CHANDLER — Chandler cross country coach Jim Campbell had to look twice at his stopwatch six years ago when he was timing a group of sixth grade physical education students in the mile run.
Before that day, no one in school knew Chris Lowery could run that fast. Now, everyone does.
Six years after blowing past his classmates and running a 5½-minute mile, Lowery is considered one of the top cross country runners in the state in any class.
The senior is the defending Class 3A champ in cross country and the 1,600-meter run. He also is the two-time defending state 3A champ in both the 3,200-meter and 800-meter runs.
Running last summer for the Jenks America Track Club, he won the 1,500-meter run in the United States of America Track and Field Youth Nationals in Arlington, Texas, with a time of 3:59. He also anchored the club's winning 4x800 relay team at the national meet.
Lowery not only wants to defend each of his cross country and track state titles, but also to become one of the few high school runners to break the four-minute barrier in the mile.
“I am going to get on a program in the winter where I am going to up my mileage a little bit more and start training a little harder, and I am going to try and break the four-minute mile,” Lowery said.
“I would be like the fifth or sixth U.S. kid to ever break four minutes in the mile in high school. That's my main goal.”
At one time, Lowery played football, baseball and basketball in Chandler. He was slated to be the Lions' starting quarterback as a sophomore but was forced to choose between running cross country and playing football.
“I think they (football coaches) were a little surprised when I decided I was going to go run cross country rather than play football,” he said.
Lowery recognized there wasn't much of a future for 140-pound quarterbacks, but he is expected to get a bevy of college scholarship offers for track and cross country.
“I think he has got a lot of potential (at the collegiate level),” Campbell said. “He is being recruited by a lot of D-1 colleges. Obviously, they see the potential. I think the big thing for him is he will probably have to put on a little more weight, get on a weight program and get a little stronger.”
Lowery aspires to run professionally.
“My dream is to make it a job later on in life,” he said. “I would like to be a professional runner for Nike.”
He is a fixture on Chandler city streets, logging between 50 and 60 miles each week.
“I think I have ran down every street in Chandler,” Lowery said. “Everybody honks and waves.”
He runs with such ease that his coach calls him a freak.
“It's a true gift that he has,” Campbell said. “I have never seen him grimace or anything. He always runs with a smile.”