Albany's Bowen Competes in Panama National Championships
Story Courtesy UAlbanySports.com
ALBANY, N.Y. – University at Albany junior high jumper Jr. has already had an illustrious career. He is the school record holder for both the indoor and outdoor high jump, having cleared a height of 7’-3.25” in both events. He is a six-time America East high jump champion, winning three times each at both indoor and outdoor championships. He is an IC4A outdoor high jump champion, NCAA East Regional champion, and indoor and outdoor national qualifier and All-American.
Bowen’s talent and performances have garnered the attention of both the United States and Panamanian national teams. After successfully completing his dual citizenship application last week, Bowen competed in the Panamanian national championships last weekend in the high jump. The championships were held at Estadio Rommel Fernández in Panama City.
Bowen jumped 6’-8.75” to take second place, but he still earned his spot on the national team. Bowen will continue competing for Panama in a number of meets through November.
“Alex told me his legs were a little tired during the competition,” said assistant coach , “because he was running around Panama City for two days wrapping up some final things with the citizenship process. But he made the team and he’ll keep competing for them.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Bowen said. “It’s a first for me, and I’m open to a lot of things. I’m excited to meet the team and the coaches, and excited for the experience.”
Bowen has competed at big meets before, both domestically and internationally. But this weekend will represent the first time he is jumping completely on his own. None of his coaches will be making the trip with him.
“Alex will be jumping solo this weekend,” said assistant coach who is Bowen’s primary coach, “but he can jump well without me.”
“Sometimes I set up practice so he’s jumping on his own,” Wolin continued. “He’s become more aware of his body, more aware of where he is over the bar, and he knows what he needs to do to try to save a jump without my input. I think the biggest difference will be measuring his approach out in metrics, which I believe is how they do it internationally.”
“I think I’ll be able to handle competing by myself,” said Bowen. “I already know a lot, and Todd confirms what I know.”
“The first year I worked with Alex, it was a lot of coaching,” said Wolin. “Then in year two, as Alex became more experienced, we incorporated some self-analysis on his part. Now, in year three, it’s almost to the point where Alex is coaching himself.”
Competing at national championships had been on Bowen’s radar for some time, in some capacity or another. He had aspirations of competing for team USA, as well as Panama, once he completed his application for dual-citizenship. But the Panamanian national championships didn’t become a real possibility until the week of Penn Relays.
“We got an email on the Thursday of Penn Relays from the team in Panama, saying they wanted him to compete in their national championships. So Alex completed his dual-citizenship that following Monday.”
“The citizenship process involved a lot of phone calls and emails. My mother and her friends did a lot of the footwork. It happened quickly, a lot faster than I thought it would. One day I was in Philadelphia and the next I was in New York going through the process.”
Bowen’s first competition after completing his dual-citizenship application was the America East Outdoor Championships six days later. He won the high jump, defending his indoor and outdoor titles, and managed to set the Panamanian national record in the process. His height of 7’-1” broke the old record of 6’-11.5” set by José Barahona in 1997.
If Bowen wins the high jump this weekend, he will go on to compete throughout the summer in other meets for team Panama. He’ll start with the Campeonatos Centroamericanos Mayores (Central American Championships) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras from June 20-23. Next, he’ll head to São Paulo, Brazil for the Campeonato Iberoamericano de Atletismo (Ibero-American Championships) from August 1-3. He’ll compete in the U-23 Campeonatos Sudamericanos de Atletismo (South American Championships) from October 3-5 in San Luis, Argentina. Finally, Bowen will compete in the 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games, held from November 14-30 in Veracruz, Mexico.
The potential schedule Bowen has before him will alter his training somewhat. Where before, he may jump once or twice over the summer, he’ll now have to take his time off more in line to break down and build back up for these big meets.
“After NCAA Championships, there are two weeks before he’d head to Honduras,” said Wolin. “We’ll get back into the weight room after that, and go into a preseason mode. Normally we wouldn’t start jumping until November, but this year we’ll start in September. After Brazil, he won’t jump for the remainder of August.”
By competing for Panama, Bowen cannot compete for team USA for a full year. He has been considering his options for almost two and a half years, and he only decided to compete for Panama a month ago.
“The issue with the American team is that it’s so deep,” said Wolin. “You can be the best and still not make it. Plus the fact that Panama wanted him, too, put them over the top.”
“I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity with Panama,” Bowen said. “I spoke with one of the Team USA coaches and he was encouraging about my competing for Panama, saying it was the best option for me.”
Bowen’s aspirations now legitimately include potential trips to next year’s World Championships in Beijing, as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But for the near future, Bowen has his sights set on this weekend’s national championships.
“I’d like to break the national record again,” Bowen said. “It would be cool to do it down there. I’d also like to get back up to 7’-2.5” (season best), and then hit 7’-3.25” again (personal best). And it probably won’t count, but if I could clear a height over the school record, that would be nice, too.”
“It’s a goal of ours to see our student-athletes go on to international competition,” said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country . “We been represented in the Olympics and in Junior Worlds, and to have our athletes compete shows the success of our program. We’re all excited for Alex, and he still is untapped.”
“I’m happy for Alex, and proud of him,” said Wolin. “He’s a good young man who works hard and does everything I ask of him. I’m very excited to see him compete.”