Whiteoak sends four to state track meet


The Whiteoak Wildcats track and field athletes added to their accolades last Wednesday and Friday at Heath High School in Division 3 Regional Track Meet.

The boys 4 x 800-meter relay team led off the running competitions Wednesday as they were the only final held in any running event. Whiteoak, which set the district record in the event the week before was actually behind the eight ball with their chances to advance to state.

“There are four regions and each region advances the top four in every event, plus the next two best times, heights, distances in the state not in those top four,” Whiteoak coach Doug Hughes said. “It sounds promising but the top four teams in Ohio were all in this Heath regional, and the sixth best team. In all we were the seventh seeded team and two other regions only had a team or two ahead of us. We knew we had a battle. To make it worse we had about a 10 mph wind that was not going to help our times. Our kids though once again rose to the challenge.

”We have preached how to get through that difficult second lap and to leave no hundredths of a second no matter what. Turns out the Whiteoak boys did exactly as coached and finished sixth to give themselves a chance for the last at large spot at state, and as the results of the other three regions came in the Whiteoak 4 x 800 team made it by .35 seconds. The regions were not even and our weather hurt us more, but the kids found a way and they appear to have snuck in but also note that their time of 8:14.68 in 10 mph winds would have won the Fostoria Regional and placed second in the Norwayne Regional. Eighteen teams qualified for state and we are seeded 11th. They earned this and I couldn’t be prouder. The fact that they are two sets of brothers that are all incredibly close just makes this storybook stuff.”

Friday’s festivities for Whiteoak began in the discus area. Whiteoak sophomore Matalynn Conrad got things going with a big cheering section and competed in the talented regional competition. Conrad had her third best throw of the year at 92’0 and finished 14th.

“Matti wrote her story at the district meet last week and is still flying high. She is such a tremendous kid and so easy to root for. I’m so happy how her season progressed and culminated,” Hughes said.

The 1,600 meters was the first Whiteoak running event and district champion Landen Eyre took the track on the sunny and 82 degrees portion of the day. Eyre recorded a season’s best 4:19.38 to finish third and qualify for state.

“It was a tough race with some big time names across the region. Landen wasn’t happy with his place but that race was so tight throughout and he got stuck in the outside of lane two for about six of the eight curves,” Hughes said. “I’m guessing he ran about 1,630 meters instead of 1,600. These races are tough strategically and it’s tough to adapt during the race. He’ll keep improving, but man he’s made everyone proud already. So we’ll just be along for that ride.”

Next up was the exciting 800 meter race. Weston Blair was one of the big names in the event but teammate Keegan Eyre made the magic happen at districts and toed the starting line as well. Blair ran a career best 1:56.45 to finish third and Eyre ran his second best time ever of 2:02.53 to finish 11th.

“This race was crazy to watch. It’s so fast. So many kids under 2:00 and it’s the shortest race where everyone is fighting for the inside lane. Keegan ran a really good race but in going for times a bit out of reach makes it tough to finish the entire distance without falling back. What he did last week at districts was one of the gutsiest and impressive displays I’ve ever witnessed on a track,” Hughes said. “Weston ran a great race. He always has a plan and what is needed to finish that plan. I could actually see him measuring everything up the final 250 meters with competitors all around him vying for the top four. He made sure that he had enough left for the final 80 meters and he mapped it out perfectly. I’m so proud of how much he’s improved at the mental and strategic part of these races. He’s ready for the state meet on Friday and he’s ready for what Morehead State will bring in his next step of his running life.”

The night ended for Whiteoak in the 3,200. District champion and district/regional record holder Landen Eyre had his chance for redemption from the 1,600. Hughes gave a preview for the longest race of the night.

“Like the 4 x 800 this race was far and away the deepest and toughest of the four regions. The next three top runners in the district are only in the 3,200 so they are fresh and ready and three other top mile competitors from the region dropped the 1,600 to go for the 3,200. Landen had to fight warm temperatures and sun while those six didn’t have any of that wear and tear just 70 minutes earlier.”

Eyre though has worked out religiously and vigorously everyday was ready for this challenge. Eyre came out on top with a time of 9:24.20 to stand at the top of the podium as a regional champion.

As hinted earlier, the Wildcats were done running after the 3,200 but each stayed around with the rest of the Wildcat families to cheer on our neighbor North Adams in the 4 x 400-meter relay as they ran to a regional title in the culminating race of the night.

“These are great kids and our league is tremendous. This sport doesn’t always get the acclaim, but let me tell you our league will have several big-time state podium level athletes going for the ultimate goal in Dayton next Thursday and Friday,” Hughes said. “North Adams and Whiteoak were the top two Southeast District teams in the regional meet standings and don’t think for a minute us cheering each other on doesn’t help a little bit. Peebles has Payton Johnson as one of the top athletes in the state, Fairfield has a title contending high jumper in Remi Moon. Samantha Seas and Faith Donley will be vying for spots on the podium. We are cheering them all on and it’s great to be the part of the (Southern Hills Athletic Conference) contingent representing at these huge postseason meets.”

Whiteoak’s 4 x 800-meter relay team will run at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday at Dayton Welcome Stadium and Eyre and Blair will compete on Friday with running events in the evening.

Doug Hughes is the track and field coach at Whiteoak High School in Mowrystown.

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