PINEDALE – Jumpers lined up along the runway, waiting for the official to call their name for the long jump. Casper’s notorious wind whipped over the track and field complex at Kelly Walsh High School, keeping temperatures cool and blowing in rain showers during the 2021 State Track and Field Meet on May 20-22.
Senior Teagan Bowers warmed up before hitting the runway. Each long jumper has three preliminary jumps before the top nine qualify for the finals and another three jumps.
“I was pretty nervous for my first jump,” Bowers said. “I tried to clear my head, because I just didn’t want to think about everything.”
Bowers exploded from the takeoff board, propelled himself down the runway, caught air and landed in the sand pit. The judge called out the measurement.
Bowers hit 21 feet, 7 1/4 inches, clearing more distance than any other jumper that day. The pressure was still on, however. Bowers and eight other athletes still had three final jumps to make, and the chance existed for one of those eight jumpers to surpass Bowers.
“There was one kid I was worried about,” Bowers said. “His jump that was close to mine was already his personal best.”
Bryan St. Clair of Lander came close to Bowers’ jump, but missed the mark by a full inch. Bowers held onto the lead and took the 2021 State Championship in the long jump. Bowers also received 3A All-State honors for the achievement.
“It felt pretty good to get All-State,” he said. “I was really hoping I would get a good jump in and actually win it, and I ended up getting a good jump.”
Jumping into success
Bowers is relatively new to track and field. He played soccer and basketball his freshman year and joined the golf team as a sophomore.
During his junior year, Bowers decided to try indoor track. His father did competitive jumping, and provided inspiration for Bowers to take up the triple jump and long jump.
“He helped me with my technique a lot,” Bowers said.
Putting in hours and hours of practice, Bowers learned the ins and outs of jumping. Natural athletic talent kicked in and Bowers started to make a mark.
The 2020 outdoor track season was cut short by public health orders. Undaunted, Bowers hit the ground running during the shortened 2021 indoor track season, hoping to get on the podium at State.
On Feb. 6, at one of the qualifying indoor track meets hosted by Gillette, Bowers shattered the Pinedale High School record in the triple jump, clearing 43-04 1/4. A few weeks later, Bowers made All-State with a second-place finish in the triple jump at the State Indoor Track and Field Meet.
The spring outdoor season started right after indoor season came to a close and Bowers set out with new goals to reach.
At the Green River Invite on April 23, Bowers broke another PHS record, this time in the long jump at 22-08.
“Breaking the record was a pretty good feeling because that was a fun jump,” he said.
Bowers also highlighted his success at the home Mountain Man Invite on April 30, where he took first place in both the long jump and triple jump.
“I jumped only a couple inches shorter in Pinedale from my personal record (in the long jump),” he added.
Bowers said he felt a sense of improvement during the indoor and outdoor seasons his senior year.
“I feel like I jumped well this year, so that was my big highlight,” he said.
Long jump versus triple jump
Bowers explained that the overall point in both the triple jump and long jump is to get as far as possible from point A to point B. This involves using the body’s core, legs and arms, he said.
“You have to load up before you jump and throw your whole body into jumping so the momentum moves you forward,” he added.
The technique involved in reaching point B varies between the triple jump and long jump.
“In triple jump, you go in a rhythm with your feet – right, right, left, or left, left, right,” he said. “In the long jump, you just propel yourself forward. In the triple jump, you’re using both of your legs and in the long jump, you’re only using one of them to jump.”
The placement of the takeoff board is significantly closer to the pit in the long jump, shortening the time spent on the runway before launching into the pit, Bowers explained.
Camaraderie exists between jumpers across the state, Bowers said, and this removes some of the pressure.
“Most of us are friends, so we just have fun,” he said. “It’s still competitive, but that just makes it better.”
In addition to jumping events, Bowers found success in sprinting, picking up several first- and second-place ribbons in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash.
While the 100 meter “feels like it’s pretty short,” the 200 meter “feels like it takes forever,” Bowers said.
Bowers signed to compete in jumping and sprinting at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, a Division I school in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Bowers met his coaches and several future teammates and said he is excited to compete at the college level. St. Ambrose’s main rivals are in the Chicago area, Bowers said, giving him a taste of the big city after living in Pinedale.
Bowers does not have definite plans about a major or career at this point and has plenty of opportunity to explore at St. Ambrose.
“We’ll just see what happens in the next year,” he said.