The career of Lindbergh junior track and field sprinter Deven Brown didn’t start out the way he might have hoped. Through his first two years of high school, he battled injuries and never quite realized his potential.
This year has been a different story. Brown is healthy, and it has shown on the track. Earlier this season, Brown ran 10.45 seconds in the 100 meters. It’s not only the fastest time in the state this season and a school record, but it’s also just .18 seconds of the state record (10.27) set by Ellensburg’s Ja’Warren Hooker in 1997.
Entering the state meet, which begins Thursday at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Brown has a shot at breaking that record and winning his first individual state title.
“Some of my goals (this season) were to just get my name out nationwide to multiple different colleges, and just run hard and compete against the best of the best,” Brown said. “I got off to a little shaky start at the beginning of the season, but I’ve been able to pick up a rhythm recently.
“I just wanted to run fast, but I want to hit 10.3 (seconds) before the season is over,” Brown added. “I’m just going to keep working to try to aim for that.”
If Brown is able to accomplish that feat at the state meet, there is a chance Hooker’s record could fall. But Brown isn’t focusing on breaking records, just handling the things he can control.
“I’ve considered it a bit, but I’m just going to keep doing me,” he said. “I’ll just let it come to me. If it happens, it happens, but I’m just going to keep running fast and focusing on what I need to do to get better.”
One thing is certain, Brown and Hooker think it is time for the record to fall.
“I look at it like this, I’m super grateful for the coaches I had back then and how fast I ran and all that good stuff, but I’m a track and field fan,” Hooker said. “Being a track and field fan, you want records to fall. When I look at that record standing for this amount of time, it’s not pride anymore. I want the sport to evolve, and I want the athletes in the state of Washington to run faster than that. I don’t look at records as things that I want to keep. I look at them as things that need to be broken.”
When Hooker heard that Brown ran in the 10.40s earlier this year, his interest peaked.
“If you could see my arms right now, I just got goosebumps,” Hooker said. “I’m a dad. I’m 40-years old. I’m a husband, and I’m a fan of the sport. I knew that a kid ran in the 10.40s, and I’m rooting for the kid to break it.”
Lindbergh coach Jef Rettman said Brown is aware of Hooker’s record, but that he doesn’t talk about it with the junior sprinter.
“I think for any athlete, pressure becomes counterproductive,” Rettman said. “The job of the coach is to take pressure off, and talking about state records only adds pressure.”
Brown finished third at the Class 2A West Central District championships last weekend, with a time of 10.91. Not as fast as he hoped, but still easily earning him a spot in the state meet. Brown also won the 200 meters, his other individual event, at the WCD championships with a time of 22.35.
Going into the state meet, Brown wants to focus on getting out of the blocks strong, especially against such stiff competition.
“It’s very critical,” Brown said. “My start is probably the one thing that I discipline myself the most on. If you don’t get out of the blocks (well), that could be costly and you possibly lose the race right there.”
Hooker, who also starred in basketball and football at Ellensburg and ran track and played football for the University of Washington, didn’t have to battle injuries in his high-school career. The only real bit of adversity it seemed he faced was his freshman year when he finished second in the 100 meters. Knowing Brown has taken a different path is something that has earned Hooker’s respect.
“It just shows his grit,” Hooker said. “I know a lot of athletes that kind of have a bad season and from a mental standpoint, they just kind of fold. To see that he has grit to say, ‘OK, hey I might have had a bad season and I might have had some ups-and-downs and I might have had injuries, but I’m still coming.’ That even shows more.”
Hooker hopes to watch Brown go for the state record in person Saturday, and if his record does fall, he chose one word to describe what the feeling will be.
“Relief,” Hooker said with a laugh. “I’m still recognized as, ‘That’s the fastest kid in the whole state of Washington.’ It’s been 20 years. It’s like, ‘First of all, I’m a grown up, and I’m not that fast anymore.’ So, I don’t mind that title leaving my trophy case.”