HS Track1

Sand Springs’ Cheyenne Walden runs to a first-place finish in the 3,200 meters at the 2017 Class 6A state track meet in Yukon. Tulsa World file

One of Oklahoma’s most decorated girls high school cross country runners left Oklahoma State and headed west.

Cheyenne Walden, a graduate of Charles Page High School in Sand Springs, transferred to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, where she competed this past spring.

“I was really unhappy at OSU, so I transferred,” Walden said, who will be a junior next year.

At Sand Springs, Walden became one of the state’s most accomplished high school runners, winning four consecutive Class 6A state cross country titles and won a bunch more titles in track.

It seemed only fitting that she would go to Oklahoma State to embark on a storied career at a school well-known for long-distance running.

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 cross country race in 2017 — but it wasn’t enough to make it enjoyable.

That put the wheels in motion for a move out west.

“The transition was really hard because I have never been away from home for so long,” she said.

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

At OSU, Walden quickly discovered the collegiate level’s enhanced difficulty.

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

At Grand Canyon, Walden already has 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, 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 the race that includes clearing hurdles and water jumps. Walden finished sixth (11 minutes, 12.13 seconds) in the event at the WAC Championships in May.

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.”