Whiteoak junior Landen Eyre wasted little time letting a large crowd know the Whitoeak Wildcats were to be reckoned with as he took an early lead and raced to a first place finish at the Pickerington Invitational, one of the larger meets in the state that included a field of 245 runners.
Eyre completed the course in 16:22.5, outdistancing his nearest competitor by more than eight seconds.
“Landen is mentally and physically ready for these huge meets. I can’t hardly put into words how great it feels as a coach to have this highly intimidating meet with the biggest and best teams set up all around you on the impressive Pickerington North campus, be walking to the starting line with the team weaving through the best of the best — even passed Governor Mike DeWine on the way and then this huge field of runners lined up — then as the crowd waits in anticipation for the runners to come through the first thing everyone sees is the Whiteoak uniform,” Wildcat veteran coach Doug Hughes said. It’s the best feeling.”
Not far back was teammate and another former state qualifier, Weston Blair, who took seventh place overall and looks well on his way back for another couple trips to Columbus. Blair ran a time if 17:17.
Rounding out the scoring for the Wildcats were Shawn Mitchell-Cox who defeated 78 runners, Jake Ward who defeated 70 runners and Austin Richards who defeated 53 runners. Hughes was happy with everyone’s improvement from last week.
“We only had five healthy runners for this race but we have two state level kids, 2 multisport athletes attending practices each night for cross country and soccer and our other runner might be one of the most improved runners in Ohio over the last three years. These boys keep coaching fun for me.”
As a team, the Wildcats finished 15th of 21 teams in their division.
On the girls’ side, Addy Hauke finished at 27:01 and defeated 62 runners and Lexi Taylor came in at 30:07 defeating 27 runners.
“Both had big improvements from last week’s meet at Obetz and it was due to their hard work at practice this week in awful awful conditions. I’m very proud of them,” Hughes said.
On the junior high front, Jaden Fitzgerald clocked a 15:02 in the two-mile race which put him in 103rd place out of 208 boy runners. Natalie Burnett finished 70th out of 191 runners. Aubrey Swafford was 73rd and Kiley Mitchell finished 173rd.
Hughes gave a shout out to the junior high kids.
“This is such an intimidating first meet of the year and for two of them their first ever meet, they probably won’t see another meet half that size and they did great. Kylie toughed it out on a bum ankle, Natalie and Jaden got their first meet under their belt and Aubrey last year defeated 12 runners, this year she made a five-minute improvement and defeated 118 runners! A huge breakthrough for her and her dedicated work.”
Information for this story was provided by Doug Hughes, Whiteoak track coach.