Prep track and field | Manatee's Brandon Carnes racing for podium at state

Junior a state title contender two years after taking up sprinting

jlembo@bradenton.comMay 5, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Sometimes, Brandon Carnes surprises himself.

Manatee's junior sprinter has become one of the area's brightest track stars and hopes to complete his breakthrough season by walking away from today's Class 4A state meet in Jacksonville with a medal or two.

Growing up, however, Carnes figured his glory days were destined to be played out on the football field.

"I only thought it was football," he said Wednesday. "I only played one sport."

Now he's a runner.

And a good one, too.

Carnes took first in the 100- and 200-meter dashes during last week's Region 2 meet in Tampa and ran anchor on the Hurricanes' first-place 400 relay team.

He enters today's meet at the University of North Florida seeded third in the 100 and fourth in the 200.

It's a good place to be considering the top eight finishers in each event earn a medal.

Not bad for someone who didn't start running track until his freshman year.

"I always played football, but I always liked to compete in running," said Carnes, who played wide receiver. "Track was there freshman year, and I just came out here."

He decided to focus solely on track last year and didn't go out for the football team. The move panned out: Carnes was a state qualifier last year in the 200 and finished 12th.

"He is a student of running," Manatee coach Mike Smith said. "He understands and he tries to emulate or he tries to do what I'm asking him to do more than any runner that I've had. ... If you were to take a picture of him as far as form and high school athletes, I'll put him up there against anybody as far as biomechanics."

Carnes remembers that day when he approached Smith on the track and told him he wanted to join the team.

Then he won his first race as a freshman. "That's when I knew," Carnes said.

And that's when he knew track was going to unseat football as his favorite sport.

It was an interesting wrinkle in Carnes' life, especially because his brother, Brion, was a four-year starter at quarterback for Manatee and is at the University of Nebraska on a football scholarship.

But Brandon said Brion, who plans on attending today's meet, has been very supportive.

"He didn't doubt me or nothing like that," Brandon said. "He knows what's better for me and what my chances are."

Carnes said he isn't sure about suiting up for the football team once track seasons ends, but he does plan on running track in college and hopes to parlay his skills into a scholarship.

First, however, he is focused on today and the culmination of a special season.

"I want to go out there and compete and make that podium this year, and show what I'm made of," Carnes said. "If I go out there and do what I need to do, it can be real big."

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