STOVER –– Long after the teams had departed and the sun had set, in the dark, the number one remained lit in the time and score on the scoreboard at Morgan County R-1 High School.
It symbolized 16-year-old sophomore Caleb Broderson, who wore the number and had just been running the soccer field’s grass on the first day of the Stover Classic.
Hours later, and on the second day of the tournament, family, faculty and students were mourning Broderson, who was killed in a fatal car accident south of Florence on his way home from the Bulldogs' game Friday night.
Also a cross country runner with his brother, senior Blaine, students and teammates already wore T-shirts in Caleb’s memory Saturday. There were hugs and tears. Smithton players offered flowers and a banner, while players from Laquey wore “#StoverStrong” headbands in tribute.
Bulldogs head coach Chris Witte talked about the decision to go on without one of their own Saturday.
“We met last night after we found out and it was a decision I left up to them,” Witte said following Saturday afternoon’s game against Laquey. “I asked, ‘What do you guys want to do tomorrow?” And the overwhelming consensus was, ‘We want to play. Caleb would want us to play.’ We’re just doing our best to honor his memory and keep pushing on for him. Before and after the game, I told [our kids] I loved them, that I was proud of them, proud of their courage [to play]. ”
“[Caleb] had an infectious smile. He was always happy, always positive. I just keep picturing him smiling, walking off the field after our win last night. He was so excited, so happy. That image just keeps replaying in my mind.”
Bulldogs athletic director Tony Pace called Caleb a promising young athlete who had started to already flourish despite his age.
“After a freshman year that showed his potential, Caleb had really knuckled down and dedicated himself to improvement and fulfilling [it],” Pace said. “This improvement was not only seen in his athletics, but more importantly, it could be seen in his development as a young man. He had grown as a teammate and [became] an example of what you could do with a focused commitment… He will be missed as an athlete and student, but more importantly, as a friend, teammate, and a positive contributor to the halls of Stover schools.”
Broderson had just placed third at the Kaysinger Conference Cross Country Meet in Stover on Oct. 12, a race won by Blaine. Stover head coach Cindy Marriott, also Caleb’s physical education teacher from kindergarten to sixth grade, spoke of his development in the sport over the past several seasons.
"Last season when we came to practice, Caleb didn't come to the first two," Marriott said. "I looked at Blaine and asked where [Caleb was] and he said he didn't know, and [told Blaine to] tell him we miss him. Caleb showed up the third day, and I said, 'I'm glad you're here today, but I need you to listen. You're not Blaine, and I don't want you to be. I want you to be Caleb; I don't care if you're five minutes faster or slower [than him].’ He looked at me, and I could tell he knew that I meant that, and it meant a lot to me."
Marriott said Caleb was beginning to become "the runner I always believed he could be." Aiming to break the 19-minute mark, he was just over 20 minutes at Smith-Cotton's meet last month, then PRd at a difficult Hermitage course before knocking off another 30 seconds at Camdenton. "I have no doubt if he were still here, there'd be a battle next year [after Blaine graduates] for who would be the No. 1 runner... Blaine was so proud of his brother, and I was, too,” she said.
Caleb is survived by parents Kevin and Amber, and in addition to Blaine, siblings Alexa and Dylan.
A memorial service is set for Sunday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. at the high school. Memorial contributions are suggested to the Stover Booster Club.
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