JACKSONVILLE — It started with about 50 meters remaining in the 4x100-meter relay. And it started in the stands, where just about everyone was, umbrella or no umbrella, standing and braving a stiff wind and pelting rain.
It’s a track tradition, this whoomping, and a warning of sorts for the guy in front.
Hey, pal, don’t look now, but someone is coming.
Trayvon Bromell’s arms churned, his face expressionless, his knees high, his gait effortless.
The Gibbs High School senior was coming, and the warning from the crowd was too late, just like always.
By the time Bromell was finished at Friday’s Class 3A state track and field meet, he was wet and cold and tired.
And a champion.
The first ever for Gibbs, in fact, on the track.
Bromell won the 100 meters, his marquee event, in what for him was a pedestrian time of 10.45 seconds.
He pulled off another improbable comeback in the 4x100 — whoomp! — to give the Gladiators the school’s first state title in that event.
And in the 200, he finished a happy second, unwilling to push his creaky hamstring any further on this cold day.
But for all the accolades Bromell has received for his work in the 100 and 200, where he is ranked nationally in both, it was his performance in the relay that truly seemed to define him and his electrifying season.
It was definitely the one that left him the happiest, mostly because three of his teammates were able to join him on the medal stand.
“It was pretty much a perfect race,” Bromell said.
As usual, the Baylor-bound speedster was the showstopper.
When it comes to leads, how big is too big for Bromell to overcome?
“I knew as soon as I handed it to him, it was over,” said Jaquez President, who ran a pretty darned good third leg. “We’ve seen him run down people all the time, and that guy wasn’t far enough in front.”
Ten meters was not far enough, even on a slick track.
Bromell mowed him down.
“Yeah, I could hear the crowd,” he said. “It gave me some motivation to catch the guy.”
Bromell has overcome a broken knee and a fractured hip, wearing massive hip-to-ankle casts for months at a time.
President remembers the day the cast came off after the last injury, and how Bromell was just as fast as the day it went on.
“Ran an 11.3,” he said, shaking his head.
Time was running out for Bromell, having finished second in the 100 at last year’s state meet and fourth in the 200, because, he admitted, he just wasn’t strong enough.
This had to be his year.
So it was.
“It’s been quite an experience,” coach Anthony Givins said. “I was talking to someone the other day about all the great athletes that have come out of Gibbs …but there’s something about Trayvon that was special.”
He planned to be extra special Friday, coming off a 10.14 non-wind-aided time last week in regionals that is tops in the nation
He was going to run the 100 faster than Marvin Bracy did in 2010, when he set a state meet record in 10.19 seconds.
And Bromell believed the national high school record of 10.01, set by Jeff Demps in 2008, was within his reach as well.
Then the skies turned gray, the wind started to whip around and the rain fell, often at an angle.
So he settled for winning his race, and making it look easy on a day when it wasn’t.
“Honestly, I thought I could get under 10 today, but man, I am just happy to win,” Bromell said.
The 100 meters, that event was for him.
His last 100 was for Gibbs.
As the anchor leg for Gainesville sped by, Bromell was counting steps to see how far behind he was going to be — 1, 2, 3 then 4, 5, 6, 7 steps.
“When you have the fastest person in the world on your team …Florida, I mean, well, one day he’ll be the fastest person in the world, but when you have him, you always have a chance,” said President, who handed over the baton and watched Bromell take off.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.