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Georgia’s Sam Bowers powers forward in the men’s 1500 race. The University of Georgia hosted several teams and independent athletes for a second day of competition for its third Torrin Lawrence Memorial meet April 27, 2019 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean)

After winning his first collegiate race at the Florida State Invitational on Oct. 2, redshirt sophomore Sam Bowers is making an early impact on the Georgia cross country team this season.

His fierce competitiveness and dedication have been praised by his coaches and teammates as he looks to make a statement in the SEC championships on Oct. 30.

Bowers reflected on his first win and how it felt coming back from a long summer.

“It’s hard to know where you’re at, so it’s really relieving to come and know your fitness is there,” Bowers said. “You really don’t know how good or how fit you are until you get into a race.”

Senior captain Taylor Scarbrough also responded to Bowers’ win, providing an interesting insight.

“[His performance] was completely unexpected for every team except for us,” Scarbrough said. “I was impressed with it, but not completely surprised by it.”

Members of the team credit Bowers’ success to his dedication and training in the offseason, where he traveled to Buena Vista, Colorado. Bowers said increasing his mileage to around 85-90 miles a week in the high altitude Rockies this past summer helped his aerobic strength and endurance, giving him the advantage against the competition the Bulldogs faced in the first tournament of the year.

“He’s just gotten a lot stronger,” Scarbrough said. “He’s come back a completely different animal.”

Head coach Patrick Cunniff also gave praise to Bowers’ intense commitment to his training to craft him into an elite runner after three years with the program.

Bowers never fully got to showcase his talents during the 2018 season. Scarbrough explained that while they knew he was very talented, he was still developing his freshman year, along with the fact that cross country is a long-term program aimed at developing their runners for four or five years. It wasn’t until at the Husky Classic from Feb. 14-15 earlier this year, in which Bowers ran 8:11 for the 3K, that he truly got to display himself.

“We started to see what we really thought Sam Bowers could be,” Scarbrough said.

Now, Bowers is finally getting the opportunity to display his talents fully and make an impression in the cross country landscape, while still having a few years left at Georgia.

On top of Bowers’ dedication to his training, what really gives him the edge is his competitiveness and drive to win, and his teammates and coaches have taken notice.

“He’s not afraid to go toe-to-toe with anyone,” Scarbrough said. “He’s just a full on competitor.”

Cunniff gave him similar praise regarding his competitive nature, saying that Bowers is “very good at sniffing the finish line and he likes to get there first.”

In addition to Bowers having these characteristics that his peers and coaches think elevates him to the top, his type of running also affects the mentality of the team as a whole and pushes them to be better.

“[He] definitely gives us all confidence that we can also be competing with the top national-level talent,” Scarbrough said. “I think it’s huge for the team as a whole to see that and then to kind of embody what he has from a tenacity and competitive standpoint.”

With the SEC championships coming up in the near future, Bowers is expected to give the Bulldogs the edge they need in order to get them on the podium.

“We think he’s ultimately gonna be a very high-level runner in the SEC and the NCAA,” Cunniff said. “Sam belongs with the leaders.”

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