Trayvon Bromell, the Gibbs High sprinter with the golden shoes, dominated the 100 meters this spring, leaving observers and opponents in track and field shaking their heads as they tried to wrap their minds around the times he was running.
Those times brought Bromell acclaim, culminating with his selection as the Gatorade National Boys Track Athlete of the Year during a news conference Tuesday in the school’s auditorium.
"It's a blessing," Bromell said. "This trophy is bigger than all the others I've won before. It means a lot to me because it shows all the work I put in to not only become a great athlete but also a great person."
Bromell, a recent graduate, is just the second male athlete from the state to win the award. The first was Seminole Sanford’s Andre Scott, the state record holder in the triple jump who was named the nation’s best in 1994. Bromell now is one of six finalists for the Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year, which will be announced during a ceremony before the ESPY Awards in July. The other national boys winners this year were Washington QB Max Browne (football), New Jersey’s Edward Cheserek (cross country), Georgia centerfielder Clint Frazier (baseball), California midfielder Cristian Roldan (soccer) and West Virginia forward Andrew Wiggins (basketball).
At 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, Bromell was a diminutive figure who loomed large in his signature event, finishing most 100-meter races with everyone else looking at his back. Though the outcome was usually a foregone conclusion, Bromell never slowed down, running not only past his opponents but to the top of the national rankings.
In April, Bromell won the 100 at the Class 3A region meet in 10.14 seconds, one of the fastest times in the nation at the time (no wind gauge was used to determine whether it was legal).
He followed that up a week later by battling through a steady rain and strong wind to win his first state title in the 100 at the state meet in 10.45. Bromell also anchored the Gladiators’ 4x100-meter relay team that won state in 42.26 seconds thanks to his mad dash down the homestretch to catch two other runners.
The wins – and startling times – continued once his high school season ended. At last month’s Golden South Classic, Bromell won the 100 in 10.27 seconds, the top non-wind-aided time in the nation this year.
But there was one race that made Bromell stand alone among his peers.
Three weeks ago at the Great Southwest Classic, Bromell electrified the track and field world with a dash for the ages in the 100, finishing in a wind-aided 9.99 seconds to become the first American high school sprinter to run the event in under 10 seconds.
Once he crossed the finish line, Bromell realized what he accomplished and slumped to the track on all fours. He had the same reaction to his time as did the other spectators at the University of New Mexico, where the meet was held. Disbelief.
It was one of the greatest athletic performances in track and field (MaxPreps ranked it as the 19th best moment in high school sports this year) and helped solidify his selection as Gatorade’s national winner.
"I've had pro athletes in my family, but to coach an athlete like Trayvon and for him to win an award like that is even bigger," said Gibbs track coach Anthony Givins, whose brother is former Lakewood and Houston Oiler standout Ernest Givins. "Trayvon winning was huge not just for this whole school but for the city."
By becoming a national winner, Bromell joins a select group of track athletes that includes Alan Webb (the American record holder in the mile) and Jason Richardson (the silver medalist in the 110 hurdles at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London).
Bromell continued to get the star treatment after his press conference. Gatorade staff members treated Bromell, his family and 25 of his friends to a private dinner at 400 Beach Drive in St. Petersburg.
"The whole day was a surprise for me," Bromell said. "They told me I was doing an ESPN interview. That threw me off. I really didn't know I had won until just a few minutes before I went on stage. I knew there was a possibility I could be the national Gatorade winner, and I just kept praying and praying that I would get it."
Bromell’s next meet is the Pan-Am Junior Championships Aug. 23-25 in Medellin, Colombia. Bromell initially thought he would be unable to participate because he didn’t have his passport, which he now says he will be able to get in time.
That is the last meet Bromell will run before officially reporting to Baylor.
"It doesn't end for me with this award, though," Bromell said. "I want to show people that I will continue to work hard and do great things once I'm in college."