ST. MARYS - Running routes as a wide receiver in middle school turned out to be the best training for Jordan Whitehair as a cross country and track athlete.
The senior from St. Marys High School joined classmate Maggie Drazba in a dual Division I signing last Friday. While Drazba chose West Virginia University in Morgantown, Whitehair elected to attend Morehead State University. Whitehair will be within shouting distance from his hometown since the campus is located three hours away in Morehead, Ky.
"I never thought I would be going Division I - it's always been a dream of mine," Whitehair said.
Whitehair was one of a handful of recruits for Morehead State's second-year head coach Brent Ericksen, who led Southern Oregon University to NAIA cross country titles in both the men's and women's field before taking over the Eagles' program.
"I looked at West Virginia Wesleyan and Wheeling Jesuit, but when I made my visit at Morehead State I met the team and it felt like a family," Whitehair said. "And that is what I wanted.
"I knew if I would go to any other Division I school, I would be a number. Morehead State is not that big so I figured it would be a perfect fit."
Whitehair made his mark at last fall's state cross country meet. He duplicated his eighth-place all-state finish from his junior year by knocking off nearly two minutes from his time recorded on the same course earlier in the season.
"At the beginning of the season, I was a little overweight because I was lifting over the summer," Whitehair said. "When we raced at that same course at the start of the season, I think I finished like 23rd with a time 18:20. Then I worked throughout the season and dropped my time to 16:29 for the state meet.
"I will never forget that."
Whitehair also competes during the boys basketball and track season. Last spring, he ran anything from a quarter-mile all the way up to the two-mile - in addition to the relays. At the state track meet, only three seconds prevented Whitehair from winning a gold medal in the mile.
Although football was his first love in middle school, Whitehair took a serious interest in cross country and track following his sophomore year at St. Marys. His dedication has landed him with a Division I program.
After compiling a 3.4 grade-point average in high school, Whitehair plans to major in criminal justice at Morehead State. He is the son of Johnna and Randy Whitehair and has an older sister, Whitney.
"My parents are there whenever I run - they always went with me when I went to the Footlocker Nationals in North Carolina," Jordan Whitehair said. "They are my big supporters."