Homecoming: Former Eagle Donovyn Fowler leaves OU to compete for Lions

Apr. 11—While at Joplin High School, long jumper and triple jumper Donovyn Fowler was untouchable.

Fowler finished his senior season undefeated in both the long and triple jumps and became the first-ever Joplin track and field athlete to garner two gold medals at the MSHSAA Track and Field Championships.

After his senior year at JHS in 2022, the two-time Joplin Globe Track and Field Athlete of the Year decided to compete for the Oklahoma Sooners, but after an exodus of coaches and teammates at OU this summer, Fowler withdrew from the Sooner program and entered the transfer portal.

"I felt like it was time to find a place to try and better myself," Fowler said.

After contacts with several schools, he said he has decided to return to his hometown and compete for the Missouri Southern Lions.

"From the places I talked to and the couple that I visited, I felt more at home with Southern. It had a better feel to it," Fowler said.

He said a big part of his decision was the professionalism of Bryan Schiding, MSSU director of cross country/track and field, who also serves as the jumps coach for the Lions.

"He doesn't treat anybody like they are above others," Fowler said. "He treats everybody as if they are equal even if he knows they may be slightly better than the others. He'll just push you a little further because he knows you are capable of it."

Schiding said that after talking to Fowler, he believed that the top prospect for the Sooners wasn't getting pushed enough at OU.

Fowler said he was also impressed by Schiding's connections in track and field.

"He's had an Olympic athlete, so he's versed in post-collegiate athletics," Fowler said.

Schiding mentored three-time Division II All-American Tyrone Smith while at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. Smith went on to compete in the long jump for Bermuda in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics, reaching the finals in 2012.

"Having a coach with those kind of connections can definitely help you excel past college," Fowler said.

Joplin High jumps coach Spencer James knows what Schiding is getting at MSSU in Fowler.

"Dono is a talented individual and a very good kid," James said. "He did whatever I asked him to do in practice, and he worked hard at his craft. He was a joy to be around in practice, and I really enjoyed watching him succeed."

MSSU squad

With three years of eligibility left, Fowler will add depth to an already talented jumps squad at Southern.

Senior Jon Watts, this year's NCAA DII national indoor long jump champion, is set to graduate, making Fowler a possible bridge to the future for the Lion program.

"We're excited that he (Fowler) is coming back this way, and I think he will help establish our jumps program. He'll have like-minded jumpers and kids to train with," Schiding said. "With Jon Watts — who just won the national championship — graduating, I think he could come in and help replace what we would lose with Jon. Along with some of the other jumpers we have coming in and returning, I think we will be very strong."

Fowler will join current MSSU sophomore Peyton McBride and current juniors Caleb Manning and Devin Greene on the jumps team.

Fowler battled a nagging hamstring injury for much of his freshman year at OU and never quite reached the 7.7-meter mark he turned in at the state meet his senior year of high school.

He didn't return until late in the outdoor season.

He logged indoor bests of 7.24 meters in the long jump and 13.92 meters in the triple jump at OU. He also recorded 7.22 meters in the long jump during last year's outdoor season and a personal record 14.61 meters in the triple jump.

Fowler placed 11th in long jump at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships last year with that 7.22-meter jump and was 12th in the triple jump with the 14.61-meter leap.

"I didn't really feel good about that," Fowler said of the Big 12 meet. "I knew there was more there, but given the circumstances, it could have been worse."

Fowler ended his senior year at JHS leading the Eagles to a second-place team finish at the state meet — the first time since 1978 that a team from Joplin finished in the top four at state and the first time since 1938 that a Joplin High School team finished that high. Fowler also qualified for the state meet in the 200-meter dash and the 4 x 100 meter relay.

Fowler talked about what a return to Joplin means to him.

"I always love putting on a show for family and friends," Fowler said. "Not many of them could come to Norman, so being able to put on a show for everyone at home and getting my name out there again is going to feel good."

Donovyn's parents, Troy and Shawn Fowler, made the move to OU with their son but have decided to remain in Norman to continue their professional careers.

"We're one and done," his mom, Shawn, said of another move while laughing. "We are tapped out."

Donovyn said having his parents with him in Norman was important.

"After getting hurt, I wasn't always in the best mental place," Fowler said. "But they were always there cheering me on and keeping me going."

Despite leaving his parents, Donovyn said he is ready to come home.

"I'm really excited to come back home and see my friends and family — and my chiropractor, I miss my chiropractor," Fowler said with a laugh.

He also said one of the things he missed the most about Joplin was Wildcat Glades, a place he would visit to escape the pressures of life.

"That's one of my peaceful places," Fowler said. "Whenever I had a lot going on I would usually go out there and walk around for a couple of hours and relax."

Fowler said that, because he is currently trying to work out credit hours as a result of the transfer, he is not sure when he will step foot on the track for the Lions, but hopes he can compete in the 2025 outdoor season.