American Heritage Duo Redefining The Term 'Freshman Phenom'

At the Louie Bing Invitational in February, a pair of high school freshmen from American Heritage shocked the track and field community when they clocked the nation's fastest wind-legal 100m times. 

Their names were Zamarii Sanders and Brandon Bennett, and over one weekend in Miami they went 10.40 and 10.43 seconds, respectively. 

Then came the Bob Hayes Invitational.

This weekend in Jacksonville it was Bennett's turn to star as he won in the 100m finals in 10.51.

Historically, only Tyrese Cooper had run faster as a freshman in history, going 10.36 back in 2016 -- and not only in Florida high school history, but in the U.S. record books, too. 

One could see glimpses of the duo's potential once they eventually arrived on the high school scene based on each athlete's times posted last spring.

Bennett was the FLYRA middle school state champion in the 100m at 10.88, while Sanders clocked an incredibly swift performance of 10.59 in an age group track meet last April on his future high school track at American Heritage.

Their rise is part a growing theme over the first half of the outdoor season in Florida as plenty of young stars and underclassmen have started to make statements.



Video: American Heritage ninth grade duo Zamarii Sanders (US No. 1 10.40) and Brandon Bennett (US No. 5 10.43) going 1-2 in the Louie Bing Invitational boys 100 meter dash finals.

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But they are not the only star freshmen athletes on the block. 

Another athlete, Kaj Baker, is located in South Florida and attends Somerset Academy Pembroke Pines. He won the Ellis Elite 16 Invitational over Sanders, while Bennett was charged with a false start in the finals.

Not only will Bennett and Sanders have each other to keep other in check -- not to mention, each will fight to win internal bragging rights on who is the fastest on the team each week -- but the pair will also be seeing a lot of Baker over the next few weeks. 

American Heritage coach Greg Barnes had a very special group of athletes roll through his program a few years back. 

That group was led by eventual NFL wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, and American Heritage set the FHSAA state meet 4x100 record in the 40.14, which ranks second fastest all-time.

Meanwhile, Schwartz individually owns the second fastest wind-legal 100m in Florida high school history at 10.09 and the third-fastest all-time in the 200m at 20.47.

Coach Barnes knows what it takes to take elite talent and take it to another level. 

Video: Brandon Bennett winning the Bob Hayes Invitational boys 100 meter dash finals in 10.51. Fellow freshmen Kaj Baker in second at 10.56 and Zamarii Sanders in third at 10.59. 

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The freshmen phenoms are reminded daily in practice by Coach Barnes and staff of the work that Schwartz and his teammates put in during that era. Both athletes are certainly ahead of where Schwartz was at as a freshman when he clocked personal bests of 10.61 in the 100m and 21.66 in the 200m as a ninth grader, but that also means they will have to work even harder to improve from the high bar that they have each set for themselves.

Like Schwartz, they are also going to navigate the commitment and the risk of injury playing football during their high school careers. Schwartz ended running one season at Auburn before ultimately focusing entirely on football.

Video: American Heritage winning the Louie Bing Invitational 4x100 meter relay in a 41.10 season best.

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Their 4x100 meter relay also has great potential, too, with Bennett and Sanders able to run down most of the competition.

Bennnett's twin brother Braylen just ran his first meet of the season this past week at Monsignor Pace and casually dropped a 10.94 opener in the 100m that will only boost their lineup when added.

They started the season with a 41.10 victory at the Louie Bing Invitational, while the squad finished second this past weekend at the Bob Hayes Invitational against national powerhouse Miami Northwestern.  

This weekend, Bennett will take scheduled time off, but Sanders and the rest of his American Heritage squad will be at Guy Thomas Memorial Classic in Fort Myers. 

Sanders will line up in the 200m with his 21.15 best. He will have some good competition, especially against several members of the IMG Academy 4x200 meter relay squad which won a national title just weeks ago at New Balance Nationals Indoor.

Bennett will rejoin Sanders and the rest of his squad the following weekend at the Florida Relays and it's there where the pair will take center stage again in the 100m as well as see if their 4x100m relay.

Undoubtedly, they will push for a time in the 40-second flat range. 

There is no question that this tandem is on pace to make some history and noise in a state of Florida and specifically in a region in South Florida that has been rich and bountiful in speed and talent for generations. 

And yet, we've never seen anything like these two at the same school, a pair running so fast at such a young age.

Let's see where this goes.