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East grad Bowers captures 4×100 title at Ole Miss

East grad Bowers captures 4x100 title at Ole Miss

With an extra year of eligibility granted because of the COVID-19 outbreak during her freshman season, Janiyah Bowers wanted to make one last run, eyeing an NCAA Division I title. Following a successful four-year career at Youngstown State, the East High graduate transferred to Ole Miss for her fifth year.

She’ll be walking away from track and field as a national champion.

The Rebels 4×100 squad, consisting of Akilah Lewis, McKenzie Long, Gabrielle Matthews and Bowers, clocked a time of 42.34 seconds, earning Ole Miss its first outdoor relay title in program history. Their national title winning performance came after the Rebels ran a 42.22 during the preliminaries, a collegiate-leading time, and the fifth fastest women’s 4×100 time in NCAA history.

Not overthinking the meet was the goal from day one.

“Honestly, the day we got (to Oregon), our coach told us what he expected. He was telling us, like don’t make this meet bigger than what it is, what you do every day at practice, the handoffs, getting the stick around, you have to do there in order for us to win a national championship,” Bowers said. “When it came to prelims, all we had to do was execute, get the baton around, we did that. Going into finals, we said we’re doing the same thing and coming out with the win.”

Running that speedy time of 42.22 during the national semifinals set the tone.

“I’m not going to lie to you, when I looked at the clock I didn’t even know how fast we ran until my coach was like, 42.22, that’s something. Being that the standard was set that day, when we went into Saturday having to do it all over again to complete the job,” Bowers said.

Ole Miss beat LSU by .23 seconds for the national title in a field that featured other SEC foes such as South Carolina, and Arkansas, alongside Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas, Oregon, and Clemson. The Rebels came out fast during the finals, Bowers being the first to receive the baton during the final leg of the event following a handoff from Matthews.

Bowers bolted down the final 100, fending off LSU who tried to gain ground, but the Tigers effort fell short, leading to a national title and 10 team points for the Rebels.

“I felt great crossing the finish line because I felt like … a lot of people weren’t expecting us to win, even in prelims,” Bowers said. “On our end, we knew what we could do, some people didn’t, so crossing the finish line it went great. I felt like we were the underdogs, and showing the world what we could do, and what we did at practice, just executing that. It felt great to bring that home with my trophy.

“It means a lot because when my dad had posted a video of me crossing the finish line, there’s nothing like that hometown love, which is one of the reasons why I left Youngstown is to become a national champion and do bigger things. It’s been great, I’m thankful for every up and every down. Being here (at Ole Miss) has taught me a lot, from running, the transition to being around people who want to go bigger than NCAAs, with my training partners and my teammates. I definitely did a lot of great things at Youngstown, and I’m definitely thankful for that.”

Bowers was a two-time indoor state champion for the Golden Bears, winning the 60 and 200 indoor titles during her senior year at East, later winning a slew of Horizon League titles during her Penguins career, while earning a trip to the NCAA East Preliminary round during the 2023 season in the 100.

On top of earning a spot in the regional round this season during the 4×100, she qualified for the 100 for the second time in her career, advancing to the quarterfinals in Lexington, Kentucky, but missing the national cut by one spot following a 13th-place finish.

“I definitely did feel defeated missing it by one spot, but the fact is, the athlete I know I am, it shouldn’t even have been that close. My race wasn’t executed the best to my abilities, so going into Eugune I didn’t have an individual event, the only thing I had was my relay, and I know my team depend on me just as much as I depend on them as far as us being a national champion,” Bowers said. “Going in there, my mindset was that I’m not coming home with anything less than gold. I still have to try and compete for my team, and myself, my coaches, and all of Ole Miss.”

“Being that we didn’t win against these teams already at SEC meets, it’s just about executing, like I previously mentioned, don’t make it bigger than what it is. All of these teams that we haven’t seen, I’m sure we’ve seen half of them. All we have to do is focus on ourselves and executing, and going in there thinking we are the best and not thinking anything less of ourselves.

As a team, the Rebels women’s track and field team earned 38 points, enough for fifth place, earning their program’s best finish at the NCAA outdoor national meet. MacKenzie Long, who ran the second leg of the 4×100, also earned gold in the 100 and 200.

With Bowers collegiate-career ending on such a high note, there was time for reflection.

“The ups and downs, when I’ve been knocked down, track has always let me know that this is not the end of it. You can come back from anything,” Bowers said.

Have an interesting story? Contact the Sports Department by email at sports@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribChronSports.

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