GUYTON — When it comes to running, Cailan Howard doesn’t lack motivation. After all, he is a superb athlete and his times alone give him a sense of purpose when it comes to pounding the pavement.
A rising junior on the South Effingham cross country team, Howard joined the squad after his parents encouraged him to choose an extracurricular activity. He enjoyed the health benefits of running but it quickly turned into something more than just a way to stay in shape.
“At first, it was more of a fitness thing and my parents wanted me to do something, but I ended up really liking it,” Howard said.
Howard is a natural talent who already broken 17 minutes at the standard 3.1-mile distance. And he’s not stopping there.
“My time goal is to break 16 minutes and have consistent 15-minute times,” he said.
His first season, he asked then assistant coach Craig Owens what a good time for a freshman would be. Owens told him 20 minutes but Howard punched in a time of 18:45.
That was when he realized he had a chance to be successful in the sport. Howard was pleased by his early success and continues to be stunned by what he has achieved.
“I was really surprised because last year I started putting a lot more effort in,” Howard said. “Last year, I was all in and I was really surprised by the results.”
Howard took it upon himself to step into a leadership role last season after the team graduated a few of its seniors. In the 2019 season opener at the Saucony Classic, he finished first on the team and finished in the top 25 overall with a time of 17:04.
“It was kind of a personal thing,” Howard said. “A lot of the seniors on the team had left after my freshman season and I kind of wanted to take up that role.”
Howard also competes on the track team, running the 1600- and 3200-meter runs. He gets more enjoyment out of the lengthier-tempo runs cross country offers.
“For cross country, we have the whole summer to prepare and run as a team,” Howard said. “I like running on trails a lot. My strong suit is longer miles so I like being in a comfortable running pace.”
Howard adapted quickly to running by sticking close to his teammates. He credited head coach Laura Soles for his ability to adjust.
“(It) was just getting out there and running with the team,” Howard said. “Coach Soles is amazing and she works on pacing yourself during speed work. And we do strides afterward, which helps with having a quick burst of energy.”
Although the Mustangs will compete in Class AAAAAA this season, Howard believes their region championship win streak won’t be interrupted. They have spent the past few years in Region 2-AAAAA.
“I am very confident in our team,” he said. “We have a senior and an upcoming freshman who is a really hard worker and I feel like our team can definitely win region this year.”
At the state championship last year, Howard finished 21st overall with a time of 17:49. He isn’t looking to cross the finish line first this year, thought. It’s all about progress and enjoying the little victories along the way.
“Being a state champ would be amazing but I’m not quite sure if I should dwell on that,” he said. “I am going to focus on my personal time goals and if I get that (it] would be amazing. And if I don’t, I don’t want to be upset about it because I am still going to do good.”
At first, it was more of a fitness thing and my parents wanted me to do something, but I ended up really liking it.Cailan Howard