Bower wins at Penn Relays, turns attention to Big Ten meet
When athletes win events at the Penn Relays, they are awarded a gold watch.
Penn State senior Natalie Bower didn't keep hers after she won the 3,000-meter steeplechase title April 23. Instead, the 2009 Latrobe graduate went into the stands at the University of Pennsylvania's historic Franklin Field and gave the watch to her mom, Bonnie.
“I wanted to give my parents something because they've supported me throughout my career,” Bower said. “I gave my mom the watch, and I dedicated the race to my dad (Ron). She must have liked the watch because she had it fitted and wore it to my graduation (May 4).”
But Bower hopes to award her father with another present, a trip to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.
The Pleasant Unity resident has some work to do. She will be competing the Big Ten Championships at Ohio State this weekend and the NCAA Eastern Preliminary Round at Greensboro, N.C. May 23-25.
It's in Greensboro where Bower hopes to earn a trip to Eugene.
Bower was a celebrated high school distance runner at Latrobe. She won 12 WPIAL titles and one PIAA title. She was the first WPIAL runner to win four Class AAA cross country titles.
Her state title came during her senior season, when she won the 1,600, crossing the finish line with her fist held high.
But at Penn State, Bower started to run the steeplechase, a race that combines distance running and hurdling barriers.
As Bower describes, the race starts with a 200-meter dash, followed by seven laps that consist of five jumps per lap.
One of the barriers involves jumping over water.
“I started running the steeplechase as a freshman,” Bower said. “It was something new to me, and I was excited about the challenge. My cousin, Samantha (Bower), ran it at Bucknell.”
Bower finished second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Penn Relays in 2012, with a time of 10:14.27. She bested that mark with a personal best 10:13.58 just over a week ago competing against some of the top runners in the country.
“The key in running the event is staying patient,” Bower said. “You don't want to go out too fast. It's a slow, steady pace.
“My first race was at Bucknell and it was a fun, different race. One of my goals was to win the Penn Relays. It was pretty exciting.”
Now, Bower is focused on the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA prelim meet. She had a bad fall at NCAA prelims last year and didn't qualify for the championships.
“I'm seeded high in the preliminaries,” Bower said. “As the sport develops so do the athletes. They only take 12 to the championships, and my goal is to be one of them.”
Bower graduated with a degree in kinesiology movement science. She will do graduate studies in physical therapy at the University of Pittsburgh beginning in June.
She hopes to delay the start of graduate school by competing at the NCAA Championships.