Woodrow Dean

Submitted / The Tribune Woodrow Dean set a new personal record to finish second in Class 5A.

Teams from around the state converged on Oakville Indian Mounds Park in Danville to compete in the 2020 AHSAA Cross Country State Championships on Saturday.

Tallassee took 10 runners to the competition and equaled the program’s best ever team finish while also grabbing its first ever individual state championship. The Tigers put together the fourth best average time among 16 competing teams and finished eighth as a team in Class 5A.

Woodrow Dean played a big role in that team finish as he earned the school’s first ever state title in cross country.

“It’s big because there’s just one state champion for each class,” Tallassee coach Danny Worley said. “It’s tough to do that in cross country so to get that is a big deal.”

After finishing second at state last year, Dean took the extra step forward in his third experience at the state meet. Dean posted a time of 15:33.83, easing past the rest of the crowd and beating his closest competition by more than 40 seconds.

“It felt amazing,” Dean said. “I just thank God for giving me the blessing to run. This is something I have been working at for a long time. It’s really amazing. Hopefully I can carry it on to my teammates and I won’t be the only one to come through here.”

Dean’s time was the fourth best time among all classifications in the state and he will get a better chance to compare himself to those athletes at this weekend’s race in Huntsville. Dean said he was just focused on winning the race at the state meet to accomplish his goal of becoming a state champion but now he wants to go back to trying to break the 15-minute mark again and break his personal best of 14:48.99.

“I’m going to be happy but not satisfied,” Dean said. “That’s not as fast of a track as I had the PR and I was just focused on winning this race. It’s a pretty good time but I think if I had really tried to go for time, I could have been the fastest.”

Worley said he has no doubts Dean has the capability of winning more state titles in his future whether it be in track or cross country and he expects his times to only get better as Dean finishes up his high school career.

“I’m just happy for him,” Worley said. “I coach multiple sports and I can tell you he’s the hardest working athlete we have up here. He’s always doing things above and beyond what we ask. So for him to put the work in and reach the goal he wanted, it showed everyone else you can reach your goals by putting that kind of work in.”

Tallassee had five other athletes finish in the top 100 of the field of 165 runners. Grant McCraney, Caleb Mason and Brady Mason all finished just under 19 minutes to take up spots in the top 70 while Jacob Patterson came in at 80th to finish out the team’s scoring spots.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.