Trayvon Bromell sensed something special was about to take place. Shortly before his 100-meter final at the Big 12 Track and Field Championships May 18, the wind gusts began to pick up, portending the breeze that was about to unfold on the oval.
Mix in some healthy competition, and the end result was a time that would elicit an “Oooooooo” from even the most casual of observers.
Bromell put up a staggering 9.77 in winning the 100-meter conference title that day in Lubbock. Because of a tailwind measured at 4.2 meters per second, the clocking didn’t qualify as the college word record, yet it still remained the third-best all-conditions time in NCAA history.
Look, it doesn’t matter if Bromell had a cyclone at his back — that’s fast.
“I knew it was going to be fast, even with the wind, because it was a fast field,” Bromell said. “I knew there would be a lot of competitors to push me. I just went in with a clear mindset, doing what I had to do, remembering what all my coaches told me. I tried to get set for the perfect race and go out and execute the way we’ve done all season.”
Bromell will look to keep up his stopwatch-melting efforts when he leads a strong 33-member Baylor contingent into the NCAA West Preliminary Meet in Fayetteville, Ark., beginning Thursday.
Living up to billing
Bromell’s speed is such that he’s even managed to catch up to his sterling high school reputation, which preceded him like a bullet to Baylor. The freshman from St. Petersburg, Fla., also owns the nation’s top wind-legal time in the 100 at 10.01, and his prep record of 9.99 from last year remains the best in US high school history.
Still, seeing that 9.77 flash on the screen was a little awe-inspiring. At the very least, it kept Bromell busy the next couple of days responding to all the congratulatory text messages and Tweets aimed in his direction.
“My phone, social media, it was blowing up like crazy after the whole thing,” Bromell said. “It was a real humbling experience, but I’ve got to get my mind focused for the next meet. I don’t want to look past anything.”
In Fayetteville, Bromell will forgo the 200-meter race and fixate his efforts on the 100 and 4x100 relay. He has pulled up short with cramps in each of his last 200s, and Baylor coach Todd Harbour doesn’t want the sprinter to overextend himself, especially given the prelim-semifinal-final format of the NCAA West meet.
“With as young as he is, we don’t want to put too much of a load on him,” Harbour said. “You’ve got all these rounds to run. It’s just a lot. … We haven’t finished as strong as we wanted to at nationals the last couple of years, and it’s because we had guys go down — Little Tiff (Tiffani McReynolds), Tiny (Everett Walker). So we’re just trying to be prudent, to be wise.”
McReynolds is the other BU athlete besides Bromell who enters this meet as the regional leader in an event. She has shown challengers her back all season in the 100-meter hurdles, and figures to be able to coast to a spot in the NCAA meet.
Mostly, McReynolds is just relieved to be competing, after missing most or all of the past two outdoor seasons due to injury.
“I just felt really, really blessed, because when they said my name (at the conference meet), they said I hadn’t been there since 2011,” McReynolds said. “So when I was on the line, I was like, ‘Wow, I really haven’t been here in, like, three years.’ It was nice to finally be back at 100-percent healthy again. It was full circle.”
McReynolds heads up four BU athletes who will double up at regionals in two individual events. In addition to the hurdles, she’ll also compete in the 100-meter dash, where she has the ninth-best time in the region at 11.24. The other Bears who will compete in multiple events are Ashley Fields and Kehri Jones in the women’s 100 and 200 and Everett Walker in the men’s 100 and 200.
In track, it’s all about building to the finish line, about picking up the pace down the home stretch. Harbour believes his teams are peaking at the right time, but they’ve still got to go out and prove it.
It’s a process
“You can’t just go through the motions to get there,” he said. “You’ve got to try to fight and get in those best lanes. … We’ve just got to get as many as we can to Eugene, and try to finish high. That’s our goal. To be in the top 10 (as a team) is what we want to do. And we think that’s realistic.”
Even the rookies in the bunch are taking that approach. Though Bromell might be fleet-footed enough to crawl to the line and still finish in the top 12 to earn his spot at nationals, he’s not taking anything for granted.
“It’s the same mindset,” Bromell said. “I’ve been in a lot of big fields, with the (adidas) Dream 100 and the USA (Junior Championships), so I don’t really look at it as a bigger meet or a smaller meet. Every meet is the same in that I have to go out and compete. I’ve got to do what I’m supposed to do, do what my coaches have told me, and go out and run.”
NCAA WEST PRELIMINARY MEET
Site: John McDonnell Field, Fayetteville, Ark.
Note: Top 12 finishers in each event will advance to NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.