Woodrow Dean

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

When the high school track season was shut down in March, Tallassee’s Woodrow Dean lost another chance to compete for a likely spot on the medal stand at the state meet. Instead of sitting back and thinking of the lost opportunity, Dean immediately started to put work in to prepare for his next cross country season.

“It was a lot of consistent training over the summer,” Dean said. “With track getting canceled, it gave me more time to focus on cross country. I got to shift over early. I know I wanted to finish out the track season but it did help.”

Dean did a lot of the training on his own but he was leading the way for his other teammates as the season got closer and continues to be at the front of the pack after the first month of the season.

“The whole group as a whole was able to get out there on their own,” Tallassee coach Danny Worley said. “He started right after we got shut down. We have been limiting the time we are together but they are really working on their own and they do a good job of it.”

That offseason work has paid off for Dean as he has grabbed first-place finishes in the first two meets of the season.

The season opener was a shortened race at Smiths Station but Dean still eased to the top spot, finishing the 3K run in 9:11.23.

“I was really excited to race since it had been so long,” Dean said. “I really wanted to see where my conditioning was at.”

Dean topped that performance a week later when he attended the ninth annual AT&T Starrs Mill Panther XC Meet in Fayettville, Georgia. Dean went to the meet without any teammates but he still made the most of the experience.

“I liked it but I didn’t really know anybody down there,” Dean said. “I wasn’t coming in as a mindset of winning at all. I was just thinking they could pull me along to a faster time.”

The other runners did pull Dean along for the first mile but he began to separate himself and once again found himself with a big lead when he crossed the finish line. He finished with a time of 15:32.00, setting a new personal record and a new school record for a 5K race.

“He wants to go as fast as he can go and he wants to be on top,” Worley said. “He has been training harder than ever before and that’s all self-motivated. He has a great work ethic and that’s going to carry him.”

Dean said having the school record is nice but he’s never going to be satisfied with his time. After finishing second in the state in Class 5A last season, he is the favorite to take home gold but he’s not getting complacent.

“I’m just shooting to get better,” Dean said. “It’s a lot about me racing against a clock. I want to see my time against the big dogs in 7A.”

Tallassee’s next meet will be Saturday, hosted by Central Clay County in Lineville which is the same course the Tigers will run for the sectional race in November. Dean is expected to be in front of the pack on the course but he is also looked to as the leader as the Tigers prepare for to make a run at a strong team performance.

“We want to try to finish as high as we’ve ever finished,” Worley said. “He’s a good verbal leader but they just see his workouts and his effort and they try to match that.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.