Distance runner conquers Wildcats; readies for UNC

On any given day you may find him at the mall, movies, or even mountain biking.

Yes, mountain biking.

“It’s good for training in cross-country events,” he said.

But, there’s more to him than random play. He is dedicated to his craft, hard working, and never misses practice. It makes him the athlete that he is.

“Not only do I think Brandon is a strong athlete, but I think he is a nice person as well,” said track and field head coach Rey Robinson.

Meet Brandon West, a 20-year-old junior physical therapy student from Royal Palm Beach.

West said Florida A&M University was the ideal place for him, because it was close to home and offered him financial support in the form of scholarships. West added that he enjoys the environment and has a lot in common with the people.

West placed first in the 5000M event of the 2006 Florida Intercollegiate Indoor Meet in Gainesville with a time of 16 minutes, 27.88 seconds, beating two opponents from Bethune-Cookman College. He felt pressured during the race, but “knew (he) had to overcome it” and won.

“I think he did a great job and I’m proud of him,” Robinson said.

West said he is proud of this feat, and of contributing his part to the famed FAMU-BCC rivalry by “slaying the cat.”

Eric Ward, a junior criminal justice student and teammate of West from West Palm Beach, described West as “caring (with a) strong personality (and) a leader who is knowledgeable about the sport.”

Ward said that West will always speak his mind and never hold anything back, especially when a teammate is slacking.

Growing up, West played several sports, including soccer, baseball, and basketball. At 8 years old he was introduced to track and field.

“Ever since I can remember, I used to follow my dad around as he prepared for marathons and I wanted to be just like him,” West said.

This admiration of his dad led West to be interested in distance running. But growing up one of his role models was gold medalist Michael Johnson, a sprinter and formerly the world’s fastest man.

At the age of 9, the first event he won was a 5k (3.1 miles) race at the Gator Gallop held in Palm Beach with a time of 24:32. He continued running throughout his scholastic career and by the age of 17 he could run 15 miles.

Fast forward to high school where West considered playing basketball.

In the ninth grade, he ultimately decided on track because “that’s where (his) heart was.”

It was at a high school state championship meet that West learned a valuable lesson after placing at a modest 65th place in the one-mile event.

West says he placed so low because he “choked.”

From this experience West said he learned “to worry only about himself and not who was in the next lane.”

On a typical day as a student athlete at FAMU, West wakes up at 7 a.m., washes up and heads for class.

If the weather is good, he will ride his bike to his 8 a.m. class.

From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. West is in classes. He rests before practice, which lasts for two hours and consists mainly of interval training. That means he runs a distance of up to five miles a day.

After practice, he stretches and ices his body.

When he gets home, he grabs something to eat and begins his schoolwork. He admits that balancing his schoolwork and athletics means sometimes sacrificing his social life.

“I had to cutback on my nightlife and hanging out with friends,” West said. “I’m a laid back person, so it came natural.”

Whenever he has free time, he opts to either watch his favorite television show “Animal Cops” on the Animal Planet channel or run with his pit-bull.

Fittingly, West has been said to have an animal instinct on the track.

And with the University of North Carolina’s Fast Time track meet this weekend in Chapel Hill, N.C., he hopes to feed his large appetite for winning.

Contact Frank Green at thefamuansports@hotmail.com