A rival coach approached Lee’s Summit assistant track coach Johnny Brackins at a meet earlier this season curious about a tall, lanky Tiger who was having a big day. He wanted to know where this kid would be going to school next year.
“I said, ‘Lee’s Summit High School for the next three years,’” Brackins said. “He couldn’t believe he was a freshman. He’s with me for three more years.”
Actually, this kid has been with, and will be with, Brackins for the rest of his life. That coach had been watching Johnny Brackins Jr., who as a freshman has already developed into one of the top hurdlers and jumpers in the state.
And he has done so under the watchful eye of Brackins Sr., who this year gets to be the Tigers’ long- and triple-jumps coach and proud father all at the same time.
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“After coaching other kids all these years, I’ve been waiting for this year to come,” said Brackins Sr., who has coached track at Lee’s Summit since 1998. “It’s been like a dream come true coaching my son. And to have him blossom the way he’s doing is just icing on the cake.”
Brackins has already seen his son tie the school record in the triple jump with a 46-foot 11 ¾-inch leap. That jump ranks among the top five in Missouri and is the best by a freshman this season. He’s gone 22-5 ½ in the long jump for one of the top 10 marks in the state. He clocked a personal-best 14.83 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles in Kansas Relays preliminaries and placed sixth in a field of state champions and nationally ranked hurdlers.
And at last week’s Suburban Gold Conference freshman meet, Brackins set meet records in winning the 110 hurdles, 200 and triple jump. He also won the long jump.
“In certain events, like triple jump and hurdles, I’ve reached some of my goals but I’m still working toward some more,” Brackins Jr. said. “I’m getting there. I’m surprising myself.”
Brackins’ early success hasn’t been a huge surprise for his father, who went to Kansas on a track scholarship. His son started going to AAU meets when he was eight years old and he did it without much prodding from the old man.
“It was something he kind of gravitated to,” Brackins Sr. said. “I didn’t have a hard time getting him to do it. It was pretty easy to get him to go out there and compete.”
Brackins Sr. had plenty of fatherly advice for his son early on, but it wasn’t until Brackins Jr. was in middle school that they started working more closely together, especially on his jumps. That father-son bond, the younger Brackins said, has helped in his success.
“It’s not like I don’t trust what he says; I trust everything he tells me,” Brackins Jr. said. “As a coach it’s easier for him because he can be brutally honest with me. I like it, I do.”
After dominating the freshman meet the day before, Brackins Jr. had a “light” day at the Darwin Rold Invitational April 27 at Lee’s Summit’s Bud Hertzog Stadium. He didn’t compete in the jumps, but he still placed second in the 110 hurdles and second in his first 300 hurdles race this season. He also ran a 200 leg on the Tigers’ first-place sprint medley relay team.
“He just competes,” Brackins Sr. said. “He competes in the classroom as well. He likes to be in the top of everything he does. Competing doesn’t come hard for him at all.”
Brackins Jr. has goals of competing in the Class 5 state meet later this month, most likely in the triple jump and 110 hurdles. Bringing home a gold medal from either one would be a challenge for any freshman.
And if Brackins Jr. doesn’t become a state champion, he and his dad have three more years to work on it.
“It’s a blessing,” Brackins Sr. said. “It’s definitely heartwarming to coach my son and be around him every day.”
Lightfoot soars again
Lee’s Summit senior KC Lightfoot put on another show in winning the boys pole vault at the Darwin Rold Invitational. After clearing 18-1 on his first attempt, Lightfoot barely missed on three tries at 18-5, which would have set a new Missouri state record.
Lightfoot, who will compete for Baylor next year, has a personal-best of 18-3 that ranks second in the nation this season.
Titan girls dominate
Lee’s Summit West scored 211 points to win the girls team title. Lee’s Summit was second with 118 points and Lee’s Summit North third with 87.5
West’s Makayla Kelby won both the discus and the shot put. Jessica Haney was also a double winner, taking both the high jump and triple jump.
Bronco boys first
North took the 10-team boys meet, beating runner-up West 149-105. Christian Carter won the long jump and high jump and Dubem Okonkwo led a one-two-three finish by the Broncos in the shot put. North also took first in the 400 relay.