A winter cold earned the distinction of being the first thing to slow Anna Bowles this year.
At least that's the way it's seemed.
A sniffly Bowles answered questions last week about her standout cross-country season. The Lakeside junior was clearly ill but still planned to get her base training in that afternoon.
Bowles' enjoyment of running doesn't yield to weather patterns or minor health concerns.
"I just like running a lot," she said. "And I want to do it for a really long time."
She won the Class AAAA girls individual cross country title in November because of the determination she showed after a near-miss last season. Bowles' time of 18:28 was the third best of the day among all classes and among the top 15 all-time on the Carrollton course.
Bowles started behind Lakeside-DeKalb runner Meghan Wetterhall, who beat out Bowles in 2008. Wetterhall led for more than a mile before Bowles moved ahead. Unlike a year ago, she was able to stay there.
"I went out probably too fast last year," Bowles said. "That definitely influenced my race this year.
"I took it out easier and hung behind (Wetterhall) for the first half of the race. Once I felt like I could pull ahead, I did that."
Wetterhall is only a sophomore. She will be Bowles' main competition at state distance races in the spring and will again challenge Bowles for the cross-country title next fall.
Bowles' defense will be to increase her mileage next summer.
"We both know that we're pretty close in times," Bowles said. "She's just good competition. It's good to have her."
Lakeside community cross-country coach Ken Bowles said his daughter learned to approach races differently this season. He said the patience she exhibited at the state meet was indicative of her season.
Bowles also won the Columbia County Invitational and Aubre Gunderson Invite. She ran 18:08 at the postseason Foot Locker South Regional, one second off her best time.
"It was patience and learning to go from a runner to somebody that really had the maturity to race at a new level," her father said.
Bowles has gone back to work, continuing to run her base mileage of about 45 miles per week in preparation for track. The distance will shrink each week as the season nears.
With a state title in hand, Bowles said her focus next cross-country season will be on helping the Panthers win a team championship. Lakeside's girls lost to Marist by five points, the slimmest margin of any of the day's races.
The Panthers expect to return four of their top five runners: Bowles, sister Sarah Bowles, Katie Townsend and Carolyn Hennecken. Pick up a capable fifth, and Lakeside is again a contender.
"I'll be trying to help the other girls come along," Anna Bowles said. "Because I really think we can do it."
Reach Stephen Fastenau at (706) 863-6165, ext. 116 or email@example.com.
Sport: Cross Country
SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Bowles became the Class AAAA individual girls champion after beating a rival from Marist ... She was the Region 3-AAAA girls champion for a third consecutive year and helped lead the Lakeside girls to a second-place team finish at state.
Q: Besides hard work, why have you been successful?
A: I guess just because of last year (finishing second). Winning (state) was something I really, really wanted to do this year. I just set my mind to it.
Q: What do you enjoy about being an athlete at Lakeside?
A: Lakeside is a good school for athletics and we have a lot of good teams this year. It's great to be part of that good of a program.
Q: Fifty years from now, what will you remember about this decade?
A: I guess that it was when I won state for the first time ever.
Q: What song motivates you before competition?
A: Any kind of upbeat song, I guess. I don't really have one in particular. I usually just have a playlist of fast songs.
Q: What is a Web site you visit every day?
The Augusta Chronicle is profiling its top performers from fall sports this week:
TODAY: Girls cross country
FRIDAY: Georgia football
SATURDAY: Independent football
SUNDAY: South Carolina football