By Nick Giannandrea
College of the Sequoias sophomore Jamal Britt has a chance to join some select company this weekend during the California Community College Athletic Association Track and Field Championships.
Britt enters the meet - set for Friday and Saturday at San Mateo College - as the favorite to capture gold medals in three individual events: the 110-meter hurdles, the 400 hurdles and the long jump.
Only a handful of competitors in the 69-year history of the men's state meet have won three individual titles, the last being Hartnell's Diego Leon (1,500, 5,000 and 10,000) in 2015, according to JC Athletic Bureau Director Fred Baer.
"I'd be happy and blessed," said Britt of a possible gold trifecta. "I know I've worked hard for it."
Britt's hard work has paid off in state-leading marks in his three individual events.
In the 100 hurdles, Britt's top time of 14.01 seconds set May 11 at the Northern California Championships is 0.21 seconds faster than the 14.23 ran by Cerritos' Victor Williams.
Britt's 51.42 in the 400 hurdles, also set while winning a NorCal title last week, is 0.92 seconds faster than the 52.34 run by El Camino's Qwintin Williams.
And his 7.63-meter leap to win the NorCal long jump title is 0.25 meters further than the 7.38 turned in by American River's James Dudley.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder also is a member of COS' state No. 4-seeded 400 relay (40.84) and No. 5-seeded 1,600 relay (3:14.58) teams.
"The things he's doing are not normal. Athletes like Jamal are rare," COS track and field coach Kenny Jackson said. "God has blessed him with the things you just can't coach. And, he has the work ethic to maximize his potential. Some athletes who are blessed with intangibles are outworked by athletes with lesser talent. But Jamal Britt has the talent with the work ethic, which is why he's had the success he's had this year."
Britt's accomplishments are even more impressive considering he didn't become a hurdler - and a reluctant one at that - until his sophomore year at Legacy High in Las Vegas. Most elite hurdlers get their start in the seventh grade.
Britt had been a sprinter and jumper until receiving a request from his coach one day at practice to give the hurdles a try.
"I didn't want to do hurdles. Then coach told me to go over (the hurdles) just this once," Britt said. "In my mind, I knew as soon as I went over them they would tell me I was a hurdler. And sure enough, I became a hurdler."
Rapidly, Britt become one of Nevada's best prep hurdlers.
He placed 10th in the 300 hurdles at the state meet as a sophomore. He was second in the 300 hurdles as a junior while also winning the state title in the long jump.
Then as a senior, he won all three events, highlighted by a state-record run of 36.51 seconds in the 300 hurdles.
"Once I got good at it, I set goals to drop my times more and more," Britt said. "I like to do it all now. It's more of a challenge."
Britt was drawn to COS because he wanted to compete against and train with Quincy Hall, who won seven gold and one silver medal during his two seasons with the Giants before transferring to the University of South Carolina of the prestigious Southeastern Conference.
"Quincy is a world-class athlete, and I was excited I could train with someone like that," Britt said. "I picked up a lot of things from Quincy. Training with him forced me to get better. Watching him and running with him in practice showed me what I had to do."
As a freshman, Britt was third in the 400 hurdles (52.25) and fourth in both the 110 hurdles (14.46) and long jump (7.29) at the state meet.
His goal is gold in all three events this weekend. But he's not about to put too much pressure on himself in pursuit of that goal.
"This is a meet where I can just focus and have fun with it," Britt said. "There's a lot of kids who are real serious, but I just want to have fun and whatever happens, happens."
Once finals at COS wrap up next week, Britt will turn his attention to the recruiting process.
Jackson said Division I universities from UCLA on the west coast to Florida State on the east coast have expressed interest.
Britt has already scheduled recruiting visits with UCLA and Minnesota, and is close to locking down a trip to Nebraska. He said Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Utah State and Akron all remain in the mix.
"I'm enjoying the process," Britt said. "It's exciting."
COS, which finished second as a team behind American River in NorCal with 107 points, is sending 10 other men competing in 14 events to the state championships.
That group is led by Nathan Friginette, who qualified in the 200 (seeded eighth in 21.72), 400 (No. 4 in 47.20) and as a member of the 1600 relay (No. 5 in 3:14.58) with Britt, Jeriel Thomas and Semaj Taylor. Friginette placed third in NorCal in both events last weekend and was eighth in the 400 at last season's state meet.
Berry Randle is qualified in the discus (No. 5 in 45.80) and hammer (No. 12 in 45.85), while Cameron Haynes made it in the shot put (No. 12 in 14.22). Randle placed third in the discus and sixth in the hammer in NorCal, and Haynes was fifth in the shot put. It's the first time in three seasons that COS has sent two throwers to the state meet.
"It's good to get back on track with the throws program and move it forward," Jackson said. "Berry and Cameron are both freshmen, so I'm very excited about the future of the throwers."
Ian Kelly joins Britt in the long jump field (No. 11 at 6.71) while Jackson Miller qualified in the triple jump (No. 11 in 13.36). Kelly also is a member of the Giants' 400 relay (No. 4 in 41.08) along with Britt, Raymond Marquez and Semaj Taylor. Kelly and Miller each placed sixth in their respective events at NorCals.
And the Giants' distance runners will be represented by Ismael Ramirez in the 1,500 (No. 10 in 4:05.17) and Oscar Perez in the 10,000 (No. 8 in 32:40.75). At the NorCal finals, Ramirez was second in the 1,500, while Perez placed second in the 10,000 and third in the 5,000.
"To be running miles and miles and miles and get to that moment where it finally all counts and you perform at the level you are supposed to, that's good," Jackson said. "I'm proud of Ismael and Oscar for representing our distance program and making it to state. They are a huge part of the men's success."
Briseno will compete in the 5,000 (No. 6 in 18:30.30), while Taylor made it in the long jump (No. 8 in 5.37). Each placed second in their respective events at NorCals.
The state meet is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. Friday from College Heights Stadium with the men's decathlon. Field events start at 10 a.m. and running at 11 a.m.
On Saturday, the men's decathlon kicks off the action at 9 a.m., followed by field events at 11 a.m. and running events at 12:20 p.m.