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Male Athlete of the Year

Bowers (click for larger version)

One heck of a 2010 Badger grad Justin Bowers had a banner 2010. Here are some of his accomplishments: - Southern Lakes Conference track athlete of the year - Set Badger track records in long jump (23-10), 200 (22.33), 400 relay (42.52) and 800 relay (1:32.88) - Earned Division 1 track scholarship to the University of Wisconsin - First team all-Walworth County basketball - Second team all-SLC basketball
January 05, 2011 | 08:31 AM
Justin Bowers isn't the tallest guy in the world.

Standing about 5-foot-8, the 2010 Badger graduate didn't overpower opponents in track or basketball with size and strength.

But the guy can jump over just about anybody or anything, and his explosive athleticism helped him become the 2010 Regional News Male Athlete of the Year.

A standout in track and basketball, 2010 was a year of accolades for the 19-year-old Bowers.

In basketball, Bowers was a first team All-Walworth County selection and a second-team All-Southern Lakes Conference member. But it was track where Bowers rewrote the history books, breaking school records in the 200 (22.33) and long jump (23-10). He also was a member of the record-setting 400 (42.52) and 800 (1:32.88) relay teams. Bowers earned second place in the long jump at state track back in June, and the 400 relay squad of Bowers, Jarek Kunz, Connor Kotula and Wes Aranda nabbed fourth place at state.

For his amazing senior season, Bowers was honored as the SLC track athlete of the year. For Justin, it was a team award, not an individual one, that he was most proud of in 2010.

"One of the best accomplishments last year probably would have to be getting coach (Dave) Jaeger a conference title," he said. "All that individual stuff was nice, but he's the one who made me a better athlete. So getting him a win especially during his last year as head coach made it much more special."

Bowers earned a track scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he currently competes for the Badgers in the long jump. He is enjoying his freshman year.

"Things are going great at Wisconsin," he said. "I've really become comfortable with the coaching staff and the team. We started training in September and have been working hard ever since. So far, I've been focusing mainly on long jump, working to fix my technique. My biggest goal is to score at the Big Ten championships and help our team win a Big Ten title. I'd like to hit the 24-foot mark, but as long as I can help the team to win, I'll be happy."

Justin had an eventful year in the long jump, posting the best distance in the state (23-10) leading up to his second-place state leap of 22-2.75. At the time, Bowers was a tad disappointed with himself, but he now realizes the bigger picture.

"At the time I was extremely disappointed because I wanted to top off a great year with a state championship," he said. "But now I really don't think that much about it. I had a good jump in me, but I just couldn't perform so getting second was a great learning experience. Coming to Wisconsin and being part of an amazing track team is definitely more important than a state title."

On the track in 2010, Bowers lived and breathed hard work. But it took years for Justin to reach the level he is at now.

"I didn't really know what "hard work" was until my sophomore year," Justin said. "Once I got introduced to coaches like Matt Hensler (track), Jaeger and Forrest Larson (basketball), that's when I really began to take hard work and dedication extremely seriously. Once you get a certain work ethic, it's tough to go back to your old ways. I always wanted to be in the weight room getting stronger, and if it wasn't for that place, I wouldn't be where I am today. I worked my body to its limit everyday so I could become better."

Bowers added that being named SLC track athlete of the year was big.

"To me, it meant all the hard work I put in paid off," said Justin of the award. "I added on to my athleticism with a good work ethic and dedication to the sport of track and field. You really can't get more athletic, but you can always work harder, get stronger and become faster."

On the hardwood, Bowers was a menace to opposing defenses. The shifty guard led the Badgers with 18.5 points per game. He was often able to drive past his defender and soar above bigger players to score. He lived at the foul line and was able to knock down jumpers with ease. Justin credits his Badger coaches and an NBA star for his success.

"I can't explain how much I've learned from coach Tom Dummer and Larson throughout my basketball career," Justin said. "I'm the athlete I am today because of them and I firmly believe that. But when it comes to professional sports, my biggest influence was Allen Iverson. I've always liked his style of play and him impact on the NBA. I wanted to play like him each and every game."

While Justin acknowledges the great Badger coaches he's had, he knows where it all started — his family.

"My family has been extremely supportive throughout my career at Badger," Justin said. "They're always at my games and meets cheering me on. I basically work hard for my family. I want to make them proud. When I told them I was going to Wisconsin, they were all so happy and excited. It made me feel good."

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