Speedy Brown running to Junior Nationals

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 22, 2002

[07/21/02]Ever since he convinced his coach to let him run the 400 meters this spring, life has been moving pretty fast for Michael Brown.

First, there was the sprint to a third-place finish at the state meet in May. Then, there was the dash to a track scholarship from Alcorn State. Finally, this week, he’ll hit the homestretch with a run for glory at the USA Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships.

Brown, who also helped the VHS 4×400 meter relay team to a state title, will be a part of the Jackson Jaguars’ 4×100 meter relay team at the Junior Olympics in Omaha, Neb., beginning on Tuesday. The 4×100 relay teams will compete July 27-28.

“I’m hoping we make it to the finals, and I think we can. In track, you never know who’s going to show up. We have the talent to make it to the finals,” said Brown, whose relay team qualified at the Region 6 meet July 12-14 in Hoover, Ala., with a time of 41.98 seconds. “The experience itself is going to be worth it, whether we make it to the finals or not.”

The chance to compete against the nation’s best runners will be a warmup of sorts for Brown, as well as a look back at the past.

He first became interested in track while watching the world’s best on television at the 1992 summer Olympics. By 1996, while other classmates gravitated toward football and basketball, Brown was hooked on track and was turning into a solid young sprinter.

“Michael is one of the few athletes that has come through that is just a track man. Most guys do more than one thing,” said VHS football coach Alonzo Stevens, a former VHS track coach. “He takes it to the level that you need to be a trackster.”

During his high school career, however, Brown ran primarily on relay teams. He was a key part of VHS’ 4×400 team that reached the State meet in 2000, and the 4×400 team that won a state title this year.

Still, he didn’t attract the attention of college coaches until he branched out on his own. He ran the 400 meters as an individual for the first time at the division meet, and made it all the way to State. He finished third there, losing to teammate and state champion Chris Humes.

Southern Miss, Alcorn, Jackson State and LSU all recruited him after that, but Alcorn lured him to Lorman by offering the best scholarship package. He’ll also join several members of the Missy Gator track team at Alcorn this fall Kamekia Linzy, Chasity Davis and Timeka Wright all signed with the school and that also played a part in his decision.

“Friends came into it, too,” Brown said.

Brown knows he needs to bulk up some more to compete against college athletes, but feels he’ll be ready to hang with them by his sophomore year.

“As long as they give me the training, I feel like I can run against anybody,” Brown said. “Next year, I don’t know what to really expect. By my sophomore year, I think I’ll be in the thick of things.”

Actually, he hopes to be there by the end of this week. The payoff at the end of a summer of hard work the first one he’s spent running with the Jaguars is a trip to Omaha.

More than 6,500 athletes compete at the Junior Olympics, and last year 30 teams competed in the 4×100. The Jaguars’ qualifying time of 41.98 seconds would have been good for a fifth-place tie at last year’s Junior Olympics.

Brown was optimistic, but realized his team might not have enough juice to win. Still, he said if he sets his mind to it anything was possible. After missing the mile relay at the 2001 State meet, he helped the Gators to a first-place finish in the event this year.

So if he sets the goal to be a national champion? He just might have a shiny new souvenir to bring home from Nebraska.

“Anything I say I want to do, I can do,” Brown said. “I have yet to fail to meet a goal I have set for myself.”