This summer, senior Jermaine Lowery missed the finals of the USA Outdoor Track and Field… This summer, senior Jermaine Lowery missed the finals of the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships by a little more than a second..
Lowery finished just three spots out of qualifying for the final and a chance to compete at the World Championships, which would have been the first time a Panther competed there since 2005.
“I was just so blessed to even be there,” Lowery said. “I was competing against people who have been to the Olympics.”
Lowery raced at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships — held in Eugene, Ore., last month — which is used as a qualifier for the World Championships and the Olympics. This time, the top runners earned spots on the World Championship team, which will compete in the 2011 IAAF World Champions in Athletics next month in Daegu, Korea.
During Saturday’s semifinals, Lowery ran a 51.79 and posted a top-eight performance among NCAA athletes in the 400-meter hurdles. With that run, he finished three spots and 1.34 seconds out of qualifying for the final. Although Lowery didn’t make the final cut, he did come away with more than just semifinal experience.
Going into the meet, Lowery said he felt nervous, but by its end he realized he doesn’t have to do anything different in order to compete at the professional level.
“I just realized what my coach had been telling me the whole year,” Lowery said. “Once you get to the big meets, you do exactly what you did to get there and you’ll be successful.”
Track coach Alonzo Webb wasn’t the least bit surprised by Lowery’s success.
“He’s always been a leader on the team vocally and by his actions,” Webb said. “He’s always been a person who really wants to be successful. He wasn’t afraid to put the hard work in and he was willing to do it.”
The last University of Pittsburgh track and field star to make a splash on the global stage was triple jumper Trecia-Kaye Smith, who was the 2005 World Champion and seven-time NCAA champion.
At the professional level, runners can earn sponsorships and compete for cash prizes. Some make money off of endorsement deals and most strive to compete at the Olympics. Webb has witnessed the professional scene burn out runners before, but he doesn’t think that will happen with Lowery.
“A lot of people, once they get out of college and go professional — they see that it’s not as easy and after a while they get frustrated and just give up,” Webb said. “I think he is a person who is motivated enough to get it done.”
Lowery echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“I know I’m going to be working much harder,” Lowery said. “It kind of resolidified for me that I want to compete at the professional level.”
For now, Lowery will enjoy a little downtime. Before his last event a few weeks ago, he had been competing since July 1, 2011 — a full year. But by November it will be time for Lowery to focus on his last year running track at Pitt.
Earlier this year, Lowery made his mark when he set a personal best of 50.66 in the 400m hurdles at regionals. That run earned him a spot in the NCAA Championships, where he earned Honorable Mention All-America accolades.
Despite the national attention Lowery earned, his focus never turned from the Panthers.
“He stopped in the office yesterday just to talk about next year,” Webb said. “He always has short-term and long-term goals. Playing professionally is his long-term goal, but short term he wants his team to win — and the team is more important to him than his own performance.”
Webb said he wants the team members to be Big East Champions and that goal — along with Lowery’s personal hope for a Big East and regional title — will keep him motivated next season. Last season, the Men’s Track and Field team finished 10th at the Big East Championship.
His teammates recognize the leadership qualities in Lowery that could help them reach their championship goal.
“I’ve learned from him that even though I’m not going to have a great race every weekend, it just takes patience,” senior teammate Dontave Cowsette, who runs distance events for Pitt, said. “To just keep pushing forward.”
Like many successful athletes, Lowery worked hard to make progress.
“He’s definitely matured both physically and mentally,” Cowsette said. “His mindset has gotten a lot stronger, especially as a leader on the team.”
With the fall season just coming up quickly, Lowery’s focus is turning toward his team and its progression. He doesn’t want to be alone at the Olympic qualifiers next year.
“[I want to] teach the underclassmen and the new freshmen coming in that anything is possible,” Lowery said. “Just because you’re a freshman or sophomore doesn’t mean you can’t compete at the USA tournaments.”
“We were just talking yesterday about him wanting to have more guys with him next year at USA tournament — which will be the Olympic tryouts next year,” Webb said.