Second Time Around Charming for Cowgirl Long Jumper Howell
From the desk of Sean O'Sullivan/Wyoming Athletic Department
LARAMIE – As a freshman long jumper at Wyoming, Shayla Howell consistently hit or jumped past her high school personal best. Only a year later, she has added nearly a foot to her average jump. The improvement wasn’t unexpected, but the speed at which it has happened is truly unique.
When the Cowgirl stepped on the long jump runway at the Colorado School of Mines back in early December of 2019, Howell didn’t know she was about to have the third-best jump in program history. It was only the first meet of her sophomore season. When she left the landing area, Shayla didn’t want to assume what she had achieved.
“I definitely had to hear the announcement,” Howell said. “I don’t like to get ahead of myself, because that can get you really high or really low when it comes out. I just kind of waited, and I was like ‘oh my gosh, that’s crazy,’ and it just kept getting better. It just really blew my mind. It’s not that I didn’t expect it, it was just when is it going to happen, and that was the day.”
That day, she leapt 20 feet, 4.5 inches, the third-best mark in Wyoming program history, to win the long jump title at the CSM Alumni Meet. Additionally, she’s one of just three Cowgirls to ever jump more than 20 feet. The next day, Shayla went on to win the triple jump. The Mountain West named her the Women’s Field Athlete of the Week for her efforts.
The rest of the season, all but one of her jumps was better than the best mark of her freshman season. She had become a consistent jumper, and that helped her add 11 inches to her average jump between her freshman and sophomore seasons. Nationally, her season-best mark of 20-4.5 was Wyoming’s highest-ranked performance. She ended the season ranked 29 in the country in the long jump.
“Her improved average of almost a foot was a bit of a surprise; not the fact that she did improve but more of how much that improvement was,” said jumps coach Quincy Howe. “Often, the big jumps in performance and consistency come in year two for most student athletes, mainly because they are finally comfortable in their environment, relationships and training systems. A one foot average bump, though, is quite a Beamonesque achievement.”
Her season ended in late February at the Mountain West Championships, where she earned all-MW honors in the long jump by finishing third at the conference meet. She joined a prestigious group of all-conference jumpers at Wyoming.
Two of those jumpers, Jerayah Davis and Ja’la Henderson, were also on the 4x100m relay team with Howell and Jordan Edmonds that earned Honorable Mention All-America honors in 2019. They were the first Cowgirl relay team to earn All-America accolades since 2005. They earned the honor by booking a trip to nationals after placing 12at the NCAA West Preliminaries.
“It was crazy,” Howell said. “I was looking at the screen, I remember, it came up with the top-12 which were one color, and the rest were another color. I started looking under them, and I couldn’t find us. I looked up where the top-12 were, and we were No. 12, and I was like ‘no way, that’s crazy!’. Ja’la was crying, Jordan was crying. I couldn’t find Jerayah because she was on the other side of the track as I was. It was a very emotional time, especially for them since they were seniors, and I was just happy to be a part of it.”
The NCAA National Championships were in early June, and her training for her freshman season had started that previous September. When Howell returned home to Colony, Wyo., she took a month off from training. However, a “month off” for Howell meant spending more time with her horses. As a rodeo competitor, her ranch life was seen as a positive by Howe when he was recruiting her.
“During the recruiting process, Shayla’s athletic ability was obvious,” Howe said. “What stood out to me was her versatility, she played sports year round, including rodeo, and lived on a ranch. I have lived around Wyoming long enough to know that most people don’t just ‘live’ on a ranch, there is loads of work to be done there. I also knew that Shayla owns and takes care of her horses which is a never-ending endeavor in and of itself. During her recruitment, we spoke on the phone multiple times while she was on horseback. The things I took from getting to know Shayla during that time was that she is versatile, durable and an unwaveringly hard worker, all things that are essential for ultimate success.”
Her hard work was key during the 2019-20 season. Howell decided she wanted to also compete on the Wyoming rodeo team this year, and she had the support from the two coaching staffs. Competing on both teams was something Howell was looking for coming out of high school.
“I think Wyoming was the best fit for that because it was the closest to home that I could do both, I know people here that do rodeo and it created a lot of connections to do both sports there,” Howell said.
“It honestly wasn’t terrible,” Howell said of competing on two teams while continuing the commitments of being a full-time student. “I enjoyed myself. I didn’t really feel stressed, and the flexibility from the coaches helped for sure. The rodeo coach was good about the times I could come in and practice. Having horses in Laramie, I definitely needed to take time to take care of them the way they needed to be. I definitely got better at time managing, but the flexibility with the coaches made a big difference, for sure.”
During the months leading up to the indoor season, Shayla spent Mondays on the track working on technique and spent the rest of the week in the weight room and practicing with her horses for the rodeo team. After the rodeo season ended in October, Howell was ready for the indoor season. As a result of all her hard work, she set her new personal best.
“I think a lot of it has to do with what we were doing in the weight room,” Howell said. “This year, we had one consistent weight room coach, Henry Bergman, and he was very specific to track. He just knows what to do and how to train us. We got a lot of good weight room training, and it helped us on the track. Of course, Coach Howe’s coaching is incredible, and that helped, too. I was more comfortable in the program, and I put trust into the people because I know that I could trust them. That all played a part in being comfortable, letting everything develop and trust the process.”
Howell knows the importance of Wyoming’s strength staff and facilities, and she also credited the amount of resources student-athletes at Wyoming have as one of the main reasons for her sudden improvement.
“I honestly never feel stressed about things, and not being stressed is so helpful because we have so much to do and so many commitments we have to make,” Howell said. “Not having stress is a huge thing. I never have to worry about what I’m going to have for dinner because it’s made there. I never have to worry about tutoring because if I need one, I text my advisor. Our resources are endless, and that’s a great attribute and a great opportunity because not everywhere has that. I’m incredibly thankful for that.”
Howell’s hard work, combined with the resources available to her at Wyoming, led to an incredible sophomore season that was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In spite of these challenges, she’s still working hard, because that’s how it goes for a Cowgirl from Colony. Howell is ready to continue the strong tradition of Wyoming jumpers as she gets ready to continue her career.
“It’s incredible,” Howell said. “I feel very blessed to be a part of the program, and to be under coach Howe and learning from him. I’m so happy about it, and I couldn’t be happier where I’m at.”