Top Ten Moments Of 2020 - Number 3

Moment #3 - Brandon Smith Beats The Odds At States

Carrying the moniker of "favorite" heading into the race can have it's advantages. And there are plenty of things that can help earn you that title.  Being the State Record Holder in that event is surely one of them. But being counted out, can sometimes motivate even more so. And once you are on a roll, nothing is going to stop you.

Heading into the State Meet, Brandon Smith (South Shore) had a daunting task. His two best events had seen a resurgence in depth for 2020. In the 55HH, as outlined in our Top Moment #5, Emanuel Joseph (North Rockland) was coming off a top-notch season, where he took down the oldest hurdle record on the books. In the 55m, a new name had recently bounced onto the scene. Andre Leslie (Farmingdale), a Jamaican transplant rounding into form, had just set the State Record in the 60m dash the week before.  Both were Juniors, and getting better every weekend. Smith had the experience, but would need a jump to contest for the title.

Smith Season was strong in his own right. He opened up the year with a 6.43 winning performance in the 55m, a time that would have placed him NY #3 the year prior. Smith was the Top Returner in the State in the event, having run 6.34 the year before, so he spent much of the season trying to chase that standard. He dropped his season best to 6.40 in winning the Millrose Trials, then re-incorporated his Hurdle background to bring in a strong 7.51. He was leading the State for most of the Season in the 55m, before the new blood hit the scene. At the PSAL Champs, one of the most important meets of the year. It was time to get back to business.

It was all business on the inside of the oval. Smith dropped a 6.43 in the Prelims, then came back with a blistering 6.34 in the finals, to match his best from the year before. In the Hurdles, he was not as fortunate, clocking a superior time of 7.52 in the Prelims, but still winning far and away in the finals. It was off to States, to prove himself against the best.

The morning begins with the 55HH Prelims. Because of the need to get the infield ready for the High Jump, all the straightaway events find themselves packed into the beginning of the schedule. Running in Heat 4, Smith clocks a then-leading 7.51 to head into the finals. One flight later, though, and Joseph qualifies in 7.50, edging Smith for the priority lane in the finals. With only 5 Heats of Female Hurdlers in-between, Smith is back on the line for the 55m. There, he would grab that top seed. He clocked a 6.44 to lead the qualifiers, with Leslie close behind at 6.49. The pair would be side-by-side in the finals.

There is time to catch your breath. The Boys 3200m circles the track for the next half hour, and the Hurdles are kept at the Girls' Height, meaning Smith gets the benefit of an extra heat's worth of rest. The runners set their blocks, the Hurdle heights now adjusted. To his left is Joseph, the fastest Hurdler in State History. BAM, the gun goes off. Smith gets a great start, and leads the Record Holder over the first Hurdle. The pressure is on, and Smith is extending his lead. Over five hurdles, and Smith sees the finish. Quickly across, he pulls the biggest upset of his career to that point. Not only that, he dropped his PR to 7.37, bringing him into the Top 20 All-Time in the event. But there's no time to celebrate. Its a long jog from the finish to the clerk, as the 55m is up next.

As he waits for the Starter, Smith knows he can go faster. His hurdle time was nice, but the goal was to challenge that State Record. Time to channel that energy into the 55m. With the seeds flopped, Smith now finds the biggest challenger to his right. Leslie is better known for his strong closes, so the race could slip away in the final few steps. After settling in the blocks, Smith raises his hand. The field stands up, and resets' their blocks. Back down, to the set position. BAM, the gun goes off. Out in Lane 8, a blatant false start ends the race before it starts. That's twice the adrenaline must be re-funnelled back into the blocks. Here we go again.

BAM, the gun goes off, and Smith has an immediate advantage. His reaction time drew out a strong first three steps, and put him well ahead of the pack. As expected, Leslie drops to near last, but his acceleration is growing. However, Smith's lead was just too strong, and he had a full 2m on the field by halfway. Leslie would close hard to take second place in 6.39, but it wouldn't be enough to catch Smith. In fact, Brandon Smith had run so fast, he took down the prior State Record by 0.01, running 6.27. And he did it on his fourth race of the day, within an hour-and-a-half span.

The race had been a legitimization of all the training Smith had done. He had come in as the underdog in both events, and managed to not only defeat the reigning State Record Holders, but to establish one for himself in the process. Unfortunately, COVID had other plans for Smith's run at the Hurdle Record the following week, en-route at Nationals, and the 100m Record would have to wait for another challenger as well Outdoors. Still, Smith will go down as the Top Boys' Single Day Performance of the 2020 Year. The effort would go on to help him earn the coveted Gatorade Award, for the Season to boot.

Relevant Articles

Indoor State Meet Preview

State Meet Race Videos - 55m Final | 55HH Final

Ranking The Records Set At States