Meagen Lowe learned something about mental toughness during the just-completed cross country season. It happened as she emerged as one of the top runners in the state for Buchanan High School.
She and her teammate Corie Smith raced to outstanding finishes at the state championships in late November at Woodward Park.
Smith, only a freshman, placed fourth, and Lowe, a sophomore, was sixth in a race that featured hundreds of California’s best runners.
In the process, Smith and Lowe led the Buchanan girls cross country team to third place in Division I.
“I was so happy because we’ve all been working so hard. I was so proud of us,” Lowe said.
She faced a challenge earlier in the season.
Lowe said she went through a period “when I wasn’t very confident in myself and my abilities. But I feel I overcame that by the state meet.”
She added: “I learned to . . . focus more on the positive aspects of what I did right in the races rather than on the things I did wrong.”
Lowe credits head coach Brian Weaver with encouraging her to trust that she was well trained. She said he also told her: “You’re on track to become the type of runner you want to be.”
Teammates also provided important encouragement, Lowe said.
Smith had a different challenge.
Only one year removed from intermediate school, she discovered that high school workouts are tougher than she was accustomed to. She also found that high schoolers compete at a longer distance, which she described as “grueling.”
But, Smith added, she learned something important about running: “You have to push through a lot of pain to be where you want to be.”
Where the Buchanan girls wanted to be was on the championship podium, and they accomplished that at several levels. The team won the Tri-River Athletic Conference title and also raced to the Central Section Division I title.
Since the school opened in 1991, girls teams have now won 19 league titles and 19 Central Section championships. In addition, Buchanan has now placed in the top three at the state championships six times, winning in 1994.
Weaver called the team’s performance this season “outstanding” and said of its showing at the state championships: “To do that as a team and for their school is amazing.”
Five other runners competed for the Bears at the state meet: junior Katie Nili, freshman Amanda Dolberg, junior Clare Hernandez, senior Mackenzie Mora and senior Ellie Nardella. Times recorded by Nili, Dolberg, and Hernandez also contributed to the Bears’ third place team finish.
Smith and Lowe said competing in the state championships was memorable for many reasons.
Before the race, Smith said, she was projected to finish eighth. But she and Lowe found themselves leading the 3.1 mile race at one point.
“I was running with Meagen the whole time, and I was like, ‘Why are we so high up?’ ” Smith said, laughing. “I was confused, and I thought, ‘This is going to end really well or really bad.’ It ended really well, and I was really proud.”
Lowe said she didn’t expect to finish sixth and reach the podium reserved for the Top 10 finishers.
“There was a point where I was leading the race and I thought, ‘Whoa. I actually have a chance to be up there.’ That gave me so much confidence. And I just kept pushing, and I tried to enjoy myself and have as much fun as I could. I was so happy.”
Smith and Lowe celebrated by enjoying food that they’d stayed away from during training.
Smith went to her favorite burger place and got a hamburger and a chocolate milkshake. Lowe indulged in a Pizookie — a big cookie served with ice cream — from from BJ’s Restaurant.
“It was really good,” Lowe said with a smile. “I hadn’t had that in a while.”