In the world of sprints, where a fraction of a second can mean the difference between the best runners and the rest of the pack, one lap catapulted Brennan Doyle, PCC’s second year track standout, from relative obscurity to the radars of college recruiters around the country.
That lap, a 400 meter race at his first meet of this season, was the first time Doyle broke the invisible, psychologically daunting barrier of 50 seconds. Yet, the story of Brennan Doyle’s transformation from college dropout to Division 1 track runner begins over a year earlier, on his first day at a Lancers track and field practice in 2016.
“My first day out here the coaches told me, “you are a 46 second guy,” and that was out of this world to me,” recalled Doyle. “That was four seconds faster than the results I was getting at the time.”
After a revelatory year for the sprinter, Doyle hit a personal best of 47.96 seconds at the CCCAA Southern California prelims on May 5th, within striking distance of that 46 second prediction.
“My whole life I didn’t have a lot of people who believed in me,” continued Doyle. “So, when I came out here and these guys told me I could do it, every single day, it made a huge difference.”
Before that first day on the track at PCC, Doyle had gone through one of the most difficult years of his life, and had never really taken sprinting seriously before. For a young man who competed only in soccer and cross country until his senior year of high school, it took a stroke of luck to bring Doyle to track and field. After his cross country coach got into legal trouble and kicked a number of runners, including Doyle, off the team, he decided to try his hand at sprinting. After enjoying that single season during his senior year, he was admitted to San Jose State University (SJSU), where he says he “failed out, because [he] didn’t know what the hell [he] was doing.” The rest of that year Doyle says he did nothing and tried to just figure his life out.
“I came to PCC after taking the summer off [my second semester at SJSU] because I felt I needed to start over,” Doyle said. “I had a lot of issues, with family stuff going on, depression, and I wasn’t taking school seriously because I didn’t really know what I was doing. At first I only showed up to practice twice a week and I wasn’t running very well. I started thinking that this is probably the end of my road for running.”
During his first year running for the Lancers, Doyle’s results hovered around the low 50’s, with his personal best for the season coming in at 50.24 seconds. As Doyle and the track coaches explained, breaking under 50 seconds in the 400m is a milestone: when you’re running above 50 seconds colleges won’t really pay much attention to you. It’s a fairly common time for decent track runners. Most of the 400m runners in each college conference are usually posting times in the low to mid 50s. Once you break under 50, however, that’s when college recruiters start to take notice.
“Over the summer between my first and second year here I had a weird epiphany,” Doyle continued. “And I realized I have to take responsibility for everything I’ve done so far, and that whatever I want to happen I’ve got to make happen. I started thinking I could actually make something of my running because I was gifted with enough natural ability to work with, I just had to start showing up and taking it seriously.”
Doyle attributed a large part of this transition in his belief in himself to the encouragement he received from head coach Innocent Egbunike and assistant Pat Williams. He stated that they inspired him to overcome his self-doubting tendencies in favor of trusting in his abilities and believing he had a bright future with running. Doyle credited his coaches’ support and dedication with turning his life around.
“Practice is a rehearsal for the competition,” stated Egbunike, who believes that saying applies to Doyle especially. “We were able to give him that mindset of having a vision; of being able to visualize himself doing what he was supposed to be doing, asking questions, and continually learning.”
After this change, Doyle started showing up to practice and the classroom every day ready to work. He set his sights on becoming recruited by a competitive 4-year college, and after a season of intense training and effort, during which he shattered his previous personal best times and led the standings in most of the conference meets, he’s been accepted to transfer to UC Irvine and run for their track team in the fall.
“His work ethic was outstanding,” remarked Williams. “He showed up daily and put in the time, the work and the effort to do this. As a track coach, when you get an individual who shows up and puts in that time and effort, good things usually result. He was determined not to repeat what he did the prior year, and he’s getting the results for it.”
After the shift in Doyle’s dedication to his training, he leapt out of the starting blocks in his first few meets, running an early season time of 48.89 seconds at the Oxy Distance Carnival. That result, in a competition between community and 4-year colleges, was the fastest 400m time of the day, almost a full second quicker than his second fastest competitor. As the season wore on, Doyle continued to hit slightly lower 48 second times, coming closer and closer to a spot in the top 10 fastest junior college times of the season for the entire state of California.
During the Southern California CCCAA conference prelims and finals, racing against some of the fastest college runners in the state, Doyle broke into the elite group of the top 10 JC runners of the season with a blistering time of 47.96 seconds. It was a personal record that he probably would have thought impossible for himself a mere year and a half earlier, after he’d dropped out of college.
With a transfer to UC Irvine approaching and his running form continuing to improve, things are looking up for Doyle. In his final race for the Lancers at the CCCAA state championships, Doyle placed sixth in the state of California, with a time of 48.20 seconds. For a track and field team that has been in the process of rebuilding in the past few years, Doyle’s rise and his impressive times have certainly proven to be an inspiring signal to his fellow athletes. He warned fans and scouts to keep on eye on all the “crazy” young talent emerging in this team.
Martin Swan, a second-year PCC sprinter who attended high school with Doyle in Burbank, said that it was great seeing Doyle progress so quickly and that he and the team were really proud to inspired by seeing him achieving his goals.
“I’ve been in the back of the bus talking with [Doyle] and some of the other guys on our way back from meets,” stated Swan. “I’ve seen how his performance is affecting all the new guys, the young blood of the team. Competing at the community college level is really tough because you have to commute, handle classes, go to practice, and some of us have jobs, too. Juggling all that often makes it hard to visualize the dream of taking track somewhere coming true. So, when we see it actually happening with Brennan, it definitely opens our eyes and makes us want to push ourselves harder.”