ST. PETERSBURG — Essential. That’s the word Ashton Taylor used to describe the impact of two-time Olympic sprinter and Gibbs High graduate Trayvon Bromell on his childhood neighborhood.
A year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, Taylor — whose mother, the late Garlynn Boyd (known affectionately as Coach G), coached Bromell at the Lightning Bolt Track Club — likened Bromell and his achievements to those of an essential worker. While medical professionals and other members of the community work to rebuild, Bromell inspires in his own way.
“The community is getting better,” Taylor said. “And now we have Trayvon here doing what he does best, and that’s breaking records and uplifting people and giving them inspiration. He’s definitely essential.”
Said Robert Clarke, one of Bromell’s assistant coaches at Gibbs, “You have the whole south side of St. Pete rooting for the young man.”
Bromell, 26, is competing in his second Olympics at Tokyo. He won the 100 meters at the U.S. track and field trials last month and is the gold medal favorite. He also will be part of the 400 relay team when the track and field competition begins Friday.
Along with God, Bromell often credits his hometown for pushing him to this point.
“My city is my backbone,” Bromell told the digital sports network Uninterrupted in 2018. “My family is my backbone. Everything I do is for them.”
His community credits him for a lot, too, including for showing a generation of kids in his neighborhood that anything is possible.
“It told me I could be something,” 17-year-old Asya Dickerson said of what she thought when she found out Bromell had gone to her high school. “If he made it out, I could be something, too. And it just made me push forward and want to be like him.”
Dickerson started running track in middle school because she wanted to be active. She stuck with track for the rush training gave her. She specializes in the 100 and 200, the 100 hurdles and the 400 relay.
Her ultimate goal is to follow in Bromell’s footsteps.
In his senior year at Gibbs in 2013, Bromell capped off the year by winning the 100 at the Great Southwest Classic in a wind-aided 9.99 seconds to become the first American high school sprinter to run the event in under 10 seconds. That time helped solidify his selection as the Gatorade national boys track athlete of the year.
As a freshman at Baylor in 2014, Bromell set the world under-20 record in the 100 at the NCAA outdoor championships, running 9.97. He finished third in the event at the 2015 world championships in 9.92 behind sprint legend Usain Bolt. At the 2016 Olympics, he was dogged by foot issues and finished last in the eight-man 100 final.
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Finally healthy again after dealing with injuries for several seasons, Bromell has the fastest time in the world this year, 9.77.
Dickerson wants to leave her mark at Gibbs as well. Whenever she sees the school display of the jersey and cleats Bromell wore when he became the first high schooler to run a sub-10-second 100 or the initials “TB” on Gibbs’ hurdles, which he donated, she can’t help but step back for a moment.
“I’m like, dang, we really had a celebrity come here and achieve something good,” she said.
Clarke served as an assistant coach at the school in 2012 and ’13, the two years Bromell ran, and now sits at the program’s helm. He said all the athletes want to be the next Trayvon.
“A lot of kids, they look at his poster (in the gym), they look at his times, and then they say, ‘I want to be like him,’ " Clarke said. “And the first thing I tell them is, ‘It’s hard work.’ "
That’s the same thing he told Bromell after his first high school state meet.
“I want to go to the Olympics,” Bromell told Clarke.
“Fine,” Clarke said, “but you’ll need to work, get into college, do your time there and then go out for the Olympics your junior year.”
Bromell did just that.
While track is largely an individual sport, Bromell’s race from his neighborhood to pro track was a team effort.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” Clarke said. “He had a whole village and a couple other cities.”
Contact Payton Titus at email@example.com. Follow @petitus25