Ti’erra Brown hopes to bring home national championships

Ti'erra Brown competes at the Hurricane Invitational in March. // Courtesy Scott Zavitz

Ti'erra Brown competes at the Hurricane Invitational in March. // Courtesy Scott ZavitzA nagging back injury in 2008 plagued Ti’erra Brown during her freshman year.

Despite this, she managed to finish eighth in the 400-meter hurdles and achieve All-American status at the NCAA National Championships.

Still, she wasn’t happy with the result and vowed that it would never happen again.

“I was trying to recover, but I think it was more mentally. You notice you’re hurt and you try to run through it,” Brown said. “I’d rather not have gone to nationals than get last. That was devastating.”

At Hampton High School in Virginia, it seemed Brown might not get that far.

She received few offers until then-women’s basketball coach David Six gave Amy Deem, the University of Miami’s director of track and field, a call.

One day when Brown was asked to leave class and stop by the office, she thought she was in trouble.

Instead, Deem was on the line wondering whether Brown would come down to visit.

Until then, Brown never considered attending a Florida school because she thought it was the worst place to run. She went to a track meet in Orlando once and called it the “hottest place in the world.”

“Obviously her marks were solid. She’s tall. She has all the qualities of being a really good hurdler,” Deem said. “You knew she had the ability to be very good.”

Senior Kristy Whyte remembers hosting Brown on her recruiting visit.

Whyte, who walked onto the team instead of accepting offers from programs such as South Florida, Florida International and North Carolina, was the only freshman on the 4×400 relay team that Brown said she grew up watching.

“She was really cool and quiet and everything. She liked drawing. She was actually drawing that night,” Whyte said. “Before she left, me and her sat down and talked and she said that she really did love Miami and she would love to come here.”

Now a junior, Brown and fellow third-years Tameka and Takecia Jameson and Charlene Fuller set a school record in the event heading into the championships.

“It’s just so funny to see how far we’ve all come and for her to be one of the strongest people on the relay,” Whyte said.

And it wasn’t until sixth grade at Davis Middle School that Brown decided to give track and field a shot. Nobody in her family has a history in the sport.

She was always the first one around the bases in baseball or down the court in basketball.

Hurdles became her forte from the time her coaches encouraged her to give them a try.

“I always saw it as fun. I could jump over something,” Brown said. “I fell a couple of times in my past and I vowed I’d never fall again.”

Growing up, Brown was told that she wasn’t a sprinter, so she always disliked shorter races such as the 60-meter and 100-meter hurdles.

Since her arrival, Brown has worked from September to June on her technique and acceleration to help the 13th-ranked women’s track and field team.

“To go to the next level your technique’s got to get even better. It’s an evolution. It just gets better as you get older,” Deem said. “If you want to you’ve got to have speed. There’s only so far that strength can take you.”

Deem made it a priority to build Brown’s confidence, and it seems to have worked.

In March Brown placed third nationally in the indoor 60-meter hurdles.

Last weekend at the NCAA outdoor quarterfinals she set a school record in the 400-meter hurdles with a top time of 54.74 seconds.

On Wednesday in Eugene, Ore. at the NCAA National Championships she will also race in the 100-meter hurdles, an event she crossed the finish line second in the quarterfinals.

“I think the biggest thing is that she sees she can run with the best people and people she’s respected or known,” Deem said.

A veteran presence at Miami for 18 years, Deem points toward Brown’s improvement last year leading up to nationals: She finished as the runner-up in the 400-meter hurdles.

“Next week she has to not do anything different. She just has to go out there and compete and relax. At this point it’s more of the mental component. She’s fit and her race rhythm is good,” Deem said. “She needs to stay mentally strong and just really have the confidence to go out there and do what she’s been doing. It’s not going to take a miracle.”

Whyte believes that Brown’s mentality is the biggest reason for her success.

“If she’s ever nervous she masks it really well. I look to her as a source of strength,” Whyte said. “She’s had her ups and her downs, but she’s persevered and she’s a trooper.”

Although Brown’s focus is on nationals, in time she hopes to make the USA Track & Field team.

Her ultimate goal is to participate in the London 2012 Olympics.

“Confidence, hard work, determination. If you really set in your mind what you want to do and work hard for it, then it’s going to come,” Brown said. “I honestly believe I’ll be there [at the Olympics] because I have the desire to.”