Pushing Boundaries – Lowrey makes nationals

By Will Kennedy

In 12th place with 200 meters remaining at the Central Region Cross-Country Meet last week, Erin Lowrey ’10 had outpaced 148 of the upper Midwest’s best racers, guaranteeing herself a medal and a spot on the all-region team. Making a sharp turn toward the fan-lined, final straightaway, she had a choice: savor the moment, or push the boundaries of fatigue to pass one last runner in her bid to qualify for the Division III national meet. For Head Coach Jordan Cushing, there was little doubt about what Lowrey would do. “She’s not an ‘icing on the cake’ kind of runner,” Cushing said. “She kicked like I’ve never seen her before.”

Lowrey’s last minute surge propelled her into 11th place overall as she crossed the finish line of the 6,000-meter, St. Olaf course in a personal best 22:53 time. More significantly, however, it secured her the region’s seventh and final individual qualifying spot for the national championship meet.

For Lowrey, the effort and the result were just what she hoped for. “My goal for this year, ever since last winter, was to qualify for nationals,” she said. “I knew I had a good race.”

‘Good,’ however, doesn’t capture everything about Lowrey’s race or her season. Losing six weeks of training after a stress fracture during the summer, she nevertheless returned as one of the MIAC’s top competitors. Known last year for a consistently fast pace rather than an ability to chase down runners at the end of a meet, Lowrey surprised teammates and rivals alike with improved speed and strong finishes at several races this year.

Most impressive and important to the Macalester women’s cross country program, Cushing noted, Lowery’s berth into the country’s most competitive division III race has shown her teammates what it takes to make it to the national championship.

“My hope is that it’s a step in having an entire team [qualify] within the next year,” Cushing said. “They have a sense that it isn’t out of reach.”

The team will have to recover from a disappointing and injury riddled year if they are to achieve that goal. The Scots finished 15th out of 23 teams in their region and never managed to have a collectively solid performance this year. Team captain Elizabeth Nelson ’08 closed out her collegiate career as Mac’s second finisher taking 53rd place overall, while co-captain Emily Dunn ’09 finished third on the team and 76th at the regional meet.

While the rest of the team is taking time off before the beginning of track and field, Cushing is guiding Lowrey through one last week of cross-country training. And along with putting in miles, the coach has words of warning for Lowrey about trying to change anything as she prepares to return to St. Olaf tomorrow for the national meet.

“If [she] runs a race like the one that got [her] there,” Cushing said, “[she’ll] do well.”

For Lowrey’s part, she’s more than happy to do what she’s done all season. “I’m just going to run smart and finish strong,” she said.