Brandon Patterson wasn’t doing himself any favors by mentally sizing up the competition before his varsity track and field debut in early March.
The sprinters settling into starting blocks were older, larger and more experienced than the Whiteland Community High School freshman — grounds for a slight measure of intimidation,
to be sure.
Then the gun sounded to begin Heat 4 of the 55-meter dash at the annual Hoosier Qualifier at Indiana Wesleyan University. It was here Patterson’s athletic instincts took over.
Finishing second in his heat and 17th overall in a field of 49 at the indoor meet, Patterson had proved something to himself. Not only was the 5-foot-11, 161-pounder fast, he was varsity fast.
“I had never really thought of myself as a big-time athlete,” said Patterson, whose family moved to Whiteland from western Pennsylvania when he was in second grade. “It was a varsity meet, let alone the first meet of the season.
“At the time I really didn’t think I could stack up to those guys.”
The ensuing weeks have proved otherwise.
Patterson impressed at last week’s Johnson County Meet at Greenwood by winning the long jump with a jump of 20 feet, 8½ inches and placing a close third in the 100-meter dash behind Center Grove seniors Conner Stapleton and Mario Swann.
His 100 time of 11.66 seconds proved slightly faster than the 11.69 produced when taking fifth at Saturday’s Bill Self Invitational hosted by Franklin Community High School.
A year ago at this time, Patterson’s exploits as a middle-school sprinter already had given him a reputation.
“Brandon didn’t run track in seventh grade but ran all of last year. You could tell right away he was pretty special,” Whiteland coach Brandon Bangle said. “I knew after last year he would come in and score some points, that he would at least compete to be our top sprinter. He is also a very good football player but loves track.
“Brandon loves to compete, and that makes it easier for him because he’s motivated every time he comes to practice.”
Regardless of whether it’s a dual meet or one involving numerous competitors from both inside and outside Johnson County, Patterson maintains a level of focus that belies his youth.
“I try not to talk before a meet just so I can get my mindset of being serious,” said Patterson, whose fast feet will surely have him running the football wide during upcoming Warriors football seasons. “I’m definitely a talkative kid during practices, but not when it’s time to get serious right before we do our sprint work. I’m just trying to get better right now.”
Don’t tell that to the sprinters at Southport, who on March 28 watched Patterson win the 100 with a handheld time of 11.16. Or to Stapleton and Swann, both of whom saw all they wanted to see of the freshman during those too-close-for-comfort final 20 meters at county.
This brings us to the chicken-or-egg question pertaining to the Warriors’ talented freshman: Is Patterson a sprinter who excels at the long jump, or is it the other way around?
It’s the former, he claims. Something about speed. And momentum. And momentum leading to lift, and so on.
In the meantime, Patterson seeks improvement as Whiteland is at the Zionsville Invitational on Friday. Then it’s the annual Mid-State Conference Meet at Decatur Central on April 30.
Competition will be tough in both instances. However, by then, Patterson no longer should feel like the ninth-grader he is.