ST. LOUISVILLE — There are challenging cross country courses everywhere. Some are hilly and some are muddy, some are full of gravel and others are pitted with ruts. There is, however, only one place that they call “The Hux.”
Utica High School’s home course, located in Licking County’s beautiful 4-H Camp Ohio, is a very potent combination of steep hills to climb and descend through a veil of trees and underbrush. Only a slight breeze gave any relief from temperatures which soared into the 90s during Tuesday’s Utica Invitational Cross Country Tournament, which is named in honor of former Utica cross country coach, Frank Hux.
The East Knox Bulldogs had the best performance among area teams, placing three boys in the top 10. East Knox junior Nathan Whitney crossed the finish line fifth in a time of 20:05.73. Teammate Scott Parr placed eighth (21:05), and Hunter Keller was 10th (21:17) for the Bulldogs.
“I placed just about where I wanted to,” Whitney said. “My time isn’t what I wanted, but you can’t worry about that on this course. I look forward to running on this course. It really tests everybody’s limits. The only course that even comes close to this is, probably, at the Lucas Invitational.”
Whitney stayed with the front pack, fighting to hang on. He trailed Cardington’s Mason White, the eventual winner, who led all the way. White, a sophomore, finished with a time of 19:01.53. Ramen Felumlee of Licking Valley (19:12.80) was second. Miller Garrett of Licking Heights (19:20.30) was third, and his teammate, Dalton Weber (19:56.39), placed fourth.
The Bulldogs had four runners in the top 20, placing second (66 points) as a team. Also scoring for the Bulldogs, were freshman Sam Whitney (16th, 22:21.67) and senior Brayden Burkhardt (27th, 24:03.72). Only Licking Heights performed better in the team standings, finishing first with 56 points. The Utica boys, led by Demitri Lowry (15th, 22:14.63), were tied with Cardington for fourth in the team standings with 105 points each.
“We did great,” Nathan Whitney said. “I just tried to stick with the top guys. In the last half-mile the downhill gives you motivation. Then you give it all you have left, and I didn’t have anything left.”
For the girls, Utica senior Greta Buckenburger placed sixth, with a time of 26:28.25. She and the rest of the field finished well behind senior Megan King of Northridge (1st, 23:33.23). Sophomore Olivya Ashbrook, also of Northridge, was second (24:47.62). The Vikings finished second in team points with 64. Licking Valley’s team was first with 33 points, after having placed all five runners in the top 10. They were led by senior Lauren Montgomery (3rd, 25:37.98).
“It’s really hot today,” Buckenberger said. “This is already the hardest course we run, but with the heat, it’s crazy. There is nothing like this. There’s that first hill that we call “The Hux,” and no other course has it. Then there are all the hills after it. It’s a lot.”
Alexandria Magers had the best run for the East Knox girls. The freshman was 10th with a time of 28:14.55. Magers was the second-best performing freshman on the course, with only Licking Heights’ Ally Post (5th, 26:14.22) outrunning her.