Four Free State track athletes compete in Nike Outdoor Nationals event, put themselves on national scene

photo by: Courtesy of Jonah Frye

From left: Jonah Frye, Blake Wohler, Ryan Whittlesey and Jake Loos pose together at the Nike Outdoor Nationals track event in Oregon.

The state track meet in May generally signifies the end of the track season, when athletes get to take some time to relax and get away from running.

That wasn’t the case for four Free State High School track athletes. Jonah Frye, Jake Loos, Ryan Whittlesey and Blake Wohler competed in the Nike Outdoor Nationals meet, one of the largest outdoor track events in the country, which took place from June 12-15 in Eugene, Oregon.

The four boys ran together in the 4×1-mile relay championship and placed 18th with an 18-minute, 24.51-second time.

“All our guys competed well, so it’s not like we walked away from that race upset or anything,” Whittlesey said. “We all had a good time being out there, and I think it was one of the best ways we could have ended.”

Individually, Wohler ran in three different events and finished 47th in each one. Wohler completed the two-mile run in 9:44.39, the 3000-meter run in 9:06.38 and the 3200-meter run in 9:41.09. All three were in the emerging elite class, which has slightly lower qualifying standards than the championship-level events.

Loos ran the 800-meter run in the championship class and took 41st with a 1:54.69 time. Frye placed 29th in the 2,000-meter steeplechase championship at 6:21.88.

The Nike Outdoor Nationals takes place at the University of Oregon at Hayward Field. It has ten lanes and seats up to 25,000 people. Simply put, there aren’t many track and field stadiums that compare, and just getting to run at Hayward Field was an unforgettable experience.

“It’s probably one of the nicest track venues out there, and every time I would look and see something, I’d just think, ‘Wow, this is incredible,'” Loos said.

While Loos, Whittlesey and Wohler recently graduated from Free State, Frye just concluded his sophomore year and hopes to use this experience as an opportunity to show his potential to colleges around the country.

With two years left in his high school career, national track competition presented an opportunity for him to get comfortable in such settings. Frye is working toward returning next year, where he hopes he can distinguish himself for the college coaches in attendance.

Frye separately competed in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Philadelphia in the 200-meter steeplechase and placed 44th with a 6:23.32 time. Competing in both the New Balance and Nike meets was challenging, and he doesn’t anticipate doing so again.

The steeplechase isn’t typically offered through the track regular season. Frye started running it when he participated in the AAU circuit as a kid, and while in high school, he competed as often as possible. Free State coach Jordan Rose also brought him to a meet in Topeka where he could compete in the event.

For the three seniors, it was one last hurrah and a few final runs as Firebirds before they each start college. Whittlesey and Wohler will run at KU, and Loos will enroll at the University of Iowa and hopes to run track there. After having all run together since middle school, the trio went out together at one of the biggest stages.

“None of us really thought this was where we were going to end up,” Loos said. “We all wanted to, but to see our dreams come true and to compete at such a high level was really fun.”

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