By Christopher Hunt
Tre Bracey isn’t afraid of the moment. Not even an audience of 50,000 at Penn Relays could faze him. The Hamilton senior stayed in his own head, in his own world. All to a James Brown soundtrack.
See, Bracey, Hamilton’s state champion long jumper, loves his iPod. He says he doesn’t like the new stuff. Bracey leans towards 2Pac. But he really goes old school on competition days.
“I always listen to James Brown’s ‘Superbad’ before I jump,” Bracey said. “I don’t know, something about it gets me hyped.”
Yes, ‘Superbad,’ like the Gatorade commercial. There’s a rule at the Penn Relays that doesn’t allow headphones on the infield, where Bracey was competition so his iPod couldn’t make the trip. But that didn’t stop Bracey’s jam session while he placed sixth in the long jump at 23 feet, 2.50 inches, for Hamilton, in Elmsford. It is the best jump in the state this season.
“I heard the song in my head the whole time,” Bracey said. “I was even dancing. People probably thought I was crazy.”
Music runs in Bracey’s family. His father was a musician. His mom played the piano. Bracey himself played the bass guitar. Now Bracey is the best long jumper in the state. The senior, who is considering Buffalo and Kansas State, is the defending state outdoor champ and finished second behind East’s Cory Cox indoors.
Hamilton coach Rich MacLeish said that Bracey is the hardest working athlete he’s ever seen. He said the coaching staff actually spends most of its energy trying to hold Bracey back. But the coach almost couldn’t believe Bracey’s stark improvement since when he joined the team as a sophomore.
“He was a mess,” MacLeish said.
MacLeish found Bracey in the hallway at school. Bracey was a breakdancer. Not just the flares and head-spins kind of breakdancer either. Bracey was doing back flips and jumping over rows of garbage cans.
Bracey’s athleticism didn’t immediately transfer to the track though. Bracey admitted that when he joined the team he was a shy kid. And his performance reflected his personality.
“We couldn’t figure him out his first season,” MacLeish said. “We tried him in everything. He even ran the 1,500. He just seemed so uncoordinated.”
The summer after that sophomore season, Bracey joined the Future Stars track club in White Plains. Coach Madge Anderson encouraged him to watch the 2009 World Track and Field Championships. It changed everything for Bracey.
“Before that the only person I knew in track was Usain Bolt,” Bracey said. “When I saw the athletes there I wanted to be like that. I wanted to get to that level.”
So Bracey went to work. He tucked an endless abdominal workout in between commercials while he watched television. Then began the plyometrics workouts that happened as a mater of habit. MacLeish said Bracey simply decided the wanted to be good.
He went quickly from a 19-foot jumper at the start of indoor season into a state champion with a personal-best of 23-3.75. MacLeish said he’s purposely kept Bracey off the radar this season. The Penn Relays was his first major competition since he finished fifth at indoor nationals.
The aggression he put into his workouts translated into more aggression on the jumps runway.
“I guess I just had a moment where a light blub goes off,” Bracey said. “I just realized I needed to start running faster down the runway. I realized the long jump is more about speed.”