The Whiteoak Wildcats returned to Ripley High School on Saturday to defend their Southern Hills Athletic Conference cross country title and they didn’t leave much in doubt. Whiteoak had the first two runners to finish the 3.1 mile race, and also had seven of the top 15 finishers out of the field of 67.
Team scores were: Whiteoak 29, Fairfield 86, North Adams 93, Ripley 116, Lynchburg-Clay 123, Peebles 147, Manchester 151, Eastern Brown 196 and West Union .208.
Leading the way for the victorious Wildcats was freshman Landen Eyre who won the race with a time of 16:55 and in doing so became only the second Whiteoak runner to be the individual league cross country champion. Eyre joined Matt Mullenix in 1983 in select Whiteoak running history.
Right behind Eyre was teammate Weston Blair who ran a personal best 17:11 to take second place. From there Whiteoak had a nice cluster of kids to greatly represent the top 15 (also signifies all-league status) — Christian Price was 7th (18:33), Wade Evans 8th (18:45), Bryce Van Hoy 11th (18:57), Connor Butler 13th (19:10) and Evan DeAtley 15th (19:13). Also part of the championship team were Tristen Helterbrand 28th (20:31), Tyler Wessner 34th (20:58), Robbie Raines 37th (21:23), Austin Richards 54th (24:32), Jake Ward 57th (25:00).
“They we’re all ready and focused today, from getting to school early to catch the bus to scraping themselves up from the finish line to cheer on their teammates, and elated coach Doug Hughes said. “This is such an enjoyable group of kids. Landen Eyre winning the league title as a freshman — wow. Weston Blair was on his game today and him being that good makes us very tough. Christian Price has been battling all season. Wade Evans recovering from a knee injury is peaking perfectly and is Whiteoak’s first three-time all-league runner of the last 35 years. Bryce Van Hoy is an all-league runner and this is his first year competing. Connor Butler peaking as a senior to join the all-conference team and Evan DeAtley has been through the running battles and he knocked one out of the park today to crack that top 15.
“But team Whiteoak is so much more. Senior leader Tristen Helterbrand and senior Robbie Raines have been there through this whole process, both running from seventh grade through their senior year. Robbie came into this season as Whiteoak’s top runner each of the past two seasons when it mattered most. Two times he was all-league and was all-district last season. He put in the work this summer like never before and was ready to help lead this team and the dreaded virus got him and his lungs just haven’t fully recovered for this grueling sport. But whatever we accomplish the rest of the way they are a big part of it and part of this wonderful transition we’ve made. Great, great seniors! Jake Ward, Tyler Wessner and Austin Richards are in this thing too and will have important duties this postseason.
Whiteoak will compete at the University of Rio Grande next Saturday afternoon in the Southeast District Division 3 Championships.
Information for this story was provided by Doug Hughes.