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CHS graduate Brittany Brown is a world track star

Brittany Brown got her first taste of competition at the Vista Track Meet when she was a student at Vista del Valle. And last Wednesday, the Claremont High School graduate became a world champion.

Brown won a silver medal last week at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

This Wednesday, the newly-minted world track star made a surprise visit to her alma mater with her twin brother Brandon Brown. Everywhere Brown went, a former coach or teacher was there to greet her with a hug and heartfelt congratulations.

Brown brought along the silver medal with an art deco design including an outline of the stadium and “Doha 2019” in bold letters. She was escorted around the school by Principal Brett O’Connor, chatting with students and faculty and showing them her medal.

Mr. O’Connor recalled one student’s reaction: “Dr. O’Connor that is not an AYSO medal!”

Her win at the IAAF World Champtionship brought Team USA its first podium in the women’s 200-meter since 2011, according to a news release from the USA Track and Field (USATF)

Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain won the gold with a time of 21.88, a new national record. In an exhilarating finish, she held off Brown, who lowered her personal best for the second time in a week, clocking 22.22 seconds.

“You’re running and it just happens so fast,” Brown said during an interview with USATF. “The anticipation before is really scary, but once you’re in it, it’s like, OK, you’re done.”

Brown, 24, said her start has come a long way this season, but Asher-Smith got out even faster Wednesday night, and was running strong in lane seven just outside of Brown.

“It kind of made me tense up,” Brown said, “but at the same time, it also made me focus on what I need to do.”

Known as a good closer, the 2013 CHS graduate pulled away from the rest of the field on the home stretch, ending that eight-year dry spell for Team USA.

“I’m just glad to set it off for us,” Brown said. “I know in the next year, Tokyo 2020, there’ll be more girls up there and I’m just happy to set the tone.”

During her senior year at Claremont, Brown was the CIF Southern Section champion in both the 100- and 200-meter sprints and the runner up in both events at the California State meet. She was the Sierra League champion in the 100-meter as a junior and senior, and won the 200-meter as a senior. She also set the school records in the 100- and 200-meter.

She was a five-time Big 10 champion and Second Team All American at the University of Iowa, where she set a school record for the 200-meter sprint both indoors and outdoors. Following her graduation, she became a professional last year.

In addition to her twin, her brother Bryan and sister Brandi also graduated from Claremont High. Her sister traveled with her to Qatar.

“I just got back from Doha, so I have to rest now and start training again in November for the Olympic Trials, which are in June in Eugene Oregon,” Brown told the COURIER on Wednesday during a brief visit to Southern California.

“This is the first time I have made a team and actually performed well and did what I needed to do. It’s always a great feeling to represent your country and be there with the top [athletes] of the world,” she said.

After her race, she had a rare opportunity to slow down and have a look around.

“It was a good feeling to be there in Doha. I had never been to the Middle East so it was good exploring with my sister. Most of the time when you are a professional athlete it’s hard to get out and explore because you are busy doing your job running. This was the first time in a while that I got to explore the country.”

Fellow CHS grad Kori Carter, who won a gold medal in the 400 hurdles during the 2017 World Championships, was also at Doha, but did not finish because of an injured Achilles tendon.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Carter was obviously quite proud of her Team USA counterpart.

“It’s awesome! She and her sister used to come to my basketball games and now she has a silver medal, which is amazing,” Carter said.

“Gosh we are so proud of you, that is so amazing! You are in the elite club,” CHS Athletic Director Mike Collins told Brown. “When you compete in the Olympics we need to go watch you.”

Brown continues to live in Iowa City, electing to stay with her college coach Clive Roberts. She trains alone and has added strength coach Landon Evans.

Brandon Brown, who runs the Youth Activities Center for the city of Claremont, describes the nervousness that turned into joy on race day.

“You can ask anyone in my office, the day she raced I was on my phone the entire day, and then when she [placed second] everybody was screaming and celebrating,”?he said. “It’s just a bunch of proud moments all around. Especially knowing where we came from as a family, what we have gone through, how far we have pushed each other, and seeing it really paying off in her running on the world stage. It’s huge, and being able to tell everybody that is my twin sister right there.”

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com