COLUMBIA --- The spot on the podium for the sixth-place finisher was empty Saturday as Anna Bowles' name was called.
By the time she hustled from her place in the stands to the awards tent on the infield, the other top finishers in the girls 3,200-meter run were stepping off the podium.
The officials at the Taco Bell Classic will have to forgive the Lakeside freshman. It was her first time competing at the Classic, which annually draws top athletes from around the country to Columbia's Spring Valley High School.
Bowles and her father, Ken, who volunteers as the Panthers' distance coach, were hoping the level of competition would spur a personal-best time.
Anna finished in 11:38.22, 14 seconds shy of her best time.
"It was just a really great experience," Bowles said. "I got to be pushed by the other girls."
Bowles' teammate and freshman Katie Townsend finished 11th with a time of 11:51.30. The two girls routinely have finished 1-2 in the Panthers' other meets this season.
The level of competition made such a finish impossible Saturday, though Bowles ran ahead of the pack after three laps before slipping.
A stiff wind that greeted runners on the front stretch didn't help the quest for best times. Bowles conceivably has three years left to improve.
"Hopefully, I'll get a little better," she said. "But I'm happy where I am."
The Columbia County boys were led by Greenbrier's Dylan Turner in the shot put.
Wolfpack coach Kati Smallwood said that if Turner threw his personal best, he would have a chance to finish on the podium.
Turner tossed a distance of 50:11.50 to finish second.
The Wolfpack boys finished 21st of 59 teams.
Greenbrier's Taylor Snyder was browsing the meet program when he came across the name of Alan Webb among the meet's record holders. Webb has competed as a professional for Nike since 2002.
"I was like, 'Wow, this is a pretty big meet,' " Snyder said.
"Maybe you stepped in his footsteps," Wolfpack teammate Barrett Duncan told him.
Snyder and Atom Young, of Lakeside, competed in the second-fastest 3,200-meter heat. The friendly rivals have each held the best time in Georgia Class AAAA this season. Young entered the Taco Bell Classic with the fourth-best time in the state, a 9:59 he ran at the Burke County Relays.
Snyder's time of 10:02 was eighth.
On Saturday, Snyder moved back in front of Young with a school-record 9:54, the fourth-best time in the state this year.
The time was good enough for third in Snyder's heat.
Young got caught up in the pack early before breaking free to run behind Snyder for a while. But he wasn't able to keep pace.
"We tried to stay together," Young said. "I had to make up too much ground from the start."
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