USA TODAY High School Sports is featuring the 12 athletes in the running for the Gatorade National Athlete of the Year, which will be announced July 16 in Los Angeles. Today's spotlight: Trayvon Bromell (boys track and field)
What better way to describe Gibbs (St. Petersburg, Fla.) sprinter Trayvon Bromell than “ridiculously fast”? You know, for that much talked about 100-meter dash time of 9.99 seconds at the Great Southwest Classic.
Bromell made national news as he became the first prep runner in history to clock under 10.0. But that’s hardly the first time he has wowed. In fact, he’s been impressing since his youth. At 10, he helped his 4×100-meter relay team win a national age-group championship. Back then, he said he committed himself to three-hour workouts, five days a week.
MORE WITH GATORADE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR FINALISTS:
Max Browne (football)
Lauren Carlini (volleyball)
Sarah Baxter (girls cross country)
Andrew Wiggins (boys basketball)
Mercedes Russell (girls basketball)
Carley Hoover (softball)
Morgan Andrews (girls soccer)
Cristian Roldan (boys soccer)
Clint Frazier (baseball)
“I put in training so I could be on top,” Bromell said. “As soon as I was told I had a future in running, I took it serious. I wasn’t the normal kid.”
Bromell’s senior season further validates how much his persistent efforts have paid off.
In April, he won his first state title in the 100 with a time of 10.45 seconds. At the New Balance Nationals Outdoor in June, he took home the 100-meter dash national title after clocking 10.41 (he also won silver in the 200 with a time of 20.91). And he was even honored with the 2012-13 Gatorade National Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year award.
Bromell, who will attend Baylor this fall, took a few minutes with Sarah Gearhart to talk about the sport that’s come to define his existence — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
When you think about why you ran when you were younger versus why you run now, how has your perspective changed?
Bromell: My heart for track is way greater than it was as a kid. I ran because I loved it and I wanted to do it. Now, it’s because I love it, and I have a point to prove. A lot of people didn’t think I could do it because of my injuries. I want to prove that you can do anything, even when obstacles come in your life, you don’t have to give up.
What exactly compels you to run?
Bromell: I don’t do it for the fame. I do it because I love it. When I get on the track, it’s like I’m a different person. I don’t want to leave. It’s all I got — and education — so I put 100 percent into it. You have to have heart for this sport. You have to be mentally strong and be dedicated.
Tell us about a time when your mental strength was most tested?
Bromell: When I broke my legs, my mom said, ‘Trayvon don’t give up’. When I came home from the hospital, after I had my cast taken off, my mom put me on the [stationary] bicycle and told me to ride and stayed by my side and watched. Even when I wanted to stop, she encouraged me. She ran track, but she stayed at amateur status — she couldn’t pursue it because she had me. I feel like I’m doing this for me and her.
Is running more mentally or physically challenging for you?
Bromell: I’ve always been mentally ready for track. It’s physically challenging for the simple fact that I’m not strong enough. I’m a good runner, but I need to build muscle.
You coped with asthma when you were younger. Tell us about battling that as a runner. Did it deter you?
Bromell: I had to beat being asthmatic. I had to train even stronger so I could stay on top. I learned how to breathe better. For races like the 200 and 400, there are certain ways you have to breathe. You have to know when to intake and outtake the air. I was the type of kid that would try to figure things out on my own. When I had asthma, I’d come out of the blocks in the 100, and I’d hold my breath until a certain point in the race and then start breathing.
What’s been a difficult sacrifice in pursuit of becoming a successful track athlete?
Bromell: Sometimes you have to let go of your friends — my friends wanted to go to parties, hang out and all that type of stuff. In high school, you go through the whole phase of wanting to be popular and hang around a certain crowd. My grades weren’t where they should’ve been, and by 10th grade, I really regretted wanting to be that person. I wanted to be popular through something that I love doing, track.
That’s quite some maturity to possess as a teen.
Bromell: I had to mature fast. I didn’t have my father in my life, so it made me grow up. It showed me that by staying focused, humble and doing what you need to, great things can come upon that.
Who do you consider your greatest competitor?
Bromell: Levonte (Whitfield) for the simple fact that he has the same mindset as me, and Cameron Burrell. I don’t really look at who’s the fastest. I look at the mindset. On any given day, someone can be beaten. When you go into a race, you can’t worry about who’s next to you. Those two runners don’t worry about who’s in the lane next to them. They just focus on their race. If you focus on somebody else that means you’re not going to hit the right techniques and you might not perform right.
Who in sports do you look up to and why?
Bromell: Ray Lewis. For every track meet I listen to one of his motivational speeches. He has the same heart as I have. He was hungry for success. He wanted it. That’s how I want to be.
What’s been the most valuable lesson running has taught you?
Bromell: Don’t give up. I broke my knees and my hip, but it’s not an excuse. I’m still able to walk, and I’m still able to run. I want to prove that just because something happened to your life, it doesn’t mean to stop.