways. That’s about a fortnight of practices for Michelle Hostettler, so a jaunt from Amish Country to her new home wouldn’t be out of the question, despite it being about a three-hour drive by automobile.
The West Holmes Lady Knights All-Ohio star distance runner recently signed her letter of intent to attend Toledo University, where she was awarded a 50-percent scholarship to continue her running career at the next level of competition.
It will mark the newest challenge as this relentless worker will look to maintain the incredible success she has experienced as a West Holmes athlete.
“I didn’t know about Toledo until I got recruited, but once I visited, I really liked their campus, and their teammates really made me feel welcome,” Hostettler said. “And their nursing program is really highly ranked.”
Hostettler said when it came right down to it, she put equal weight on both her running and academics when it came to choosing a school.
“Toledo had the best of both worlds,” Hostettler said. “I want to be pushed to see how far I can go. I am excited to be pushed at a D-I level. I am a little nervous for it, but I know I will adjust fine.”
Over her career Hostettler has been the ultimate workout warrior. She also played basketball coming up through middle school and was a talented player, but once she fell in love with running, she poured herself into the sport with unbridled passion.
“Once I fell in love with it, I made a commitment, and even when times are hard and I don’t want to do it, I fall back on that commitment. It’s in my heart. It’s not like it’s something I can’t do. It’s mandatory for me. I consider it my job.”
Her distance coach Michael Ewing has been a constant companion as she worked on her running skills. The two ran countless miles together, and Ewing has watched her develop into who she is today. He knew coming in that she would be special. He just didn’t know how special.
“She has meant a lot to our program,” Ewing said. “We started having this conversation after her sophomore year when she placed fifth at state. I told her that every little kid is going to be looking up to you. If they are into running, they will know who she is. I don’t think she even realized it was happening, but she basically became every young runner’s role model.”
Hostettler said she has grown to realize she is a role model, and she said she tries her hardest to be a great example to them with her focus and work ethic.
“It’s important for me to maintain that role as an example both on and off the track,” Hostettler said. “Coming in as a freshman, I was the one looking up to everyone else to find inspiration to run faster.”
She did run faster, despite setting several school records in the middle school program. Her career continued to get better and better as she exemplified an attitude of commitment and desire to outwork everyone else. That led to her becoming a five-time All-Ohioan in track and a pair of berths in the state cross country meet.
“She is the face of our distance program,” Ewing said. “She has brought us to a whole new level, and you dream about coaching athletes who can compete at the state level every year.”
Ewing went on to talk about how the pressure of running and competing and the stress level that comes with notoriety changes as an athlete reaches that level of success.
“Her freshman and sophomore years were really fun and exciting because she was building her way up there,” Ewing said. “The last two years were pretty stressful because you’re at the top and the margin for error is pretty small and everyone is gunning for you. There are a lot of mental barriers to get over when you get to that level, and I give Michelle credit for being able to withstand those pressures.”
With her scholarship intact, Hostettler knows the next step up will not be easy, but she is looking forward to this chapter in her life as she balances her running career with her drive to study nursing.
“Anything she has done she has always excelled at and been at the top,” Michelle’s dad Doug Hostettler said. “She has always had a passion to do well, and being the youngest of three daughters, she has always been pushed and has been a scrapper.”
The Toledo-bound Hostettler leaves behind a career that is unparalleled at West Holmes. She said those years have flown by, and she had a great time.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s at the end,” Hostettler said.
For a young woman who is so dedicated to her sport, it isn’t over. It is simply a new challenge, another phase of life and one more obstacle to work through on her way to success.