Remembering Sarah Bowman’s Record-Setting Mile
“To ever achieve greatly, one must dare to fail greatly.” – contents of a note taped to Sarah Bowman’s mirror in the lead-up to the 2005 Outdoor Nationals
On June 17th, 2010, hundreds of the top high school athletes in the country will assemble on the campus of North Carolina A&T University for the New Balance Nationals. While this marks the first time that New Balance has sponsored the meet formerly known as the Outdoor Nationals, many of the members of Team New Balance have made their mark in Greensboro.
Five years ago, in what has been called ‘the greatest high school girls mile race ever’, a young woman from Warrenton, Virginia ran the third-fastest time ever recorded by a female high school runner (and the fastest ever in a high school-only field). Here’s a taste of the story of Sarah Bowman’s incredible accomplishment as told via accounts and reports at the time:
Expectations for Sarah were high, with her most likely challenger a young woman from Tacoma, Washington named Brie Felnagle (later a star at the University of North Carolina).
From a pre-race DyeStat message board post by ‘Coach Q’:
Brie can no let [sic] Bowman get away and Bowman will certainly push the pace. Brie does have a better kick, but may run out of real estate like she did at NTN. Just my opinion.
From the Dyestat race recap by Elliott Denman:
The Warrenton, Va. senior was primed and ready to run the mile of her young life – and if it was going to take a wire-to-wire performance to win it, that was fine, too.
From a Fast-Women.com interview conducted with Sarah Bowman a week after the race:
“I went into it and knew the times and the [approximate] splits I wanted to hit. I knew I had to come in at 2:18 or better for the 800m. I knew I wanted to come in at 3:30 for the 1,200m… The more I hit [the correct splits], the more it kept me going. It wasn’t like I couldn’t do it. I was focused. There are always some times in a race where you wonder how you are doing, but they pass really quickly.”
For the first three laps, Sarah seemed to be completely dictating the race:
Through 400 meters (1:07), 800 (2:17) and 1200 (3:28) she was way out there. Within half a lap, though, Tacoma, Washington senior Brie Felnagle began making her own statement.
From a mid-race post to the Dyestat Message Boards – this from ‘Cheese Puff’:
1 67.0 67.0 Bowman took it out; leading by 5+ meters, Blood coming up behind her
2 2:17.5 70.0 Bowman and Blood by 10 meters, Felnagle up in 3rd place; leading the pack
3 3:28.5 71.0 Blood falling back, Felnagle up to 2nd, but still 20 meters behind Bowman
Facing the challenge presented by Felnagle’s strong finishing kick, Sarah stuck to her pace:
From the Fast-Women.com interview:
“I really did not know too much about Brie Felnagle. Basically, the day before I had heard that she really likes to hold back and kick at the end, which is different from me. I had a little bit of warning about who was going to do what and how people ran…I had started to slack off down on the back straightaway. When I saw her, I just opened it up again”
At 1400 meters, she came up on Bowman’s right shoulder and seemed ready to pounce. But Bowman was ready to handle any challenger. She dug down, found another gear, and left Felnagle in her tracks. And now the real drama was on – Bowman vs. the clock.
(1) Would she take down the National record (Polly Plumer’s 4:35.24 in 1982)?
(2) Would she get the Nike meet record (Ari Lambie’s 4:39.05 in 2003)?
(3) Would she notch the fastest mile ever run in an all-scholastic girls mile race (the Plumer time was achieved in an open race against senior-level rivals.)
Within about 68 seconds, the answers were at hand.
The Answers: No, no, yes.
Bowman kicked home in 4:36.95, to the delight of most of the stadium audience.
The final results:
1 Sarah Bowman, Warrenton, VA (4:36.95)
2 Brie Felnagle, Tacoma, WA (4:39.71)
3 Danielle Tauro, Manahawkin, NJ (4:43.07)
4 Elizabeth Yetzer, Lakeville, MN (4:43.12)
5 Ramsey Kavan, Yankton, SD (4:45.49)