Crothersville coach in 38th year at helm of track and field team

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Talking to Carl Bowman about his coaching career at Crothersville, it doesn’t take him long to recall certain events that have occurred along the way.

Bowman graduated from Austin High School in 1971, where he threw the shot put as a member of the Eagles’ track and field team.

After graduating from Indiana State University in 1975, he began his teaching and coaching career at Crothersville that fall.

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Bowman has coached boys and girls cross-country and boys track and field and is proud that he has won conference titles in both sports.

“Fran Schill was the cross-country coach, and I got the junior high track position, and I’d go to some of the cross-country meets with Fran and them and watch and help out what I could,” he said. “My first cross-country team was 1979, and my first track team was 1980.”

At that time, Crothersville was a member of the Mid-Hoosier Conference, and Bowman coached the boys track team to the conference championship in 1980.

“I had Benji Wehmiller and Chris Marshall. That was a pretty good group of kids,” Bowman said. “Rayburn (Stallings) had won the conference (track) the year before.”

Crothersville was in both the Mid-Hoosier and Southern Athletic conferences for a few years before dropping out of the Mid-Hoosier.

Bowman has coached the Tigers to three SAC track titles and to two SAC boys cross-country titles, and he has guided the girls to SAC cross-country titles the past three falls.

“I’ve coached boys track and cross-country, and both those groups have conference championships under their belt,” Bowman said. “I kept thinking, ‘Will I ever get a conference championship with the girls?’ I didn’t know if I could. That day (in 2015), everything fell together. When the (announcer) said it, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it.’”

Bowman said the girls cross-county program was started in 1999, and the first girl to compete was Mary Rothring. The first time the school had enough runners (five) for a team score was in a meet at Corydon in 2008.

Crothersville won the boys and girls races in the Edinburgh Invitational in 2008, and that was the first trophy in girls cross-country for the school.

“I always tell people I had been to many cross-country and track meets and you always hear the winners: Jennings County’s boys and girls and Seymour’s boys and girls,” Bowman said. “I thought, ‘What would it be like to be at a meet and to hear both of those?’ We’re at Edinburgh and a guy goes, ‘It looks like the girls won,’ and I said ‘What?’ Then he said, ‘And the boys won,’ and I said, ‘Oh my gosh!’”

That season, Harley Hensley was a senior on the boys team.

“That was the first team Harley had been on, and they won that invitational,” Bowman said. “When we went to eat afterward, he took the trophy into the place with him, and I think Denise Maxie carried the other one in there and she said, ‘Mr. Bowman, this is the first time I’ve been on a team that has won a trophy.’”

At a small school like Crothersville, some years, the teams are much bigger than others.

“I’ve been through teams that had two guys, three guys,” Bowman said. “I’ve hung around long enough that I’ve went through the highs and the lows. Some coaches, when they see the handwriting on the wall, they think it’s time to get out.

“Back then, I didn’t see any need of getting out. I knew individually, in cross-country and track, you can go places. I just did the best I could. I’ve got eight guys this year (in track). I’ve got some guys that are getting some good points. I’ve always told people, ‘As long as I enjoy doing it, it doesn’t make any difference how many kids are out there. As long as they enjoy doing it, then I’m going to try to stay as long as I can.’”

Bowman said it can be a challenge to coach 15 different events in track and field.

“I threw shot put at Austin. We didn’t even have discus then,” Bowman said. “When I started coaching track, people would ask me, ‘How do you high jump?’ I’ve had to learn a lot of things. I’ve had to learn how to speak to these guys about it and not be embarrassed to ask another coach, ‘What do you do with this right here?’”

Bowman said he has asked friends and former runners of his for advice about coaching runners.

“I had friends that were runners,” he said. “I had a friend at Austin that was a real good cross-country runner. I said, ‘Guys, I can’t do it, but I can tell you what you need to do to get better.’ Every track record we have out there now is a guy that I coached. The last one we had was the shot put, and Tyson Reynolds broke that, so that was the last one that wasn’t mine.”

Bowman’s last SAC track championship team was in 1992.

“We had Matt Otte, who is teaching here now, and Jason Hillenburg and all those guys,” Bowman said. “That was a really good team. We had a lot of sprinters. This team came out of the blue, too. Some guy yelled at me from the stands, ‘I think you guys are winning it.’ It came down to the last race, and all we had to do was finish in the top four, and we had it.”

From 2015 to 2017, the Crothersville girls won SAC cross-country titles.

“I don’t want to leave now because I want to see if we can win four in a row,” Bowman said. “Right now, they are the first team in school history to win three (conference titles) in a row in any sport. I’ve hung around long enough that good things are starting to happen.”

When Bowman first started coaching cross-country, there was a course at the school. Bowman recalled in 1984, the SAC meet was conducted on a course on private property in Crothersville.

Bowman also has experience with coaching on the hardwood.

“I coached basketball, eighth grade to junior varsity, for a total of 24 years,” Bowman said. “The first nine years I was here, I coached eighth-grade basketball, and we won the Jackson County tourney six times. Those kids stepped up real well, and that kept me going.”

When the softball field at the school was put in, there were no more meets at home, and Crothersville ran all of its meets on the road until last fall.

Chris Mains laid out a course on some city property west of town, and Crothersville hosted two meets last fall. More middle school and varsity meets are scheduled there this fall.

“Every school that ran on it last fall thought it was really good,” Bowman said. “They’ve started an elementary running program here. It’s one of those deals we don’t have a lot to offer them. There’s no fame. You don’t have a gymnasium full of people yelling for you.

“But the thing we do offer, when you go to a cross-country meet or a track meet, the fans don’t boo the players. The fans cheer them on. In cross-country, that last person when crossing the line, he’s getting as many claps as the first person did. There are a lot of parents that go to track and cross-country meets that are knowledgeable. They know what it takes to be a track and cross-country runner.

“The thing I always tell people, ‘It’s not what you do. It’s how much effort you give,’” Bowman said. “In track and cross-country, they appreciate the effort. I think that keeps a lot of kids going.”

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Carl Bowman’s conference championship teams

Boys track and field

Mid-Hoosier: 1980

Southern Athletic: 1982, 1990, 1992

Boys cross-country

Southern Athletic: 1983, 1984

Girls cross-country

Southern Athletic: 2015, 2016, 2017

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