All season long, middle-distance star Danielle Bradley of The King's Academy of West Palm Beach steadily closed in on a venerable barrier -- the sub-2:10 800 meters. Heading into this past weekend's Nike National Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Greensboro, N.C., Bradley had cruised through the spring undefeated in her signature event, shredding her competition at the county, district, regional and 1A state levels. Her only serious in-state challenge came from Kelly Parrish, the Vanguard juggernaut best known for her two-miling; Parrish trailed Bradley 2:11:01 - 2:11.53 at the Florida Milers' Club Invitational on May 21, pushing the West Palm Beach senior-to-be to a two-second personal best.
Bradley hoped to take a similar chunk of time off that new PR at the Nike meet, where, she and coach Glen Roeback believed, it made more sense for her to plan her battle with the clock rather than unknown adversaries in mind. Bradley wound up outside the top-seeded heat; nevertheless, a quick collective start took her out of her plan immediately, and instead of a 31-and-change opening 200, Bradley flashed into the second turn in 29-point. But she was resolute.
"The group thinned out starting at about 300 meters (into the race)," recalled Bradley. "I locked in behind the leader (New Jersey's Renee Tomlin) and hoped I could get her in the final straight." Indeed, after a 400-meter split of 63 seconds, Bradley inexorably closed the gap on Tomlin, but ran out of track a smidgeon too soon and wound up one-hundredth of a second behind Tomlin in 2:09.51, another big personal record and good for fifth place in the meet.
Given her complement of endurance (11:11 for 3200m this spring, good for 4th in the state), one wonders what Bradley might accomplish over a mile. Bradley says she has raced the distance sparingly owing to its being held before the 800 at most meets -- she did record a 5:05 at the Stanford Invitational in March -- but plans to attack it more vigorously next year, with visions of mid-4:40's dancing before the speedster's eyes.
In terms of cross-country -- when Bradley and Hailey Mercer will form a formidable 1-2 Lions' punch -- Bradley, with only one season behind her, has the pleasant burden of lots of growing room. (Last year she was 5th in the 1A Championship -- won by Mercer -- in 18:45, a "PR" by 24 seconds.) "My coach thinks I can run 17's, so that's my goal," says Bradley. Given this talented athlete's progress and her coach's proven powers of prodding and prognostication, don't be surprised to see this King ruling the fall from on high.