As it turns out, daughter knew best all along.
Brooke Owens always clung to lofty aspirations of becoming an avid track and field athlete. Even when she was too young to compete at the amateur level, she sensed that she would eventually relish the opportunity of demonstrating why she had gained an interest for the sport long before ever partaking in her first competitive event.
Although her father, Antonio Owens, a former prep track and field standout for Bartlett High, told her time and again that, for a four-year-old, she was too young to run, Brooke kept tugging and jerking away at his T-shirt as a figurative memo, of sorts, that someday she will ultimately prove that she can have an even greater impact than her older brother, Joshua, who was already competing in amateur meets at the time.
“I told her, ‘I know you can, just sit there,’” said Antonio Owens, recalling a conversation he and his daughter had during a meet for her brother at the Briarcrest Sportsplex about eight years ago. “She kept telling me she can do it too.”
Approximately a year later, Brooke’s golden opportunity to compete surfaced when her parents signed her up with Shelby Youth Sports, a non-profit, community based youth sports athletic association comprised of several member areas throughout the Mid-South.
Besides track and field, SYS, one of the largest providers of community-based after-school programs in the Shelby-Metro area, also offers cheerleading and football.
For Brooke, it seems she is benefiting immensely from having exemplified a dauntless desire to engage in track and field. That’s because not only has she has flourished on the track in recent years, but she has evolved into one of SYS’s up-and-coming sprinters, particularly in her age group. Earlier this year, for instance, she set an assortment of records and garnered a number of awards after placing first in the 100, 200, and 400-meter dash.
“Everytime I get a better record, it’s in either the 400 and 200,” said Brooke, a seventh grader at Shadow Lawn Middle School. “(Competing) is special to me. I chose track and field because my brother is a good runner. But I told him I could do just as better. So I ran the same events as my brother. Conditioning…it’s tough. My dad pushes me just about everyday.”
Fortunately for the speedy 12-year-old sprinter, who hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down anytime soon, it didn’t take long for her to find her niche as a young athlete. That, according to her mother, Kendra Owens, makes her devout plea to embrace the sport seven years ago much more appeasing.
“The thing that’s unique about her records is that she runs in regular shoes,” Kendra said. “They don’t get to run in spikes like the girls AAU. And Brooke’s times are right up there in regular shoes.”
Oddly, when Brooke, who frequently competes in the long jump event, first came under the radar as a sprinter, her parents were more than 4,100 miles away from Memphis, vacationing in Hawaii. Antonio, in fact, remembers all too well how he fielded a slew of phone calls from his brother, who was astonished by his niece’s presence as a newcomer to the sport.
“Kendra and I got calls from my brother, who said, ‘Man, you just don’t know, this girl can run really, really fast,’” said Antonio, who trains regularly with his daughter as many as six days a week. “I was thinking, she told me she could do it.”
Although Brooke, whose favorite athlete is international sprinter Allyson Felix, a three-time Olympic gold medalist for Team USA in the recent London Games, is two years away from competing in the high school ranks, her parents are seriously considering allowing her to compete in the AAU ranks as early as next year.
Of course, if such talks of being upgraded to AAU aren’t routinely discussed in the Owens household over the next few months, chances are Brooke will likely revert back to tugging and jerking away at her father’s T-shirt much like she did while watching from the bleachers at Briarcrest seven years ago. After all, such a gesture proved beneficial for her at the time.
“We plan to let her get the feel of what it’s like to represent Memphis,” Kendra said. “Memphis is really a track and field town. She’s very focused on and off the track. She’s on the principal’s list and honor roll, and I just pray she’s get a (track and field) scholarship.”
Considering how she she has gone about making her presence felt for SYS in the recent years, Brooke’s father doesn’t shy away from the notion that she has made a believer out of him, in large part because her peers and coaches have been highly complementary of her fundamentals of late.
“The sky’s the limit for her,” he said, chuckling.
As it turns out, daughter knew best all along.
Andre Johnson is a regular contributor for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.