FRESNO — To the faculty and administrators who taught Rylee Bowen at Austin Creek Elementary School in Santa Rosa and allowed her to be rambunctious with a free spirit, she thanks you with all her heart.
Bowen, now a 16-year-old sophomore at Sonoma Academy, won the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 state girls country championship at Woodward Park in 18 minutes and 12.3 seconds on the 5,000-meter course to carry the flag for Redwood Empire. It was her second consecutive state championship.
“I really didn’t want to go out and take the lead too fast,” said Bowen. “I just really wanted to run with her (Kiera Marshall) it was nice to know the course.”
Marshall, whose St. Joseph Notre Dame team from Alameda finished second to Flintridge of La Canada for the team title, finished at 18:18.3 a six-second gap behind Bowen.
“I just wanted to stay close to Rylee, as close as I could,” said Marshall. “We’re similar (in their strides) running, I didn’t really notice it, I just kicked as much as I could just to get a strong finish.”
Sophomore Iris Berto from Technology was 28th at 19.38.4.
Bowen and her coach, former Petaluma High runner Dan Aldridge, had a plan of at attack and it paid off.
“We just wanted her to follow her,” said Aldridge in referring to Marshall. “Rylee ran a strong pace (4:43 mile) and when it was time she made a strong kick.”
Bowen and Marshall were all alone after the 2-mile mark at the start of the uphill climb running shoulder to shoulder.
“I just wanted to forget about it,” added Bowen in reference to the hill. “I didn’t think about it and just wanted to be consistent and when it was time to go down (the hill) I started kicking.”