With 800 meters left at the CIF State Cross Country Championships on a course she’s extremely familiar with, Corie Smith could hear one of her coaches imploring her with encouragement: “You can do this! You’ve been training all season for this!”
At that time she was behind Elena Denner of Oak Ridge by at least 15 yards.
Then the kick.
“That really resonated with me and I just started to go and then I passed her and never gave up,” Smith said.
And what a steady and focused final 800 meters it was as Smith crossed the finish line with seconds to spare, 3.1 to be exact, to claim the title of Division I state champion with a time of 17:16.1 under a clear and sunny 72 degree day at Woodward Park.
“[I’m] shocked, [in] disbelief,” Smith said about 10 minutes after the race. “I came into this race wanting to place Top 5 and to win is insane, it’s a dream come true.”
Smith, only a sophomore who finished fourth last year with a time of 17:35.8 as a freshman, became the first Buchanan state champion since Hagen Reedy in 2011.
And who ended up directly behind her in second place with a time of 17:19.8? None other than junior teammate and best friend Meagan Lowe, forever her competitor and faithful running partner.
“I love knowing that she’s right behind me at all times,” Smith said. “If I need someone to push me she’s always right there, right by my side, through everything.”
Buchanan coach Brian Weaver was the first to meet Smith after she crossed the finish line, making sure she took a peek behind her to see who it was.
“The first thing I said to her was, ‘Corie, turn around and see who’s behind you,’” Weaver said. “And once she turned and saw it was her teammate Meagen they were just ecstatic. This is something that they’ll have for the rest of their life.”
They’ve been training and fueling each other ever since Smith was in 7th and Lowe 8th grade at Alta Sierra, the junior high on Buchanan’s campus.
Lowe, who actually beat Smith in the Central Section Valley championships a week earlier, sings the praise of her equally talented friend.
“It helps so much, it takes a lot of stress off during races knowing that we have each other,” Lowe says. “Not a lot of people have that and it’s such a great feeling having one of my best friends running right next to me throughout the whole race.”
In fact, Weaver said Lowe was running 4th and 5th with 1,200 meters left, but at the half-mile mark she started taking off. Weaver said she has excellent closing speed in contrast to Smith’s pounding technique.
“It doesn’t even feel like I beat her,” Smith said. “It feels like we won it together. We are so close personally, so it’s a win for both of us.”
Buchanan finished second overall to Great Oak, who won its sixth consecutive D-I state title. In addition to Smith and Lowe, Amanda Dolberg placed 26th (18:29.3), Clare Hernandez 39th (18:48.5) and Sydney Fox 71st (19:10.6). The Bears scored 103 points to Great Oak’s 71.
The Clovis girls team finished 12th overall and were led by Olivia Herrera with a time of 18:33.9.
In the boys Division I race, Buchanan’s Hayden Hansen placed 21st with a time of 15:38.4 to lead the Bears to ninth place as a team. Clovis North and Clovis placed 15th and 21st, respectively.
But the day belonged to a pair of Buchanan teammates, and never in the history of the storied program has there ever been a 1-2 finish at the state meet.
“That was something special,” Weaver said. “This is truly a special day.”