-- At the end of a career that included more than 10 state titles, two Penn Relays championships and one national record, Fauquier senior Sarah Bowman's most impressive moment may have come during the final 200 meters of Saturday night's mile run at the Nike Outdoor Nationals at North Carolina A&T.
Feeling the pain of the fast pace she had set and the pressure of the her top opponent, Brie Felnagle of Tacoma, Wash., who was within a stride of overtaking her, Bowman managed one final sprint toward the finish line.
Leaving Felnagle well behind, Bowman ran her last 200 meters in approximately 34 seconds to win in 4 minutes 36.95 seconds, the third fastest time ever by a high school girl.
"I ran myself down," Bowman said as she sat on the ground near the finish line. "I'm tired."
Meet organizers had billed the race as an all-star field in the girls' mile, with Bowman, who will run for Tennessee next year, leading a group that included seven of the nation's top 10 milers.
The race lived up to the hype. Bowman's time was the fastest in a high school-only race, surpassing Arie Lambie, who ran 4:37.23 in 2003. Polly Plummer of Irvine, Calif., set the national record of 4:35.24 in a collegiate race in 1982, and that same year Kim Gallagher of Fort Washington, Pa., ran 4:36.94 in a different collegiate race.
Felnagle's time of 4:39.71, while nearly three seconds behind Bowman, was the fifth fastest ever. After the race, Felnagle was lamenting a lost race until she was informed of her second-place time.
"That was my time?" Felnagle asked. "I can't believe that. That makes me feel so much happier."
Only two runners challenged Bowman in Saturday's race after she ran the first quarter-mile in 67 seconds. Nicole Blood, a highly regarded junior from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., who trains on her own and runs unattached, moved up to run with Bowman during the second lap, which Bowman completed in 70 seconds, but as the third lap ended with another 70-second split by Bowman, Blood trailed off, and Bowman was about 66 seconds from the national record.
At that point, Felnagle, a North Carolina-bound senior who was the nation's leader in the 1,600 meters, started to move forward ahead of the pack, and as the final lap began, she was roughly 10 meters behind Bowman. On the back stretch, Felnagle began a sprint, and with an eighth of a mile left, she was within a stride of the lead.
As the crowd whooped, Felnagle closed, and the stadium announcer yelled out the time, Bowman took a couple of glances behind her and saw Felnagle in her tracks. But the looks were not a sign of weakness. Instead, Bowman pulled away.
"I only told my closest friends and family that I was going to try for the record," Bowman said. "I didn't tell anyone else. I didn't want the pressure."