Nobody expected Alex Sharp to be this good, especially while she was still this young.

The freshman Brookfield cross country runner, who had no varsity teammates to push her along throughout the season, finished fifth in the Class 2 state meet on Nov. 3.

Aside from pushing herself to hit the best five-kilometer time she possibly can, she would adore fostering a program that Brookfield has been sorely missing.

She was the cornerstone of the middle school's then brand-new program two years ago, and she is the unequivocal cornerstone of the high school program currently.

"I would love to get some more kids out there, that would be so awesome," Sharp said. "I've already talked to some people about getting out there, and my sister will be in seventh grade next year and I know she's excited about running. There are a few guys interested in the sport, and I know if we got just a few of them out to some workouts, others would follow."

The aspirations that Sharp, her parents, and her coach Holly Matzen had set preseason were utterly shattered during her ninth-grade season.

When she began running competitively in seventh grade, no one knew if she'd be any good.

"We're really all very shocked," Alex's father, Ronnie Sharp, admitted. "When she started running those (five-kilometer races) locally, her times were never that great. When she started really pushing herself, her times got better and better, and we never really realized how hard she'd pushed herself, and how good her times were compared to everyone else.

"It's amazing, being as young as she is, to have the drive to reach her goals like this. It's way beyond what we expected to happen, and as a parent, I'm proud."

Ronnie was something of an athlete himself in his day. The Brookfield '93 alumnus said that he did not begin distance running until he was out of college, and that his daughter's inclination to pursue distance running was something of an accident.

Alex's father was a two-time all-state football player, a captain on Brookfield's state runner-up basketball team, and a 400-, 800-, and 1600-meter athlete on the track team.

Still, the high school mathematics teacher says, as far as distance running goes, he never made it to the pinnacle his daughter has already achieved in her young life.

"I wasn't ever as successful at running as Alex is," Ronnie said. "Around here, I had a fair amount of success. Once I got out to a bigger meet or made it to state, I wasn't as successful as she has been."

At the beginning of the freshman season, Sharp's goals were no different than any other young aspirant in the painful, punishing sport: try to make it to the state meet, try to break 21 minutes, try to get a couple of meet medals over the course of the season.

In Sharp's case, those goals had to be radically adjusted for the better.

Sharp began her inaugural high school season with a bevy of medals before collecting her first gold in Cameron on Sept. 11. Sharp, during the fall's cross country season, never finished outside of the top five, and hit one of the three highest spots on the podium 11 times in 12 races.

The three-sport athlete -- she is also playing basketball in the winter -- claims that she would have never started distance running if she didn't have so much fun doing it.

When she was just a tyke, she pleaded her father to start taking her with him on distance runs and bike rides. She ran her first race when she was nine years old.

Before her second year of middle school, people began to notice.

"I was approached in seventh grade about starting a middle school cross country team. I went along with it, and that was kind of the beginning," Sharp said. "There aren't very many individuals in cross country, so I've had to teach myself to motivate myself and push myself to the extreme. I have had to learn how to do that on my own, but now I think I've kind of gotten the hang of that."

Sharp said that the elite Class 2 girls she spent the most time competing against this season, Clark County freshman Grace Buschling and North Callaway sophomore Kaleigh Moore, have helped one another to find a place within the state-wide cross country landscape. Those two finished third and fourth, respectively, in the state meet, just ahead of Sharp.

She especially complimented conference adversary Buschling on both her cross country prowess and her willingness to help make a name for girls' distance running in this part of the state.

"(Grace) is so awesome and talented, and we've been friends since we started competing against one another two years ago," Sharp said. "We've always gone back and forth beating one another, so that's humbling, but it always gives me that motivation. It's really cool to be happy for someone when they have a great race and they beat you, and she and I have that."

Tania Sharp, Alex's mother, echoed her husband in saying that the freshman's accomplishments have shattered her wildest expectations.

Of course, it goes without saying that Sharp has maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout her academic life.

She laughingly said that any athletic gene that Alex might have inherited must have come from her father, but that the fortune she has had to raise an exceptional athlete arose from the dedication her daughter has exhibited her entire life.

"I never in my dreams imagined that I'd have a child that would wake up at 5 a.m. and go run before school, then do another practice after school," Tania Sharp joked. "Her dedication is amazing to me. She's always been a mature kid, and she's always been a child beyond her years in maturity. She's driven and focused, and she's always forward-thinking."

After the state cross country race, Matzen said that Sharp would be as fun an athlete to coach as any she had ever had.

She said that Alex's determination and focus were as acute as any freshman athlete she had been around in a long time.

"She broke every goal we set at the start of the season," Matzen praised. "She's a great kid overall, and that's the kind of athlete all coaches love to have on their roster. She's hard-working, determined, and humble, and she's an example to all student-athletes."

There is little doubt that Sharp will stay on a dedicated path and pursue even higher state accolades in the next three years in both cross country and track. There is also no question to the merit that she has garnered as just a ninth grader.

The only question to be asked about the state of the diminutive Bulldog team is just how rapidly interest in Brookfield's cross country program will expand, for both genders, with Sharp as its godmother.