published Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Katelyn Bowen finishing strong career at Ooltewah

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    Ooltewah softball center fielder Katelyn Bowen takes practice swings before going up to bat during a game against Hixson High School on Monday.
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As the daughter of a coach, 17-year-old Katelyn Bowen already has lived in eight towns in four states. She could be living in Florida right now, which to many teenagers would be ideal, but there's one main reason why she isn't.

"I love Ooltewah," she said.

Jay Bowen is a former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball assistant who was hired as head boys' coach and athletic director at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa starting this school year. His wife, Cristy, and two daughters have stayed behind but will reunite with him for the summer.

Katelyn soon will graduate from Ooltewah High School after playing a final softball season with the Lady Owls

There will be a brief family reunion this weekend when Coach Bowen returns to see her sign a scholarship with Bryan College on Friday and play later in the afternoon at The Summit of Softball Complex in Ooltewah's Lady Owls Choo Choo Classic.

The tournament will be played on four fields starting at 4. Pool play wraps up Saturday morning with games slated at 9 and 10:30. Based on pool results, teams will be placed in either Gold or Silver brackets for single-elimination, which is set to begin at 12:15 p.m. in the Gold and at 2 in the Silver. Both championship games are scheduled to start at 5:30.

Katelyn was born in Atlanta. The family was living in Decatur, Miss., when she began playing tee-ball as a preschooler. She tried basketball, too, a few years later after the Bowen clan moved to Clarksville, Tenn.

"Neither of my daughters was much on basketball. My oldest daughter was a college soccer player," Jay said of Ashleigh, who is scheduled to graduate from UTC in May. "Katelyn doesn't think she's a good basketball player. She plays hard and fouls a lot. She's a good team member. Basketball is more of a release mechinism for her."

Katelyn has enloyed playing basketball for coach Donnie Mullins her two years at Ooltewah, but softball is her thing.

"I just found I was more of a natural at softball," she said. "When I'm good at something, I have to like that better."

The former right fielder has moved to center this season. Batting in the No. 3 spot right in front of best friend Abby Daniels, the team's other .400 hitter this year, Katelyn has six extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and scored 15 runs.

"She's a great young lady -- very personable, works hard -- and she can play," Ooltewah softball coach Norma Nelson said. "I think she was leading us in hitting last year until her hand got broken."

When Mocs coach John Shulman hired Jay in July 2010, the Bowens scouted local high schools before potential residences. Ooltewah principal Mark Bean recalled meeting with the family on a Sunday so he could show off his facility.

"One of my all-time selling points is that all three of my kids went here," Bean said. "This is my dream job. I tell everybody, 'If your son or daughter comes to my school, I'm going to treat them like my son or daughter. I'm going to do everything I can to help make them successful.'"

Katelyn has been involved in the school's leadership program and is a National Honor Society and Beta Club member.

"I've really liked living here the last two years," she said. "Mr. Bean really has treated me like I was another daughter. Coach Nelson and the team have been great. Coach Nelson has really helped me as a softball player. My father knows how much I love Ooltewah."

Nelson recalls the phone call she received from Cristy last summer, informing the coach of her daughter's plan to return to the school.

"That kind of made my day," Nelson said. "We've had some kids transfer in before, and what I think is the kids here have been understanding and not treated anybody like an outsider. I try to have a family atmosphere. and we have fun together on the team. Mr. Bean is a student-friendly principal. I think that's why kids that have come in like it so much."

Jay said the decision to accept the offer at Cambridge was a difficult one, but he said the school has been great about allowing him time off to travel. Soon Katelyn will be making plans to move to nearby Dayton, and Bryan is a school where she can continue her work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

So presently it seems Katelyn can focus on helping the Lady Owls (15-5) in big events such as tonight's key District 5-AAA clash at Soddy-Daisy, this weekend's tournament and maybe an even more important tournament in Murfreesboro in late May.

"The state tournament would be really nice," Katelyn said. "I don't think it's out of reach."

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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