It’s been an emotional last couple of weeks for the Saints track and field team.
On May 14, just a little over a week before the NWAC championship meet was to be run at Mt. Hood, head coach Doug Bowman passed away, at age 64, after a yearlong battle with cancer.
One Saints athlete in particular took his death extremely hard: sophomore shot-putter and hammer-thrower Brian Salgado. In his two years at MHCC, he had built quite the relationship with Bowman. He described him as a very personable coach, recalling the times the team spent eating meals and hanging out.
In this last year, the relationship was built even stronger as Coach Bowman worked alongside Salgado, building him up.
Salgado loves the shot put, so he made it his goal to join the Portland State track and field team after he finished at Mt. Hood. Only one problem: his personal best shot put was 50 feet, three feet short of being scholarship-worthy. He made it his goal to reach 53 feet. He knew he couldn’t do it alone, so he reached out to Bowman and asked him to help him get there.
Bowman spent countless hours working with Salgado and knew what he was doing wrong.
“My biggest flaw was I would drop my (left) arm and basically just full-on basketball-shoot it with my right arm,” the sophomore said. “So, towards the end we worked with a broomstick to help keep both arms up. I kinda used (my left arm) as a catapult, because all season I never used it.”
Salgado explained that this was just the kind of coach Bowman was. “He worked one-on-one with each individual on throws. And it was awesome getting those critiques from him, because it was very personal,” he said.
Even so, Salgado still couldn’t seem to hit his target. In Coach Bowman’s final weeks, he still hadn’t reached the 53-foot mark.
Salgado smiled as he described the time a few Saints went to see their leader in the hospital: “We came in to visit him and give him flowers, which he hates… and he said, ‘Why are you guys here? I’m fine.’ ”
Heading into the NWAC championships on May 22-23, Salgado had one sole focus – to reach 53 feet. Before the event, he talked openly about how the team was dealing with Bowman’s death.
“All of the track team was hit hard. (But) we all know Doug will be watching over us while we compete,” Salgado said. Little did he know how true that statement would come to be.
On Tuesday at the meet, the final day, Salgado knew this was his last chance to set his personal record. With a potential scholarship on the line he set up for his final throw, same as always, but something felt different. “It was the weirdest feeling because I could feel him around the shot area as we were all competing. So I gave a little prayer and asked Doug for help,” he said.
Finally, it was time for him to perform one last time. He spun around and let the 16-pound shot. But as he spun he could feel Coach Bowman over him, almost helping him as he let the shot go. It flew through the air and as it landed he knew it was exactly what he needed.
“As soon as I turned around to see where it went, I saw it and it just kept going and going. As soon as I saw it pass the 50 line I was like, ‘Oh my God, because it was insane…
“My second throw I threw 52.5 and I was right there. Two more throws went by and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to hit this.’ And the last throw was 53 exactly,” Salgado recounted. (To be precise, judges marked it at 53 feet and ¼ inch.)
“And as soon as they said it, they said it in meters, and I knew it was 16.16 in meters (to hit 53 feet) and I just screamed.”
Immediately, his emotions hit him all at once.
“I just starting balling me eyes out. It was everything I gave for Doug, for the scholarship, Mt. Hood, and hoping to win the championship… And it was riding on that last throw.”
In that one final shot put for the season, Salgado set his personal record, won the NWAC shot put title, and won himself a spot on the Portland State roster.
“It was amazing. I wanted to win a championship since my senior year (at Gresham High School)… because my senior year I got second place in shot-put at state.
“So, that feeling of winning for me was amazing… (and) I know he saw it.”