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Edmond Deer Creek boys cross country squad determined to reclaim state championship

Nationally ranked Antlers favored to take 6A title at Saturday's state meet

A year ago at this time, the Edmond Deer Creek boys cross country team was having an off year by its own high standards. 

They finished fourth at the 6A state championships and were more than 50 points behind champion Edmond North.

During the offseason, the Antlers decided to rededicate themselves, so to speak. Or as senior Brody Woodcock described, they developed a “burn the boats” mentality.

“Burning the boats is like you're out there, you're running with a guy that is right beside you," Woodcock explained. "What are you going to do? Are you going to burn your boat and go out and make a move on him?

"Or are you going to stay complacent and not burn your boats and just finish the race thinking, oh, I could have done this better. Burning the boats is like finishing on empty.”

That mindset has not only propelled Deer Creek to the No. 1 spot in class 6A as they head into this weekend’s state championships but also a rare national ranking as well.

According to, the Antlers are ranked No. 19 in the nation in the most recent polls. They are the only team from Oklahoma to make the list, as most of the list is made up of programs from Utah, New Jersey, California and Texas.

“That's another one of our goals is staying sneaky. We're the sneaky team. No one's heard of us,” Woodcock said. “Everybody's questioning, ‘Oh, it's an Oklahoma team. We're going to go out there and handle them the same way we handle everybody else.’ That's what the Texas teams are probably thinking.

"But we're sneaky. We're staying low-key going into each race, but we know that we've got bigger hearts and we want it more.”

The Antlers haven’t just been competing against teams in Oklahoma.

They have ventured beyond the state lines twice to the Marcus Coach T Invitational (Texas) and Chile Pepper XC Festival (Arkansas). Both events featured many of the top teams in the nation and region.

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At the Chile Pepper, Deer Creek’s Graham Mitchell landed in fourth place with a time of 15:19. Right behind him in fifth was Woodcock as the Antlers won the team title with 113 points, 28 points better than the second-place squad.

“I'm not going to say it's easy (staying humble) because we can get our heads a bit big sometimes. But it's definitely easier when we're coming from the bottom,” Woodcock said. “Last year, we were fourth at state and this year, we're competing nationally and beating those bigger teams and that's what we really want.

"As long as we keep staying humble, that's how we started. So that's how we're going to finish.”

Since 2005, Deer Creek has won a total of nine championships and has four runner-ups as well.

The Antlers' last title came in 2021, the only championship any runner on the current team would have participated in.

“Obviously, we need to stay healthy,” Woodcock said. “If we could stay healthy and keep staying consistent; if we can do those two things and keep our heads and humble, I feel like we have just as good a chance as everybody else does. So that's what it is really coming down to.”

The health issue may have struck the Antlers already.

Mitchell, the team’s No. 1 runner, did not compete in either the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference meet or at the 6A West Regional last week. There has been no word on his availability for the state meet.

Yet, the Antlers have shown even without Mitchell they are a formidable foe. But his absence would decrease the gap somewhat between them and teams such as No. 2 Mustang, No. 3 Edmond North, No. 4 Piedmont and No. 5 Edmond Santa Fe.

The Broncos may provide the stiffest test, especially if Mitchell is unable to compete. With Cameron Langdon, Noah Thayer, Carson Patten, Teagan Nelson and Luke Balliew leading the charge, they took second behind the Antlers at last week’s West Regional.

Mustang's Carson Patten 

Mustang's Carson Patten 

“That's the good thing about it is that we've got three guys that on any single day, all three can be up there,” said Mustang coach Mike McGary. “We hope they all hit at state and they all run their best race at state. And then that'll help us out a lot.

"We've got three guys that can be our top runner, which really helps us in case one of them has a little bit of an off day or something like that.”

On the girls' side, the top three teams all hail from the Edmond area. No. 1 Edmond North, No. 2 Piedmont and No. 3 Deer Creek are the favorites heading into the meet.

However, No. 4 Owasso - last year's 6A champion - and No. 5 Jenks could have something to say about who takes home the trophy at the end of the day.

One of those looking to take home their first individual title is
Edmond Santa Fe’s Natalie Duggan. The junior took first place at the West Regional with a time of 18:06, which was 27 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.

However, Owasso’s Bella Nelson (17:46) and Edmond North’s Morgan Kirkland (17:48) had the top two times at the East Regional in Owasso.

On the boys' side, look for Edmond North’s Zac Rutherford and Colby Moore and Stillwater’s Mez Barth to try and lead the charge.

But Woodcock, who took first at the West Regional, will try to close out his career with a team championship and an individual title. He took 41st place last year.

The state cross country championships will be held Saturday at Edmond Santa Fe. The 6A girls will take to the 5K course first at 8:30 a.m. The 6A boys will follow at 9:15.

Class 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A will follow throughout the day. The final race is the 2A boys, and it’s scheduled for 2:45 p.m.   

Photo of Edmond Deer Creek's Brody Woodcock

-- Michael Kinney | @SBLiveOK