Apr. 8—Donovyn Fowler's sights were aimed high at the Carthage Invitational.
"I was gunning to break at least one record," he said.
A junior jumper on the Joplin High School track and field team, Fowler won the long jump in the Eagles' first meet of the spring season. His distance of 23 feet, 10.25 inches broke the school record.
That jump eclipsed the previous school record of 22 feet, 7 inches by a whopping 15 inches.
Ask his coaches and they knew history was coming from a mile away.
"I wouldn't say I was shocked because he's a kid that with the year off, he still went and competed," Joplin coach Brandon Taute said. "He has hit big jump after big jump on the national level. We knew it was coming. For it to happen at the first meet out, I don't know if we expected it there, but he was absolutely expected to break it. I thought it might get broken, but he broke it by well over a foot. I wasn't expecting that."
Following a breakout season as a freshman two years ago, big things were expected out of Fowler as a sophomore last year.
He was coming off of a strong indoor season where he shined in both the triple and long jump. He was also listed as the Class of 2022's No. 40 track and field recruit in the nation by MileSplit USA.
"Track is just where my heart is," Fowler said.
But then came the announcement: COVID-19 ended his sophomore season before it even began.
"We had our spring practices and then in the middle of practice our coaches had told us that we couldn't have the season anymore," Fowler said. "Right before the school year started (after spring break), we had to go and turn in all of our gear. I was definitely shocked. I liked spending all of the time with my team because they are the ones that push me along with the coaches. Not actually being able to work with them definitely slowed me down a little bit."
Fowler wasn't slowed for long.
He used the COVID-19 break to workout intensely with his father Troy, a personal trainer in Joplin, to improve his leaping ability. Whenever he trained, Fowler worked out with an ankle weight specifically designed to help increase one area of his jumping.
"We really worked on everything but mainly focused on explosiveness," Fowler said. "I wore an ankle weight, so that way it could help me become more explosive whenever I didn't have it on. It was definitely fun."
That turned out to work in his favor. Fowler recorded some of the top jumps not only in Missouri, but also in the nation for the 2021 indoor track season.
For the class of 2022, Fowler was tops in the triple jump in the Show-Me State and third in the country. In the long jump, he was again first in Missouri and fourth in the nation.
"It means a lot," Fowler said. "It means I know I can get my name out there, so I can go to a good college. I'm trying to go somewhere that has warm weather or somewhere I actually fit into the campus instead of being just another person walking around. I'm looking to go a DI school or if I feel like I fit better at a DII or DIII, I'm more than happy to go there. It's really what suits me best."
The first record Fowler expected to break was Joplin's triple jump, but he still managed to place first despite nursing a heel injury he sustained at nationals on March 12.
"The triple jump was hard to do," Fowler said. "Long jump, I was definitely shocked at that one because previously at the last meet that I went to I only jumped 22 feet, 2 inches. So getting that 23 feet, 10 inches, definitely makes me more excited about what's to come this season."
Fowler said one of his biggest goals moving forward is to break the school record in the 4x100 with Nathan Glades, Trayshawn Thomas and Dominick Simmons. The relay team won the relay in 44.57 seconds — two seconds shy of the school record.
"I definitely feel like by the end of the season we could break that," Fowler said. "Alone by myself, I want to break the long jump record again and the triple jump record hopefully."
"He's one of those kids that has a natural spring to him," Taute said. "When you have that natural ability to take off the board and combine that with work ethic, he's a kid that works at it year-round. ... That's when you see special things happen.
"There's a lot of times you get kids that can jump, but they don't know what to do when they get in the air. It's testament to his work-ethic and how much time he spends on jumping, perfecting all those little things because you don't just jump 23 feet, 10 inches by being born with the ability to jump. He has put a lot of work in, and I'm just happy to see all that hard-work paying off."