Bowen treated to OHSAA award

Nedra Bowen’s bag of cookies is famous, but area track and field and cross country officials know the protocol when the sweet treats appear.

“She said if there are any cookies left in the bag, you’re not getting any more,” OHSAA track and field and cross country official Laura Dillon said. “We chuckle over that.”

Bowen knows other officials, even ones she doesn’t know, clamor for her cookies.

“I just threaten them,” she said of people leaving any cookies in the bag. I do get kidded when I don’t take cookies to some places, like when I worked over at LaBrae. I usually don’t work over at LaBrae to do track. They said, ‘Where’s the cookies?’ I said, ‘I usually don’t take them over to foreign lands.’ I don’t want people to expect when they always see me to bring cookies because I don’t know how meet management is going to like it.

“When I went up to Perry as the referee for the district, there were people I didn’t know too much I was working with. They said, ‘Where are the cookies we keep hearing about?’ I had to take some when I went up this year.”

On June 22, Bowen was honored for more than her baking skills. The OHSAA named her one of the 2012 OHSAA Active Officials of the Year. Bowen was named for girls cross country. She was the only area official to be honored.

“There’s not very many women that get recognized down there,” Dillon said. “I’ve looked up to her. I’ve learned a lot from her in that aspect, I guess. Along the way, her and I have become very good friends.

“She gets to the bottom of the problem. This person said this and this person said that and this person said something different. She goes after it and finds out what actually was said to make it fair for everybody. She doesn’t take any guff from any coaches. She’ll go right after them in a minute if they’re giving her or anybody else a bad time.”

Bowen, a retired Warren City School teacher, went after many things in her officiating career.

She started in the mid 1970s, a couple years after moving to the area with her late husband, Cullen, who was a football and track and field coach at Warren G. Harding High School.

“I started out with basketball,” Bowen said. “When I first came to Warren, I was a junior high basketball coach for girls when it first started. I thought if I’m going to be a coach, you better know the rules. I took the test to become an official. I think I ended up being the first female official in basketball in this area. So I did that in order to be the coach. I thought coaches should know rules, too.”

Being a women’s basketball official in the 1970s was quite rare.

“I had girls, especially, that would come up and say, ‘I look at you as a role model because we don’t see that many female officials,’ ” Bowen said.

How many sports has Bowen officiated? She let out a hearty laugh at the query. Besides cross country and basketball, she has officiated volleyball, track and field, softball and baseball.

“I know when I started out in baseball, when I was much younger, I got asked out to the prom by the first baseman,” Bowen said. “That was kind of neat, too. You don’t expect to see women in boys athletics. I don’t know I was role model in that aspect. I did get my share of, ‘Go back to the kitchen.’ I would laugh at that because I don’t cook. I never have cooked. I do bake cookies.”

She even dabbled into football, not officiating, but helping on the sidelines.

“My husband was very supportive,” Bowen said of her officiating. “In fact, when he was still coaching, I even did hold the chains in football. I wasn’t registered.”

That was a time when they could do volunteers.

“(Former WGH Athletic Director Pat Guliano) wanted to know if I wanted to hold the chains in football. I didn’t do it during Harding games. It was just for the (Warren Western Reserve) games. He wasn’t too keen on that. He said I was going to get hurt.”

More than anything, Bowen likes the bonds she’s made in track and field and cross country.

“I enjoy the camaraderie with all the officials. I do enjoy that,” Bowen said. “Because I had been teaching for so long, I like that involvement with the students. It’s good to see them grow. Track is a different sport. Track and cross country are a lot different than basketball and even baseball. Those athletes in track and cross country are very appreciative of officials, more so than the other sports. You get, ‘Yes, ma’am and no ma’am.’ It’s like that and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ “

“She’s very good with the kids,” said John Dillon, an OHSAA track and field and cross country official. “She does a lot of instructing. She asks a question, she’ll give them the right answer. If she doesn’t know it, she’ll get them to the right person that can do it.”

But what’s the one thing Dillon said he knows about Bowen?

“Cookies,” he said. “Chocolate Chip.”

It’s one of Bowen’s specialties.