Sprinter Brandon Sanders began his career at Dreher with a long list of junior national track and field accomplishments and along with it, a lot of pressure to excel in high school competition.
And while Sanders is not the type to believe his own hype, he certainly lived up to it.
In May, Sanders finished his career by adding four gold medals to his S.C. High School League cache, bringing his career total to 12.
“I really feel like the same thing that was important in the beginning is what is still important now. I felt like as long I stayed focused on what was ahead, that I could continue to be successful,” said Sanders, The State’s Midlands Boys Athlete of the Year.
What Sanders achieved this year was more than simple success.
With finishes of 10.77 and 21.40 seconds, respectively, Sanders completed a four-year sweep of the 100- and 200-meter sprints, a feat that has not been documented in South Carolina history before.
“When it came to getting all the awards, I enjoyed all of that, but what I enjoyed most was finally getting that team championship,” Sanders said. “It was great. My four years at Dreher, that was the one thing I wanted to do most.”
With the focus on team victory, the enormity of Sanders’ accomplishments did not hit coach Daniel Brooks immediately.
“Then, when I really thought back on his career and what he’s accomplished, it was amazing to me,” he said
“In four years, he has eight individual titles, three relay titles and a team title. I have been coaching for 30 years and I don’t have 12 state titles,” said Brooks, a member of the S.C. Track and Cross Country Coaches’ Association’s Hall of Fame.
It was a few days later that Brooks began his nationwide inquest — had any high school sprinter in the nation ever won both the 100 and 200 for four consecutive seasons? After consulting experts and the record books of state associations in 30 states, it does not appear so.
Quietly, Brandon Sanders had staked his claim on national history.
“That’s one of the things that makes him so special, that he’s so humble. You wouldn’t know he’s as accomplished as he is,” Brooks said. “He has a swagger about him, but there is no arrogance.”
Sanders said his pursuit of glory on the track kept him from many of the pratfalls that entangle many other young men.
“If I wasn’t doing track, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the same kid. That’s why I work so hard at it, because I know it’s really a blessing that I have this ability — that I’m not that other kid because of it,” he said.
Instead, he’s the kid with school records in every sprint event. He’s the kid with 12 state championships and national renown.
“I thought that was just tremendous. It is a perfect career,” Brooks said.
Now, though, Sanders is not focusing on a past perfect.
“It’s not about what you got or the things you’ve already done. In any competition, it’s about what you’re going to do next,” Sanders said.
So, despite all the medals on his shelves, Sanders considers himself starting from scratch as he moves on to NCAA track with the South Carolina Gamecocks.
“All the other stuff that I achieved in high school built me up to this point, but it’s not what’s going to get me to the top at this next level. I have to work just as hard, if not harder, now.”