PINEDALE – Athletic ability comes naturally to Teagan Bowers. The Pinedale senior played soccer and basketball for the Wranglers and snowboards and shreds the trails on his mountain bike.
A year ago, Bowers decided to give competitive jumping a try and joined the indoor track team.
“I could always jump pretty far, so I thought I’ll just give this a shot,” he said.
Bowers qualified for State in the triple jump his junior year, but came in short of clearing his personal record of 42 feet.
This season, Bowers set his sights on improving his distance. The senior not only broke his personal record, he shattered the school record in triple jump and placed second in the event at State to earn All-State honors after only two seasons at the sport.
“I was pretty happy about it,” Bowers said. “I thought it was kind of cool because I haven’t gotten All-State before.”
Due to public health restrictions, making it to State was a challenge in 2021. The season was reduced to four qualifying meets and only nine athletes made the cut in each event instead of 12. Teams rarely overlapped at events.
“You didn’t see very much competition from the other kids from the other side of the state, because they’d compete on different weekends, so that was more difficult,” Bowers said.
At State, triple-jumpers are given four attempts and the longest jump determines an athlete’s final place. Bowers’ best jump at the 2021 Wyoming Indoor Track and Field Meet measured in at 42 feet, 7 1/2 inches, over 3 inches longer than the third-place finisher from Natrona County High School.
Bowers also qualified in the high jump after trying the event on a whim and clearing 6 feet at practice one day. He placed eighth in the event at State – the second time Bowers competed in the event during his track and field career.
The ins and outs of triple jump
Track and field events can appear straightforward to the uninitiated, yet there is a science and strategy behind each race and each jump. Mastering the triple jump involves hard work and skill to clear a distance roughly equivalent to the length of a semi-truck.
The triple jump, as the name implies, is a series of three leaps off alternating feet, Bowers explained. He hits the ground the first two times on his right foot and then springs from his left foot for the third jump.
Bowers’s foot is only on the ground for a split second, so maintaining balance and strength are important.
“You have to have strength to actually jump off (your foot) because you’re sprinting,” he said. “When you land on your second phase, you have to make sure you don’t fall because you’re going pretty fast and you have to jump off that foot again.”
Another factor is the placement of the takeoff board. Bowers prefers to jump from a 42-foot board. That way, if Bowers hits the sandpit, he has already cleared 42 feet.
“I was the only one jumping off the 42-foot board at State,” Bowers said. “Even the first place winner jumped off the 36-foot board, so he was closer to the pit. My strategy is to go off the 42-foot backboard so it pushes me farther.”
Athletes practicing indoor track typically do not have access to a real pit and have to jump into an elevated pit at competitions, Bowers explained. Bowers and his teammates learned to improvise – they used gym mats in place of a sandpit, hallways to run in and stairs to hold starting blocks and boards in place.
Bowers showed up at the fourth qualifying meet hosted by Gillette on Feb. 6 ready to compete. He did not expect to break the school record that morning.
“Before the meet even started, I was messing around, talking to my friends, and I told them, ‘I’m going to break the school record today,’ and I actually did.”
Bowers entered the lineup with the other athletes for the first of three jumps.
“When I warm up, I go through the motions of what I’m going to do,” he said. “When I’m getting ready to jump, I take a couple of deep breaths and then just go for it. I try not to think about it too much, just so I don’t mess up. I kind of clear my head and run.”
Bowers sprang from the board, hit the runway with his right foot twice, then his left foot and landed in the sand. The official called out the measurement – 43-04 1/4.
Bowers blew the competition out of the water, landing over 3 feet farther than the second-place finish from Sheridan. He also broke the school record in the triple jump set by Zach Winer in 2017 at 42-08 1/2.
“I was pretty happy about that,” Bowers said.
Bowers gave a shoutout to head indoor track coach Larry Proud and his friends for their support. His father competed in track in college, and that helped influence Bowers to give the sport a try.
Bowers plans to continue track in field in college and has looked into several programs. Bowers said he hopes to attend college somewhere a little warmer than Pinedale.