Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Brookwood senior cross country runner QuanDra Shanks has been selected as the Gwinnett Daily Post's Runner of the Year. Shanks placed third in the Class AAAAAA state meet leading the Broncos to the state championship.
A couple of years ago before the track and field state championship, Brookwood coach Chris Carter noticed a change in one of his runners.
QuanDra Shanks became really quiet and isolated herself from the team.
"I thought something was wrong with her, but that's her indication she's ready to go," Carter said.
Carter saw that same demeanor on Shanks at this year's cross country state championships and didn't worry.
"I noticed that switch and everything was going to be alright," Carter said. "She's in the zone."
Shanks, the Daily Post's Runner of the Year, was Gwinnett County's top finisher in the Class AAAAAA state meet with a third-place finish. That helped Brookwood capture the team state title, the sixth for the program and first since 1991.
"We all wanted it," Shanks said of the team title. "Since my freshman year, I've been running at state and we've been getting second or third. This year was our chance to get first place."
Before a big race Shanks will branch off from the team and think about how she's going to run from start to finish. She'll think about race strategy and what time she needs to be at during parts of the race.
"I do this thing where I don't want to talk to anybody. I just want to be alone by myself so I can focus on the race," Shanks said. "That's how it's been every single year, even during track. I just don't want to be around people."
Shanks' method seemed to work as she posted a time of 19 minutes, 32.47 seconds at the state meet this year. It's quite an improvement from last seasons 26th place finish at state.
Shanks' only setback this year was at the county meet when she failed to eat before the race and passed out on the course.
"From the beginning it was a little off because I fell out at county," Shanks said of her season. "I'm glad I didn't let the team down that bad. I got better throughout the year and state proved that."
Brookwood still won the county championship, but Shanks vowed to never let her team down again. She made sure she ate her lucky breakfast of a banana and bagel before every race.
Of the five races this season, she finished in the top 10 in all of them. She won the Region 8-AAAAAA championship and set a personal record of 18:42.77 at the Coach Wood Invitational.
"She changes personality when it comes to state meet time," Carter said. "She understands the difference between other meets and state."
Despite her success in cross country, Shanks maintains this isn't her best sport. She does cross country to keep her in shape for track.
"Cross country is not really my thing," Shanks said. "I just keep at it and I got better at it, but track is really my thing."
That's why after the cross country season she went straight to indoor track. It's all in an effort to get that elusive state title in the 800-meter run.
"I have to make up for the 800 because I got passed at the line, twice," Shanks said. "The mile might be a winner, too."
A few years ago, Shanks' quiet demeanor concerned Carter. Now he's embraced it in knowing Shanks is ready for a big race.
"There's a lot of big meet runners out there," Carter said. "If there's one better than her, I'd like to see it."