Raheem Cowan will graduate from Briar Cliff with three majors, three minors and — he hopes — one more triple jump championship. Photo by Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — So much about Raheem Cowan’s life centers around the triple jump.
The first track and field national champion in Briar Cliff University history, the Hartwell, Ga., native finished his collegiate career with four national titles in a track and field specialty once known as the “hop, skip and jump.’’
“I found Briar Cliff and it offered me a liberal arts education with a great opportunity to play two sports.’’
— Raheem Cowan ('15)
And, even though he’s planning to invest at least the next year of his life in nothing other than seeing if he can become a world-class performer, Cowan (’15) has somehow found time for an extraordinary litany of other pursuits.
Start the list with volleyball, the sport he played as a youth, following in the footsteps of his father, a native of New Jersey, where boys high school volleyball has been around for decades.
Then, toss in the worldwide favorite, soccer, which was Cowan’s first priority when his search for colleges somehow led him from the Georgia-South Carolina border to a college in Sioux City, where three states converge.
“I was looking for schools with volleyball (for men, which Briar Cliff is just now initiating),’’ said Cowan. “A lot of them that had it didn’t have the majors I was looking for. I found Briar Cliff and it offered me a liberal arts education with a great opportunity to play two sports.’"
Even though he was a track star in high school and his mother’s family has made plenty of Georgia high school track and field history, Cowan only opted for track to fill the time of year when men’s volleyball would have been his preference.
This is just one of many ironies in the story of a young man whose real priority is on the academic side. He graduated on May 16, his birthday, with a triple major in psychology, sociology and criminal justice. And, he also has three minors — global studies, women’s studies and law.
“He’s a great student and that was one of the pulls (to Briar Cliff),’’ said Nate Treinen, the 10th year head coach of a BC track program he joined as a freshman runner in 1998, the Chargers’ second season for the sport. “He pushes himself as hard in the classroom as he does on the track, maybe even harder.’’
“He pushes himself as hard in the classroom as he does on the track, maybe even harder.”
— Nate Treinen, head track and field coach
Cowan grew up on a large acreage near Hartwell and calls himself “a country boy.’’ His father, Augustus, is the city manager in Henderson, S.C., just across the river, and his mother, Mary, is a paralegal.
Caesar Augustus Raheem Uriel Cowan III, the full name that appears on his passport, will likely follow in mom’s footsteps, tackling law school when he’s done chasing a dream.
That dream, of course, is to compete internationally in the triple jump, where his personal best of 52 feet, 6½ inches leaves him within shouting distance of the big boys.
As planned, Cowan has played his four seasons on the Briar Cliff soccer team, embracing small-college life that has made him feel like family with so many of his classmates. Meanwhile, he has dominated the triple jump in the GPAC while also contributing in as many other ways as Treinen can allow him to attempt.
“He’s a really good runner for us, too,’’ said Treinen. “We like the meets where the triple jump is first so he can focus on that and then we can run him a lot.’’
In the recent GPAC Outdoor Championships, Cowan wrapped up his four-year sweep of conference indoor and outdoor triple jump titles while also competing in no less than five other events.
The senior standout finished fifth in the conference 400 meters, took eighth in both the 100 and the long jump, and anchored BCU’s GPAC champion 4x100 relay team.
The Chargers totaled 112 points for a best-ever third-place finish (behind only Concordia and Doane). And, that followed up a best-ever third-place showing at the GPAC Indoor meet.
“We were watching the last event, which was the pole vault, and if the Concordia guy missed we would have finished second,’’ said Cowan. “Of course, you don’t want to wish somebody bad, but the atmosphere was so great and the team really bonded.’’
Cowan wasted no time earning All-America laurels (top eight in each event) as a Briar Cliff freshman. As a sophomore in 2013, the Chargers’ first NAIA national champion in men’s track and field swept both the NAIA’s indoor and outdoor crowns.
Then, after winding up second in both national meets as a junior last year, Treinen and BC jumps coach Bryce Harshman, Cowan’s former teammate, met with Cowan and discussed a dramatic change of plans.
Follow Charger AthleticsKeep track of the blue and gold at bcuchargers.com, the official Briar Cliff athletic website.
“A couple of years ago, he jumped off the wrong foot and wound up having great results,’’ said Treinen.
Cowan had been taking off on his left foot and then following that with a left-footed skip before leaping into the pit off his right foot.
“That would be like a baseball player turning around and swinging lefthanded,’’ said Treinen. “We talked about it last fall and then our first meet of the year (in January) he scared the holy heck out of us. He looked so bad on his first two attempts, I was thinking we’d just wasted three months of training.’’
Cowan quickly righted the ship and caught on to the new technique, regaining his NAIA Indoor title in March. He bowed out with his fourth national title on May 23 in Gulf Shores, Ala, — where he topped 16 meters for the first time in his career (16.01 meters, or 52 feet, 6½ inches, to be exact).
“(Now) I’ll take a year off to train,’’ said Cowan, who plans to remain in Sioux City for that training. “After that, depending on how I sit, I’ll make a choice to either pursue it or I’ll transition back to going to law school.’’