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Whiteoak competes at Pickerington North; Landen Eyre wins meet

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Pictured (l-r) are Whiteoak runners Austin Richards, Jake Ward, Landen Eyre, Weston Blair and Shawn Mitchell-Cox. (Submitted photo)
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The Whiteoak Wildcats competed at the Pickerington North Cross-Country Classic Saturday in one of the larger meets in the state. Junior Landen Eyre wasted no time letting the huge crowd and scores of teams from the Columbus area know that Whiteoak was there, as he led the pack of 245 runners and took first place overall.
Eyre finished the event with a time of 16:22.5, with the runner-up, Denison Murphy of Grandview Heights, having a time of 16:31.9.

Coach Doug Hughes had high praises for Eyre.
“Landen is mentally and physically ready for these huge meets,” Hughes said. “I can 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. 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 of 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, two multi-sport 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,” Hughes said. “These boys keep coaching fun for me.”

On the girls’ side, Addy Hauke finished at 27:01 and defeated 62 runners, and Lexi Taylor was 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,” Hughes said. “I’m very proud of them.”

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 shoutout to the junior high athletes.

“This is such an intimidating first meet of the year, and for two of them, their first-ever meet,” Hughes said. “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.”