Hatfield’s success ‘runs’ through Eastern


The Daily Eastern News

Karina Delgado | The Daily Eastern News Marcus Skinner (left) and Dustin Hatfield (right) lead a pack of runners together during a distance event at the EIU John Craft Invite Jan. 18 in the Lantz Field House. Eastern’s track and field program competes at the Grand Valley State Big Meet Friday.

Sofia Turek, Contributing Writer

On a cold November morning, where the sun was shining bright, Dustin Hatfield was one of the last cross-country players to finish his warmup running on the jagged grey gravel by the Campus Pond.  

He was wearing a light blue short-sleeve shirt while other players had shorts on. It took a lot of training and workouts to succeed and make him one of the best athletes in EIU history.   

“I’d like to give the same workouts within the same philosophy and have the same set of expectations,” Eastern Illinois coach Erin Howarth said. “But to motivate and push individual athletes, I think everyone needs a little something different.”  

Hatfield was to be named the Ohio Valley Conference’s Runner of the Year in 2021. That journey to being the top runner runs far longer than the 10K trail where he beat his competition. 

 It includes competing in his local high school, winning several awards there, getting to compete at the college level, and helping his team flourish.  

Hatfield started his career running for track and cross-country for River Valley High School, a school of about 400 students in Spring Creek, a community nestled in a crook of the winding Wisconsin River about 50 miles northwest of Madison.  

Hatfield competed in the Wisconsin Division 2 State Championships, taking third in his senior year after running a 16:05:.9 in the 5,000-meter state course. At the end of his high school career, he was named Wisconsin State Journal All-Area Boys Athlete of the Year.  

River Valley coach Brian Krey said that in high school, Hatfield was always very goal oriented. 

“Once he set his goal, he put his mind and body 100% into doing whatever he needed to do to reach it,” Krey said. “Dustin also was never satisfied with just being ‘OK’.  His goals were to be the best. It’s what drives him to do great things still to this day.”  

Krey also said that Dustin showed a lot of courage and strength during his time at River Valley. 

“You can see that when you watch him race,” Krey said. “He is so comfortable being uncomfortable that he makes it look easy to the untrained eye. He has done great things at the High School level, is doing great things in D1, and will continue that for years to come.”  

Hatfield was named Freshman of the Year after setting the EIU freshman 8K record with a time of 24:35:.2 at the Ohio Valley Conference Championship in 2017. He fared well in his next two seasons where in his sophomore year he ran a season-best 8K with a time of 24:17.8 which is the seventh best 8K time in school history.  

In his junior year, he placed fifth overall in the OVC Conference Championship with a time of 27:16. But he blossomed during his senior year. He became the third EIU runner at the NCAA Division I level to advance to the NCAA National Championships placing 77th with a 10K time of 29:59.9, the second fastest 10K time in school history.  

He also won the Ohio Valley Conference Championship clocking a time of 24:31.5 for 8K that enabled the men to capture the team title. Earlier, Hatfield set an EIU record when he ran an 8K in 23:28.2 at the Louisville Classic.   

This took a lot of work to achieve those times. 

“It’s pretty hard training,” Hatfield said. “We do double runs a couple of times a week and then Sundays we go for our long run usually around 8 miles and then we have two hard workouts a week usually on Tuesday.”  

All those achievements got him the Runner of the Year award. 

“I was thrilled for him, and he deserves every bit of the recognition, and accolades that he earns, but I don’t want to say I’m surprised because he deserved that,” Howarth said. “But at the same time, I’m super happy for him.”  

Hatfield said that he was surprised to receive the news of his award. 

“That was pretty exciting news to get that,” Hatfield said. “I didn’t know for sure if I get it or not, so it’s just been a lot of races and training and all kinds.” 

Howarth is the reason, along with his teammates, why Hatfield works so hard.  

“I’d say Coach Howarth and the guy’s team is close, so we always want the best and score as many points for the guy’s team and come away with trophies and stuff, so we motivate each other,” Hatfield said.   

Sofia Tuerk can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]