To Little, It’s Not Too Late

For Monroe sprinter, 10.42-second 100-meter dash is right on time

by Aaron Garcia

Monroe senior Brandon Little has one last chance to prove he’s the state’s fastest athlete at the Class 1A track and field meet on May 12. Aaron Garcia/UCW photo

When Brandon Little was a freshman on Sun Valley’s track team, the time of 10.4 seconds had significant meaning. As a budding sprinter, Little was fast, and his 10.6 seconds in the 100-meter dash was more than respectable.

But cousin Andre McManus was faster.

“(McManus) always beat me in the (100),” said Little, “and he ran a 10.4.”

Which explains the sense of accomplishment Little, who now attends Monroe High, felt when he crossed the line at a Rocky River 1A/2A conference meet at Forest Hills in March with a time of 10.42.

“I ran that for real?” Little thought when he saw the time. “Seriously?”

Little’s time was, and still is, tops among sprinters statewide, which cemented the Monroe senior as a favorite to push for a gold medal at this year’s state meet.

When the Class 1A meet gets under way on May 12 at Greensboro’s N.C. A&T State University, Little will have a chance to bring home titles in the 100, 200 and the 4×200 and 4×400 relays.

“It would mean everything to me if I can get a ring right now,” said Little, who is receiving recruiting attention from UNC Pembroke, N.C. Central, Johnson C. Smith, Salisbury’s Livingstone College and Raleigh’s St. Augustine’s College. “That’s what I’m working for.”

And work he has. In his first year with the Redhawks, Little has been a solid addition to an already-impressive Monroe team that is small in numbers but has a serious chance to score points at the state meet. Aside from Little, Tre Shun Wynn, Jaylen Barbour, Tristan Thompson, Quayshawn Chambers, Jamarcus Glenn and Jeremy Hammond all have chances to win titles individually or as part of a relay, and in many instances, both.

Not an easy lineup to crack for a first-year teammate.

“(Little is) in position to get (a state title), too,” said Monroe track coach Johnny Sowell. “He’s in position to not only do it for himself, but he’s on two relay teams that have good opportunities.”

After his freshman year at Sun Valley, Little spent the next two seasons at Weddington, where he starred on the football and track teams.

For this school year, though, Little said he and his mother chose to move to Monroe from the western side of the county.

“It was more affordable for my mom (here in Monroe)” said Little. “We had to make a choice pretty much.”

With so many of his current track teammates doubling as football players during the fall, Little’s ability to fit in with his new classmates depended on how the former starting Weddington running back indoctrinated himself into his new setting, said Sowell.

“I think he came in the way you want him to come in,” said Sowell, who also is the team’s football coach. “He came in, first of all, trying to learn the system. He’s a smart kid – he picked it up pretty quick.”

Little said he knew about the Monroe track program from facing the Redhawks during past seasons. It wasn’t easy leaving his friends at Weddington, he said, but he became fast friends with fellow runner and football player Wynn.

“That made it easier because he helped me get friends and he helped people notice who I was (once school started),” said Little.

Though he received the majority of the backfield touches at Weddington, Little was just one-quarter of a four-headed monster that was the Monroe backfield.

“At first, it was hard because I was like, ‘OK, I’m not getting playing time,’” said Little. “But then I thought about it, and I had to learn their plays. I can’t come over here and expect to get a starting position. It was hard to get with, but it was (fine in the end).”

That willingness to adapt is also paying dividends on the track this spring.

As a sprinter, Little never ran a distance farther than 200 meters before arriving at Monroe. But to be a sprinter for Sowell, a runner has to be proficient in the 400. Period.

“That’s the toughest sprint,” said Sowell. “If you can learn to master that, your 100 and 200 is going to be fine.

“He had no problem doing that. He knows we work hard.”

The result, said Little, has been drastic.

“I couldn’t run a 400 full-out,” he said. “That’s how people would catch me. But now, I feel like I can run a 400 and leave people (behind) pretty much.”

Now he’s running stronger, Little said, which has made him more consistent.

“My 100 is good, but I feel like my 200 is better because I can catch people,” said Little.

Sowell is hesitant to take too much credit for Little’s development, however.

“A lot of his stuff, we didn’t have to do much with,” said Sowell. “He was already a legit 10.7, 10.8 guy.

“What we wanted to do was not change a lot – just work on some mechanic things: block starts, understanding how to stay focused and that kind of stuff. But there wasn’t a lot we had to do different.”

As minor as some of the tweaks were, they’ve worked, said Little, who said he feels more explosive out of the blocks and is getting better starts in his races. The coaches have seen it, too, which is why witnessing Little clock a time of 10.42 this season wasn’t all that surprising.

“We knew it was there,” Sowell said. “We watched him early. It was just a matter of tweaking a little bit of this and tweaking a little bit of that. We knew he could do it.

“He’s one of those kids we always say, ‘You have another gear,’” added Sowell. “For about 50 yards, it looks close but at the end, he does what he needs to do to get it done.”

Now, Little hopes he has one last gear in his high school career.

“This is my last couple of meets, and I want a (championship) ring,” Little said. “I tell (Sowell) that every time we go to a meet.

“He tells me if I run hard and work hard, I’ll get it.”

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