HS AW Track

Sand Springs runner Cheyenne Walden at the Tulsa World studio in Tulsa on May 23, 2017. 

MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file

Cheyenne Walden became one of the state’s most decorated runners during her time at Charles Page High School. It only seemed fitting that she would go to Oklahoma State to embark on a storied career at a school well-known for long-distance running at the NCAA level.

But Walden never found her niche in Stillwater. She enjoyed some success — several top 10 finishes in the track and field season of 2018 and a top 30 showing at the NCAA Midwest Regional race in 2017 — but it wasn’t enough to make it enjoyable.

That put the wheels in motion for a move out west. Walden transferred to Grand Canyon University, where she’s primed to run in her upcoming junior season.

“I was really unhappy at OSU, so I transferred,” Walden said. “The transition was really hard because I have never been away from home for so long.”

But adjustments were made in the desert, where Walden is more than 1,000 miles away from home.

“I am super grateful for the opportunity I had to move, and I love running again,” Walden said. “I have huge goals to continue running in the future, so I had to do what made me happy.”

Walden made claiming state titles at Sand Springs look easy, becoming a four-time state champion in Class 6A cross country. But she quickly discovered the collegiate level’s enhanced difficulty level.

“The biggest difference is the training,” she said. “I have been doing a lot of more miles then when I was in high school. The other difference is the competition, where everyone is at their best.”

At Grand Canyon, Walden has already helped the Antelopes claim Western Athletic Conference championships in both the indoor and outdoor track seasons in 2019.

“I love seeing other people and myself working hard and cheering each other on,” Walden said. “Making history with the Lopes was awesome, and I can’t wait for many more opportunities I will have running for GCU.”

Up next for Walden is the 2019 cross country season, where she set a personal best of 20:49 in a 6K at Oklahoma State. Then the indoor track season leads right into running outdoors, where Walden gets to participate in her new favorite event.

“Outdoor is a lot of fun because I get to do my favorite event, which is the steeplechase,” Walden said of race that includes clearing hurdles and water jumps.

And depending on how her career finishes at Grand Canyon, Walden wouldn’t mind pursuing a professional running career — one that coincides with being a dental hygienist.

“College is great, but school is school and I’m ready to be done with it,” she said. “GCU doesn’t have a major to be a dental hygienist, so I will go to school for that for two years after graduating from GCU. But my biggest goal is to go pro in running. I am debating on turning pro and just running or doing professional triathlons. But then again, I have things I want to do, but that might not be God’s plan, so I am just playing it ear by ear and enjoying the time I have right now.”

Rachel Snyder 918-581-8315

rachel.snyder@sandspringsleader.com