Page 25 - Scene Magazine February 2022 47-02
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 with these seasoned runners sparked
his competitive interest in the sport. One senior teammate in particular, Nico Grillo, seemed to have the biggest influence on Owen as a curious freshman. Nico took Owen under his wing and the two still
talk today. Owen also received invaluable mentorship from his coach. Coach Ren- ner saw signs immediately that Owen had the potential to be a special teammate and runner. “Right from the beginning of summer his freshman year, Owen started putting in the miles, constantly talked about wanting to improve. He set lofty goals and worked hard. He asked training questions so he understood why we did different workouts, and attended summer training camps to surround himself with good runners and learn from them as well as other expert coaches.”
As is common with most freshman runners, Owen made steady progress over the course of his rookie season. “For my first race as a freshman I finished 4th for my team. My finishing time was
in the 20s.” Nico and the rest of Owen’s senior teammates wouldn’t let pride
alter their relationship with Owen as he continued to chip away at the pecking order on his team. “I continued to make progress. In our last meet at regionals I was our team’s top finisher, finishing with a PR of 17:42.” Owen came up short of accomplishing the goal he had made to break Harper Creek’s freshman record of 16:56 but the improvement he had made over the season was enough for him to evaluate what he wanted to accomplish for his remaining three years as a high school runner.
Owen continued to put in the miles during the off-season and sought out
any morsel of information and motivation he could find to learn the nuances of running. He attended Great Lakes Cross Country Camp in Grand Junction, Michi- gan the summer after his freshman year. This camp taught Owen about PAAVO, a successful training program. The expe- rience at this camp provided Owen with valuable knowledge about training and nutrition and expanded his social network in the running community, placing him at a new level as a runner. He came home from the camp and made a list of goals that would keep him focused.
Mike, his father, recalls a change in Owen when he returned from camp. “When Owen came back from Great Lakes Cross Country Camp he covered his bedroom walls with written goals. I re- member seeing these goals and wonder- ing if he was biting off more than he could chew.” But Owen’s change in attitude during the summer after his freshman
year paid off. “One of my goals was to win all-city, which I was able to do my sophomore year. I was able to break into the 16-minute club. We won regionals as a team. It was pretty cool going to state as a team composed of sophomores.”
During the spring of Owen’s soph- omore year the world would be put on hold due to the COVID Pandemic. His spring and summer lacrosse season
was canceled and with all the extra free time Owen began to pile up the miles. Eventually he hurt his foot, which led to a decision to take a break and let it heal.
Owen’s junior season did not go as well as he expected. “My junior year was strange. I was recovering from my foot injury, there was COVID and I couldn’t beat my PR from my sophomore year. I look back now and realize that my junior season was still a success.” Owen broke into the 16s once again and he and his teammates defended their regional cham- pionship title, punching a ticket again to the state meet.
Owen would be presented another opportunity the summer after his junior year that would push him to yet another level. “Nico had attended Team Prep USA in Colorado after high school,
a summer camp led by Coach Trent Sanderson. Elite high school runners from across the country attend this camp every year. I started talking to my parents about this camp. I had to apply for this camp and get letters of recom- mendation.” Owen was accepted to the camp. His parents supported him in his quest to attend the camp but he would have to choose between the camp and summer lacrosse. The choice was easy for Owen and he packed his bags for Colorado.
Team Prep provided Owen with more knowledge about training and nutrition, immersed him with elite runners, and broadened his network of running friends. Through social media these friends were able to support each other from miles away. Training in the elevation of Colo- rado was an added bonus. Owen came
back from Colorado primed to have the best season of his high school career as a senior.
Owen’s senior season would not start out as expected due to a freak foot injury while diving into a pool and a bout of the flu but he would hit his stride mid-season. “At the Otsego Invitational, I ran a career PR of 16:17. After the Otsego race I regained my confidence. I finally broke 16 minutes at the all-conference meet with a time of 15:41.”
Owen’s performance at the all-con- ference meet placed him in elite status giving him the number two spot on the all time Harper Creek leaderboard. He was just seconds behind school leader Dave Ball, whose time is adjusted from a dis- tance of 3 miles to 3.1 miles. His perfor- mance also gave him the fastest 5K time in the history of high school cross country in Battle Creek. He and his teammates fell short at the regional meet, claiming runner up, but still qualified for the state meet, with Owen earning all-state honors.
Jack Gadwood, one of Owen’s high school XC coaches speaks highly of what Owen has done to reach for his goals. “Owen has been one of the most dedi- cated athletes I have ever coached. He does all of the little things right. Owen is confident in his ability to listen to his body and do what is best for his preparation.”
Mike has enjoyed watching Owen grow as an athlete and wonders what else Owen may accomplish. “As a coach and being competitive with my boys I always try to push them to succeed. I always ask myself if they have peaked. I still wonder how far he can go.”
Kris has enjoyed the memories that Owen has created for her family through the years. “ It has been neat to see Owen develop friendships at home and from kids he met at the camp in Colorado. He was able to share his highs and lows of the season with them over social media.”
Owen has earned each and every ac- complishment with his diligence and ded- ication. Looking back he has found a way to look at it with an honest perspective. “My advice to others is to find something you enjoy and keep working to succeed at it. Accomplishing a goal is one of the best feelings in the world. Look to the end goal but embrace the process.”
Nothing worth having will be given to you. It must be earned through intelligent decisions and hard work. Passion, hard work, and confidence can work together to give one the motivation to never give up on success. These three attributes have blessed Owen with a lifetime of memories as a high school athlete that will carry him through all areas of life.
  OWEN WITH MOM AND DAD (MIKE AND KRISTINE GILBERT).
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