Barely ten minutes after she won the National Championship in the mile run, Shannon Rowbury had stopped celebrating.
The fifth-year senior from San Francisco, Calif., took a well-deserved victory lap, changed her shoes, ran a quick warm-down-and then found a corner where she could be alone and forget about one of the biggest accomplishments in her life.
The reason? She had a 3,000-meter race to run in a little over an hour.
This unwavering ability to focus has made Rowbury one of the most successful collegiate runners in the nation.
"It's her day-to-day, hour-to-hour focus that has set her apart from many other athletes," women's head coach Kevin Jermyn said. "She's goal-oriented, and she implements seven days a week, 24 hours a day what she needs to do to achieve her goals."
With her victory, Rowbury became only the 10th person to win an individual National Championship for Duke and the first runner to do so since 1971. Her title was also the first in the history of Duke women's track.
Rowbury did not rest on those laurels, however. She followed the win up with a personal best time and second-place finish in the 3,000-meter run. With the two races, the senior single-handedly earned 18 team points and secured a 12th-place finish for Duke.
Rowbury's path to the sport was almost as winding as a cross country course. After breaking her leg in kindergarten, her grandmother wanted her to get involved in an activity to help strengthen her bones. She enrolled in ballet class, but when her teacher left, she tried Irish dancing and found she really enjoyed its competitive aspect.
Dancing taught her that success comes from dedication and commitment to practice. It also helped her develop flexibility, strength and endurance. When she finally found running in high school, it wasn't a surprise that she excelled at the 800-meter distance. That race takes about two minutes and 15 seconds-the same length as an average Irish dance.
Rowbury credits her high school coach, Andy Chan, for teaching her patience and helping her realize that becoming a successful athlete is a long-term process.
"He could have pushed me a lot to try to get himself recognition, but he was conservative with me because he knew I would have a long career in running," Rowbury said. "He made it so that each year I could improve a little bit and by doing that he made me more excited and more passionate about running."
After a standout high school career, Rowbury came to Duke ready to focus on school and running. And in the past five years, she has exemplified the ideal of a student-athlete by doing just that. She graduated from Trinity last year with a double major in English and Theater Studies and a certificate in Film/Video/Digital Studies. This year, she is working towards a Masters in Humanities with a concentration in Film Studies.
Even with her rigorous class and training schedule, Rowbury has still found time to get involved with other activities. Last weekend, after almost a year of planning, she and friend Annie Fleishman put on the Movie Making Marathon, a 24-hour filmmaking competition.
Rowbury would eventually like to pursue a career in film production, but for now her focus is on running professionally. She got a taste of what it will be like to compete among the best athletes in the world when she redshirted the track season last year and cross country season this year to gain some experience running professionally.
"I was a little apprehensive about running after college because I didn't know what to expect," she said. "It made me realize how much I love professional running and got me excited for life after college. It was a really good learning experience. It helped me become more of a competitor and a tougher runner."
When she returned to competing for Duke, Rowbury's renewed enthusiasm and commitment was obvious.
"She does all the little things-she takes ice baths, she stretches, she sleeps right, she eats right," head coach Norm Ogilvie said. "She doesn't take any shortcuts, and that's what enables her to be successful."
Always one to lead by example, Rowbury has been an excellent mentor for her younger teammates.
"She knows exactly what she wants to do and how she's going to get herself there," sophomore Michelle Seibert said. "She doesn't lose sight of her ultimate goals, and she's constantly doing the little things in all aspects of her life to reach those goals."
Rowbury hopes her commitment, focus and dedication will lead her to success on the international stage-ultimately at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. She will attempt to qualify in the 1500-meter run and either the 5,000-meter run or the steeplechase.
In the meantime, she will aim for success at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and World Championship Trials this June.
She will also continue to work with the Duke coaching staff after this year in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials next summer.
"Only the future will tell if she'll make it at the biggest stage-the Olympic Games," Ogilvie said. "But right now, I wouldn't want to bet against her. She's basically taken on every challenge that's been given her, and she's succeeded."
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