Stafford High's Hannah Lowery wins at Octoberfest Invitational cross-country meet

By Carl Little
Saturday, October 2, 2010; 11:49 PM

Hannah Lowery's schedule is so insanely busy that she rarely has time on afternoons to work out with the rest of her cross-country team. Instead, she mostly trains at night on her own.

The Stafford sophomore can't seem to find company at meets either. At the Octoberfest Invitational on Saturday, she ran away from the 274-runner field and won in a personal-best 18 minutes 11 seconds. Lowery finished 12 seconds ahead of Millbrook junior and runner-up Crystal Nelson (18:23) on the 5K course in The Plains.

Douglas Freeman senior Silas Frantz came from behind to win the boys' race in 15:30.

Jefferson was the girls' team champion over Ocean Lakes, Warren County and Whitman.

The boys from Gonzaga won easily over Stafford, Skyline and Potomac Falls. Led by sixth-place finisher Collin Leibold (15:53), the Eagles have won all four of the major invitationals they have entered this season.

"It feels like everybody's moving in the right direction," Gonzaga Coach John Ausema said.

Lowery also appears to be moving in the right direction. After a dynamic freshman year in which she frequently finished in the top group - Lowery was fifth at the 2009 state meet - she has emerged as Northern Virginia's most dominant runner this season. She's won four of five major races and has set two course records.

She's been doing this while splitting her time between two sports. Lowery is the starting midfielder on the Indians' undefeated field hockey team. During the week, after nearly three hours of hockey practice each day, she does an additional hour of cross-country training.

Stafford Coach Pete Augrom gives her the flexibility to do his workouts on her own because Lowery approaches them with the same intensity with which she tackles everything else.

"I love field hockey, but I like [cross-country], too," said Lowery, who is also in a handful of Advanced Placement classes. "I'm beginning to share the focus a little more."

She was focused on Saturday, attacking the small hills on the backside of the course while practically daring anyone else to go with her. A small group answered the call early and hung tough through the first two miles, but couldn't match Lowery over the race's critical final stage.

"It's good when you can't hear anyone else breathing around you anymore," Lowery said. "Last year I didn't know what I was doing. This year I'm becoming a little more of a runner."

John McGowan is also showing marked improvement and his third-place finish made him the top area boy on Saturday. The Sidwell Friends senior was disappointed after suffering his first loss of the season - he finished third in 15:40 - but was happy to have improved his personal best by five seconds.

Frantz was able to outkick Skyline's Thomas Madden in the final 800 meters to get the win, but McGowan, known for a powerful finishing kick of his own, was just too far back to pose a serious threat at the end.

"Those guys were just way ahead," McGowan said. "I never started my kick where I wanted to. I could never quite catch up."

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