CHARLESTON, S.C. – Braxton Drummond got a rather late start on his long jumping career. The Charleston Southern senior ran just one year of track at Spartanburg's Dorman High School.
"I was really just a sprinter," Drummond recalled. "The state meet, when I jumped 23 (feet), I was like 'okay, where's this coming from? Maybe I can turn this into my main event.'"
There's no maybe about it anymore. Drummond has evolved from a high school state champion into one of the elite long jumpers in the country. The 2014 First Team All-American has his eyes set on July's 2016 Olympic Trials. In the meantime, Drummond will start the long jump portion of his final collegiate season this weekend at the UNF Spring Break Invite in Jacksonville, Florida.
Drummond stepped away from his forte and excelled in the 100-meter dash at last weekend's Charlotte 49er Classic. Running the 100 for the first time in nearly two years, he earned a fourth-place finish with a personal best time of 10.57 seconds.
"It's been a minute since I ran so that first meet, I had to get a lot of jitters out of me because I was real nervous," Drummond said. "The 100 really wasn't one of the goals I had set but definitely when I opened up and PR'd in it, I feel like I can go faster as more meets come on down the line."
The last time Drummond stepped on an outdoor track for the long jump was June of 2014. The setting was the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The result was pretty good, a fifth-place finish that made Drummond one of just four athletes nationally to achieve First Team All-American status in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
More highlights followed that summer. Drummond took ninth at June's USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships, earning a spot in August's NACAC Under-23 Games. He took full advantage of that experience, besting a field of nine top competitors from around the world to claim the gold medal.
Since, Drummond has done a good deal of waiting for his opportunity while honing his craft. Drummond made the decision to compete in last year's indoor season and redshirt the outdoor season. The situation was flip-flopped this year, and Drummond is hoping to make the most of his final months at CSU.
"I figured that 2016, it's an Olympic year, I just want to give it my all," Drummond said. "Not having indoor and just coming straight into outdoor, I felt I'd be healthier and more ready having a year of training under my belt. I'm definitely going out and making it happen so I can at least get there to the Olympic Trails and possibly go to the Olympics."
The top 24 long jumpers in the U.S. will assemble at the University of Oregon's fabled Hayward Field from July 1-10. Drummond believes his training regimen can help him get there, thanks in part to CSU head coach Roosevelt Lofton. Lofton, in his third season at CSU, has coached four Olympians.
"Coach Lofton, he has gotten me stronger," Drummond said. "His workouts have gotten me stronger and gotten me faster. I feel like one of the things I was missing was power and strength. To be able to go through the workouts strong, be able to finish strong and then put it out there on the track, you're gonna get results."
Drummond plans to graduate this spring with a degree in kinesiology. He hopes his future in track will extend beyond the spring season, and beyond what may come this summer.
"I definitely want to keep running," Drummond said. "This is only my sixth year of running. I kind of wish I had started earlier in high school because I really enjoy the environment. It's just fun. Being able to do something you love is definitely fun to do. You just don't want to give that up."