The cross-country season started with abandon the weekend of Aug. 26, and there are for sure a ton of miles left to run between now and when the state meets come in November. That being said, even through the first week of the new cross-country season, there are already runners making a claim that they deserve to be in the conversation for the state’s fastest. Through the first week there were five Shelby County boy runners that posted top-20 times throughout the state, and there were two girls that have done so as well.
The two top finishers at the Early Bird Twilight Classic, which was held at the University of Montevallo, hold the quickest times in the state through the first week of the season. Cole Stidfole and Caleb Van Geffen, classmates from Oak Mountain High School, ran a 15:42.02 and a 15:53.24 respectively at the meet to claim the top two times in the state thus far. Stidfole was the 2015 Gatorade Runner of the Year in Alabama, and is the outright favorite to win the 7A individual state title this season if he stays healthy. Van Geffen, on the other hand, was one of the Eagles’ top runners last year as a junior, but his 15:53 was a PR by more than 15 seconds.
Brandon DeMarcus Lee, a sophomore from Thompson High School, ran a 16:14.92 at the Early Bird meet, which was a PR by nearly 40 seconds. Lee is far and away Thompson’s fastest runner this season, and is one of the brightest young stars across the cross-country landscape in the county. His 16:14 was the second-fastest time run by a sophomore in the first week of the season, and was the seventh-fastest time run in the state this week.
The final two boys on the list are Spain Park’s Cole Dillard and Briarwood Christian’s Zack Howard. Dillard, a junior, ran a 16:40.02 at the Twilight Classic, which was a PR by more than 15 seconds and was good for 15th overall in the state. Howard, another junior, finished right behind Dillard with a 16:45.30, which was a PR by more than 28 seconds and was good for 18th overall in the state this week.
The only two girls who cracked the top 20 after the first week of the season were both from Spain Park, one of which was expected, the other not so much. Isabel Caddo, a senior on this Lady Jaguar team, ran a 19:47.06 at the Twilight Classic, which was good enough for ninth place overall in the state. Her teammate on the other hand, softball sensation and fellow senior Mary Katherine Tedder, came out of no where in the meet to run a 19:20.47, which was good for sixth overall in the state. Tedder had not broken 21 minutes in the 5K since 2011, and had never broken 20 minutes before this race. Her time of 19:20 was a personal best by more than a minute and a half.
While the season is long and will no doubt see a number of names and faces rise to the top at varying points, these seven have already proven they can hang with the best of them this season.