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Ellender's Verdin sets eyes on gold at state meet

Ellender sprinter Brian Verdin hopes to cap a successful senior season with a championship at Saturday's state track meet. (Photo by Chris Heller/Staff)

Ellender sprinter Brian Verdin got to experience what it is like to stand on the winner's podium at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association outdoor state track and field meet last year.

Verdin ended his junior season with a third-place finish in the boys' 400-meter dash at last year's state meet, earning him the honor of receiving his bronze medal on the Top 3 podium at LSU's Bernie Moore Track in Baton Rouge.

Now as a senior, Verdin is hoping to close out his high school career with one more trip to the podium at Saturday's state track meet.

And this year, he wants to capture the gold medal and stand on the top of the podium as a state champion.

"It would be pretty special to win it," Verdin said. "I'm hoping I can do better than last year's finish. My parents and coaches would be proud to see that."

Verdin will participate in two events at Saturday's state meet, running in the 400-meter dash and as the anchor leg on the Patriots' 1,600-meter relay team with teammates Kevin Lucien, Jarred Turner and Jaharri Gahno.

Verdin, who placed first overall in the 400-meter dash with a time of 49.23 seconds and led the Patriots' 1,600-meter relay team to a third-place finish at last week's Region III, Class 4A meet, said he is confident he can win a championship in both events at the state meet.

"We just have to work hard and run like we've done at practice all season long, and we'll do it," Verdin said. "If we do our best, then we'll get it."

Verdin's confidence comes from his performances on the track this season, where he has established himself as one of the best sprinters in the state with his impressive times.

He has won all of his races at local track meets this year, and he was named the track MVP at the District 8-4A championships on April 17. He placed fourth in the 400-meters at the indoor state meet in February, and he had impressive showings at the Mobile Challenge of Champions and the AllState Sugar Bowl Classic this year.

Verdin, who has only participated in cross country and track at Ellender, said his work ethic, discipline and positive attitude are the reasons for his success on the track and in the classroom. He said the lessons he has learned from participating in sports have kept him out of trouble and away from bad distractions facing young people today.

"I knew the harder I train, the better I would get," Verdin said. "I always believed that I would get to this point. It wasn't hard for me to become a hard worker because that's the way my parents raised me. It helped me better myself as a person."

One person who isn't surprised at Verdin's success is Ellender track coach Terry Washington.

"Brian works hard," Washington said. "I'm trying to get some of those younger guys at Ellender to see how Brian has done it. He's done it the right way. He works hard in the weight room and in the classroom. He's a leader on the track. He's the first one at practice and the last one to leave. That's the way he goes about his business, and that's why he's so successful on the track."

As a senior, the soft-spoken and quiet Verdin said he doesn't try to seek attention from his track success, but he is always willing to lead by example and help his teammates.

"Our team is not like a normal team. It's a family," Verdin said. "We all set out for each other. We all sacrifice. We work hard as a team so we can make each other better. I just try to stay humble and encourage my teammates to be the best they can be."

Washington said Verdin has a good chance of topping his personal best in the 400-meters and win a championship at Saturday's state meet. His best time in the event is 48.83, which was good enough for a third-place finish at last year's meet.

"He's shown he can compete against some of the elite," Washington said. "He has had an outstanding season. I think he's ready. Even if he doesn't win, it has still been a successful career here at Ellender for Brian."

Due to his success on the track, Verdin said he is getting offers to compete on the college level from Southeastern Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette and Northwestern State. He has yet to make a final decision on which school he will attend.

"There are some colleges that I'm looking at specifically, but right now, I'm keeping my options open to see what gives me the best scholarship and has the best team for me," Verdin said.

Washington said Verdin, who is academically qualified to compete in college, has a bright future due to his character, work ethic and determination.

"We're going to hate losing him because he's really our leader, but we have some other guys that will have to step up next year," Washington said. "Brian is going to be a pivotal piece to replace in this program next year. Whoever Brian signs with for college, they are getting a hard working young man. He's going to have a successful college career."