by Chris Hunt
Sometimes, getting cut from your high school sports team can lead to better things. That was certainly the case for Hopewell High School distance runner Brandon Dunford, who failed to make the Titans’ 2008-09 basketball team as a sophomore.
These days, Dunford is much happier running on a track instead of hardwood floors. Two years after his setback, the former wannabe basketball player has become an elite track athlete who owns several school records. It seems that, all along, Dunford was better suited for track because he’s also the Herald Weekly 2010-11 Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
“Brandon has natural speed, endurance and long legs,” said Hopewell coach Michelle La Pointe. “Some people look like football players or some look like basketball players, but Brandon looks like a long-distance runner.”
Dunford more than looks the part; he’s got the lightning-quick times to prove he belongs in the sport. After getting cut from basketball, he was encouraged by his future track teammates to join the squad. In his first practice with the Titans, Dunford ran the 800-meter dash in 2 minutes, 14 seconds, a draw-dropping effort for a high school athlete’s first attempt. In his first outdoor track meet, he finished second in the 800.
“For a first-time runner, that’s a fantastic time,” said La Pointe.
Since then, Dunford’s times have dropped like a shot put crashing to earth. Later during his sophomore season, Dunford helped the 2009 Titans outdoor team to its best 4x800 relay time in school history, a blistering 8:01.67 effort at the 4A state championship meet.
Then, as a junior, Dunford broke the 800-meter school record with a time of 1:57.10 at the state meet, where he finished sixth. Earlier that season, he joined teammates Corey Silvestri, Christian Watkins and Darius Neely to rewrite the Titans’ 4x400 mark (3:22.88) at the 2010 I-MECK 4A conference meet.
Now, as a senior, Dunford is hooked on track. For the first time, he spent last fall on Hopewell’s cross country squad and then joined the indoor track team to build a base for his final season of spring track. Those efforts are now paying off.
Although track event distances change during the winter, Dunford easily adjusted to indoor competition. In just his third attempt in the 1,000-meter race at the indoor state championships, Dunford set another school record with a sizzling performance of 2:35.85. Dunford finished third in that race and later teamed with Silvestri, Neely and freshman Nate Nash for a seventh-place effort in the 4x800, clocking in at 8:36.73.
With speed like that, who needs basketball?
“I feel like getting cut from basketball was a blessing in disguise,” said Dunford. “I think God has a plan for everyone, and mine was to run track.”