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Season practically perfect

King junior Laura Bowerman doesn't take long to become the state's best.

By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 28, 2002

TAMPA -- King's Laura Bowerman did something rare this season. She not only ran according to plan, but she often ran better than planned.

Usually, almost without exception, there is a nagging injury or a race doesn't go quite right or ... something goes wrong.

But not this season for Bowerman.

The King junior first turned heads by winning September's USF/Jesuit Invitational.

Then she made observers statewide take notice by winning the University of Florida Invitational on Oct. 5, edging Cocoa Beach's Elly Kabboord, who was ranked No. 1 in the state.

Bowerman fought Kabboord shoulder to shoulder, exchanging the lead several times before Kabboord started her kick and pulled 20 yards ahead. That's when Bowerman started kicking as well, eventually passing Kabboord just before the finish line.

Her time in the 5-kilometer race, 18 minutes, 14 seconds, was by far the state's fastest.

By the time the state meet rolled around, Bowerman was the favorite to take the Class 3A individual title, which she did Saturday at Ed Radice Park, often looking like she was out for a Sunday morning jog.

She won by 22 seconds, and though "elated" with the victory, she wouldn't have minded getting a little more of a challenge.

"(The state meet) wasn't my best race because I wasn't really pushed," Bowerman said. "I was running my hardest at the end, but it helps you to run a lot faster when somebody is pushing you."

She knows, however, that is quite a wonderful statement to be able to make. During track season in the spring, Bowerman gained perspective while struggling through tendinitis and hip soreness, which meant months of training in the pool and ultimately not running anywhere near her potential. "That made me wonder how I would do this year," she said. "I started running pretty hard (about 50 miles a week) in the late summer and things started feeling good by then.

"I started to get hopeful for the season, and everything just worked out so well."

Her next challenge, which she called her biggest to date, comes Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., where she'll run in the Foot Locker Southern Regional Championships.

If she runs extraordinarily well, she could get an invitation to the national meet.

"I'm really, really looking forward to (this weekend)," said Bowerman, who leaves this afternoon for the race. "I love to be challenged and I know I'm going to have all I can handle up there."

Not bad for a girl who didn't start running until she was a freshman. An unknown freshman in many regards.

Now she has classmates cheering for her -- in class!

When she walked into homeroom Monday, signs said "Congratulations Laura!" and the class was clapping. And on the morning of the state meet, she walked down her driveway and found good luck notes written in chalk on the concrete.

"I guess people are taking notice," Bowerman said.

"That really makes me feel good."

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