Kerry Benefield: Sonoma Academy's Rylee Bowen rules state cross country

FRESNO - California has a new Division 5 cross country champion as Sonoma Academy’s freshman sensation Rylee Bowen lived up to expectations and her No. 1 ranking and ran away with the win Saturday at the CIF state cross country finals.

Well, she lived up to all expectations but her own.

Only a freshman, Bowen is regardless well-seasoned in high stakes races, having won national titles in running for years. So the tears at the finish after posting an 18:36 at Woodward Park in Fresno were not tears of joy.

“She is really into times; she chases times,” Sonoma Academy coach Danny Aldridge said of Bowen. “If she can’t hit that, it frustrates her a little. But she is such a competitor, she is not going to let anyone pass. She may not get the time she wants, but she is going to get the win.”

Aldridge, who coached local legend Julia Stamps, said Bowen has put herself in position to best one of Stamps’s feats - three state cross country crowns.

“It puts her in position to do what very few have done,” he said. “It’s more exciting to see what she can do four years from now.”

Despite years of experience with high profile races, the state cross country meet has been on Bowen’s radar for years. It might have been overwhelming at first, she wasn’t sure after the race.

“It was kind of scary,” she said of the race. “I have been watching this race for countless years.”

Still, “nothing felt great,” she said. Bowen beat the next fastest runner by eight seconds but still never felt comfortable.

“The first mile was a lot slower than I thought,” she said. The second mile? “I completely died,” she said. “I just wanted to finish.”

And she had people near her, running stride for stride - a sensation that has been a rarity this year. The only good news was that runner was her teammate, Alyssa Goody, a junior who ran a phenomenal race and finished fifth.

But Bowen would not be denied. She won going away, a solid eight seconds faster than the next nearest runner. While other competitors throughout the day shrieked in pain or expelled the contents of their stomachs, Bowen was barely winded.

But Bowen was not the only bright spot among local runners on a beautiful and crisp day of racing Saturday.

Santa Rosa High junior Delaney White ran the fastest time of the day for local girls with an 18:31 finish. White grabbed 19th place in Division 2.

“The first mile was so painful, they went out so fast,” she said. “I knew it too. I knew it was going to happen. It was ‘Just hold on, hold on,’?” she said. And hold on she did, to an impressive top 20 finish.

Maria Carrillo’s Jordan Scobey posted the fastest time among local boys, with a 15:59 over Woodward Park’s rolling, dusty course. His teammate Zac West was second fastest among locals with a 16:14 and third place came from a Casa Grande runner, but likely not the Gaucho you expected.

Casa’s super-fast junior Matt Salazar and senior Nicholas Rauch were well off their usual stealthy times Saturday morning, but that opened the door for Gaucho Zach Nussdorfer to post a 16:18.

Scobey, a junior at Maria Carrillo, qualified for the state finals with the second-fastest time among his fellow Pumas, but beat his next nearest teammate by 15 seconds Saturday.

“That was a P.R., a big P.R.,” he said. “I went out at a pretty controlled pace, it was good. The last couple of years, I have had a really poor performance.”

Carrillo’s boys finished 18th overall, two spots ahead of cross-county rivals Casa Grande but both teams fell below past years’ performances and current expectations.

“Two of our seniors ran really well - Zach and Adam (Harwood) ran really well,” Casa coach Carl Triola said. “Nick (Rauch) and Matt (Salazar), it wasn’t their day.”

“This is still Casa Grande’s best team ever,” he said. “We don’t want them to hang their head on this.”

And Casa is still young. Of the top seven Gaucho finishers, three are seniors, but two are juniors and two are sophomores.

Maria Carrillo, which traded wins with Casa Grande all season, will return speedy juniors Antoine Thibault and Carson Kimball, in addition to Scobey.

Another bright spot was the performance of Santa Rosa High’s Daniel Pride. The sophomore ran a 16:30 but it was fourth fastest among local runners, good enough for 104th overall.

But Bowen was the area’s crown jewel Saturday, hauling in hardware and standing atop the stage. It may not have been the race she wanted but it was a race she clearly won.

You can reach Staff Writer Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or and on Twitter @benefield

Kerry Benefield

Columnist, The Press Democrat

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