By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Indiana Jr. Rikkoi Brathwaite made his third successive Big 10 Conference Indoor Championships finals his most memorable one.
Leading from gun to wire, Brathwaite buried the 60m sprint field, by beating defending champion Wasee Williams of Purdue and shattering his 6.58 seconds championships record from 2020, when he stopped the clock at 6.55 seconds, at the Spire Dome in Geneva, Ohio on Saturday. Williams was second in 6.66.
The mark is a new personal best, Indiana School Record, BVI Indoor Record and tied the 14 year-old All Time Big 10 Conference Record established by Wisconsin’s Demi Omole, in 2007. In the process, Brathwaite became the 17th BVI athlete to win either an indoor or outdoor conference title dating back to 1979, for a combined 30 collegiate conference crowns in 14 different events in all levels of 12 different conference championships.
Brathwaite’s performance helped Indiana to a 2nd place finish behind Iowa, who won the title for the first time since 1963 with 119 with points in the Men’s Division, as Indiana amassed 92.
Brathwaite had the 9th best time in the 200m of 21.44 seconds.
He joined Minnesota’s Long and Triple Jumper Keita Cline who won the indoor Triple Jump in 1994, the Long Jump and Triple jumps indoors in 1995, the outdoor Long Jump in 1995 and Illinois Ashley Kelly, who won the indoor 400m in 2011, as BVI athletes who have won Big 10 Conference titles. In 2020, Elinah Phillip won the Big 10 Conference Swimming Championships 50 yards for Rutgers.
Brathwaite told Island Sun Sports that his journey to becoming Big 10 Conference champion had its ups and downs after placing fourth as a Freshman. Brathwaite recalled that he had a good start but along with his coach, had to work on his finish. He further noted that they work too much on his finish, that his start was neglected. The result was a horrible start and he had to run everyone down and finished second.
“Me and my coach went back and decided to take everything into account—my sleep, my diet, my start, my finish, taking care of my body with the trainers making sure I was fine and not missing any practice because of injury,” Brathwaite explained. “We worked a lot of sled pushes, a lot of sled pulls, a lot of form and technical work and everything came together in the Big 10 final, start and finish.”
He added: “It means everything because I’ve been working so hard for it and I’m really glad that I not only won the title, but have put myself at No 2 in the nation. There are no words that can describe it, it just means everything to me right now.”
Reflecting on how his season went before getting in the blocks, Brathwaite noted that he ran times of 6.64, 6.67, 6.63 and 6.66.
“When the said ‘gentlemen, take you sweats off,’ I was like Rikkoi, you’ve been running these times, nobody has run these times, nobody has run 6.66, nobody in the Big 10 has come close to you, don’t panic, don’t worry, you’re rested,” he noted. “You’re rested, they’re rested. They might go 6.60 today, you’re going 6.5. So, just take your time, relax and just get out. You know you have a faster start then them, beat them off the start and when you get out, just relax.”
Despite the uncertainties of school and a season because of COVID-19, Brathwaite said he had to keep a positive mind. He said he had two choices—stop running and do nothing at all, become lazy and wait for the news of what will happen or he could keep working, be in shape to push through the season.
“There was a positive outcome—outcome, working out with the team, working out with the guys and back on my regular schedule and I was ready,” he noted. “Going through a pandemic everyone said it’s hard, but as one of the team leaders, I had to keep a positive mind, I had to keep motivating everybody and I had to lead by example, not just words. I had a big responsibility on my shoulder so I had to live up to it.”
When he ran 6.55 seconds, Brathwaite said he knew that he’d broken the meet record but didn’t know of an All Time Big 10 record until his coach told him that he had equaled it.
“That gave me more excitement so I was surprised, really surprised,” he noted as he looks forward to his first NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Mar 11-13. “The only thing that can make me go faster is a better executed race. This whole week of training, I have to pay attention to every detail. I can’t come to training and relax and just run. I have to pay attention to everything that I do. I think that is going to set me apart from others at Nationals.”