They stood, joked and giggled, posing for pictures as The Fresno Bee’s co-Runners of the Year in girls cross country and a celebration just begun.
Corie Smith and Meagen Lowe are 15-year-old teammates at Buchanan High School who feed off each other while dominating on the course and get along just dandy off it.
But not to get carried away, reminds Bee Coach of the Year of the Bears, Brian Weaver: “Hey, they want to beat each other. And, trust me, some tears have been shed.”
Fine, but who’s going to beat them in the Central Section for the next 2 1/2 years in cross country and track and field?
Smith, the Tri-River Athletic Conference runner-up, section Division I titlist and fourth-place finisher in the CIF State Cross Country D-I Championship, is not only a freshman but the eighth-fastest rookie in state history at 17 minutes and 35.8 seconds at Woodward Park’s 3.1-mile course – the state’s home venue for 30 years. She closed her season by placing 12th among 155 runners from eight states in the Foot Locker West Regional at Mt. San Antonio College near Los Angeles. No state freshman was better in the fall. And that’s in the most competitive state in the land.
The initial goal for Corie was 18:30 and she blew that out of the water. We knew she was going to be good, but we didn’t know how good. When it comes to racing, Corie just puts the hammer down, just goes after things, which you absolutely love to see.
Buchanan coach Brian Weaver on freshman Corie Smith
“The initial goal for Corie was 18:30,” Weaver says, “and she blew that out of the water. We knew she was going to be good, but we didn’t know how good. In high school athletics, you never know what someone will turn out to be – that’s why you try not to limit them. You want them to dream big, and we encourage that. When it comes to racing, Corie just puts the hammer down, just goes after things, which you absolutely love to see.”
Lowe, the TRAC gold medalist who was third in the section, sixth in the state and 46th in the Foot Locker West Regional, is a top-30 state sophomore all-time at 17:36.7. Last spring, she clocked the second-place 1600-meter (4:57.13) and 3200-meter (10:36.51) Freshman Class times in section annals, and placed ninth in the state in the 3200.
Meagen wants to be good. She puts in the time and is living the lifestyle of a runner. What she did in track really put a fire in her belly, really instilled a desire to be good.
Weaver on sophomore Meagen Lowe
“Meagen wants to be good. She puts in the time and is living the lifestyle of a runner,” Weaver says. “What she did in track really put a fire in her belly, really instilled a desire to be good.”
And that, Weaver says, has carried over to Smith: “Meagen has helped make Corie, there’s no doubt about it.”
Smith agrees: “My freshman goals were Meagen’s freshman goals last year, so I just went out with her and kept improving.”
For all of Buchanan’s brilliance in girls cross country since starting the program in 1991 with but two freshmen – actually winning one state, 22 league and 18 section titles in 24 years with teams that had at least juniors – never have the Bears had two runners of such caliber on the same team.
Further, consider the remarkably comparable times down the stretch.
In the TRAC championship, it was Lowe in 18:10.36 and Smith in 18:10.86 – each clearly coasting on the Woodward Park 3.1-mile course.
The state D-I final, however, was more about boasting than coasting against national-class opposition.
0.9 Time in seconds separating Buchanan teammates Corie Smith (17.35.8) and Meagen Lowe (17.36.7) while placing fourth and sixth in the CIF State Cross Country Championships Division I race
It was there that they literally ran shoulder-to-shoulder on the flats, up the hill, down the hill and, finally, through the chute as Smith timed 17:35.8 and Lowe 17:36.7.
That’s a hiccup in separation.
“We’re definitely comfortable running together,” Lowe says, “and I feel the best way to perform is to get in your comfort zone, to be around people you know you should be around. Being around Corie, I knew our time was fast and we were where we should be. It gives us a lot of confidence running together.”
But not necessarily at the finish line for girls groomed in Buchanan’s immensely efficient feeder system – Lowe at Century Elementary, Smith at Garfield Elementary, and then together at Alta Sierra Intermediate.
We train together, push each other and it comes down to who’s having a better day. I’m just glad I have someone this close to run with.
Lowe on partnering with Smith
“It’s a huge, friendly competition,” says Smith, who is 3 inches taller at 5-foot-7. “I don’t hope that Meagen gets sick; I don’t hope she has a bad day. We just go out and race and see whoever comes out on top.”
Lowe says: “We train together, push each other and it comes down to who’s having a better day. I’m just glad I have someone this close to run with.”
Girls Cross Country All-Stars Dandy Dozen
- Katie Nili, jr., Buchanan
- Mackenzie Mora, sr., Buchanan
- Amanda Dolberg, sr., Buchanan
- Clare Hernandez, jr., Buchanan
- Olivia Herrera, soph., Clovis
- Vannessa Chavira, sr., Clovis
- Blayney Dolan, jr., Clovis North
- Pari Manoogian, sr., Clovis North
- Jacqueline Garcia, frosh, Kerman
- Unique Ford, frosh, Madera
- Marianne Gleason, soph., Memorial
- Nancy Gomez, frosh, Caruthers
Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year
BRIAN WEAVER, BUCHANAN
He’s qualified because: The Bears won the Tri-River Athletic Conference title by 35 points, the Central Section Division I crown by 45 and placed third in the CIF State Championship D-I race – and with only one senior. Weaver’s girls have captured nine league titles and seven section championships in his nine years (2000-01, 2010-16).