Milwaukeean becomes crown jewel of track & field

Young, Gifted & Black Series

By Taki S. Raton

Dezerea Bryant

The crowd at the WIAA Track Meet “understood that it was witnessing something very special,” notes Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sports writer Mark Stewart.

He would add in the June 26, 2011 article that as the then Milwaukee Bradley Tech senior ran down the home stretch of the 200-meter final, they applauded her: “It was her last high school race, and you get the impression the cheers weren’t just for what would be another state record performance, but for a prep career that leaves her as one of Wisconsin’s all-time greats.”

She is young, she is gifted, and she is Black. On this June 4, 2011 Saturday in La Cross, Wisconsin, Dezerea Bryant marked her senior season by winning the 100 in 11.38 seconds. Bryant then teamed up with seniors Tahje Whittley, Angelina Howard, and junior Elexis Fuller-Stewart to win the 400 relay with a record of 46.02, a time, according to Stewart, that ranks sixth in the nation.

Bryant would cap the day off and closed out her senior season and her exemplar high school competitive journey by winning the 200 in 23.01. Her 100 and 200 times ranked her second in the nation.

Published reports features that this track star ends her senior year at Bradley Tech with three state team titles, eight individual championships, four state records and a track scholarship to Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina.

Bryant was again for the second straight year in Stewart’s words “a runaway choice” for the Journal Sentinel’s Girl Track Athlete of the Year:

“I was very excited about this honor,” says Bryant in an interview for this writing. “It just pleases me to know that people are recognizing and appreciating the hard work that got me to where I am now,” she adds.

Saturday was actually a stellar topping of a spectacular 2-day event. Says Todd Summerfield in his June 4, 2011 Inside Prep.com writing “Ultra-fast Dezerea Bryant is a sight to behold.” this Bradley Tech senior on Friday, June 3 “dominated sprint after sprint in front of an announced crowd of 9,110 people that really couldn’t believe what they were seeing.”

In continuing remarks, he notes that “The grasp multiplied and the buzz grew each time she approached the finish line and widened the gap between herself and the rest of the runners in her heat.”

Her heat-winning time on this Friday, records Summerfield, was 11.78 seconds in the 100-meter dash; 23.34 seconds in the 200 and her team’s record breaking 400 relay time was 46.64 seconds.

“And none of the finishes were close,” says the writer. Bradley had already owned the 100-meter meet record of 11.50 that she ran a year ago and both the 200 and 400 relay time were recorded as “record-breaking” stats.

That year ago was in 2010 when she won the 2010 WISTCA Athlete of the Year. WISTCA is the Wisconsin Track Coaches Association. The then Bradley Tech junior won three Gold Medals at the 2010 WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association) State Track and Field Meet. She set All-American records in winning the 100m and 200m dash events.

Bryant recorded an 11.50 to break the 16.76 record she and teammate Tasha Allen had set in the 2009 State Meet. In the prelims of the 200m dash, she had broken the previous 2009 State Meet record of 23.85 by posting at 23.58. In the finals, she was clocked at 23.37 to set a District 1 and an All-Division record for the 200m dash.

In the 4X1 relay, Bryant was the anchor bringing the Bradley Tech Trojans from behind to a first place finish.

Running for the Milwaukee Mustangs Track and Field Club during the summer of 2010, Bryant posted an 11. 29 at the USA TF Region 8 Meet. She was a member of the USA Team at the IAAF World Junior Championships held in Moncton, Canada, July 27 to August 1. Bryant ran the third leg in the 4X1 relay team. IAAF is the International Association of Athletics Federation.

Team members Stormy Kendrick from Clemson, Talela Pinckney of Louisiana State University, Bryant, and Texas A&M University’s Ashley Collins recorded 43.44 in the finals posting the third fastest time by a USA junior 4X1 relay team. The foursome finished as a World Champion at the 2010 IAAF Junior Championships.

Now a freshman at Clemson, she was a definitive contributor this past January with her contribution towards Clemson’s women’s track & field team moving up to spot No. 4 in the weekly national ratings. The Atlantic Coast Conference named Bryant the women’s Performer of the Week. The women’s team features seven student-athletes who are currently ranked in the national top 10 of a respective event.

According to Clemson’s OrangeAndWhite.com, Bryant is No. 2 nationally in both the 60 and 200. She had recently the prior weekend won the 200 at the Auburn Invitational and established the program’s second-best time ever in the 60 with a 7.25 in a bronze medal finish.

The 18 year-old would continue her competitive climb in last month’s ACC Indoor Championship held Saturday, February 25 in Boston. Accounts cite that the Clemson women’s track & field program “dominated” the event with this their third consecutive indoor win at the ACC Championships. Clemson became the first campus to claim three straight ACC indoor championships in women’s track & field since 1999.

As noted by writer Will Vandervort in the e-newsletter My Orange Update, “It was a performance never quite seen at the ACC Indoor Championships before. The freshman blew past her competition as she won the 200-meter dash in record fashion while also taking home gold-medal honors in the 60-meters.”

Matching her season-best in the short sprint, Bryant won the 60 dash with a time of 7.25. She established an ACC meet record in the 200 with a time of 23.26. Her performance in the Boston ACC meet earned her Most Valuable Performance honors.

“Our ladies went out and performed in fine fashion,” says Lawrence Johnson, Clemson’s Director of Track & Field. He notes of Bryant in the Vandervort report that “She was really focused on the total execution of the 200. She executed it masterfully.

It has been a long time since I have seen a student-athlete execute one even as well as she executed that 200- meter dash.

Vandervort’s writing was titled “Running with a heavy heart”. As Bryant and her teammates were preparing to win their consecutive ACC Indoor Championship, Bryant learned that her brother died in an automobile accident.

Though she had the option not to compete, notes the article, “Bryant instead ran with a heavy heart, dedicating her performance to her brother.”

“My thoughts after being named MVP at the ACC Indoor Championship was just thanking God for always allowing me to accomplish big things,” says Bryant.

“The first thing that I thought was, ‘yes, he did it for me again.’ Even though I was going through hard times the whole week for my brother’s death, God allowed me to do it again.”

Her major at Clemson University is Therapeutic Recreation. Her goals upon completing Clemson?

“I want to become a professional runner in the Olympics and maybe one day open an indoor track facility in Milwaukee. If that doesn’t go as planned, I would like to work and help people.”

Her advice to young up-and-coming African American girls wanting to go into track or into any competitive athletic arena:

“Just work your heart out because you never know where it will take you and you never know how good you really are until you put your all into it. Dedicate yourself to whatever sport you go into and you’ll love the end results. And do not be afraid to fail. Sometimes it happens to everyone.”