East Kentwood sprinter goes for four-peat in sprints on Saturday
Kentwood — It’s a true rags to riches story for East Kentwood senior sprinter Sekayi Bracey.
When Bracey started to run competitively in elementary school and she and her mother, Yamaka Bracey, knew little of what it took to be a successful sprinter.
They just knew she was fast.
"When I first started when I was eight, I use to run on the streets," Sekayi Bracey said. "I use to run, and my mom would follow in the car."
Yamaka Bracey remembers her daughter’s roots.
"Yes, she started when she was eight, and we knew she was fast because at school she use to beat the boys and the girls," Yamaka Bracey said. "I was told I should take her to a meet, and I remember I took her to an AAU state qualifying meet, and she qualified.
"I didn’t know anything at the time. I bought her a dance leotard and water shoes to run in that meet, and then at state, we get there and kids are in blocks and there she is in her leotard and water shoes and the kids were saying stuff about what she was wearing. I remember her coming up to me and her eyes welled up and I just told her to run as fast as she could."
That day, in a dance leotard and regular shoes, Sekayi Bracey won the 100-meter dash. And she would have won the 200, but was disqualified for running out of her lane.
After that day Anthony Rice, the coach of the Southfield Mustangs, one of the top youth running teams in the state, gave Sekayi Bracey a pair of spikes he had in his garage.
"She is competing against his kids, and he does that for us," Yamaka Bracey said. "He said she had talent and needed the right equipment. She wore those spikes until she wore them out."
Ever since that initial experience Bracey has been wearing out her competition all the way through high school.
Heading into Saturday’s Division 1 Track and Field Championships at Hudsonville, Sekayi Bracey is the three-time defending champion in the 100 and 200, and she is the two-time defending champion in the long jump.
She is an incredible athlete, with personal-best times in the 100 (11.7 seconds), the 200 (23.6) and a personal-best jump of 19 feet, 8 inches in the long jump.
Those are all school records at East Kentwood, a powerhouse in track and field for both the boys and girls.
She’s also on the Falcons’ record board for the 400 relay, and this year, running out of her comfort zone, she set the school record in the 400 at 56.4.
"I never really worry about times," Sekayi Bracey said. "I just go out and run hard, and know that my training and work will pay off. I just go out and focus on running my race."
The problem Sekayi has is that running her race usually starts with her way out front, with nobody pushing her.
She knows she will be pushed Saturday, and hopes to do something special.
"I’d like to set the state records in the 100 and 200," Sekayi Bracey said.
Shayla Mahan of Detroit Mumford set the state record in the 100 (11.5) and the 200 (23.74) in the same season, 2006.
The state record in the long jump is 19-8, Bracey’s best. That was set by Trinette Johnson of Detroit Cass Tech in 1989.
So Sekayi Bracey is on the cusp of something special in her final high school meet.
"I’m not too nervous about this weekend," Bracey said. "I do get nervous whenever I run, but I know to stay calm and just focus on what I have been training to do.”
Next year Bracey will be taking her talents to Purdue University.
"I’m blessed. I can’t believe it all," Sekayi Bracey said.