How a hidden backpack led to Northeast's Cierra Bowser winning TSSAA state long jump title

·2 min read

MURFREESBORO -- To say Cierra Bowser was coaxed into trying out for Northeast's track team would be an understatement.

She was almost forced to do it.

But, two years later, the Lady Eagles senior captured a state title in the long jump Thursday during the TSSAA Class AAA Track and Field Championships at Middle Tennessee State.

Bowser jumped 18 feet, 4¾ inches, beating out Hardin Valley's Brooke Taylor (17-9½) and defending champ Imani Sharif of Rockvale. Each competitor gets three attempts in the finals. Bowser secured the title on her first jump.

Northeast’s Cierra Bowser competes in the girls long jump during a Class AAA state track and field championship in Murfreesboro during TSSAA’s Spring Fling, Thursday, May 26, 2022.
Northeast’s Cierra Bowser competes in the girls long jump during a Class AAA state track and field championship in Murfreesboro during TSSAA’s Spring Fling, Thursday, May 26, 2022.

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"Last year I didn't even make it out of the prelims of the long jump," Bowser said. "So it was unexpected. I was thinking I could finish maybe in the top five."

Coach Christina Webb — who guided Northeast to team state titles in 2013 and 2014 — knew Bowser had the talent to be on the podium as a freshman when she watched the basketball standout out-jump taller players for rebounds.

"I thought, 'Wow, she has a vertical,'" Webb said. "So I started to try to convince her to try out."

Bowser was uninterested for two years. But as a student Webb's U.S. History class her junior year, things changed. Webb hid her backpack in her classroom and refused to give it back until Bowser agreed to try out.

"That was hilarious," Bowser said. "She had been after me since my freshman year and I had no interest when coach Webb did that. But I figured if she was willing to do all that, I had to give it try."

Bowser has spent the past two seasons as a sprinter in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and relays, as well as the long jump and high jump. But this week, she focused solely on the long jump, bypassing the 4x100 relay team that qualified.

"I think that's what helped me win state," Bowser said. "Just being able to dedicate my entire preparation to the long jump gave me the proper focus."

Webb said Bowser had been building for Thursday's moment. She was routinely clearing 18 feet toward the end of the season and is the first individual state champion at Northeast since Brittany Kelly won four individual titles in 2014.

"I told (Cierra) going into this season, make everyone chase you after your first jump," Webb said. "That's what she did."

This article originally appeared on Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle: Cierra Bowser finishes Northeast career as TSSAA state track champion