JOPLIN, Mo. – Joplin High School seniors Donovyn Fowler and Donovahn Watkins have known each other since before they put on the JHS uniform for the first time.
“I’ve known Donovahn since our elementary school days,” Fowler says, “We’ve played football together for a long time now, and switching over to track…we’ve also bonded doing that.”
The two finished their high school track and field careers together with a bang over the weekend – each claiming individual state titles at the MSHSAA State Championships in Jefferson City..
Fowler, an Oklahoma University commit, won individual championships in the triple jump and long jump, while Watkins claimed the state title in shot put.
“It was definitely an awesome experience,” Watkins says of winning state championships alongside Fowler, “I’ve known him for a long time. He’s an amazing athlete who is going to do great things in the future. It was awesome to watch.”
“It feels great,” Fowler adds, “We were actually hotel roommates, so we would have deep conversations about college and stuff like that. I’m really happy to call him my friend and I’m really happy to see him get first place and that state championship.”
Fowler picked up his first of two individual titles on Friday with his win in triple jump, posting a mark of 49 feet, 8.25 inches. He added another championship in long jump the following day, posting a winning mark of 25 feet, 3.25 inches – breaking his own school record and capping off a perfect season in both events.
His winning mark in the long jump came on his final attempt in a Joplin uniform, when he was sitting in second place with his perfect season on the line.
“It definitely felt like a far jump,” Fowler says, “I just had kind of…anger and aggression to get to first. I wanted to finish both (long and triple jump) seasons undefeated. I did it, and I’m really proud of that. It was just a different mindset when I was going down the runway.”
Watkins earned the shot put state championship on Saturday, with a best toss of 61 feet, 11.5 inches.
“It was definitely really cool. It took a lot of hard work to get to where I wanted to be,” Watkins says, “Throughout the season, I don’t think I did as good as I wanted to do. Throughout the spring I definitely got better, working technique and hitting the weight room. I just wanted to get better.”
He was motivated to get to the top of the podium after a 4th-place finish at state a year ago.
“I remember thinking about wanting to get to the top after last year. I definitely had a chip on my shoulder the whole time,” Watkins says, “I was talking to the guy who got first place last year, and I told him that he drove me to be better this time. I told him he was the reason I threw it as far as I did. I wasn’t going to be beat that day.”
Watkins, who is committed to play football at Coffeyville CC in southeast Kansas, was more than a foot better than the rest of the field Saturday – with his best toss coming on his third attempt.
“I definitely could feel adrenaline going and feel some anger come out,” Watkins says of his winning throw, “I definitely flexed on them and stared them down after I threw it,” he adds with a laugh, “I just love to compete, so it was just awesome.”
Fowler and Watkins led the Joplin boys to a 2nd place finish at state in their final act as Joplin teammates – the Eagles’ best finish as a team in more than 40 years.
“It definitely feels great. It’s kind of sad, because you spend all this time getting to know all of these people – and as soon as you hit your peak, everybody has to go their separate ways,” Fowler finishes, “It was really just a special moment for all of us, seeing all the hard work that we’ve put in over the season really pay off at state.”
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