On the day set aside to celebrate Bowdish Middle School’s 50-year history, Lauren Rowe, 14, made history of her own by being the first girl to scale the school’s pegboard.
“It’s very difficult to do,” said Bowdish athletic director and health and fitness instructor Pam Sperline. “It requires a lot of upper body strength.”
Her achievement made Rowe only the 12th student to climb the wall in the past 12 years. Each student’s name is displayed above the board on the south wall of the gym. The names of those who climbed it prior to 1998 were lost during that year’s remodel project.
“It feels good seeing your name on the wall,” Rowe said. “The first time I saw it, I got a big grin on my face.”
The pegboard, mounted 6 feet above the gym floor, is 6-foot high by 1-foot wide. Made from wood, it has 38 round holes drilled out in rows of three. Climbers use two wood pegs and ascend by placing the pegs in the holes.
“It’s pretty cool that Lauren is the first girl to ever do that,” said 14-year-old Michael Prothero, Rowe’s friend. Prothero is an eighth-grader who climbed the board while in seventh grade.
Melanie Rose, Central Valley School District public information officer, said the pegboard has been a part of the school’s history since the early 1960s, and may have been installed when the school was built in 1959.
Bowdish Principal Dave Bouge remembers the pegboard when he was a student in 1968.
“I couldn’t climb it then and I can’t climb it now,” Bouge said. “Climbing the pegboard is an extremely difficult thing to do.”
Rowe first attempted the pegboard in sixth grade but was only able to put pegs into the first two holes.
As an eighth-grader, she tried again in early November during her fitness class and got more than halfway up the board.
“I got further than all the boys in my class,” she said. “I thought that would be cool if I could be the first girl to do it.”
From that day forward, she was determined to complete the climb. She did extra exercises during fitness class and trained at home by doing push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups using the edge of a doorway frame.
“That is who she is,” said health and fitness teacher Corey Triebwasser. “When she makes a goal, she goes after it.”
Rowe attempted the climb every Friday. Triebwasser encouraged her and stayed after school every Friday to allow her to try.
For Christmas, Rowe’s parents gave her an Iron Gym pull-up bar used to strengthen the upper body.
Rowe installed the bar on the doorway frame off the kitchen leading to the snack cabinet.
“The rule I had was every time I walked under it (Iron Gym) I would have to do five pull-ups,” she said. “So I had to think every time, ‘is the snack worth it.’ ”
During her training, she worked her way up to more than 120 pull-ups a day.
“Two weeks before I actually got it I would go all the way to the top then drop down because I got scared on how high it was,” she said. “The basketball hoops are shorter.”
However, her tenacity defeated her fear. On Jan. 27, the day of the school’s birthday celebration, she reached her goal, cheered on by her friends.
After training for almost three months, she completed the climb in less than two minutes.
“It seems a lot longer when you’re up there,” she said.
With her arms feeling like rubber, Rowe celebrated by running victory laps around the gym. “Everybody in the family was cheering her on,” said her mother Sallie Rowe about the support cousins, uncles and aunts provided.
“It felt really good,” Lauren Rowe said. “I want to come back someday and see if any other girls have done it.”