The First State Championship
On June 2, 2001, Shannon Rowbury accomplished a tremendous feat. She won the California State Championship in the 800 meters. Her time was 2:10.31, just .23 ahead of Treani Swain from Oakwood-North Hollywood.
As a freshman, Rowbury qualified for the State Meet in the 800 but failed to advance to the Finals. Last year, as a sophomore, she placed 5th in the State. This year, however, the 3-time CCS Champion would bear the burden of being the favorite. Her times of 2:08.52 (to win the prestigious Arcadia Invitational back in April) and 2:08.78 (to win CCS Finals) were the top 2 times run by a Californian this season and she came into the meet ranked #4 in the entire nation. “This year was so much different because everyone was shooting for me,” Rowbury said, “I was the target. That made it so nerve racking.” After placing 2nd in the Div III Cross Country State Meet, Rowbury was hungry for a State title. “I said after cross country season, that Shannon and I learned just how precious a State title is in California. It’s so hard to get,” said SHC Coach Andy Chan, “I think it also made both of us really want one badly.”
At the Trials on Friday, Rowbury ran a tactical race to win heat #1 in 2:13.28. Although that time was the slowest of all the heat winners and only 7th out of the qualifiers, Chan was not worried, “No one remembers what your trials time was. You have to run with your head on Friday and then with your heart on Saturday. People will remember your Saturday race.” “It’s hard to figure out just how hard to go in the trials,” added Rowbury, “You want to go slow to save a little for the finals but if you go too slow you won’t be in the finals.”
Rowbury and her support team (coaches Chan and Mary Fagan, teammate Ahimsa Hodari, parents Paula and Gary and friends Liz Fagan and John Gieng) tried to spend most of the day Saturday relaxing for the 7:34pm race on Saturday evening. “We went for breakfast and then watched Moulin Rouge. I’m sure it’s a great movie but I will have to go see it again because I was starting to get so nervous I couldn’t concentrate on the movie,” said Chan, “It seems silly now but everything was stressing me out – the waiter taking a long time to take our order, not getting our water re-filled, not having the food we expected, …”. After lunch Rowbury was joined by more friends as coach Chris Lundstrom arrived with a van full of teammates (Don Sebastian, Aileen McAteer, Keiko Rosenstiel, Chris Mankiewicz and Jessica Lau). “Having all those people come up to watch really helped because we could all tell that Shannon was beginning to get really nervous.”
Finally it was time to leave for the meet. “During the warm-up we focused on the race strategy and on making good tactical decisions during the race,” said Chan, “I felt that if Shannon ran smart she would set herself up with a good chance to win and she didn’t need to be perfect to accomplish this.” Right before heading out to the race Chan and Rowbury exchanged some final words:
Chan: I believe you can do this (win the race). Do you?
Chan: Then that’s all you need.
“It was the first time either one of us really addressed her winning State. Confidence is so important. I wanted her to know I believed it could happen and I wanted to hear her say it out loud too.”
As the race unfolded, Rowbury, not being used to starting in Lane 2, found herself in a tight pack of runners. At 200 meters, Alexis Bartschi of Merrill West in Tracy, fell causing Rowbury to have to leap over her. Rowbury took advantage of the situation to move up and challenge the leaders. She and Jenna Timinski took the lead and brought the pack through 400 in 63 seconds. With 300 meters to go it was still Rowbury with Timinski and Long Beach Wilson’s Ashley Freeman leading the way. When no one made a strong move, Rowbury shifted gears and shot to the lead with 200 meters to go, quickly opening up a sizable gap. With 100 meters to go, Rowbury had close to a 15 meters lead but Oakwood’s Treani Swain was making a late charge. “That was the longest 100 meters I’ve ever had to watch,” said SHC Coach Mary Fagan. The crowd gasped as Swain closed the gap. “I could feel her coming and I just kept telling myself to keep going,” said Rowbury. At the line, it was close. “I thought I had won but I wasn’t sure. I had to look into the stands at my parents to find out for sure.” The final results: Rowbury 1st in 2:10.31 with Swain in 2nd at 2:10.54. A State Championship by 0.23 seconds.
After that it was bedlam for Rowbury and the Irish supporters. Rowbury was mobbed by teammates and friends as she came off the warm-up field. “Whew!” said Chris Lundstrom, while wiping his brow, “That was a close one.” “Shannon’s won bigger medals before,” said Chan, referring to the gold medal Rowbury was holding, “But none with more meaning than this one.” The Irish supporters, which included no less than 26 teammates, coaches, family members, alumni and friends who came and went throughout the weekend all felt a part of this huge victory. “Having so many people here to support me has made such a huge difference,” said Rowbury. “It feels awesome.”
State Meet 800 Results
1 Shannon Rowbury 11 Sacred Hrt Cat/cc CC 2:10.31
2 Treani Swain 10 Oakwood /ss SS 2:10.54
3 Ashley Freeman 10 Wilson/LB /ss SS 2:11.52
4 Yfa Kretzschmar 11 University-SF /nc NC 2:11.70
5 Jenna Timinsky 11 San DieguitoAc/sd SD 2:12.80
6 Morgan Banks 11 Drake /nc NC 2:14.77
7 Amonica Phipps 12 Morse /sd SD 2:16.88
8 Alysia Johnson 09 Canyon-CC /ss SS 2:18.88
9 Alexis Bartschi 10 Merrill West /sj SJ 2:20.64