BOWLING GREEN -- Barbara Powers had a clumsy first date with a college acquaintance known as the steeplechase. After a lengthy introduction, Powers left her initial encounter with the run, jump, and splash affair bruised, exhausted, and frustrated.
"I fell down going over the first water pit, I was struggling to get over the last couple barriers, and I was bleeding when I got done," Powers said about that tumultuous afternoon jaunt in 2008.
"It was a very rocky start. My coach thought I would never want to run that event again, but fortunately, it's gotten a lot better since then."
Powers, an accomplished distance runner at Bowling Green High School who helped the Bobcats win three Division I state cross country championships and a runner-up finish, stayed close to home to run for Bowling Green State University.
"I thought about getting away and going someplace farther away, but it turned out this was the best situation for me," Powers said. "My coach Cami Paulson was a huge drawing card. It's been a great four years, and it was a blessing to run for her."
It was Paulson who suggested that Powers give the steeplechase a try, and Powers learned to love the event that at first had given her so much difficulty.
"I found that for me, it evened the playing field a little bit. Some girls could beat me by a significant amount in a distance race, but when you add in the barriers and the water, it becomes a very different thing," she said. "You can be a great 3,000 meter runner, but not necessarily a great steeplechaser. It is so different."
The steeplechase circuit normally has four wide-beam barriers the runners must clear on each lap, plus a water pit. In most races, the field will clear the barriers 28 times and seven times.
"It has a very different spin to it," Powers said. "It's like a series of short races in between each barrier or water pit. It took me a long time to get the water pit down, but eventually I found that I could focus on each segment of the race and do fairly well."
Powers, who continued to run fall cross country while at BGSU, was second in the 2,000 meter steeplechase at the recent Northwest Ohio Relays in a time of 7:25.85, and has as her goal to make the podium as one of the top finishers in the steeplechase at the Mid-American Conference championships in May.
"I feel like I am a lot stronger, physically and mentally, as a senior, and I want to use that strength to better my performances," Powers said. "The steeplechase is different, and it really took a couple of years of competition to gain confidence in the event."
Powers, who earned her bachelor's degree in exercise science in December and is continuing her studies in sports administration, expects to go to graduate school when her track career is over, and eventually work in college athletics.
She said she hopes her experience on the track, taking part in a demanding event such as the steeplechase, will help her succeed in life.
"To succeed in this event, I think it takes more perseverance and recognizing when you can push your body," she said. "For me, determination is a big thing. I don't spend a lot of time strategizing and planning for the race. The best races I've run were the ones where I wasn't thinking about it so much, and I just went out and competed."
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6510.