Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year: Griffin Stephens
2019 was a redemption year for Griffin Stephens. The Banks County star runner was tired of playing second fiddle. He was the 8-AA Region Runner-Up as both a sophomore in 2017 and as a junior in 2018. In 2017, he was third in state, and finished as runner-up in 2018.
This year, he was settling for nothing less than the top spot. So what did he do about it? He just set a new PR, won the region title, won the 2A State Championship, and now takes Runner of the Year honors after finishing third last year in the voting.
2019 BY THE NUMBERS
- 2A State Champion
- Region 8-AA Champion
- PR 16:11
- 2 1st-Place Finishes
- 4 Top-5 Finishes
- 5 Top-10 Finishes
- 6 Top-20 Finishes
Stephens PR’d with a 16:11, won the region and state championship (which made up both of his individual wins this year), finished in the Top-20 6 times, Top-10 5 times, and Top-5 4 times. He proved to be every bit of the hype that preceded him.
- Griffin Stephens – 56 pts (6 1st place votes)
- Evan Prince – 42 pts (5)
- Brandon Martin – 33.5 pts (3)
- Thomas Hotard – 33.5 pts (1)
- Collin Kilgore – 16.5 pts (1)
- Matthew Schroeder – 10.5 pts
Stephens took the most 1st-place votes, but it wasn’t a given. Evan Prince, who actually beat most of the finalists in this group in all head-to-head meetings, came up with 5 1st-place votes himself. Stephens’ weighted average and better PR and placement in state likely won him over with the voting panel. Thomas Hotard and Collin Kilgore also netted a 1st-place vote.
Voting included our 16-person panel made up of sports reporters, writers, video producers, former coaches, players, GHSA officials, and sports experts. The voting is Heisman-style, with the following points system:
1st place votes: 5 pts; 2nd: 3 pts; 3rd: 2 pts; 4th: 1 pts; 5th-6th: 0.5 pts
HISTORY OF RUNNER OF THE YEAR
- 2019 – Griffin Stephens – Banks SR
- 2018 – Guy Gober – Rabun SR
- 2017 – Lance Underwood – Union SR
- 2016 – Jacob Poston – Dawson SR
- 2015 – Jacob Poston – Dawson JR
- 2014 – Tyler Grimsley – Towns SO
- 2013 – Dylan Forester – Dawson SR
- 2012 – Dylan Johnson – Hayesville SR
- 2011 – Dylan Johnson – Hayesville JR
- 2010 – Brian Elder – Habersham SR
- 2009 – Brian Elder – Habersham JR
Stephens is the first Banks County runner to claim the award for either the boys or girls. He is the fourth straight senior to win it and seventh overall. He is the second state champion to win it, following Guy Gober (Rabun) from last year.
LOOKING AHEAD – THE NEXT FAVORITE(S)
The finalist group this year contained 6 runners, and 3 of them will return next year. Evan Prince (Tallulah Falls) is the early front-runner (pun intended), and Brandon Martin as well for Commerce. Jefferson’s Matthew Schroeder and teammate (and finalist last year) Riley Thornton should bounce back next year to also be in the mix.
POY Graphic (Framed) – Griffin Stephens
POY Graphic (Framed) - Griffin Stephens