For someone born in 2001, De’Anna Nowling knows her 1990s hip-hop and R&B.
On June 26, Nowling’s 17th birthday, the Calabasas High track and field sprinter walked around Keith Ritchie Stadium singing Total’s “Can’t You See” with a CIF State gold medal dangling from her neck.
It’s a fitting song for Nowling and her long-awaited gold medal, the 112th first-place finish of her track career.
In the 1995 hit, the trio sings: “I can’t wait for the day that we can be together. . . . Can’t you see, you and me were meant to be together.”
Nowling and that shimmering state title were meant to be together.
On June 2, she earned the 100-meter dash state title by blazing through the finish line in 11.47 seconds, becoming the first Calabasas athlete—in any sport— to become a state champion.
“I feel like I really made history,” she said. “That’s so cool. There were so many other runners, and I’m the first one to win state.”
The time gave Nowling, who owns the Coyote record of 23.6 seconds in the 200, her second individual school record. The 5-foot-1 incoming senior is also part of Calabasas’ record-setting 4×100 relay team, which clocked a 46.02 in 2017.
“It felt good,” she said of the state title. “I just wish certain people were there, certain people that meant a lot to me.”
The Coyote has big plans to honor her older brother, Donovan “Braze” Smith, and younger sister, Rye Hardy, who both fell victim to gun violence in 2014 at the ages of 22 and 4, respectively.
“Those are my guardian angels,” Nowling said. “Everything I do is for them. I want a record label. I want a clothing line. I want everything. Whatever business I make, it has to have their names included.”
Nowling has made three trips to the state meet in as many years. She placed fourth in the 100 as a freshman and sophomore.
The Coyote admitted her immaturity and lack of focus during the build up to race time prevented her from winning in 2017.
She learned from the disappointment.
“I’ve changed a lot,” she said. “I think that had a lot to do with me winning this year. I was focused and in my zone. After warmups, I got into the moment and hyped up, listening to music and dancing.”
Most athletes would never bust a move warming up for the most important race of the season, but Nowling, who used to be a majorette, isn’t like most athletes. She’s comfortable bobbing her head in her Beats headphones, grooving like she’s alongside Diddy and Mase in the “Feel So Good” music video.
The die-hard Bad Boy Records fan prefers listening to Notorious B.I.G., Lil Kim and Eve, but she’ll settle for some J. Cole. Mumble rap is sacrilegious for Nowling, a self-described “old soul.”
“She dances almost before every single event she runs,” said Kennedy Waite, an incoming Calabasas senior who runs the 4×100 relay with Nowling. “That’s just what she does. It’s her routine. Once they say, ‘Take your mark’ and ‘Get set’, she’s serious. She’s very determined.”
Nowling said she believes staying loose gives her an edge.
“They’re all serious,” she said of competitors. “I’m very goofy and excited. I have a lighter energy. I flow with the wind.”
Nowling’s always as laid back as the child version of Biggie posted up in the Jacuzzi in the “Sky’s The Limit” music video, and her foes have taken notice.
“She doesn’t feel the pressure or fear,” said Jazmyne Frost, an incoming Serra senior who has competed against Nowling since the sprinters were 9. “She’s more relaxed. I believe that helps her before the race.”
Frost, who finished second in the 100 at state, was only 0.14 second behind Nowling at the state finals.
“It definitely pushes me to work harder so I can win gold next year,” Frost said. “Even though we’re friends, on the track, we’re not friends anymore.
“After we cross the finish line, we still congratulate each other, no matter the results.”
Nowling, who was born in San Diego, has been running since she was 4. She started hauling in gold medals at 12.
The Coyote moved to Calabasas from Las Vegas during the first semester of her freshman year. She sought the toughest competition, and she found it with Oaks Christian’s Lauren Rain Williams, who is now at the University of Oregon; Rio Mesa’s Zaria Francis (USC); and St. Bonaventure’s Celera Barnes (Kentucky).
Nowling has concocted a unique recipe for success.
On race day, she must have oatmeal and apple juice for breakfast. She also puts her phone on “Do Not Disturb” throughout the day. Before each race, she eats eight Skittles.
“Don’t go over eight or you’ll get a stomachache,” she warns after learning the hard way.
Her success on the track has attracted a horde of colleges, including USC, UCLA, Miami, Iowa, UNLV, Colorado, Arizona and San Diego State.
“Basically every big school,” said Jeff Clanagan, Calabasas’ sprints coach. “They’re all calling for her.”
Nowling, who maintained a 3.6 grade-point average her junior year, said her top-three options are Oklahoma, LSU and Texas.
The daughter of April Smith and Ivan Jackson, De’Anna Nowling wants to study business in college. Her older brothers are D’Ante, Daryon, Gary and Glenn. Her older sister is D’Aushana.
Nowling wants to one day run in the Olympics, but she has unfinished business at Calabasas.
She dreams of bringing home the school’s first team state title.
“This year, we’re coming for it,” Nowling said. “Next year, I hope no one else thinks they’re getting first because we have to. I feel like we’re going to win, and I want everyone to mark my words.
“People will know Calabasas, and not only for the Kardashians. They’re going to know it for us.”
Email Jonathan Andrade at email@example.com.
The sprinter in a nutshell
• De’Anna Nowling, an incoming senior at Calabasas High, is the fastest girls’ track and field sprinter in California.
• Nowling claimed a CIF state 100-meter gold medal in a school-record 11.47 seconds on June 2, becoming the first Coyote in any sport to become a state champion.
• The 17-year-old has college offers from Oklahoma, LSU, Texas, USC, UCLA and San Diego State, among others.