It’s rare that high school athletes are able to compete in the Olympic Trials, let alone the Olympic Games. While the Games in it’s infancy was able to produce a Bob Mathias – high school decathlon gold medalist in London (1948). Today’s Olympics are a “professional” affair dominated by athletes that train year round and get paid to do so. Grown men & women who have dedicated their lives to earning a living through sport.
Some sports like swimming, diving, and gymnastics are dominated by teens, but in track and field it’s very rare to find the high school athlete that is able to compete against the mature bodies of their adult counterparts – especially among the men.
In that vein, Marvin Bracy (Boone HS, Florida) is a special athlete. His 10.06w race at last weekend’s Texas Relays puts him reach of competing at this year’s Olympic Trials – a feat accomplished by only a handful of young male sprinters in the modern era of the sport.
The last to do so was Jeff Demps of South Lake HS in Florida, who set the current HSR of 10.01 (+1.6) in his quarterfinal at the last Olympic Trials in 2008. His record followed an opening round 10.12 (+1.8), and I remember wondering if Demps would continue to progress and become the first prep to run under 10.00. But his road to Beijing was stopped in his semi as he could “only” muster a 10.34 and he was eliminated. Demps has since gone on to win a pair of NCAA titles – and is a threat to add another this year.
Before Demps, there was Roy Martin (Dallas Texas) who, as a HS Junior, competed in the 200 meters at the 1984 US Trials as a HS junior. The speedy Martin set a then PR 20.28 (+1.0) in his quarterfinal in Los Angeles before placing 4th in the final at 20.43 (-0.2). Martin would break the HSR the following year, twice running 20.13 (+1.7 & +0.4). He would return to the Trials in 1988 and make the team by the barest of margins taking the 3rd spot at 20.05 (+1.0) – the exact same time as 4th placer Albert Robinson. Martin’s run at Olympic glory would end in his semi in Seoul however, as he bowed out taking 6th in 20.62. Ironically HS foe Joe DeLoach (also from Texas) would claim gold in ‘88 defeating defending champion Carl Lewis 19.75 to 19.79!
The greatest year for high school sprinters and the Olympic Trials was 1976 as THREE high school sprinters made sprint finals at the Trials with outstanding results. In the men’s 100,Houston McTear (Baker HS, Florida) was 3rd in a HSR 10.16 (+1.9) with Johnny Jones (Lampasas HS, Texas) 4th in 10.23! McTear suffered a hamstring injury at the end of the race however, giving Jones the nod for Montreal. Meanwhile in the 200 Arizona prep Dwayne Evans (South Mountain HS, Phoenix Arizona) was busy taking 2nd in the deuce in a HSR 20.22 (+1.7). Both Jones and Evans would find success in Montreal. Jones was solid in the 100 with rounds of 10.43 HT, 10.64 QF, and 10.30 SF before placing 6th in the final in 10.27 (-0.1). He then ran the backstretch on the gold medal winning 4×1 (38.33) to close out an outstanding Games. Evans also ran well in Montreal with rounds of 20.96 HT, 20.56 QF, and 20.88 SF on his way to a bronze medal run in the final in 20.43 (+0.7).
So Bracy will be following in the footsteps of some very distinguished high school sprinters when he arrives in Eugene for this year’s Olympic Trials. Of course he will be facing a stiffer challenge than those above as sub10 clockings have become the norm to qualify for Olympic squads. Bracy’s competition starts with Tyson Gay and could include any of the following:
Tyson Gay – 9.69
Justin Gatlin – 9.85
Mike Rodgers – 9.85
Walter Dix – 9.88
Ryan Bailey – 9.88
Davis Patton – 9.89
Travis Padgett – 9.89
Ivory Williams – 9.93
Trell Kimmons – 9.95
Rakieem Salaam – 9.97
A much faster group of sprinters than his predecessors had to face. Only Demps had to face that level of speed in his attempt to make the team in 2008. BUT improvement similar to last year’s could find Bracy under 10.00 and in contention – though it may not be that easy to become the first prep under 10.00. Bracy has improved steadily from 10.42 (+1.9) / 10.19w (+2.8) in his sophomore season to 10.28 (+1.7) with a 10.05w (+2.2) last year as a junior. His legal best came in March of last year as all but one of his races after the beginning May had either negative or illegal trailing winds including 10.16 (+2.6), 10.09 (+2.4), and 10.05 (+2.2) efforts. And so far this year in addition to last week’s blazing opener he set a HS record indoors for 55 meters at 6.08 – a big improvement over his 6.37 from his junior year. So Bracy has a shot at doing some special things this year
The young man is a technically sound/smooth sprinter who reminds me of Yohan Blake. Not surprisingly at 5′ 9" / 175 lbs he’s similar in stature to Blake’s 5′ 11" / 172 lb frame. And Blake – 9.82 last year – was similar in time to Bracy running 10.11 as a teen. Of course the first step to winning medals is making the team – and that will be the first step for young Mr. Bracy. We’ll see him again this weekend at the Pepsi Florida Relays. He’ll be looking to repeat as Florida State Champion in early May, as well as the Dream 100 – HS All Star race at the Adidas Classic in NY in June before lining up against the Big Boys at the Trials. By then we should have a good idea just how competitive he may be.