Sonoma Academy’s Rylee Bowen captured the 3,200-meter girls race Saturday at the 49th annual Arcadia Invitational in Los Angeles and she did it the hard way.

There were 29 other distance specialists from around the country in the lineup and after running in last place early, Bowen passed every one of them en route to earning her medal.

Bowen, a 16-year-old sophomore at Sonoma Academy, completed the race in 10:13.20, which is the fastest time this year posted by a high school female in the United States. Runner-up Annie Hill of Glacier, Mont., was second with a final time of 10:14.14.

Bowen’s time was the third-fastest ever by a Redwood Empire high school female runner. Only Montgomery’s Sara Bei (10:11.11) in 2001 and Santa Rosa’s Julia Stamps (10:12.20) in 1996 ran faster.

Bowen was seeded seventh in the invitational race and running far back early was the strategy decided upon by her coach Danny Aldridge.

“Last year, I ran the race and was on the pace from the start,” Bowen said. “I took it out too fast and fell back the last few laps. I finished 16th.

“This time, my coach wanted me to pace myself and finish strong.”

Bowen had a good view of her opponents as all 29 were in front of her through the first six laps of the grueling race.

“We weren’t strung out,” she said. “Everyone was pretty close.”

With two laps to go, the Santa Rosa resident began picking off runners.

“Unlike last year, I was feeling fresh,” she said. “I was having a good time. I caught up with the lead pack with 800 meters to go and then took the lead 200 meters out.

“At the finish, I was tired but excited. I couldn’t believe this was happening.”

The all-purpose track at the Southern California school was wet following two days of rain but the precipitation ended before the girls’ 3,200.

Bowen ran the initial 1,600 meters in 5:09.66 and came home in 5:03.54.

It was another prestigious medal for Bowen. Last month she won an indoor race in New York City and last fall she captured her second NCS Division 5 cross country title and then went on to repeat as a CIF state champion.

She will continue her busy schedule this weekend at the Mt. Sac Relays and then it’s on to the Penn Relays on April 28-30 in Philadelphia.

CASA’S BARICH HAS PERSONAL BEST TIME

Casa Grande’s Adriana Barich also competed in the Arcadia Invitational. She ran a 5:05.38 mile which is a personal best. She finished third in her heat.