Dominick Brister is locked in. And the rest of the sprinters in the state can only catch the back of his jersey.
The Centennial senior entered this track season wanting to run the 100 meters in under 11 seconds. His slowest time this spring is 10.75.
Brister bolted to status as the top sprinter in the state in less than a month, dropping as much time off his personal best as the average runner does in an entire high school career. He announced his arrival by dominating the 100 (10.58) and 200 meters (21.56) at the 91st NIKE Chandler Rotary April 10.
“I had a feeling, but I thought I couldn’t go into it thinking I was going to win. I had to keep a humble mentality. So I kept quiet on that situation,” Brister said. “It means I put in a lot of work. I prayed, and everything like that. It was a great feeling to make everyone that I work with proud. And it was great to put Centennial up there. We’re known for speed, but not like Chandler. I want to put Centennial on that mark — we’re not just a football school.”
His true speed was well hidden by a missing freshman season, an inconsistent sophomore year and a junior non-season limited to one meet by the novel coronavirus.
Brister said he was a fairly mediocre sprinter in elementary school. He took part in only one meet as a freshman.
“In my sophomore year I ran 11.1. That was my best time. But I had injuries and a lot of difficulties that were my fault. Then my junior year was wiped out by COVID,” Brister said.
A month after Brister’s sophomore season, Steve Ybarra returned as Centennial’s track coach, replacing Simone Terry.
Very quickly the veteran track coach realized Brister’s untapped potential.
“When I got hired, I went through the team and figured out who was who. Looking at Dom’s times I said, “I bet you junior year he’s going to win the district and be one of the top five in the state.’ The times were not consistent,” Ybarra said. “He was the fastest coming back in the district. I don’t know if that clicked with him. It seemed like it.”
Entering this season, Brister did not lack confidence. He told his coach he wanted to be No. 1 in the state. To Ybarra, that meant Division II. Not to Brister.
The coach quickly realized it was a realistic goal. In preseason timing Centennial included a 10-meter fly with a running start, which saw Brister hit 22 miles per hour.
His 40-yard-dash time topped out at 4.28 40. Ybarra said he also ran in the high 4.3 or the 4.41 — which Ybarra said translates to the 10.58-10.7 range in the 100.
Then he worked like an elite sprinter.
“It’s fun to work with him. He’s been making good decisions since January. He was out here as much as possible, three days a week, when we were doing preseason work. He hasn’t missed one practice this year. Last year he’d have the sad face through some practices,” Ybarra said. “This year he loves working because he knows what it’s going to do. In January he was working on his top speed.”
Brister was not completely reliant on track to get to the next level. The cornerback had a football offer entering the senior year and got to choose between NCAA Division II football programs Eastern New Mexico and Western Colorado.
He chose the Gunnison, Colo.-based Mountaineers and athletically he was thinking more about football, saying he likes Western Colorado’s man-to-man defensive scheme.
“In the beginning I was thinking more about being a football player. But now I think I can do both,” Brister said.
Now the Division I track programs at Arizona State, Northern Arizona and the University of Arizona have reached out to Brister. He said he remains committed to doing both sports at Western Colorado.
Brister said he is leaning toward studying communications in college.
“I’m pretty locked in to running and playing football at Western Colorado. I really like that school. I’ve looked at the facilities, but I couldn’t visit there,” Brister said.
As Ybarra pointed out, a 10.58 in the 100 might be tops in Western Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Conference — right now.
And he carries himself like a star sprinter now.
“He’s vocal. He’s confident. And I don’t care about that as long as you’re doing everything right. And he sure is,” Ybarra said.
Brister said Chandler junior Quaron Adams is his best competition, along with Chandler’s Tyson Tippett and O’Connor’s Aiden Harvey. No other Division II runner is under 11 seconds in the 100, but Queen Creek Casteel sophomore Jayden Davis (21.82) could provide competition in the 200.
He is focusing more on time goals of a 10.3 in the 100 and a 20 in the 200, which Ybarra said is his best event.
“He did this because he’s working hard. He can’t stop working hard. Let’s work on little things that over time will bring your time down,” Ybarra said. “He’s not getting tired. He’s not getting worn down. Sometimes sprinters will peak at the middle of the season and never get their legs back. That’s not even close with him.”
And as the Chandler Rotary proved, Brister has an extra gear for big events.
“It was a different stage because the out-of-state kids weren’t there. But he was focused and ready to go. He didn’t care if Quaron was running or not,” Ybarra said. “When he ran 10.58 I said, ‘Oh please, just let it be wind legal.’ It had been breezy off and on. It was well under. Oh my gosh it was so fast. I was so proud of him.”
And, the coach said, Brister is just scratching the surface. With a full season of just track coaching, he said, there potential for a lot more.
“The team is really calm and people are focused on their events. We joke around but after that they’re pretty much focused,” Brister said.
So is Brister. And he is making up for lost time.
“When I started my senior year, I knew I didn’t have another year. I have to really do this,” Brister said. “This year the mentality is, it’s now or never.”