Los Gatos High junior Aydon Stefanopoulos, flanked by coaches Paul Lawryk and Geoff Elmore, turned in a superb performance to win the CIF State Cross Country Championship Boys Division II race on Nov. 25 at Woodward Park in Fresno. Photo by Stacy Stefanopoulos.

Los Gatos High junior Aydon Stefanopoulos didn’t come in as the favorite entering the CIF State Cross Country Boys Division II Championship race on Nov. 25 at Woodward Park in Fresno. 

That distinction went to Ventura High senior Anthony Fast Horse, who boasted a state-leading time of 14 minutes, 32.50 seconds over 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) this season. By comparison, Stefanopoulos’ best 5K time was the 15:14.7 he posted at the State Championships in 2022. 

But as they say, that’s why you run the race. In another dazzling performance, Stefanopoulos won going away, finishing in 14:58.4, a sizable 16-second PR on the fast but challenging Woodward Park course. 

When Stefanopoulos crossed the finish line, it seemed like he was in a dream.  

“I actually didn’t believe it,” he said. “There was definitely a thought in my head of, ‘Oh, somebody already crossed the line before me. I’m definitely not first, this can’t be right.’”

Of course, it was. The next closest competitor, Santa Barbara senior Andreas Dybdahl, was seven seconds back. Mired by a hamstring injury, Fast Horse faded to 14th place. Stefanopoulos was sound in his race tactics yet again. 

He sat back behind the lead pack in the early stages and crossed the one-mile marker in 4:49, in 17th place. Then, just as he always does, Stefanopoulos began picking off runners after the one-mile mark. 

During his decisive surge, Stefanopoulos was content to stay right behind the leaders but noticed they weren’t pushing the pace and he had more in the tank than anyone else. At the 2.1-mile mark, he had zoomed up to second with Grant Morgenfeld of Palo Alto High just steps ahead. 

Shortly thereafter, Stefanopoulos dropped his friendly rival and ran the final portion of the race all alone in front. Two weeks after being unable to keep up with Morgenfeld in the Central Coast Section Championships, Stefanopoulos turned the tables at State. 

In an interview with MileSplitCA afterward, Stefanopoulos credited Morgenfeld for pushing him and “helping me to get to where I am today.” When the reporter asked Stefanopoulos about his goal coming into the race, he said, “My goal was to stand on the podium to get a picture with Fast Horse. I mean, I didn’t think I could ever win it. It still baffles me.”

Stefanopoulos recorded the eighth fastest time overall among the five boys divisions, and was the second fastest among CCS runners to Santa Cruz’s Eli Fitchen-Young, who was fifth overall in a blazing 14:49.5.

“I just enjoy and love the course pretty much,” Stefanopoulos said. “I think I know how to race it pretty well, and it feels comfortable for me. … You can say it’s probably the highlight of my career so far. I’m sure there’s more to come.”

Indeed, Stefanopoulos will realize a dream when he competes in the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) on Dec. 2 at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland. NXN is arguably the nation’s most prestigious and toughest high school cross country event. 

Stefanopoulos did well just to get there, earning one of only five at-large qualifying spots. When Stefanopoulos first got into running several years ago, he said NXN served as inspiration. 

“I remember I used to run on a treadmill a lot and I would watch the NXN videos to fuel me,” he said. “I wanted to go so bad it was motivation on the treadmill to not get off. It’s been a dream for a while now to run NXN. I can’t wait to see what it’s like.”

Meanwhile, the Los Gatos girls qualified as a team to State and finished a solid eighth place, just 10 positions behind Los Altos. Running State for the third time in as many seasons, Shea Elmore nailed a 18-second PR by finishing in 18:37.2, good for 31st in the D-II race. 

Teammates Taylor Chesarek (48th in 19:05.50), Sarina Salzer-Swartz (52nd in 19:08.70), Tatum Pyle (74th in 19:28.90), and Claire Liu (108th in 19:54.3) counted toward the scoring, while Elise Greenstreet (109th) and Zoe Williamson (145th) completed the team of seven in a field of 196 runners.

Stefanopoulos’ stature continues to grow as he places higher in the biggest events. He’s made steady progress since his freshman year, with each succeeding season posting faster times and impressive race wins. 

Combining confidence with humility, Stefanopoulos has the right mix to continue to get faster. After winning State, he was beaming.  

“Everything about the medal ceremony went by so fast,” he said. “It was a little bit weird, it was definitely a flash.”

Just like his race performance.

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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