Legendary Georgia High School Coaches: Lee Gower

Lee Gower, Coached for over 30 years either high school or college track and field. From Nashville, Tennessee. Attended Middle Tennessee State University Class of 1972.

Coaching Timeline: Walton Track & Field: 1976--1985 Walton Cross Country: 1978 -- 1984

Auburn University: 1985--1988

North Cobb: 1989--1991

McEachern High School: 1991--2003

Tell us about your origins as an athlete, how you fell in love with the Sport, where you competed at and honors you won (when you first got interested in the Sport)

I was a football, baseball, and part-time track and field athlete in high school. Always enjoyed going to the meets has a junior high and senior high spectator if not competing. My high school, Nashville East, had a great record and history of Track & Field in Tennessee. 

Did you compete in college and how you did there (honors) or, did you continue your love for the Sport next as a coach?

At MTSU I was a recruited walk-on for football. Injured and decided to give it up after my freshman year. I was recruited by a very good friend to become the manager for the track team at MTSU. It even paid a partial scholarship, so why not? Dean Hayes was, and still is the coach there. He kept me busy for the next three years. He would ask me to monitor various workout groups, as he was the only coach at the time. During that time I was able to learn, run the workouts for all aspects of the program, and become very familiar with all the venues of Track & Field. In my junior and senior years I was paid as a Graduate Assistant, though still an undergrad...

What, if any, coaches were your greatest influences in Cross Country and/or Track and Field and how did they affect/inspire your career?

Of course Dean Hayes at MTSU was the man that got me going and loving the sport. Along the way, Lewis Gainey at UGA, Dave Walker at ETSU, and Mel Rosen at Auburn became mentors for me as well, although they might not have known this at the time.

Do you have any top pupils (athletes) who have gone on to become coaches?

There may be more to this list, but to my best memory: Travis Gower Walton HS,  Hassaan Stamps ETSU,  Mark Myers Druid Hill HS (Football and Track) Cathy Monk Pope HS,  Richard Corbett Gainesville HS,  Kelly Phillips FSU,  DeeDee Coulter Savannah Christian,  Tony Young Signal Mtn Tennessee,  Dylan Phelps Mount Paran Christian Mike Dillard North Cobb High School.

Give us a list of all the State Team Championships/Individual State Champs you coached, or just Region Champs as a team/individuals and Coaching Honors you have achieved?

State Championships Cross Country Walton Boys 1980-81-82-83 Walton Girls 1978-79-81

Track McEachern Boys 1998 Girls 1998-99

Individual State Champions:

Walton High School:

Alena Palmquist 3 x Cross Country 3 x Mile 3 x 2 Mile

Christine Kemp High Jump

Tony Young 2 time Cross Country

Ken Lacurito 880yd State Champ

John Anderson Shot Put

Carl Nordhelm Two Mile Cross Country North Cobb High School

Shawn Tucker Shot Put McEachern High School

Brittany Hughes Cross Country

Ray Miller Shot Put

Stewart Fleming 110 Meter Hurdles

Hassaan Stamps 110 Meter Hurdles

300 Meter Hurdles Mario Lovett

400 Meter Dash,  4 x 100 Meter Relay Ronnie Ladd, Hassaan Stamps, Mark Myers, Mario Lovett

Region Championships Walton High School Cross Country Boys 1980-81-82-83-84 Girls 1978-79-80-81 Track & Field Boys 1979-81-83-85 Girls 1982-83

McEachern HS Track & Field Boys 1992-93-94-95-97-98-99

Cross Country Boys 1992-95-96, Girls 1992-97-98

Coaching Honors Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame 2014

Georgia Track & Field Cross Country Hall of Fame 2005

McEachern High School Hall of Fame 2019

Atlanta Track Club Cross Country Coach of the Year 6 times

Atlanta Track Club Track Coach of the Year 1998

Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year 1998

What are the 2-3 most striking moments in Track/XC you witnessed happen? and please relive it here for us.

Number 1 most striking moment for me has been watching my son, Travis Gower, grow into the coach that he has become. To see the success he has had is what keeps me coming back to the meets and watching his team compete.

Number 2 on the list was being a major part of putting on the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and Trials. Working with a crew of top-notch officials and coaches to pull these games off was amazing. My main job was the sector lines for all the throws. The rest of the time was spent helping the other crew with set up and take down throughout the 16 days of both the trials and the games. 

 Number 3 was being in attendance during the 1985 NCAA Cross Country Championships and watching 2 of my former Walton HS athletes compete in the major event.

How do you feel the Sport has advanced this Century?

Coaching has come a long way. There are so many more qualified coaches that are working with these athletes. Track and Cross Country are not being filled with "supplement coaches" as was the case many years ago. In my opinion, because of the better-trained coaches, there are many fine performances throughout the year, not just at the championship meets as was the case so many years ago.

How challenging has it been for you to watch COVID-19 destroy the Outdoor Track season?

COVID-19 has been a hardship for everyone, athletes, families, coaches, and society. There have been many disappointments regarding sports in my lifetime. Boycott of the Olympics, Munich terrorists, strikes in professional sports to mention a few. This one however, has affected so many young people. I do hope and pray we can get on with our lives safely very soon.

What are the most important things you attempted to pass on as a coach for all the athletes you coached?

Enjoy these sports. There is nothing like our chosen sport, you against them. Nothing but a watch, a tape measure, an opponent, a bar, sand, or a hill all to be conquered. I have often told my athletes, nothing makes me prouder than to see them being a part of our sport years later, either as a runner, coach, parent, or volunteer.

What coaching the Sport has meant in your life and what are your plans?

Coaching has been such a major part of my life. I have been able to see athletes that didn't have much talent work hard and become a very big part of their teams. This sport has allowed me to cover the USA with athletes and expose them to sights and places they might never have seen if they didn't participate. Coaching has allowed me to help a young athlete decide that they enjoy our sport and to become a coach themselves, hopefully, to help our youth make track and field a better sport in the future.

I often wonder what would have happened to me if Dean Hayes hadn't taken me under his wing in 1969 and allowed me to be a part of the MTSU Track & Field team. That guidance he gave so long ago has given me the chance to have a great life with family, and a sport I love.