|Estero's Hugh Brittenham leading Fort Myers Kyle Skinner|
Brittenham has been on fire since the start of the season yet there's been nary a mention in the local newspapers or from the television folks. Of course, the local sports journalists don't see much to get excited about when it comes to the sport. But when a kid in your own backyard is clawing his way to the top of the national rankings you would think there would be some excitement.
I was surprised Wednesday night when Hugh and his mother Angela stopped by our Wednesday night track workout to check out some shoes and go for a jog. As we went at a pace that had to be achingly slow for him, Hugh shared with me how his outdoor season was going and I could tell he was really excited by a feeling that he was on the cusp of some big things. I took note. I knew he was going to run a fast 800 but I wasn't sure what he could do in the 1600.
Friday went probably as well as he could expect. Brittenham broke his own school record winning in 1:51.92. Looking at his splits it appears that with a faster opening 400 he could dip under 1:50 this spring. He made it clear to me Wednesday that is his primary goal.
I wasn't holding out much hope that he would win the 1600 Saturday afternoon. He was facing a couple of seniors who had both dipped under 9 minute on Friday in the 3200, outstanding times to be sure. But Brittenham unleashed a sub 60 final 400 to win in 4:12.02, breaking Eric Montoya's four year old school record by a couple of seconds and marking himself as the best middle distance runner in Southwest Florida history. Remember, he's only a junior.
I have no idea how fast he can run. Brittenham doesn't run more than 50 miles a week. And let's be honest, Southwest Florida isn't the best environment to produce middle distance or distance runners. The brutal summer weather makes big miles insufferable. Then there are the lack of hills. It's pancake flat. Hills help make great runners. I think that causes some runners to runners to put in too much quality to make up for the lack of hills. I'm not saying that's the case with Brittenham.
But based on his progress since his freshman year, I expect big things. If he can stay healthy, I see no reason why Brittenham can't run under 1:48 and 4:05 his senior year. If he can accomplish that, it would make Hugh not just the greatest middle distance/distance runner in Southwest Florida history, but it would him one of the greatest to ever come out of the state of Florida. Heaven forbid he should decide to take a serious crack at the 3200!