Westminster Academy long sprint standouts Andrew “White Lightning” James and Brandon “Thunder” Bejarano are poised to take the Class 1A state track finals by storm Friday.
James, a sophomore, and Bejarano share an electrifying kick, which earned catchy nicknames and vaulted them into state gold medal contention.
“Andrew and I joke all the time about jumping into each other’s races and breaking each other’s records,” Bejarano said. “Whenever I drop down to the 400, I fall down the last two meters. So maybe I should be known as Mr. 398 instead.”
All kidding aside, James and Bejarano could be in for a medal haul at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
James is the No. 1 seed in the 200 (21.82) and 400 (48.22), and is the pivotal leg on a 1,600-meter relay team in the gold-medal mix.
Bejarano broke the school’s 800-meter record, which had stood for 28 years, and he also has a shot to medal in the 1,600.
The state finals is a dream deferred for James, who has bounced back from a torn MCL and botched appendectomy surgery that wiped out his freshman season to take his place among the sprint elite.
James is undefeated this season and on pace for a stated goal of owning 10 school records before he graduates. James already has set the school mark in the 200 and 400 and tied the 100 time (11.05).
“This is humbling to come off an injury and the other stuff I had to go through and be undefeated,” James said. “In my first race, I knew I was in it to win it. It’s just a blessing to make it to states. It would mean everything if I could win the 200 and the 400.”
James and Bejarano share a devastating kick that gives them an edge if either are tied or ahead with 200 meters left.
James, in particular, runs with an aggressive style that has made him a crowd favorite and lifted him to personal bests (21.82 and a Florida No. 10 48.22 in the 400) at the District 15-1A championships.
“I attack every race,” James said. “Once I hit that second gear, it’s another level. You just have to approach it aggressively. Other runners are not used to that toughness and that physical act that you have.”
Bejarano’s best bet for a state title comes in the 800, although it will require him getting through a grueling 1,600 meters first.
“The 800 is not a mid-distance any more,” Bejarano said. “It’s pretty much a long sprint. The key for me will be to get out strong. It’s going to be a mental thing. I have to believe in myself and push.”
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