Dawn Bowles has a pair of shoes sitting on a shelf in her home office with a medal hanging out of each one. She looks at them every day as a reminder of how far she has come in life.
The shoes go way back to when Bowles was an infant in 1969. They are corrective shoes that Bowles wore for 23 hours a day until she was 18 months old in order to correct a condition that threatened to confine her to a wheelchair for her whole life.
"When I was born, both of my feet were turned backwards,'' said Bowles. "Many of the doctors that my mother went to said I would never walk, and that I would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of my life.''
But the Bowles family refused to accept that diagnosis.
"My grandmother (Pauline Williams) would not accept that as an answer,'' said Bowles. "She was a praying, God fearing woman, and she told my mother (Shirley) that she had prayed for her to find a doctor who could fix my situation, and as history has it, she did.''
"They were open toed white hard sole shoes with a crossbar attached to them that were adjustable,'' said Bowles. "I was thinking of dipping them in bronze, but never did it. They are still in good condition, in their original form with the last adjustable setting from the last time I had to wear them. I cried everyday I had to wear them, but they worked.''
As for the medals hanging out of her shoes, one of them is the first track and field medal Bowles ever won. She earned it when she placed fourth in the 55m dash at the Merli Invitational at Red Bank High School when she was a freshman at Neptune High.
"That medal and the shoes remind me of how far I have come, and that in life it never matters how you start, it's what you do in between, and how you end up'' said Bowles. "It was nothing but a miracle that I was able to get those corrective shoes to be able to walk, let alone run. The start of my life was not looking too good for me, but with the blessing from God, my in between came out pretty good, and the journey is still continuing.''
Bowles' track and field journey is nothing short of remarkable, an improbable path to greatness that reads like it came straight out of Hollywood.
Read all about Bowles as she's featured here in NJ MileSplit's latest installment of "The Starting Line" series.
But be sure to buckle up because this really is a roller-coaster ride about how Bowles defied all the odds, overcame fears, and took several unexpected twists and turns on the way to becoming a NJ track and field legend, a three-time NCAA champion at LSU, one of the top hurdlers in the world, a Hall of Famer, and one of the state's best coaches.
Her resume will just blow you away!
Plus, we got Bowles to reveal some of the greatest NJ high school moments and athletes she's ever witnessed during her coaching career.
Before we take a deep dive into what makes Bowles tick, and her amazing rise to superstardom, let's check out her key stats and best accomplishments.
- Graduated from Neptune in 1988 and from LSU in 1995 (eligibility was up in 1992).
- As a high school senior, she advanced to the semifinals of the 100m hurdles at the 1988 Olympic Trials, missing the final by one place.
- At the 1988 NJSIAA Meet of Champions, Bowles dropped a ridiculous double, winning the 100m hurdles in a then state record and still meet record 13.33, and won the 200 in 24.37.
- Bowles broke her own state record in the 100m hurdles when she ran 13.10 at the 1988 Golden West Invitational.
- Transferred from FDU to LSU during her freshman semester after FDU coach Russ Rogers left to coach at Ohio State.
- At LSU, she ran on the NCAA winning 4x100 team in 1991 and '92, and won the NCAA 100m HH title in 1991.
- LSU won the NCAA outdoor team title all four years that Bowles ran there (LSU won NCAA record 11 straight women's titles from 1987 through 1997
- Finished fourth in the 100m hurdles at the Olympic Trials in 1992 and '96.
- Made the Pan American Team outdoors in 1991 (Havana, Cuba)
- Made World Championship Teams outdoors in 1991 (Tokyo, Japan), 1993 (Stuttgart, Germany), and 1997 Athens, Greece, and once indoors .
- Retired from track and field in 1998 due to a bad hamstring pull.
- PR's- 100m HH - 12.74 legal, (0.0 wind) 12.65 wind-aided (3.2 wind) / 60m HH- 7.95 / 55m HH 7.51
- Inducted into the Shore Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014
- Started coaching high school track and field as a volunteer at Neptune in 2005. Became head girls coach at Neptune in 2008
BOWLES BY THE NUMBERS
13.10-The NJ high school record time that Bowles ran as a senior at Neptune High to win the Golden West Invitational in 1988
13-Number of years as head girls coach at Neptune
4-The place she finished in the 100m hurdles at both the 1992 and '96 Olympic Trials
4-The number of times she ran at the World Championships (three outdoors/one indoors)
3-Number of NCAA titles she won at LSU (100m hurdles and 4x100 in 1991, 4x100 in 1992)
3-National Championships as a Coach (2010 Outdoor SMR in a then state record 3:52.74/Ajee' Wilson-New Balance Indoor National Champ in 2011 and '12.
2-Number of Hall of Fames that Bowles has been inducted into. Neptune High School (2009), Shore Track and Field Coaches Association (2014).
2-State titles won as coach at Neptune (2008 indoors and 2012 outdoors-both in Group 3)
2-Monmouth County Championships (2013 and '14)
1-Olympians she has coached (American 800m record holder Ajee' Wilson)
How did you get started in track and field? What age, what club? Were your family-parents/siblings involved in track and field?
''Back in the day when I was in Junior High School there was this concept called playing outside everyday with your friends,'' said Bowles. "We used to play basketball, baseball, soccer, four squares, hide and seek, and we had relay races. A lot of my friends would tell me that I was fast and should go out for track. I remember when I was in eighth grade and I went out for outdoor track. I trained for a whole month and was excited to go to my first track meet. When that first track meet came I asked my coach, Caleb Morris, what event I was running? He said, 'I'm sorry dear, you can only run in dual meets. They don't have meets for Junior High kids.' ''I said ok, can you get medals at a dual meets? He said no, you just compete against another team for points. So I gave him that Arnold Dummond from "Different Strokes" statement, "What you talking about, Mr. Morris."
"I said you mean to tell me that I will be running for free. I don't get to win a medal? He said, 'no dear you don't get to win a medal.' '' I said, oh no then, I'm not running for free. I'll be back next year, so I quit that day. He was mad, but see how my mentality worked back then was that I didn't run for "free." If I put in all of that hard work, I wanted something for my efforts. Remembering this story just cracks me up. I didn't want to run for free. That is so funny to me."
"Anyway, my brother, Johnnie, ran track. He is a year older than me. He was okay, but one thing regarding him was that he used to come home with a lot of medals and I wanted one so bad. I used to take his medals off his dresser and put them on mine as if I won them. He would get so mad and said, "Go get your own, if you're any good." Well you know those sister brother rivalries. That was the beginning of my determination to run. I wanted to outdo him and get more medals than he did. It's fair to say that goal was accomplished, and I definitely let him know it.''
When and how did you start hurdling?
"How I started to hurdle is a funny story,'' Bowles said. "I believe indoors my sophomore year one of my teammates twisted her ankle at practice the day before the State Relays at the Jadwin Gymnasium at Princeton University. My coach (Mr. Morris) told the team that anyone who wanted to run in the State Relays tomorrow can try to jump over the hurdles. He said you don't have to be perfect, just hop over them. Back then Neptune was known for their hurdlers, boys and girls, and we had a great chance to win with the teammate who twisted her ankle. Even though we were without that hurdler, my coach still felt we had a good chance to win.
"Well, I was one too afraid to go over the hurdle while my coach was looking, so every time he went into the locker room I would hop over it and my teammates were yelling and screaming saying, "Dawn you did it,'' and they were yelling to Mr. Morris saying, 'Dawn got over the hurdle.''' And of course you know me, I denied it and wouldn't go over it while he was looking. So he got slick on me and went into the locker room, but this time he was peeping through the door to watch me which I didn't know, and he saw me go over two hurdles. He came out of the locker room with so much excitement and said, 'dear do you know what you just did'?'' I said yeah, I hopped over the hurdle and you shouldn't have seen it. He said, 'you just three-stepped. That is not easy to do. You are a natural hurdler.' '' I said, oh no I'm not! I'm a sprinter!!! He said, 'come on dear, I'll put you on anchor just to give the other three girls a chance to run.'''
"I believe two of the girls were seniors and this was their last State Relays, so I said ok, but I said this is the first and last time I'm going to do this. Well, we know how that last time ended up. Needless to say I was on anchor. The race went smoothly, and we won the State Relays. That was the beginning of my hurdle career.''
STATE RECORD/OLYMPIC TRIALS
What does it mean to you to still own the NJ high school record in the 100m HH?
"To still have any record is an awesome feat, but to hold one (the NJ high school record) for 32 years is a complete honor, and it shows the hard work, dedication and awesome coaching I had. It's so weird looking back at some of my high school videos of myself. I'm a hard critique of myself, I see so many things that could have been corrected that could have made me faster, but I mostly laugh at myself for how silly I was, how stubborn I was when I had to run the 400, which I didn't like, and how fun track and field was to me.
What was it like competing in the Olympic Trials as a high school senior?
"I was completely excited and star struck. Going into the Trials I worked my butt off and truly believed I had a shot for the finals. I had the best coach possible in Caleb Morris. He created the track athlete Dawn Bowles. He made me think and believe that I was just as good as anyone else going into the Trials. I would have practice after practice in high school. After the team would train he would tell everyone on the team if anyone wants to stay for extra training you can. Ninety percent of the time it was only me, but it was all worth it.''
THE BUMPY ROAD TO BATON ROUGE
Bowles never even thought about attending LSU after graduating high school, but her plans took a 180 during her first semester at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
"LSU wasn't even on my list, as crazy as that sounds,'' said Bowles. "My plan was always to go to Fairleigh Dickinson to run for Russ Rogers because his assistant coach was Candy Young, an Olympian at the age of 18 in 1980. Candy held the high school record in the 100m hurdles, which was 12.95 at the time. So I was all for that and was excited that I was going to stay in Jersey close to home. I wasn't a fan of flying anyway.''
But things didn't the way Bowles envisioned.
"When I got to Fairleigh Dickinson for my first semester, Russ Rogers was at the Olympics. I read in a newspaper that Russ was going to leave FDU to coach at Ohio State. I was hurt and was never told that he was leaving. He never turned in my scholarship at Fairleigh Dickinson because he had planned on taking me to Ohio State with him. ''
That angered Bowles.
"I felt hurt and betrayed that I had to read it in the newspaper, '' said Bowles. "So while he was at the Olympics, I called my sister and told her to come get me because I was leaving. She came, and we packed up and I left. For the record, Russ did try to explain when he got back and tried to get me to go to Ohio State, but I was too hurt. So that was that.''
Bowles never had a Plan B for college, so it was back to the starting blocks.
"At that point, I did not know where to go, and back then we didn't have NJ Milesplit,'' said Bowles. "We had the Track & Field News magazine, which was considered the "BIBLE" of Track & Field. So my story was in there that I was not going to Fairleigh Dickinson, and the recruiting started all over again.''
Bowles called on her high school coach for guidance.
"I was exhausted from all the coaches calling prior to my choice of Fairleigh Dickinson, so I pleaded with my high school coach, Mr. Morris, to give me some direction and choices as to where to go. He didn't want to suggest any schools because he didn't want to be the cause of my misery if I wasn't happy, but he did. He said, "Well you know LSU just won their first NCAA Championship this year so I feel you can go and leave some marks there." Then he said Texas is a great school as well because they have a great coach in Terry Crawford. Well that was that. I only took two school visits, LSU and Texas, and as history has it LSU became my home. I loved my entire experience while I was there, and if I had to do it all over again I would choose LSU first hands down.''
WIN OR QUIT
Bowles said that like every NCAA athlete, winning a national title was the ultimate goal for her. But in 1991 she wasn't very confident in making that dream become a reality, and was shocked when she won the 100m hurdles. She was so pessimistic about her chances of winning that she made a very unusual deal with her coach.
"The funny thing about my 100H win at the NCAA Championships in Eugene in 1991 is an interesting story,'' said Bowles. Prior to the '91 Nationals, I was not running well in the hurdles. My sophomore and early in my junior year were less than desirable to even want to talk about. I was very frustrated and disappointed in my performances, so I made a bet with my coach, Myrtle Chester-Ferguson. I said to her that if I do not run well in the hurdles at Nationals I want you to start training me for the 100m even though my fastest time was only 11.68. She agreed to it.
"So going into every race at Nationals (4x100 and 100H), I had a carefree attitude, meaning I was not nervous for any race, which was very unlikely for me. My nerves sometimes tended to get the best of me in college. I remember the night before the NCAA 100H finals, my roommate, Cinnamon Sheffield, and I were bored. The hotel we were at had a jacuzzi outside and she said you want to get in, something I would have never done if I was on top of my hurdle game, but at that time I had a carefree attitude so I said let's go.
"We got in the jacuzzi and sat in it for 20-30 minutes. It felt so good on the legs. After we got out I started thinking, if that was a good idea to do? I said to myself, 'oh well, what's done is done. The next day in the warm up area I was thinking to myself that this could be my last 100H race, and in some weird way I was excited because I was about to train for sprints, but at the same time my body felt really good and I wasn't nervous. I think I was more excited to start training for sprints because in a way I thought I wouldn't run well in the hurdles anyway.
"Needless to say, in that meet I ran the three fastest times I had ever run in my life: Trials 12.85w,: Semi-finals 12.82 (legal wind & tied Hayward Field record): Finals 12.70w. The lesson I learned in that whole ordeal is to continue to work hard, have patience and for me, get rid of the nerves because I run better without them.''
"My greatest accomplishment of my hurdling career would have to be when I ran my fastest time of 12.65,'' Bowles said. It was a little over the allowable wind at the '96 Olympic Trials in Atlanta, Georgia. My college coach (Chester-Ferguson), who was coaching me prior to the Trials was retiring 3 months before the Olympic Trials and that devastated me, something I wasn't expecting and mentally not prepared for nor ready to let her go, especially during the '96 Olympic year. But through all the mental challenges, I pulled out a great time.
"My other greatest career accomplishment has to be making all of the World Championship teams that I tried out for, 1991 (Tokyo Japan), 1993 (Stuttgart Germany) and 1997 (Athens Greece). Although I tried very hard to make the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Team, the World Championship teams still solidifies that I was among the world's best athletes ,and that I was one of them and was worthy through hard work to compete against the best in the world. So I am very appreciative and blessed for those moments and memories.''
WHAT MADE BOWLES A GREAT HURDLER
"Well, the beginning of my hurdle career (sophomore year in high school) was still uncharted territory for me,'' said Bowles. "In my mind I was still a sprinter, not knowing that having the speed of a sprinter and knowing how to three-step was the greatest combination to become a hurdler. My entire sophomore year I was not a fan of the hurdles because back then we ran our practices and our dual meets at Summerfield school here at Neptune, which was a cinder track back then-nothing but gravel rocks. So when you fell there was going to be bruises and blood, something I did not enjoy, and I fell a lot!''
"I think what made me a great hurdler coming out of high school was my coaches' never ending desire to always learn about the event. He was constantly showing me video tapes of Jackie Joyner-Kersee (a 3-time Olympic gold medalist) and other hurdlers, and I grew a respect for his knowledge and passion, so I decided if he's doing all this research for me, I am going to give him my all in practice and at meets. That attitude carried on to college and my professional career. I believe the thing I loved most about hurdling was me mastering the technique. I know when I was in college, Coach Myrtle opened me up to so many new things. I was fascinated by her teaching and my learning. I always wanted to know why I was doing something, and what it did for me.''
Bowles said she never would have been as succesful without the coaches she had.
"There aren't enough words to speak on the impact that my coaches played in my track career,'' said Bowles. My high school coach, Caleb Morris, was like a second dad to me, and I was a daddy's girl with my father, so I had it good as far as male role models. But as I said earlier, Mr. Morris made Dawn Bowles. He put confidence in me. He taught me the sport. He always spoke the truth. He made the sport fun. He was funny and loving toward the team. I think we joked and laughed more than we trained. Whenever I felt defeated and didn't think I could win a race or do well he would fill me up with confidence of facts about my training and last meet performances and would build me up to the point that other competitors didn't have a chance to win in my mind. I can remember whenever I had one of those episodes when I had doubts about a competitor and Mr. Morris would say, 'That girl can't carry your shoes.' '' He was just a great all around coach, and I was blessed to have run for him for 4 years.
"My college coach (Chester-Ferguson) was a continuation of Mr. Morris, but in a women's version. I was truly blessed to have two great coaches back to back. She was an assistant coach under Lauren Seagrave so she learned and studied a lot from him. She was always in the books and on the computer to inquire more knowledge. She always filled me with so much pure confidence.
"I remember my junior year we were at practice and we had like 5 or 6 hurdlers. I remember Myrtle telling me I don't care how good those other girls ahead of you are. They can be beaten on any given day and who's to say you can't be the one to do it. You work just as hard as they do. At LSU we were known to be very competitive. Our practices were like mini track meets. I believe that's why the team was so good year after year. We were never short on competitiveness.
"I also called Myrtle the walking encyclopedia back then, which is now called google. She was filled with a wealth of knowledge and she would always share it with whoever cared to listen, and I was one of those athletes who was always learning and inquiring. She would say to our team, "I am going to make sure you know why you do what you do so when you get interviewed you won't embarrass me and say I don't know why I do it.'' She always wanted her athletes to be educated ,and I think that stuck with me now that I am a coach. I educate my athletes the same way. I want them to know why they are doing something and the cause and the effect of it. Sometimes they act like they're the coach but I told them if they go to college to pursue their track career I wanted them to go in being educated about the sport and their event.''
Bowles never had any interest in coaching, but she gave in when Dewey Robinson, Neptune's head coach at the time, begged her to volunteer in 2005.
"I never wanted to coach,'' said Bowles, who lives in Neptune and has a 13-year-old son, David. "I just didn't think it was for me. I knew it was a roller coaster job, and it was a ride I just didn't want to get on. The only way I got into coaching was by Dewey being persistent by asking me to help Trier Young out in the hurdles because she was so talented.''
Using her hurdling expertise, Bowles helped Young become the state's No. 1 hurdler in 2005. Young won the Meet of Champions 100m hurdle title as a senior in '05 in a high school PR of 13.93, No. 22 in state history and No. 2 in Shore Conference history behind Bowles. Young also swept the hurdles at the state Group 3 meet.
In 2006, Bowles volunteered at Rumson High School. A year later, she was hired as Rumson head girls' track and field coach. But after her first year as head coach at Rumson, Bowles went back to Neptune to take over as head girls indoor and outdoor coach after the unexpected death of Robinson in 2008. She's remained at her alma mater ever since.
Bowles said when she took over at Neptune she needed to make some big changes.
"The State of Neptune's' program when I took over definitely needed an overhaul starting with discipline, respect and workouts, and what I mean by that is that too many of the girls were not disciplined on a daily basis to want to workout,'' said Bowles. "They had no respect for the sport and needed to be educated about the sport which is what I came in and did. The moment I knew the program was headed in the right direction was in my first Indoor season coaching when we won the Group 3 State Championship in 2009.''
Bowles can't imagine her life now without coaching, and says there are many things that fuels her coaching fire.
"What I like most about coaching high school track is seeing potential in a kid and telling them what kind of time they can run and then they run it,'' Bowles said. "That's the moment when you know that you have begun to unlock the key of confidence, belief, self assurance and competitiveness. That is a major motivator for me. To help a kid gain confidence in themselves when they have doubt. My ultimate enjoyment is helping these student athletes become accomplished adults after high school. I still enjoy coaching and seeing the transformation of a kid change mentally and physically in this sport, and for the record it's not always about the greatest and fastest athlete either. When you can unlock a mental or physical challenge in a much slower athlete, that is just as rewarding. It's easy to coach a great athlete. I have always said that anyone who knows how to coach can always coach a great athlete. The great coaching comes in when a less potential athlete can surpass their mental and physical abilities because you as a coach had something to do with unlocking it. Now that's coaching on any level!''
THE AJEE' ERA
Bowles had the honor of coaching Ajee' Wilson during her high school days, and deserves a lot of credit for Wilson's rise to global star.
Wilson, a 2012 graduate of the Academy of Allied Health & Science in Neptune, is considered by most to be the greatest half miler in U.S. history.
Wilson ran a NJ high school outdoor record of 2:00.91 (No. 6 in high school history) when she finished first at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships. Wilson is the American record holder in the 800m both outdoors (1:55.61 at the 2017 Monaco Diamond League meet), and indoors (1:58.60 at the Millrose Games this past February at the NY Armory). She's an eight-time national champion, placed third in the 800 in 1:58.84 at the 2019 World Championships in Qatar, and should be one of the favorites to win the gold at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo In Wilson's Olympic debut at Rio in 2016, she reached the semifinals of the 800.
"Coaching Ajee' was any coach's dream but at the same time I have to admit I was terrified because I was only coaching at Neptune for two years when she became a freshman and I knew everything about her because I had her older sister Jade,'' said Bowles. "And if I can be honest, I knew very little about distance running, so I subscribed to several runners magazines and hopped on the computer 2 to 3 times a week looking for workouts, injury prevention, and recovery exercises for distance runners. After her indoor season I had gained more knowledge about distance running and her as an athlete and was more confident to coach her. Coaching her was very easy because she was and still is a very well mannered, soft spoken, silly, respectful, loving young lady.''
Bowles knew Wilson was a rare talent before she got into high school.
"I knew Ajee' was different and rare when she ran AAU track in the summertime during her middle school years,'' said Bowles. "I didn't go to the meets, but I was told about her exceptionally fast times for her age group from her mom and sister Jade. Now while in high school what made me take notice of her rarity was her lung capacity to handle the hardest workouts. A workout that I thought would tax the entire team and have them falling out only taxed the rest of the team but not Ajee'. The rest of the team would be falling out all over the ground and Ajee' would walk to each of them and help pick them up. She would always be the one helping her teammates off the ground, just how you see her do on TV today when she congratulates her competitors and they're lying on the ground she would help them up. She is the same now as she was then.''
"I really started to notice just how great Ajee' was becoming when we went to track meets her freshman year. Sometimes when I would enter her into meets I would call her mom and ask her if she thinks Ajee' could run the 1600, 800 and 4x4. Her mom would say, 'yes, she ran cross country three miles and she ran the 3200 and 1600 at the AAU meets, so she could do it.' '' Now in my mind I was still a little bit in sprinter mode, so for me anything over the 400 was way too much, so I was just checking with the one who created this beautiful specimen. I wanted to make sure I was not overworking her.'''
Bowles knew that the 800 matched Wilson's skill set the most.
"By Ajee's freshman year outdoors I told her mother that she was an 800 runner,'' said Bowles. "Her mother and father were not hearing that and told me she was a miler who can run the 800. I said no, she is an 800 runner who can run the mile. And I know it wasn't easy for them to hear that after all these years of Ajee' running the 3200, 1600 and 800. But one thing I knew for sure was that she was a true 800 runner, who could run anything she put her mind to.
"I knew in due time they (her parents) would come around. For one, just listening to Ajee' she told me as she got older that she hated the 3200, but loved the 1600 because it wasn't as fast as the 800. She felt more comfortable running the 1600 because of the slower pace, and my belief in why she said that was because no one had ever really tapped into her natural gifted speed the way it needed to be tapped into. She had enough strength and power to run the 1600, but not enough speed to have that confidence for the 800. I remember the very first time I told Ajee's mom that her foot stride was too long in the 1600 and 800, and she can't really turnover with speed because she stays in the same stride pattern throughout her race so I needed to change it. And believe you me there was plenty of resistance, but I won her parents over with knowledge and proof, so throughout her freshman year we worked on her speed and stride pattern and from then on when people would see her run the 1600, 800, 400, and 4x4 at the championship meets it was easy for her because she learned how to switch gears when she needed too so most of the times when she ran she would just run to win for points and not for time unless we had a focused race with a goal in mind.''
THE SMR AT THE 2010 NB NATIONALS
"One other story that is very significant to Ajee's high school career was when her mother and I were eating breakfast in a hotel one morning when we took Ajee' to the World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada in 2010,'' said Bowles. "I remember the conversation as if it was yesterday. Her mom said to me, do you think Ajee' can run a 2:00 in the 800.' '' I told her without hesitation yes because of her training. I showed her mom the facts and the times and she asked me if thought that's too fast for her at this time and age? I said no, not if it's not taxing on her body and if she's mentally and physically prepared and I told her mom if she doesn't do it here in Canada, she will do it before she leaves high school for sure. I felt it would happen in Canada, but Ajee' told me when she saw that her first 400 split was a 58 she freaked out and didn't think she would have enough gas to the end, so that threw off her off focus and she ended up not running as well as she wanted. Needless to say, several weeks later we went to Outdoor Nationals in North Carolina, and on the 1600 sprint medley anchor leg, Ajee' ran a perfect split on the 800 leg (60-60), hence she ran a 2:00.59. Neptune won the race in a then state record 3:52.74).
"The announcer mentioned that it was the fastest time a high school girl ever ran either open race or relay. Her mother and I were jumping up and down screaming with excitement in the stands and then I told her mother that she would run this time before she left high school. Her mother said, 'yes, you did say that.' '' It has absolutely been my pleasure to have been Ajee's high school coach. She was genuinely a great teammate and athlete.''
Bowles isn't surprised at all with what Wilson has accomplished on the national and world stage, and feels she's destined for great things at the 2021 Olympics.
"Ajee's chances of making the Olympic team are great, and if I know Ajee' like I knew her in high school, she will be putting in some hard training and will not be disappointed nor denied this go round, all depending on the pandemic,'' said Bowles. "And I am never surprised by Ajee's success. I saw her future before she got out of high school. I used to share some of my thoughts with her mom about how fast Ajee' would run, and around what year she would run the times, and she has never disappointed.'
KEYS TO SUCCESS
"I believe the key to my success as a coach is being knowledgeable of the sport,'' said Bowles. Every year I'm always researching new things and I have never believed in the motto of the "ONE FITS ALL" mentality, meaning that one workout for every athlete, one way of motivating for every athlete, or one way of disciplining for every athlete. Everyone is different, and if a few athletes couldn't handle a team workout I'd rather alter it for them to get the best results, and I think that has shown through all the success of the team.''
Bowles gives her top 3 moments/highlights from her teams at Neptune.
1) Olivia Baker from Columbia (Class of 2014). "She was a BEAST from the 100-800,'' said Bowles. "She was a talent with the times to back them up (100m-11.64, 200m-23.95, 400m- 52.46, 800m- 2:06.01.''
Baker is the only athlete to ever win four gold medals at the same outdoor MOCs (100, 200, 400, 4x400 in 2013), and her 11 Meet of Champions individual titles is tied for the state record.
Tauro holds the state record in the mile outdoors with the 4:39.25 she ran to win the Nike National title in 2006, and ran 2:09.21 in the 800m. Smith-800m-2:04.67 / 1600-4:46.87.
3) Shavon Greaves of Lakewood (Class of 2007). 100m-11.61 / 200m-23.69 /400 -54.73. Greaves won the 200 at the '07 MOCs.
4) Michelle Brown of Seneca (Class of 2010). She won four MOCs titles in her career. 100m 12.11 / 200m 24.17 / 400m 52.91. "I had to add a fourth one. There were so many talented girls who ran multi-events with great times.''