2015-16 All-Empire girls track: Rylee Bowen outdistances the field
Rylee Bowen was not your normal 7-year-old. Instead of waking up to see what cartoons were on, Bowen was waiting in the driveway at 7 a.m. with running shoes on so her mom couldn’t sneak off on her daily run without her.
“She was so annoying,” said Rylee’s mother Nika jokingly. “I would try and ditch her but couldn’t.”
Now at age 16, Bowen is not your normal runner either. The Sonoma Academy star has dominated any running circuit she’s stepped foot on and has been chosen as the 2015-16 All-Empire girls track and field athlete of the year.
In April, Bowen competed in many events across the country and even the world with 12 top-10 finishes and multiple record shattering performances. She raced against some of the best runners from the sunshine state in southern California’s Arcadia Invitational. The field was loaded with talent but Bowen flew by the competition running a blazing 10:13:20 in the 3,200, the third-fastest time a runner has ran from Sonoma County and just two seconds off Montgomery legend Sara Bei’s time from 2001. The 10:13:20 was the fastest time set by a female high school runner in 2016.
Later in April, Bowen ran in the Mt. SAC relays where she ran the second-fastest mile by a female in all of the United States with a time of 4:47.26. Bowen was able to leg out the reigning California state champ Amanda Gehrich in the race.
Over the summer, Bowen got the opportunity to attend the distinguished Nike Elite runners camp at Nike headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Nike collects 18 of the best runners from across the country to have them train, learn and compete with some of the most acclaimed athletes and coaches the United States has to offer. At the end of the camp Nike holds a mock Olympic trial.
“It was a very cool experience for me,” said Bowen. “It was inspiring to be around so many amazing athletes. Definitely an event I won’t forget.”
The highlight for Bowen was meeting former Olympian long distance runner Bernard Lagat and she even got to take in a lunch with the Olympic shot-put team before they headed off to Rio.
Speaking to Bowen about the Olympics her voice sparks up. “I would absolutely love to compete in the Olympics someday,” she said emphatically over the phone. “That is my goal.”
Bowen has her eye on the steeplechase. An event that hit the Olympic scene in 2008, runners competing in the steeplechase have to hurdle barriers with multiple water jumps throughout the race.
Instead of stretching and warming up for a long distance event, Bowen was messing around with some hurdles laying around and “fell in love.” Soon after Bowen saw the steeplechase event on TV.
“Once I saw the different hurdles and water I started freaking out and it was over, I knew this was my event.”
The steeplechase can be a tough race because of the falls and vigorous training. It can even be a little tough for Nika Bowen to watch, but there is no denying that is the perfect race for Rylee.
“She’s kinda a goofball and rather unique and the steeplechase is also goofy and unique. So it really fits Rylee’s personality.” said Bowen’s mother. “She was always jumping over fences and puddles on our runs. It fits her.”
It does help that Bowen is the California record holder in the 3,200-meter steeplechase. The same distance that runs in the Olympics.
Even after all these incredible accomplishments at such a young age, it’s Bowen’s personality that always seems to shine through.
“No one ever comes up and tells me how great of an athlete Rylee is, It’s always about how great of a person she is.” said Sonoma Academy track coach Danny Aldridge.
With such a bright future Bowen is trying to stay humble and focus on the little things. “I just want to get through junior year. I heard it’s a tough one.”