Recorder file photo
Amsterdam's Izaiah Brown weaves through traffic during the 4x400-meter relay state title race in Cicero in early June.
By MICHAEL KELLY
A few years ago, I happened into the assignment of covering the Amsterdam High School track and field programs.
Talk about a stroke of luck. The program's coaches are great, all the kids are fantastic and no athlete in our area is better at what he or she does than Izaiah Brown.
The statistics from this past year speak for themselves: After winning three sectional titles in the indoor season, Brown put together an outdoor campaign in which he won two state titles, collected four sectional titles and put together a 48-4 record that included a 36-0 mark in solo events.
But those achievements only scratch the surface. To fully understand how special Brown has become, you have to go watch him. You have to see how everyone stops what they are doing when he hits the track, hear the excited chatter from spectators and competitors that Izaiah -- he's a first-name-only superstar -- is about to run.
And, Brown delivers, again and again.
Really, Brown's only slip-up in the past two years came early this year. As has been well-chronicled, his winter's indoor track and field season ended poorly -- as in, he did not win a state championship. It is an absurd standard, but Brown is an absurd talent.
So, it was with a lot of interest that I headed to AHS in early April to check out the Rams' first meet of the outdoor season. The meet's competition was not going to push Brown -- it never does in Section II -- but I wanted to see the way he'd respond after getting to think about his previous season's less-than-expected finish.
And, he just laid the smack down.
He set a school record in the 200-meter dash, put together a then-personal record performance in the high jump and was so dominant in the 400-meter dash that it was unsettling.
Brown was clear of the field that day after the opening turn. Two months later, he defended his state title in the 400-meter dash, and second place finished that day in 48.6 seconds -- or, 0.5 seconds slower than what Brown was clocked at back in early April.
That was the way Brown's entire season went, with one dominant performance after another. After that first meet of the spring, I wrote that his challenge for the rest of the season was going to be living up to his initial outing. It was a stupid thing to write; Brown seemed to do something more incredible each week.
One week, he set a new PR in the high jump, clearing 6 feet, 6 inches after a full day of sprinting; in another, he went out and nearly won the Eddy Meet's team title on his own as he took a third consecutive Male Athlete of the Meet award at one of the Northeast's top gatherings of talent; and, there was his first sub-46 split in the 4x400-meter relay, his turn of 45.7 seconds in Albany that sent the state's track and field community into a Twitter frenzy.
But Brown saved the best for season's end. While his solo performance at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor championships was his finest by-the-numbers outing -- 46.61 seconds in the 400-meter dash, 45.16 seconds for a split in the 4x400-meter relay -- his two-day performance at the state championships was his masterpiece. Running 400 meters four times, Brown needed only 3 minutes, 7.61 seconds to complete his 1,600 meters against the state's best runners.
Again, though, the numbers don't really do Brown justice. On the track at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, Brown had a presence to himself during the two-day event unlike any of the state's other elite athletes. He was overly composed and utterly dominant. When the baton reached him in the 4x400-meter relay championship race with only 15 or so meter between him and the leaders, I turned my initial attention to finding AHS teammates Andrew Druziak, Julian Gallup and David Graveley -- I knew Brown had it, and I wanted to make sure I had my marks in sight for the celebration photos.
Luckily, I quickly located the trio and was able to turn my focus to Brown as he hit the back straightaway and it was the kind of sight that makes sports incredible. There was Brown, motoring past state-level runners as if it was a dual meet in April. Even the announcer knew something special was happening, as he used the PA address system to butt into the in-process race to note that "Amsterdam's Izaiah Brown" was taking off with 200 meters to go.
Now, there's one more year for Brown at AHS. He is likely to win every race he enters in Section II, and he'll be chasing records rather than runners. He has a chance to up his career total of event sectional titles to 20 and has a realistic opportunity to finish his career with five state titles.
And, when he hits those numbers, they still won't do his dominance justice.
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