March 15, 2021 was a sunny day on New Providence Island in the Bahamas—but in an instant, the day darkened for Thomas Bowers ’22. While skateboarding home, a drunk driver hit him, resulting in 68 facial fractures and the need for specialized surgery that was not available on the island. Thomas was flown at low altitude (owing to air pressure and his injuries) to Miami’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for surgery and treatment.
An arduous recovery period ensued. When Thomas was finally able to go back in the water and resume a progressive training regimen in June 2021, he still could not dive into the pool or do flip turns for several weeks. A big challenge confronted him. Thomas recollects, “I thought life would never be the same, but then I thought to myself, if I keep this negative mindset, I will not get back to where I was. This was when it all changed, and I started thinking positively and started to recover.”
And recover he did. He finished 3rd in the Bahamian Nationals in the 50 meter freestyle. His younger brother, David ’24, and parents, Katherine Smith Bowers ’92 and Chris Bowers, could see that Thomas’s courage and hard work were contributing mightily to his remarkable recovery.
Early in the 2021-22 swimming season, Head Coach Andy Lowe immediately took note of Thomas’s resolve. “He was training with an intensity and sense of purpose I had rarely seen. It was remarkable, especially with what he had gone through, physically and mentally, owing to the accident. I knew he was going to have a superb season with that laudable ‘new lease on life’ approach he was demonstrating.”
On his senior year of training and competition, Thomas says, “Coming into the winter season I was excited to get back on a regular swim schedule and have one last opportunity to bounce back to the same level as before my accident. At season’s end I was very proud of my teammates, along with my achievements, as we all put in the work and were able to celebrate our efforts by having great swims.”
Almost a year to the day since his life-altering accident, Bowers anchored a near All America qualifying foursome at the Division 1 Championships in a blistering 20.89, won the consolation final in the 50 free (21.69), finished fifth in the 100 free (47.20), and led off the 200 free relay for a podium 3rd place finish for the Tigers. The team placed fourth in the competition, behind Andover, Brunswick, and Exeter.
Reflecting on the whirlwind year, Bowers concludes, “Growing up, swimming came easy for me, which I used to take for granted, but my accident taught me that hard work and dedication are more important than natural talent.”