Jesse Owens results in blazing times

Published 12:45 pm Thursday, October 8, 2015

A number of runners from across the county, from Oak Mountain and elsewhere, set personal bests at the Jesse Owens Classic. (Contributed / Julia Jacobs)

A number of runners from across the county, from Oak Mountain and elsewhere, set personal bests at the Jesse Owens Classic. (Contributed / Julia Jacobs)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

This past weekend at the 17th Annual Jesse Owens Invitational, a number of runners from across the state and across the county set a torrid pace on a notoriously fast course. Just how fast was the course? Let’s take a look.

First and foremost was Cole Stidfole, who finished with a personal best time of 15:20.95. That time is Stidfole’s best by 29.36 seconds, which is an absurd amount of time to shave in a single outing, especially when the original time is already under 16 minutes to begin with. Stidfole’s two quickest times this season have both come in second-place efforts, and the speedy junior has run much quicker when someone else is around to push him.

Stidfole’s impressive PR was by no means an anomaly at the race. Caleb Van Geffen, Stidfole’s teammate and classmate who currently holds the 15th-fastest time in the state, set a personal best by 17.97 seconds when he crossed the line in 16:08.59. Senior Eagle Sean Drummond crossed in 16:19.12, a best by over 17 seconds. Thompson senior Conner Murphy set a personal best by over 50 seconds when he finished in 16:51.33

“It’s the same course as our state meet,” Spain Park cross-country coach Michael Zelwack said. “It’s an opportunity to see the state course before the state meet. It’s normal to see times jump at that meet. There are a lot of folks running real fast right now. It (times) jumped a little more than normally this year. A number of out of state teams came in and helped push the pace.”

Zelwack had a number of runners that had big days at the meet, including a slew of sophomore boys in Cole Dillard, Morgan Becker and Kai Ozug. Dillard was the leader of the group with a 16:53.74, which was a personal best by 33.61 seconds. Becker and Ozug also set personal bests by 33.94 and 33.99 seconds at the meet respectively.

The boys weren’t the only ones who shaved a chunk of time off their personal bests. Pelham senior Mary Grace Strozier is the fastest senior girl in the state and the third-fastest girl overall in the state with her time of 18:26.39, a personal best for the season by over 13 seconds. Strozier’s all-time personal best is a 18:07.84, which she ran a season ago on the same course at the state championship.

Spain Park senior Sarah Sims McGrath has had a huge senior campaign so far, running two of her four meets in 2015 faster than her previous personal best. Her 18:50.46 at the Jesse Owens was a 21.88 second improvement over her time at the Chickasaw Trails Invitational earlier this month.

These runners do not represent the entirety of the county field that shaved significant time at this race, but they do show the trend of how a fast course and stiff competition can push times down across the board. This bodes well for the state meet, when the competition will be at its fiercest.