Bob McKowen's dad had won the state hurdles in 1944. His uncle was also a state champion hurdler. It might explain why McKowen excelled in the sport almost from the jump, having first started running hurdles in his junior year of high school. At the end of his senior year, McKowen won the Class B 120-meter high hurdles in the 1970 state meet with a time of 14.8 seconds.
":14.8 is the best I have ever done in the high's," McKowen was quoted saying in Lancaster Intelligencer Journal article on May 25, 1970. "My best previous time was :15.1 in the district meet. The funny thing about my :14.8 today - all week long it was the time that was sticking in my mind as what I would need to win."