When South Forsyth’s Brennan Bower walked up to the starting line at the rainy Area 5-7A meet in Canton last week, he was optimistic.
His approach to running is very laid back, an attitude that has been a part of Bower’s personality for his entire high school career. But after putting in much more work into cross country than he had in years past, he was hoping for a No. 1 finish. He didn’t really have a plan, though.
“I don't really expect much,” Bower said. “I don't like going into races with this whole entire grand scheme of, ‘I've got to do this, I've got to do that,’ because then as soon as one thing goes wrong, you're kind of out of it.”
And that moment-by-moment approach paid dividends for him, as he made a massive jump from 14th in last year’s area meet to winning the top spot in his senior year with a time of 15:46.5, just short of South’s school record of 15:32. Bower will again be looking for success this weekend, as he looks to help the War Eagles’ boys team to a second straight state title in Carrollton.
“The one thing that we've always focused on with Brennan is that speed, that turnover at the end, which has gotten a lot better,” South cross country head coach Christine Shaw said. “Overall, his running mechanics are great: He's always had really good form. He's very talented naturally, so to see it all come together at the end has been really fun.”
Throughout his high school career, Bower’s loyalties have always been split. He’s also involved in band, where he plays French horn. Two years ago, he was at a band camp for six weeks, which didn’t leave him enough time for summer mileage. Predictably, he struggled early on, but after seeing improvement as his first varsity season went on, he began to get more motivated.
“Freshman year I started poorly, so I was like, ‘Eh, just have fun,’” Bower said. “And so by the end of the season, I really started getting better and better. I was getting into shape and I ran well at area my freshman year, and then I was finally like, ‘Man, I can actually run fast. Maybe I should go as hard as I can, because I've got some potential here.’”
Still, as his high school years went on, his focus was mostly on music. But entering his last year of high school competition, he decided to give cross country a little bit more attention. That led to the improvements that he showed in the area meet, including his kick at the race’s end to push himself across the finish line first.
“He switched (his focus) a little bit this year, and you can tell that it really showed,” Shaw said. “You can tell that that summer work that he put in has really driven the result that you're seeing now.”
Still, splitting his time between band and cross country has proven to be difficult, and Bower still wants to split time between the two in college. For now, though, he’ll look to keep that pressure-free attitude going this weekend. He may not have had concrete expectations for himself at the area meet, but when he looks at his team, it’s not quite the same.
“State's different because I definitely expect and hope to win as a team,” Bower said. “We did that last year and I hope to get back my senior year and finish first overall again team wise.”
The GHSA state cross country start at 9 a.m. at Carrollton High School, with Denmark participating in the Class 4A meet. Pinecrest Academy will compete in the Class 1A Private boys race at 8 a.m. Saturday, while the Class 7A boys race is 9:30 a.m. and the Class 7A girls race follows at 10:15 a.m.