Utah State’s Nic Bowens is an honest guy. He doesn’t mind admitting he suddenly feels a ton of pressure this week as he readies for the first round of the NCAA track and field championships, which begin Thursday in Fayetteville, Ark.
There is good reason for the sudden pressure and nerves, too. Bowens, a junior from Idaho, has gone from having a good reputation in the west for his sprinting skills to being somewhat of a marked man.
NCAA West Preliminary
Where » Fayetteville, Ark.
Note » Qualifiers advance to NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore., June 11-14
He has his efforts in the MWC Championships to thank for his sudden exposure. Bowens not only won the league title in the 100m with a time of 10.18, but he also recorded the fourth-fastest time in the country with a 10.13 in the preliminaries.
Now, he is under pressure to repeat that kind of performance as he and 17 other Aggies participate in the weekend events with an eye toward qualifying for the NCAAs in Eugene, Ore., June 11-14.
"I feel like I am in a good spot," Bowens said. "I am nervous, but hopefully I can keep running well. I didn’t know I could set a high mark like that."
In a way, Bowens is just discovering what he can do on the track.
Bowens always thought he’d star on the football field like his father, Al, who played at Washington State.
Nic was a talented football player in high school, playing receiver, corner and kick returner. However, no amount of speed could let him avoid all the physical demands of the sport as he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and some concussions in high school.
The injuries were enough that his parents sat him down and told him he might want to investigate a new athletic path. He did, following in the footsteps of his brother, Keith, who was a standout for the Meridian, Idaho track team.
"My brother was the one who told me to just try it," Keith said.
Soon, Nic was making a name for himself to the point where he was receiving college offers. "At the end of the day, it turned out to be the sport for me. I still miss football, but track has been good."
Bowens became an immediate success at Utah State, earning the 2012 WAC Indoor Freshman of the Year Award after several high marks. Last year he set school records in the 60m (6.7) and 200m (21.17) to earn more conference honors.
Bowens said part of his motivation came from running with Will Henry, who set a school record of 10.41 in the 100m in 2013.
The two became close friends with Henry encouraging Bowens to keep getting better and better.
"He set the bar really high and I’ve been chasing his mark," Bowens said. "He told me he really didn’t want to see anyone break it, but if someone did, he wanted it to be me."
Henry was one of the first people Bowens spoke with after breaking Henry’s mark.
"He always told me to shoot for the moon," Bowens said. "He is always pumping me up, telling me to be ready to do big things."
Bowens hopes he can continue to make his mark a few more times this year.
"I definitely feel some pressure because a lot of people expect me to make it to Eugene now," he said. "But I like the pressure and I’m just trying to stay relaxed and level headed."
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