State track preview | Manatee's Brandon Carnes looking to go out on top

Manatee's Carnes favored to win title in career finale

jlembo@bradenton.comMay 3, 2013 

BRADENTON -- In the final track meet of his prep career, Brandon Carnes will be running with a broken left hand.

He injured it about three weeks ago when he tripped over a hurdle while practicing in advance of the Class 4A-District 7 meet. Carnes wrapped the hand and calmly went about winning two events while setting a stadium record in the 200-meter dash.

The following week, he won three more times at the Region 2 meet in Tampa. The next day, he found out the sore hand was indeed broken.

"It only hurts when I'm in the block and they say, 'Set,'" Carnes said. "Hopefully, the dude won't hold the (starting) gun too long. But I haven't jumped the gun since freshman year."

His last chance to be a state champion ahead, Carnes isn't ready to let a little pain get in his way during Saturday's Class 4A state meet at Hodges Stadium on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

He has qualified for three events -- the 100 and 200 dashes and 400 relay -- and is seeded first in 100 with a seed time of 10.49 seconds.

The next fastest? Treasure Coast's Justin Williams at 10.68.

Winning a state championship is the one thing Carnes hasn't done in a career that has included three state berths and last year's sterling performance, when he left Jacksonville with three medals.

Medals are awarded to the top eight finishers in each event.

"I'd be very excited for him," Manatee coach Mike Smith said. "To start where he was, to come in as a freshman and decide, 'I want to run track, this is where I want to focus on, this is what I want to do,' and get rewarded for that, that would be great for him.

"Very coachable. ... Hopefully, the youngsters were paying attention, and they realize that if you listen, you can have similar success."

Smith has watched Carnes transform from just a great athlete with blinding speed to someone who has learned how to sprint with the best runners in the state.

Carnes agrees.

"I always run fast when I'm relaxed. When I'm fighting it, I don't run fast," he said. "That's the key."

As for running with the injury, Smith said the only real challenge it presents is in the 400 relay, which also includes Ja Juan Pollock, Daren Ardis and Dentrelle Mueller.

"He's supposed to get the baton in his left hand. We had to change that for the relay," Smith said. "Ja Juan is the one making the adjustment."

It was after freshman year when Carnes decided to stop playing football and focus solely on track. It's a move that has paid dividends so far, and he hopes a big performance Saturday will net him an offer to run in college.

"When I'm in Jacksonville," Carnes said, "I'll leave it all out on the track."

Smith hopes his sprinter will leave the track with plenty, too.

"Through the years, he's learned how to execute. I've taught and worked with him more than any other athlete I've had because he's so advanced," said Smith, currently in his 12th season at Manatee. "He's advanced because he's been listening. I hope by 9 o'clock Saturday, he has a couple of state championships."

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