Earlier this month, Lakeside High School's Katie Townsend ran one of the top 70 times in the nation among high school girls for 2010 in the 3,200 meters.
But it wasn't enough to take home the Class AAAA championship at the May 8 state meet in Albany. Believe it or not, it wasn't enough to grab bragging rights over her own teammate.
That's because, as good as Townsend was that day, Anna Bowles was six seconds better. Bowles finished in 10:46. 19, securing the 39th best time among high school girls this year. Townsend's time of 10:52.49 was the nation's 62nd best.
The efforts of those two runners, along with those of Sarah Bowles and Brittany Henthorne, put Lakeside in fourth place, its best finish in school history.
The times represent the best and second-best in the state of Georgia for 2010. In addition, they rank seventh and 12th all-time for Georgia High School Association competitions.
Either performance would have been a great one to close out a high school career. There's only one catch: Both Bowles and Townsend are juniors, giving them another year to improve.
Long-distance running, at its core, is undoubtedly an individual venture. A runner is racing against the clock, trying to squeeze another second off of a personal best time.
It's got to be nice, however, for Bowles and Townsend to have each other around.
Internal motivation can lead athletes to achieve great things. That being said, it seems to me that athletes faced with a challenge on a consistent basis -- not just in competition, but at practice, too -- can more easily get the most out of their own abilities.
Lakeside has an opportunity this fall to achieve what its cross country team barely missed out on last fall -- a state championship. Bowles won the individual title, finishing in 18:28. The team finished just five points behind Marist.
With another year under their belts, I believe the Lady Panthers will have a real shot at taking down Marist in next season's state meet.
That's because, in practice and training, Bowles and Townsend won't be chasing some invisible time. Instead, they'll be chasing something more tangible -- each other.
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