State record holder Britten Bowen will not be defending her 100 hurdles title this weekend in the Division 1 state track and field meet, which will make it difficult for Ann Arbor Pioneer to repeat as state champions.
Oak Park will be a front-runner to win its fourth state title in the last five years, winning three straight from 2014-16 before finishing runner-up to Pioneer last season. The Division 1 finals will be held Saturday at East Kentwood.
Bowen, who will compete next year at Ohio State, set a state record in the 100-meter hurdles in last year’s state finals, finishing with a time of 13.4 seconds.
When Pioneer assistant coach Candice Davis-Price was told her services were no longer needed at the school, Bowen opted to stay away as well and train with Davis-Price, who is the head coach at nearby Ann Arbor Huron.
Bowen and Davis-Price had built a relationship over the years after legendary Pioneer coach Bryan Westfield, while on his deathbed a few years ago, asked Davis-Price to make sure Bowen got a chance to get to college — and have the chance to compete at a high level like she did.
Davis-Price had tremendous success under Westfield, competing on multiple state championship teams and winning the 100 hurdles in 13.66 seconds 15 years ago before an All-American career at USC.
“When I got to Britten she was a 14.9 hurdler,” Davis-Price said. “She started last season pretty well, was like at 13.90. I thought she could run 13.5 no problem and she went 13.4. She is among the top five or six in the country. I think if we can get her down to 13.1 or 13.2, she’ll have a chance to make a Junior World team.
“My mindset for her is long term, like in Olympic trials where I think with Coach Westfield, he never cared about those things. They just fell in place. I was like, ‘You’re going to be my coach when I’m a professional,' and he (Westfield) was like, ‘No, I’m not. I’m just going to watch you.’ I’m just preparing her mentally for the next step because the talent is there.”
So, does Bowen regret not competing for Pioneer and regret passing up the chance to defend her state title?
“A lot has changed since last year,” Bowen said. “It was a big change because I grew up there, my brother went to school there, I went to school there and still am. I’ve been at Pioneer for a long time. I’d still be there if Candice was there. She got me to where I was, trained me to where I needed to be. I felt if my coach is gone who I will train with? I was ranked high in the nation. She knows what I need so I have no regrets.”
Bowen only had her freshman year working under Westfield, but he had watched her run in seventh and eighth grade.
“He had been watching me from the seventh grade, but I had never known it,” Bowen said. “One day I got a letter in the mail saying I need you to train with me. I was heading into my freshman year and he told me he had watched me, knew of my results. He saw something in me that I didn’t know about. I never knew that track was going to take over my life completely one day.
“Coach Davis has a great relationship with me. She cares about me on and off the track. She knew Coach Westfield since she was seven and you need to have a great relationship like that.”
Oak Park longtime coach Brandon Jiles has confidence in his team heading into Saturday.
“All of the pieces are in place for us to do what we need to do. We only have one girl out, which is a big difference from a year ago,” Jiles said. “We’re ranked No. 1 in all of the relays in the state so we just have to get everybody to Saturday healthy and just go out and perform.”
Oak Park will be led by North Carolina-bound Dorriann Coleman (800 meters), Aasia Laurencin (100 hurdles, 200 meters), freshman Jada Roundtree (400 meters, relays) and Miyah Brooks (100 meters, 400 meters, relay).
Roundtree and Brooks are ranked Nos. 1-2 in the state in the 400.
Junior Janae Barksdale will be sidelined due to a knee injury. She is expected to have surgery within the next couple of weeks so she will be healthy for her senior season.
East Kentwood boys look to repeat
East Kentwood has been the dominant boys team in Division 1 the past decade, winning six state championships in the last nine years.
And East Kentwood coach Dave Emeott returns junior Logan Brown — committed to Wisconsin for football — who won the shot put last year, along with outstanding hurdler Job Mayhue (Michigan), a state runner-up in the 110-meter hurdles last year, and pole vaulter Trevor Stephenson.
“It’s a beautiful thing being on this team and greatness is expected because we’ve done great things in the past,” Mayhue said. “It’s a great environment because of just having so much success and the guys that paved the way for us in the past just sets the tone. Everybody is serious at practice. We have our fun, but we take our workouts seriously and trust our coaches.”
The Division 1 400 meters event should be a showdown with Ypsilanti Lincoln senior Matthew Moorer (Baylor) planning to defend his title.
“I’m very excited, feeling good,” said Moorer, who won the 200 and 400 meters at regionals earlier this month, and had a season’s best time of 21.47 in the 200 in the Meet of Champions at Dexter on Tuesday.
“I had a 48.07 at regionals in the 400 and that was my season’s best. I’ve been running better now than I was at this point last year. I feel I can run a 47 at state, want to go 46.6 to get the state record.”
Moorer will be challenged by Oak Park senior Donnie James.
“Donnie’s been outstanding,” Jiles said of James. “He won the sprint triple at the Oakland County Meet — won the 100, 200 and 400 meters so right now he’s running out of his mind.”
James’ best time is 47.49 in the 400, 21.28 in the 200 and 10.82 in the 100.