Greece'd Lightning

June 4, 2003

Baylor University's track program is known throughout the world as "Quartermiler U," thanks to the phenomenal success of Olympic champion sprinter Michael Johnson and legendary head coach Clyde Hart.
Now, one of Baylor's most decorated female track athletes is training for the 2004 Summer Games to be held in Athens, Greece, hoping to hop, skip and jump her way into Olympic history.
Stacey Bowers, Baylor's NCAA and USA triple-jump champion in 1999, is back on the track, working out six days a week for her shot at the U.S. Olympic team. "I remember when the 1992 Olympics were in Barcelona, I told my mom one day I'm going to be there," Bowers said. "I did go to the trials in 2000, and I missed making the Olympic team by four inches. I said I was that close, I have to try for it one more time. I'm only 25 and I still have a few more years to go before I peak in the triple jump."
While she decided her Olympic future, Bowers earned two degrees from Baylor -- a BS in education and an MS in sports management -- and served two years as a graduate assistant for the track team. Now a full-time assistant coach, she is able to combine her coaching duties with a rigorous training regimen under the tutelage of her field event coach, Danny Brabham. However, unlike other track athletes, Bowers doesn't have the luxury of an apparel contract to travel the continents seeking top-quality competition.
"I don't think Stacey jumped but two meets before going out to the Olympic trials in 2000," Hart said. "Luckily, she does have time now to coach and train. But it's still not like someone who has nothing to do but train all day and go around the world competing, so she's working under a difficult situation."
Bowers is no stranger to success. As a seventh-grader, she volunteered to try the triple jump, amazing her coaches with a leap of 38 feet. During her Baylor track career, Bowers competed as a jumper and sprinter, even earning All-American honors in the 4x400-meter relay. But once she reached world-class status in the triple jump, she dominated the Big 12 with four conference titles. In 1999, she doubled as collegiate and national champion, something only Johnson has accomplished as a Baylor athlete.
As she trains for the Olympic trials, Bowers spends significant time talking with Brabham about their approach to the long outdoor and indoor seasons. When they're actually on the track, Bowers does more running than jumping. "On Mondays, I'll run eight 150s. Tuesdays and Thursdays are basically my jump days, where I'll do run-throughs. On Wednesday, I'll do a 300 step-down, where I run a 300, a 250, a 200, all the way back down to 55. Friday, it's a relaxing day. On Saturdays, sometimes we'll go on a 15-minute run, and on Sunday, I rest," Bowers said.
In the middle of all the training, Bowers somehow has found the time to plan her wedding to former Baylor football player Rodney Smith. The high school sweethearts will marry Aug. 16 in Miller Chapel on the Baylor campus. "He sticks with me, like when I decided to come back and compete this year," Bowers said. "When I thought about taking time off, he said, 'Don't do that, you might decide later that you should've tried for the Olympics and didn't,' so he's my biggest fan."
Bowers' parents also are supportive, which is essential for any Olympic athlete, Hart said. "Michael [Johnson's] parents also were very supportive of him. They emphasized education and that's exactly the same thing with Stacey and her parents," Hart said. "I don't think it's any accident that to be successful, you've got to have that family support and you've got to have some goals other than athletics to hone in on."
Hart believes Bowers has the character to jump straight to Athens. It also helps, he said, if you have a little luck along the way. "You can train for four years, and if you have an upset stomach or stub your toe the night before, you have four years down the drain," he said.
"The amazing thing in an athlete like Stacey or Michael is to be right that one day. I think that if Stacey can get the training in and get the competitions, I don't think there's anybody out there right now that's out of reach of what she can do."

Fogleman is director of media relations in the Baylor Office of Public Relations.