Column: Gibbs sprinter Bromell's test of time

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Mon. March 4, 2013 | John C. Cotey | Email

Column: Gibbs sprinter Bromell's test of time

Trayvon Bromell does most things in short increments.

Ten seconds here, 20 seconds there.

But stick the Gibbs High School senior in front of the latest, hottest Nikes to hit the shoe racks, and he takes his time. His favorite might be the Gold Medal Nike Zoom KD IVs — fitting for one of the area’s top track stars — but they have plenty of company among four dozen other pairs of shoes in his closet.

“If I’m not running,” he said, “you can catch me at the mall.”

Which is about the only way to catch Bromell.

Tampa Bay’s fastest kid posted nationally ranked times in the 100 and 200 meters in his first meet of the season — and he is aiming higher.

He’s faster than he was last year at this time. Heck, he might be faster than ever, setting out to break all of his records and win an elusive state championship after finishing second in the 100 last year.

“I’m trying for greatness,” he said.

And there may be no stopping him.

Garlynn Boyd, who has trained Bromell since he joined the Lightning Bolt Track Club at age 7, said greatness is certainly within Bromell’s grasp if he stays healthy.

His personal best in the 100 is 10.36 seconds, and he’s aiming for 10.1 He has run the 200 in 21.01 and is aiming for 20.7.

(To put both in perspective, the winning 100 time at state a year ago in Bromell’s class was 10.49; the winning 200 was 21.05.)

His entire senior season will be measured in fractions, his success gauged by blinks of an eye.

“This kid,” said Boyd, “is the real deal.”

Bromell’s athleticism — he also high jumped for the first time last week at a meet, going 6 feet, 2 inches — has not only led to a wealth of success, but to a series of unfortunate injuries.

In 2008, he broke his right knee doing a back flip.

Why?

Because he could.

He and some friends decided to make a video. Bromell, who took gymnastics when he was younger, once could do 12 in a row.

“I just landed wrong this time,” he said.

The doctors had trouble putting the knee back together, said his mother, Shira Sanders. When they managed to fix it, he wore a cast from hip to ankle for eight months to protect his damaged ligaments.

The night the cast came off, he did five hours on an exercise bike. His knee had lost some of its ability to bend, and that wouldn’t return for months.

Sanders said they weren’t offered physical therapy, so she made him bike to school to help the healing process.

Bromell was still fast though — he ran a meet a few days after getting the cast off and finished first in the 100.

“I was a little worried, because with a cast on that long you’re going to lose some muscle,” he said. “But I was pretty determined, too.”

A year later, he damaged the same ligaments in the other knee playing basketball. Another cast, just like the last.

And in 2010, he fractured his hip while running.

“Injury after injury,” sighed Boyd. “But he keeps coming back and working harder.”

When healthy, there is no one faster.

Bromell started this year by finishing third in the 55 meters at the sixth annual Jimmy Carnes Indoor Track and Field in January, running it in 6.33 seconds, just .01 of a second behind his rival, Levonte Whitfield of Orlando Jones.

He won the 100 and 200 at the St. Petersburg Championships, and Wednesday will defend his sprint titles, and MVP honors, at the 83rd West Coast Invitational.

He is focused, driven and determined, a trait his mother reinforced in him as a child.

Sanders ran track at Northeast. She was pretty good, but decided not to run her senior season. She never made it to state and still regrets it.

“A big mistake,” she said. “I tell him now, ‘Keep your eye on your goal and don’t vary for any reason’ and he always remembers that.

“You only get one shot at it, so make it good.”

Bromell has, and his talents (and 3.2 grade point average) are coveted by schools like Alabama (his first offer), Baylor, LSU, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and North Carolina.

Sanders couldn’t be prouder, because it was a long, hard road for the kid who now runs so swiftly on a short track.

When she talks of the people who have helped with her son along the way, from her father and brother to the Boys & Girls Club to Big Brothers Big Sisters, from Boyd to her church to the track coaches at Gibbs, she sobs.

“Everyone has been so good,” she said, so her son has the chance to be so great.

They couldn’t afford many shoes when he was younger, but she takes great joy in that collection of his now, more so that he earned every pair by working at the mall.

She can still remember him as a 7-year-old, running so hard, so earnestly, but unable to beat his mother.

She told him to run faster and work harder.

And soon, Mom could no longer keep up.

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