The Colony’s Devon Judelson and his older brother, Dylan, had competitions in middle school to see who can run the faster time in a one-mile race.
Sometimes it was Devon. Other times it was Dylan. It was just two brothers who were trying to push each other to become better. That friendly rivalry helped to grow their love for cross country.
This year, Dylan, a junior, ran with Devon, a sophomore on the Cougars’ varsity cross country team for the first time in their high school careers. Devon ran junior varsity as a freshman. Last week, the two siblings ran together in freezing temperatures at the District 10-5A meet at Myers Park in McKinney. Devon placed seventh, which qualified him for the Region 2 meet, while Dylan took 26th overall.
The result came as a huge surprise to Devon.
"I didn't really expect anything from it,” he said. “It was cold. From the last time I ran (at Myers Park), I didn't really have a good race at all. I was really shocked at the outcome. I surprised myself and a lot of other people."
In a normal year, Dylan would have been running with his brother, as well as their teammates, at the regional meet. The UIL usually allows for the top three teams in the district meet to qualify for regionals. The Colony finished third in the team standings. But, due to the current pandemic, only the top two teams advance to regionals, meaning that Devon and Dylan won’t get to run together next week.
“From the beginning of the season, we knew that we wanted to go to regionals as a team,” Devon said. “I'm excited that I'm going, but it would have been great if we all went."
There was a time when he wasn’t sure if he would ever get to run in the regional meet.
In the seventh grade, Devon had trouble walking on his foot after completing an event during a track meet. He thought that the injury would naturally heal itself but never did. He underwent successful surgery while in the eighth grade to repair a stress fracture in his foot.
Devon had also played soccer in middle school and wanted to give that as well as cross country and track when he entered high school. But, at the back of his mind, the foot injury had him feeling extra cautious. Still, he gave it a try and was a participant in all three sports.
"I was definitely scared about that because I was out for such a long time,” he said. “It was a scary thing. After a while with all of the physical therapy and slowing getting back, it worked out for the better."
Devon was happy to get back on the pitch to play soccer. He hadn’t played in two years due to the foot injury. Yet, all of the training was taking a physical toll on his body. That’s when he made the decision to give up soccer and focus solely on cross country and track.
It proved to be a good decision.
Not long before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the final month of the spring sports season to be cancelled, Devon was clocking his best times in the mile run. Each meet, he bettered his time. He finished below five minutes for the first time at the Cougar Invitational. Unfortunately, concerns over the novel coronavirus forced the track season to be shut down a few weeks prior to the district meet.
"We had two big meets coming up after our own and I was really excited for them," he said.
Despite the shutdown, Devon began to prepare for the fall cross country season. Of course, no one was sure at the time whether the pandemic would allow for sports to resume. He prepared as if there was going to be run. He trained throughout the summer, including with his older brother.
All of the hard work paid off.
The Colony head coach Tony Doran said that Devon has the 27th-fastest time coming into the regional meet, based on his research from MileSplit.com. The flat terrain at Jesse Owens Memorial Complex should make for some fast times at the regional. But, one advantage that Devon has is that some of the fastest runners are from 10-5A.
“Being a freshman, it's really hard trying to understand what I need to happen and seeing what he wants to do with soccer,” Doran said. “Once track season came, he was able and he was seeing his progression in track.
“I think that's what propelled him to concentrate more on cross country entering his sophomore season. You can see, based on his accolades, how everything has transpired, just him putting forth the hard work and getting to this stage right now."
Devon’s teammates have been there by his side helping him to prepare for what he hopes in a berth into the state meet. The Region II meet for boys 5A is set for 2:30 p.m. Monday.
"We're just trying to do what we did before the district meet,” he said. “I'm training with the guys who didn't make it to the regional meet. They're holding me accountable for what I should be doing, and hopefully I should well."