When Ashley Bowden started pole vaulting in high school, she was the only girl on a team of boys. Now as a member of the Ohio State women’s track and field team, she still pole vaults and is still the only female.
“I just work with the boys,” said Bowden, a sophomore. “Working with them really pushes me and it makes me work a lot harder.”
She finished 15th out of about 30 Saturday at the Jesse Owens Classic, the first home meet of the season. Athletes from more than 35 colleges and 25 high schools competed for two days, including Bowden’s former high school rivals from her home state of Michigan.
She repeatedly cleared the bar Saturday afternoon. Some of the other women were unable to make it over, knocking over the bar that was set up on the mats in the center of the track at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Bowden, a gymnast in high school, was inspired to try pole vaulting by a friend who told her gymnasts make good pole vaulters.
“It takes a lot of strength, but also a lot of technique and speed,” Bowden said. “I hope to break the school record.”
Teammates and close friends Letecia Wright and Bever-Leigh Holloway train together every day and also run the same event. The two competed in the 100-meter hurdles Saturday.
Freshman Wright finished third in 13.40 seconds and junior Holloway finished 17th with a time of 14.09 seconds. At the finish line, the pair gave each other high-fives and embraced.
“There is competition between us,” Wright said. “But it’s healthy.”
They say working together helps improve their performances.
“I have really bad nerves,” Wright said after the race. “Whenever we’re in the same heat, it reassures me knowing that she’s right there and just as nervous as I am.”
This season, the pair has been working together on the hurdles. Holloway ran the 100-meter hurdles for two years by herself, until this year when Wright joined the team.
“It helps so much to have a training partner,” she said. “We push each other. And we’re good friends.”
The women’s team will travel to Akron Friday for a small invitational meet, intended to help prepare the Buckeyes for the Big Ten championships in Champaign, Ill. May 16 to 18. It is meant to be a tune-up meet for the team, coach Karen Dennis said.
“There were a lot of strong performances this weekend,” Dennis said of the Classic. “It was very encouraging. Now we have to get ready to do battle.”
Megan Savage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.