Olympian Brittany Bowe returns to Ocala alma mater
Green and gold pompoms rustled in unison and screams echoed on Friday through Trinity Catholic High School's gym. The Celtic student body rose to its feet, while some sentimental faculty and alumni dried their eyes.
Brittany Bowe was back.
Nearly 500 students, faculty and alumni welcomed the 34-year-old Olympic ice speedskater back to the very halls she walked 16 years ago. The event included a speech delivered by Bowe and the opportunity for former faculty and friends to reconnect with the Ocala Olympian.
A similar homecoming ceremony was held in her honor after she took home a bronze medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. This time, her neck was weighed down by another.
Bowe visited Ocala fresh off the podium, after placing third in the 1,000-meter at the Beijing Winter Olympics Feb. 17 and then capturing her sixth International Skating Union World Cup Title in Holland in March.
“Being back here at Trinity is amazing,” Bowe said. “Winning these medals is great, but what makes it awesome is sharing it with Trinity Catholic and hopefully inspiring these kids to do something special.”
Thanks to Vicki Dubie, the assistant athletic director, Bowe got the opportunity to share this moment with some of her past high school teammates and friends. Beyond gathering alumni to attend, Dubie coordinated a video montage for Bowe from those who could not be present.
Kaley Taccetta met Bowe in kindergarten and played basketball with her growing up. The two had kept in touch, but the ceremony was the first time they had reunited in 14 years.
“It’s overwhelming and emotional to see her and finally get to hug her,” Taccetta said.
The ceremony commenced with a prayer led by the Rev. Patrick Sheedy, known as Father Pat.
Students flocked to the stage for a chance to interact with Bowe after the ceremony’s formal conclusion. Some had the speedskater pose for selfies, others opted for a more unconventional and memorable route by asking to have their foreheads signed.
Bowe’s history of skating started at age 8. She began with in-line roller-skating but was motivated to transition to ice after seeing her former teammates compete in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. In-line skating is not offered on the Olympic stage, so transitioning to ice is the only way to skate at that level.
The sport she’s known for globally has not been her only love in the world of athletics.
Bowe is a multisport athlete beyond blades and skates. She played baseball and soccer but was also a competitive basketball player. She continues to hold the record for most assists and steals at Trinity Catholic and went on to play Division I basketball at Florida Atlantic University, where she was inducted into the hall of fame.
“There’s nothing better than team sports, in my opinion,” Bowe said. “Being in an individual sport is cool, but I miss team sports more than anything in the world.”
Rose Gravel, 16, is a Trinity Catholic sophomore who plays flag football, basketball and volleyball. She said she just found out this year about Bowe’s basketball history but that it has pushed her to become a better player.
“It shows that you don’t always have to play one sport,” Gravel said. “Being a multisport athlete is amazing.”
Irene Collier, the dean of students at Trinity Catholic, was one of the few faculty members who personally knew the class of 2006 graduate during her time at the Ocala private school. Collier called Bowe the epitome of a student athlete and her story a great example for current students.
“It gives them hope that whatever dream they may have is doable, it’s reachable,” Collier said. “That brass ring is there for everyone because we live in an amazing country.”
Lou Pereira, the president of Trinity Catholic, unveiled a new banner honoring Bowe that would replace the one made after she won a team pursuit bronze medal in 2018.
“I’m hopeful, and I’d be excited to replace it again,” Pereira said.
After calling Bowe’s old teachers and faculty members to the front, Pereira ended the ceremony by announcing the creation of the Brittany Bowe Character and Athletics Award. Pereira said this award would go to a senior that embodies service, character and sportsmanship, all of which Bowe exhibits.
Bowe is a world record holder, a three-time Olympian and a former Division I basketball player. But before these accomplishments, she was a Celtic.
Bowe’s visit to Trinity Catholic was just one stop a part of her visit to her hometown. She will join other local Olympic speedskaters Erin Jackson and Joey Mantia in receiving the honorary keys to the city for their accomplishments.
“I think it’s real important to recognize their success,” Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn said in an email. “We are happy for them and want to show the country how we welcome our champions home.”