This week's Athlete of the Week is Auburn High's Harper McGowan, a senior on the Tigers' track and field team. Harper plans to continue running track at Samford University after she graduates.
Auburn Villager: What events do you run in track?
Harper McGowan: Well, I do the two mile and the one mile and the 800 (meter), but my favorite is the one mile.
AV: How did you get into running track?
HM: Well, I did soccer growing up, and I realized that I liked the workouts for soccer, like running around the field, more than I liked actually playing.
And my grandfather's a marathoner, and he's always wanted one of his kids to be runners, and he's always encouraged me to do it, so I tried out for cross-country and made it and just really loved it. And the environment was just so wonderful and the team is amazing, so ended up falling in love with it more than soccer.
AV: Why is the one mile run your favorite?
HM: I think it's because it's really hard. The 800, it's just a flat-out sprint and a two mile is just endurance. But the one mile is a mixture of both, so it's really hard to perfect and it's really hard to have a strategy for it. And I think I've really just fallen in love with just doing it my own way, I guess, and having a strategy for it. And I love speed work. Cross-country is hard because it's a lot longer, but I love the speed part of running.
AV: What is your strategy for the one mile?
HM: I'm a sneaky runner, and I love to run behind the fastest people and then I just like to stay with them and towards the end just kind of like speed up and try to go around them. But that's usually what I like to do. Sometimes, I like to lead and set my own pace, but usually I like to run behind the fastest runner.
AV: You mentioned your grandfather. Was he a big role model for you growing up?
HM: He was a very major part of my running. He was a big role model for my running. I didn't like running long distance whenever I started. He would run like 20 miles at 5 in the morning, and I was not about that at first. I would say that as I've grown as a runner, I think he has become my biggest running role model because he's just so dedicated and just loves it so much. He's always influenced me to just love it more than just doing it because you can get a scholarship for it. I've just fallen in love with it because of him. But I would also say that I've just had amazing teammates who have made it so fun and have made me want to work harder and have made me fall in love with it even more. And my coaches have been so amazing. I have a lot of amazing role models.
AV: What are your goals for the season now that it is getting underway?
HM: Well, I'm focusing on the one mile this season. I did last season, and my goal was to PR (personal record) because I hadn't PR'd since the ninth grade in track. And last year, I really just wanted to break the bad spell no PRing. So last year I trained for the one mile and PR'd. I PR'd in cross season, so I really want to PR in track season, too. So I'm aiming for sub-five (minutes) in the mile.
AV: What are the team goals this season?
HM: Well, we want to win, obviously. We haven't really gotten that far. For indoor, we've just kind of seeing where we're at, seeing how we're doing. I think outdoor is mainly like everyone's biggest goal to win because the last two years we've gotten second. The first year was so exciting because we hadn't gotten a trophy in track since I don't even know. But last year, we wanted to win so bad. I think this year, we're really just like we really want to win.
AV: Do you play any other sports?
HM: I used to play soccer in ninth grade, but I just do running right now.
AV: As a senior, do you know what you want to do yet after you graduate?
HM: Yes. I've signed to Samford University to run cross-country and track, so plan on doing that. Career-wise, I want to do pediatric physical therapy. But I also love to travel. I have a lot of different ideas. I don't have a set plan for that, but I know I'm running in college.
AV: Do you have any hobbies outside of sports?
HM: I love to read, and I love to write. And I also love to just hang out with my family and friends. And I love watching old movies with my family. Running takes up a lot of my time, but I really just like to have fun with my family and friends. I'd say they're a big hobby.
Interview by Brian Woodham