Refugio grad wins national indoor track title (w/video)
March 15, 2017 at 11:36 p.m.
Updated March 16, 2017 at 12:02 a.m.
Marquis Brown glanced up at the scoreboard immediately after crossing the finish line.
Brown was uncertain if his final lunge was enough to win the 400-meter dash at the NCAA Division III Men's Indoor National Championships.
"Honestly, when I ducked at the finish line I wasn't sure if I won," Brown said. "That's why I was staring at the board above to see the result."
Brown's late push propelled him to victory by a miniscule two-hundredths of a second, and allowed him to become Texas Lutheran University's first indoor national champion in a decade.
Brown's trip to the medal stand at North Central College's Al B. Carius Track in Naperville, Ill., added another chapter to a storybook journey since he graduated from high school in Refugio and arrived in Seguin three years ago.
Brown decided to attend TLU primarily because his uncle, close friend, and former Refugio teammate J.B. Brown elected to play football for the Bulldogs.
"My uncle was going to play football there and our family wanted us to stay together," Brown said. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to run track. I was really fast so I wanted to at least try it out and not waste my talent. I liked the coaches. I went to visit, and I liked the classroom size."
TLU was restarting its men's track and field program, which it had been dormant since 1970.
Brown became a member of the startup class as a freshman.
Ironically, Brown never advanced past the regional meet at Refugio.
He rarely ran the 400, focusing primarily on the 200-meter dash.
"I kind of always knew I was going to end up running the 400," Brown said. "I was just better in the 400. The more we trained for it and the workouts were much harder than high school. The more I worked on it, the better I got."
Brown found the 400 was better suited to his ability to maintain a fast pace over a longer distance.
"I'm able to keep my speed," he said. "I'm fast at the 100, but I'm not like the fastest. I'm able to keep a fast pace. I can't really run a fast time in the 100, but I'm able to keep like an 11 or 11.5 pace in the 400, so it adds up to a good time. I'm able to keep a constant speed without losing too much."
Brown finished 11th in the outdoor 400 last season as a sophomore.
He attributes much of his improvement this season to the work he's done with TLU coach Darlene Holland.
"She brought me to where I'm at," Brown said. "She doesn't say too much, but she says the little things that will help you get better. If you just pay attention and listen to what she says, then you'll see your times drop and yourself improving."
Brown ran the fastest time in the preliminaries (48.57), edging Mount Union freshman A.J. Digby (48.59), a double-amputee, who was the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Male Track High School Athlete of the Year.
But the final turned out to be a different race, as Digby's faster pace forced Brown to run from behind.
"Marquis was trying to get the lead at the break," Holland said. "But the Mount Union guy ran a really fast first part of the race and beat him to the break. Marquis kept his cool and stuck to the 'Plan B' scenario and moved up on the leader with the intention to come off the last turn hard and fast and go for the line as fast and efficiently as he could."
Brown made his move on the final turn and knew the finish would be close.
"I just didn't want to run my first 200 meters too fast," Brown said. "I just relaxed and stayed on him and tried not to let him get too far ahead. And then on the last curve, I just gave everything I had to try and pass him."
Brown won in a time of 48.62, while Digby was second in a time of 48.64.
"He ran it exactly as he needed to do in order to win," Holland said. "I really can't believe it happened. We are so excited for him. Nobody works harder than him, and it's exactly that work that paid off."
Brown has also worked hard in the classroom. He's majoring in kinesiology, hoping to become a physician's assistant.
"Everything is going good in the classroom," he said. "I like the teachers. It's just being more responsible. That's probably the main difference from high school. You're just on your own and you have to be responsible for your own stuff. Once you accept that, it should be good for you."
Brown is enjoying spring break and will start preparing for the outdoor season when he returns to school next week.
He'll do so as an All-American and more importantly, a national champion.
"It still kind of...I don't want to say I'm surprised because I worked for it, but I don't know," Brown said. "It's just hard to explain. It's a nice feeling, but I don't know if it's sunk in yet."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.