Demps' Impressive Season is One to Remember

It was a year that perhaps should have earned a U.S. #1 in the 100m dash and being labeled as the top sprinter at the high school level, but it turned out to be so much more. Florida's Jeff Demps (South Lake, FL) started the season as a pre-season favorite to be the top 100m sprinter, but by the end he was running next to Tyson Gay in the Olympic Trials, tying a World Junior 100m dash record and quickly being labeled as a potential Team USA Olympic Team member.

A Season of High Expectations Taken One Step Further the '07-'08 track season, Jeff Demps seemed ready to roll right from the first meet. Entering the season with a U.S. #2 ranking from the year before, the South Lake senior was primed and ready to go after the top ranking in the country. In the spring of 2007 Demps ran 10.25, ranking him the 17th fastest all-time on the boys prep lists, but still a world away from the prep record of 10.08. Few knew what to expect this time around after a much-hyped football season.

From the gun, however, Demps ran fast and kept on improving. In his first big outdoor competition, Demps ran 10.60 for 100m at the Spruce Creek Invitational on March 8. In the coming weeks he would lower his time to 10.25 a week later at the Bob Hayes Invitational and 10.17 at the Pepsi Florida Relays in early April, which would turn out to be his turning point.

"The Florida Relays qualified me for the Trials and that changed my season's focus," Demps remarked on his goals for 2008.

Not only did that change his perspective on the season, but it also started gaining him some out-of-state exposure, as his 10.17 effort ranked him U.S. #5 all-time.

From there a state title or two was the focus, but deep inside Demps kept his perspective and focus geared towards the Trials, thinking bigger and better, raising his expectations along the way.

Prefontaine Classic and an All-Comers Meet

Before the Trials however came two competitions that would help make Demps' case as the greatest 100m sprinter of all-time. It's rare that high school athletes get invited to the Prefontaine Classic, but that is just what happened to Demps. It's also somewhat rare that a high school athlete runs in a competitive open field after their season and runs away to one of the best performances of all-time, but again that happened.

At the Prefontaine Classic, Demps lined up against some of the world's best, including such notable athletes as Wallace Spearmon, Shawn Crawford and Darrel Brown. With few expectations, Demps showed why he is one of the bright stars of the future of track and field. With a great start, and an even better mid-race surge, he trampled Spearmon and Crawford to finish third overall in 10.19, stamping his mark as a solid Olympic Trials contender.

Depsite such an exceptional result at Pre, Demps came to run a small open meet a week later, hoping to carry the momentum of Pre to an even faster time. With a slight tail-wind (+2.2) he cruised to the fastest mark ever earned by a prep male, running 10.03 and sparking conversation that with another few weeks of training just how fast could he run at the Olympic Trials.

Demps' Run Keeps on Rolling

...and so Demps' season continued on. One more meet, the Olympic Trials, and then on to football training camp at the University of Florida. Or was this his last meet of the season?

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Expectations were low for Demps heading into the Olympic Trials.

"I had nothing to lose, something to gain, but nothing to lose," he said.

That type of attitude may have helped him compete with the world's best not just once, not just twice, but three times over a two day span. Early in Saturday's competition Demps ran a 10.12 in the prelims, placing second in his heat and moving on to the quarter-finals.

The biggest surprise of the prep track nation this season took place next. Demps entered the quarter-finals still considered an underdog, but knew he could compete with anyone. Running the Prefontaine Classic and then coming back a week later and running his 10.03w really gave the star the confidence he needed to do his absolute best.

Into the quarter-finals he went, lining up next to World Champion Tyson Gay. As the gun sounded, Demps got off to a slow start, but moved quickly from 25 meters to 75 meters, quickly grabbing a top four spot. From there he held on to take second place behind Gay, running a new U.S. junior record, new U.S. high school record and tying the World junior record by finishing in 10.01! 10.01...a time no other high school athlete has ever run, breaking the old record by .07 and earning his place in history as the fastest sprinter ever.

"This is better than scoring a winning touchdown!," he exclaimed afterward.

With all the success and the whirlwind of media coverage surrounding him, the hype machine began and many fans of the sport started wondering if this young man actually had a shot to make the Olympic Team. While the odds might be high his exceptional performances over the past few weeks, and especially this weekend, indicated he could run with nearly anyone, regardless if they were professional or not.

With the semi-finals up next, Demps prepared for Sunday afternoon. Taking calls from friends wasn't a priority, running around the festival scene that surrounded Hayward Field wasn't a priority, what was a priority was seeing just how far he could take this ride.

"I got worked on, got some massage and took some ice baths," Demps said on his Sunday preparation.

So into the semi-finals he went. With the sun pouring down onto the track, which reached over 100 degrees, Demps stood in lane three ready to push his limits. A few nerves showed, but Demps' cool and collected demeanor came through even stronger. With "nothing to lose and everything to gain" Demps took to his blocks.

With the sound of the starter's pistol, Demps blasted out of the blocks, but he didn't get the start he wanted.

"I felt pretty good, but I flinched at the start." the day before where he sped up and pushed the middle of the race, Demps couldn't move quick enough to reach the group and excel to the finish. Straining to the line, he leaned one last time this season and finished a respectable eighth, running 10.34.

"I came out and ran really hard. That's all you can ask for," Demps said afterward, a bit dejected, but keeping his head held high. "I am off to Gainesville now. I have to be at training camp tomorrow."

And so a spectacular season is all wrapped up and the star of the show shifts his sights towards another career, one that includes both track and football at the University of Florida. When asked if he is going to focus on just track after his record breaking season Demps quickly laid down his answer, "I am going to do both in college, but football is what I grew up with, I feel my future can be in football."

"I'll remember this for the rest of my life," he said reflecting on what the Trials meant to him this weekend.

Getting congratulations from professional runners, seeing that he can compete with anyone and taking his talents to the next level mean big things for Demps down the road, but for now he is focusing his sights forward on the next step in his athletic career...but you can bet tonight on his plane ride to the University of Florida that he'll lean his chair back for a few minutes and realize just how exceptional this ride was.


(Photos courtesy of Victor Sailor of and