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By Joe Rosato Jr.
Friday, Jul 6, 2012 | Updated 8:05 AM PDT
Olympic runner Shannon Rowbury came to athletics through an odd combination of injury and culture: Her future kicked off early with shattered bones and her Irish grandmother.
From the ages of six to 16, Rowbury’s mother curled her daughter’s hair, dressed her in an Irish folk costume, and turned her loose to contact her inner Riverdance. At one point, Rowbury was ranked seventh in the world in Irish dancing. By the time she retired at the ripe old age of 16, she had a room full of trophies.
“She was planning on playing soccer in the winter,” recalled Joann Momono, Rowbury’s former P.E. coach at Sacred Heart. “She asked me, 'Do you think I should go out for cross country in the fall?' And I said, 'Sure, it’s a great way to get in shape.' ”
The walls of the Sacred Heart’s gymnasium tell the tale of what happened next. Banners bearing her name trumpet several state championships she earned running. Even a decade after her graduation, former coaches and teachers still speak highly of the former track standout.
And there have been plenty of accolades. After a successful college athletic career at Duke University, Rowbury qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where she came in 7th in the 1,500 meter race. It was the fastest time ever for an American woman at that distance.
Rowbury is now training for the London Olympics later this month where she hopes her path will finally lead to the podium. “Moving forward, I know what it’s going to be like out there,” she said. “Hopefully that will give me an advantage.”
Rowbury’s days are booked solid with a fitness regime that leaves little in the way of free time. Her thin, toned body is a testament to hours of running, carefully curated meals, weight training and finally, rewarding ice baths.
On a recent day, Rowbury ran through the paces of her workout routine on the athletic fields of St. Ignatius High School, the athletic nemesis of her alma mater, Sacred Heart. After a run, she worked through a list of prescribed exercises off a laminated chart.
Updated on May 23, 2013, 1:58pm