Sonoma Academy's Rylee Bowen finishes 4th in 1,600 at state track championships

CLOVIS - When a little school has an athlete on the awards stand, people take notice.

Such was the case Saturday at the 98th California Interscholastic Federation Track and Field Championships at Buchanan High School’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Rylee Bowen, a sophomore at Sonoma Academy, finished fourth in the girls 1,600 meters in 4 minutes, 50.40 seconds. She had placed 11th in the same event as a freshman.

“Coach (Dan Aldridge) told me to translate instincts,” said Bowen, who went out the first 800 meters in 2:31. “I don’t like to run with elbows flying in the beginning, so I stayed in the back to relax.”

Bowen was last in the field of 12 runners after the first of four laps, and moved up only one position by the midway point.

In the third lap, however, Bowen, who had won the 1,600 at last weekend’s North Coast Section Meet of Champions in Berkeley, ran her fastest lap of the state final to move up to third, trailing only defending state champion Amanda Gehrich of Tesoro High in Rancho Santa Margarita and Destiny Collins of Temecula-Great Oak.

But Bowen could get no closer on the bell lap and wound up behind Gehrich (4:45.51), Collins (4:47.77) and Davis High sophomore Olivia O’Keeffe (4:48.66). Bowen earned five points for her fourth-place finish. Also earning medals in the race were Gillian Meeks (4:50.44) from Gunn of San Jose and Lauren Moffett (4:51.09) of Clovis North.

“I wanted to catch as many people as I could,” Bowen said afterward. “One-by-one and finished strong.”

Bowen’s first lap was timed in 1:16.09. Her other splits were 1:14.91, 1:09.51 and 1:10.12.

“Everybody was in the pack,” Bowen said about the last lap. “At the first 600 meters (of the last lap), that was the go point. I just passed people one-by-one and ran hard.”

Bowen, who is among the national leaders in the 3,200 meters, could have a bright future in the shorter race. Eight of the 12 finalists in Saturday night’s race are graduating seniors.

“The goal was to be in the top five,” said Aldridge, who discussed the race in the morning with Bowen. “She started back in the pack like I wanted. On the third lap, I wanted her to move up and she did that. On the fourth lap, she managed to get one of them (Meeks) and held on.”

Santa Rosa High School distance runner Delaney White, meanwhile, couldn’t replicate the impressive showing she put together last weekend to reach the state meet. After a mad rush at the NCS Meet of Champions got her a berth in Clovis, the Panthers senior finished 19th on Saturday night in the next-to-last girls event, the 3,200 meters.

In a mostly bunched field - there were 28 competitors in the event that had no trials on Friday - White was timed in 10:59.13. That was more than 17 seconds slower than her mark at the Meet of Champions.

The event was won by Davis High School’s Fiona O’Keeffe. Runner-up to Destiny Collins of Great Oak in the 3,200 last year.

O’Keeffe, headed to Stanford on scholarship, blew away the field with a time of 10:12.02, more than 10 seconds ahead of the University of Texas-bound Collins (10:23.79).

White’s Santa Rosa High teammate, Kirsten Carter, was eliminated from competition during Friday’s trials in the 200 meters. Carter finished sixth in her heat in a time of 25.05, well behind heat winner Celera Barnes of St. Bonaventure (23.50).

The girls 200 may have been one of the most talent-laden events of the weekend in Clovis, with four of the top nine runners in the nation competing.

“There was nothing technically wrong in the race she ran,” said Santa Rosa coach Doug Courtemarche. “There were a lot of fast girls. It could be have better, they just happen to be faster.”

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