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Rowland has his dream answered

Berkeley Springs coach makes most of his time with stars Peer, Buser

Berkeley Springs coach makes most of his time with stars Peer, Buser

April 15, 2005|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Maybe John Rowland finally paid his dues. Or maybe the longtime Berkeley Springs cross country and track coach just said his prayers.

Whatever the explanation, Rowland's stars are aligned - and they're both under his wing.

Not only are freshman Rachel Buser and junior Valerie Peer the top two girls distance runners in West Virginia, they're teammates at Berkeley Springs.

"Having done this for a long time, you feel like maybe you paid some dues," Rowland said. "But you don't expect to get two runners of this quality at the same time.

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"I know that Middletown, Md., had the same kind of thing many years ago, and I always wondered what it would be like to have something like that, never expecting to have it in Berkeley Springs. It's just an amazing blessing to have two kids of this caliber at the same time."

Peer won the West Virginia Class AA-A state cross country title as a freshman and repeated the feat as a sophomore, setting a record time of 18 minutes, 44 seconds for the 5,000-meter championship course at Mineral Wells. She also won a state title last track season in the 3,200-meter run.

"For the longest time, Valerie was just the best we'd ever had," Rowland said.

She's second best these days.

Buser ended Peer's two-year reign as state cross country champion last fall, lowering the course record to 18:19. Peer was a distant runner-up in 19:03, but still seven seconds faster than the Class AAA champ. At the Apple Valley League track championships Wednesday, Buser won the 3,200 in 11:32.0, knocking eight seconds off Peer's school record.

"We knew Rachel was going to be good, but we didn't expect her to be this good this quick," Rowland said. "They've made each other better because they train together and they compete together. When you have one really good runner by herself and you can't give her any real competition in practice, she doesn't grow the way you hope she will. But these two feed off each other."

"We run together a lot," Buser said. "It's nice because you have someone there to push you."

Peer said it's friendly competition.

"We push each other, but we're friends," she said. "She's like a younger sister. She comes to me for advice."

Like in any sibling rivalry, Peer wouldn't mind beating Buser, either.

"That's definitely a goal," Peer said.

It wouldn't surprise Rowland if it happened.

"If Rachel is a little off and Valerie is on her 'A' game, this could turn around," Rowland said. "Valerie always seems to peak late in the season. It could be real interesting later this spring."

He probably still can't believe how interesting it already is.

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