Brad Bowery Reaching New HeightsSometimes a last minute decision ends up being the right decision. This is especially true for Brown senior Brad Bowery, a member of the men's track team. If it wasn't for a visit to the campus of Brown University, Bowery would have been clearing new heights in the pole vault in a green uniform at that other Ivy League school. He also wouldn't have had the chance to meet his friend Dave Zucconi. Zucconi, Brown Class of 1955, was an icon on the Brown campus for more than 50 years, and one of Brown Athletics' greatest supporters.
"A week after I committed to Dartmouth, I visited Brown and realized I made a huge mistake," says Bowery, who was drawn to Brown mainly because of the open curriculum. "I had a great time during my visit and I really liked the coaching staff." With that, Bowery opted for Brown and thus began a period of ups and downs for the Hamden, CT native.
Bowery first began vaulting at Hamden High School when he tried out for the track team after giving up baseball. "My mother told me I had to do something so she encouraged me to go out for the track team," says Bowery. "I wasn't as fast as the other runners and I couldn't jump as far as the other jumpers and one day my coach said `who wants to try the pole vault' so I volunteered and from there I fell in love with it."
Before Bowery saw any competition as a freshman in 1998-99, a knee injury sidelined him for the entire indoor season. He returned, however, for the outdoor season and was consistently jumped 14'0". During his sophomore outdoor campaign in 2000, Bowery smashed his personal record by fifteen inches to 15'3".
That summer, Bowery began working for Dave Zucconi at the Brown Sports Foundation. "I had heard a lot about Dave and was kind of intimidated by him when I first started working for him but he was just so approachable I was amazed," says Bowery, who worked with Zucconi for the majority of his junior year at Brown.
Bowery had already established himself as a leader for the team by his third year, being named a co-captain. Going into his junior campaign the Ivy League featured some of the best vaulters it had seen in some time. Bowery responded by continuing to reach new personal records as the season went on. In just a three week span, Bowery went from vaulting 15'9" at the Armory Collegiate to 16'6" at the URI Invitational, breaking the school indoor record. He continued to shatter records during the outdoor season, breaking the Brown outdoor record with a 16'8.75" clearance at the UConn Invitational on Apr. 21, 2001.
His success didn't stop there. At the 2001 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships, Bowery came in as an underdog. He and four competitors attempted to clear 16'6.75" and all four vaulters missed their three attempts. Since Bowery had more misses at earlier heights than three competitors, he would finish fourth if he, too, missed the height. On his third and final attempt, Bowery soared over the bar, winning the Heps Title.
"Winning Heps that year really set the stage for everything else for me. I showed up that day, having not established myself as a dominant vaulter and that day I pulled it out and beat all the best vaulters in the league," says Bowery. "Ever since then I've had the confidence that I can do something like that."
Initially, Bowery's plan was to take the fall 2001 semester off in order to make up his freshman indoor season that he had missed due to his knee injury. Bowery spent three months in Miami training and was in great shape to begin the indoor season. After a month and a half of strong competition, Bowery was the favorite for the 2002 Indoor Heps. However, Bowery never made it to the field and instead spent the weekend in the hospital after suffering complications from a previous appendix rupture and was required to have abdominal surgery. Bowery was forced to miss the rest of the spring semester along with the outdoor track season.
It was when Bowery was recovering at home in Connecticut last May that he received a call from former Brown track coach Bob Rothenberg. "Bob told me Dave (Zucconi) had cancer and that he was looking for someone to do research for him. I came back to Providence and Dave convinced me to work for him again. The best thing was seeing Dave smile even when he was going through all that."
Like he has in the past, Bowery has bounced back this season and continues to break records, establishing himself as the best vaulter in the Ivy League. At the URI Mega Meet on Feb. 8, Bowery broke a personal record and his own school record, clearing 16'10". The record did not last long. One week later on Feb. 14 at the Armory Collegiate, he cleared 17'1". Once again, Bowery, along with Harvard's Travis Offner, are favorites to win the Heps Championship, which takes place Mar. 1.
"I think both of us are going to be gunning for the Heps indoor record which is 17'0.75". We'll be neck and neck so it should be exiting," says Bowery. "I think the key for any athlete is confidence. In an event like the pole vault especially, I always say it is 90% mental and 10% physical talent."
"Brad is driven, absolutely driven to win and to succeed," says Brown jumping coach Anne Rothenberg. "He had a lot of physical set backs along the way and he's done everything possible to come back. He always finds a way to get it done. He is a very loyal and committed person."
"I'm so grateful to coach Rothenberg. She's always understood what I've needed and has always known what to say to me to get me where I am," says Bowery.
Bowery is also grateful to another person; Dave Zucconi, who passed away on Jan. 22 at the age of 69 after his long and valiant fight with cancer. "I was so sad when he passed away because I really looked forward to some day being able to come back to Brown and give money to Dave," says Bowery. "One thing I learned from Dave is how important it is for alumni to give to Brown. I hope that is a message that all of our student-athletes get at some point because I know it was really important to Dave."