Woodrow Dean

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

For the first time in the history of the Tallassee cross country program, a runner finished a 5K race in under 16 minutes. Woodrow Dean saved his best performance for the final meet of the season as he beat his old personal record by nearly 30 seconds by crossing the finish line at the AHSAA Cross Country State Championship in 15:51.85.

“We really thought he could maybe make into the top 10 entering the day,” Tallassee coach Danny Worley said. “But he surprised us. He had a great race and it all came together for him.”

Dean’s time was good enough for a second-place finish in Class 5A and it was the 10th fastest time of any classification. He came in 1.69 seconds behind Scottsboro’s Cooper Atkins and Dean said being that close to the leader helped push him during the final mile.

“I’m definitely happy with finishing second,” Dean said. “Scottsboro has a lot of good runners and they’re a tough team to beat. I wasn’t really bitter about being that close. I wasn’t supposed to finish second so it felt good.”

After a tough first mile, Dean said he had to push through some pain but found himself closing in on the leaders near the 2-mile mark. That’s when he realized he had a chance to do something special. Worley said Dean was in fourth after 2 miles and it did not take long to pass the then-second- and third-place runners to close the gap on Atkins.

“That always makes for an exciting race,” Worley said. “It was fun to watch and that always gets the crowd in to it. He’s worked so hard for this.”

Dean had four first-place finishes this season but he said it just felt different being on the podium at state. He said it really sunk in when some of his friends told him about the Scottsboro team talking about how good Dean was in the final 2 miles.

Dean’s run not only set the school record for time but it was also the highest ever finish for a Tiger at the state competition. After placing 16th as a freshman in 2018, Dean knew he could grab a higher finish this year and now he has his eyes on a gold medal in his final two years.

“It’s about training hard and running every day,” Dean said. “I have to keep pushing myself. I run about 10 miles around town every Sunday. That’s the kind of stuff I have to keep working on.”

After seeing Dean take more than a minute off his time in the last year, Worley said there may not be a limit to what Dean can accomplish at the high school level or beyond. 

“He’s very dedicated,” Worley said. “He wants to run at the next level and he’s doing all the things he needs to do to get here.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.