Whitoeak junior Landen Eyre claimed a state runner-up finish Saturday at the 2023 Division III OHSAA Cross Country Championships.
Fortress Obetz Recreational Park was the scene for the final part of Eyre’s story book season. The Whiteoak runner entered the meet as the county, league, district and regional champion — all in dominating fashion. On the season he had defeated 99.75% of his competition. With Eyre returning to the state meet after a fifth place finish last season, he was one of the top contenders in this year’s race.
The starter’s gun fired at 10:45 a.m. and the 188 state-qualifying runners were off. Eyre was in the lead pack the entire first two miles where he and Rittman High School phenom Luke Snyder ran side-by-side or a step back in the very front of the race.
Snyder, just a sophomore, was state runner-up last season as a freshman and the picked favorite to win this race, according to Whiteoak coach Doug Hughes.
“Once the two race favorites his the two-mile mark they took off from the rest of the contenders and were off on their own,” Hughes said. “Snyder maintained a marginal lead until the 2.6-mile mark and then Eyre made a move and took the lead going down the large hill. Snyder, being pushed to the very limit, stayed a couple strides back and with about 400 meters remaining got past Eyre and used his incredible talent and speed to hold off the never giving in Whiteoak runner.
Snyder finished the race in a stadium record setting time of 15:23.03 seconds. Eyre also broke the Division III record for the stadium with a personal best time of 15:26.08. (Fortress Obetz has hosted the state meet since 2020). Eyre’s time would’ve won the state championship every year from 2017-22 and most every year since the the state began running 3.16 miles back in 1983.
“What a jaw-dropping performance from Landen. Did he want to win? Yeah, like you wouldn’t believe and he knew he was a top contender and he ran a perfect race and then went for it,” Hughes said.”He had to go for it. The Snyder kid is blessed with generational speed and talent and Landen had to do what he did with a half-mile remaining. Those two left the others way back in the dust. The third place kid was a distant 15 seconds back and he defeated Landen just a month ago at Canterville. Landen ran the race of his life in the biggest moment of his life. He was outstanding, plain and simple.”
Eyre finished his historic season with unfathomable numbers. The junior sensation defeated 1,817 runners on the year while only losing to five. That’s a 99.7% winning percentage.
“That’s like a basketball team playing a 1,000 games and losing three times. Going back to last season Eyre hasn’t lost to a Southeast District runner in his last 16 races and is 1,120-0 against them in that time.” Hughes said. The southeast district is no joke either. Every time he’s finished these races ahead of five other kids who have been on the state podium multiple times and we see everyone in D2 and D1 as well. He not only hasn’t had a bad race in two years, he hasn’t even had an off race. He’s been great in every single race. This is a product of being great in every practice for these past two years. There’s no doubt he’s already working for track season.”
Eyre will head to Terre Haute, Ind. next Sunday to compete in the Nike Midwest Regional Championships.
Whiteoak’s Weston Blair, a two-time state cross country qualifier, finished the race in 67th place with a time of 17:05.3.
”Weston went out a winner. He was my first ever champion runner at any level,” Hughes said. “Weston was the league junior high champion and was a key cog in Whiteoak’s only cross country team to reach the state meet. He was also great competition for his teammate and buddy Eyre. Those two went one and two in five meets this season and had others calling them the dynamic duo. Weston has ran his heart out for us for six years now. He’s done more than his part in every way.”
In Division II, Hillsboro junior Corbin Winkle also finished 67th, oddly enough, in a time of 16:52.9 in a field of 182 runners.
This story was provided by Doug Hughes, Whiteoak cross country coach.