Spotlight Knight: Izaiah Brown
The 400-meter dash is often cited as an extreme mental challenge, just as much a physical one. The distance creates an awkward paradox for its participants: Too long to sprint, too short to pace.
For four straight years, senior Izaiah Brown has welcomed that paradox, dominating the event with a poise that creates the illusion that one is simply watching a jog on the beach.
Last Saturday, Brown bolted all 400 meters into the pantheon of Rutgers sports. At the 2019 Big Ten Indoor Championships, Brown posted a 45.82 time in the 400-meter dash for his fourth straight first-place finish.
Until that day, in the 66-year history of Rutgers men's track and field, no runner has ever posted four straight conference titles in a single event. Over the past four years, the New York native has built a champion legacy with the Scarlet Knights — a legacy that Brown himself never imagined prior to his career at Amsterdam High School.
“I was brand new,” Brown said. “I didn’t know anything about about sports. No clue.”
Before he became a part of Rutgers history, he was influenced by his uncle to try out track. His uncle was a record-setter at his high school for the high jump, and Brown chose to join track off of the ambition to one-up his uncle and break his school record.
He went to “weird community track meets,” he said, where he eventually met his future track coach.
Brown tragically lost his father as a child, an absence that was filled by Amsterdam High School track head coach Stuart Palczak. While Brown had little knowledge regarding his sports career, Palczak had different plans.
“It took me a few years to catch on to the sport, when I realized my coach had plans for me,” Brown said.
While he was not able to top his uncle’s achievement, Palczak saw something in Brown that led him in a different direction. He set out to convert Brown from a high jumper into a 400-meter sprinter, taking on the challenge of translating Brown's skills to an event with drastically different fundamentals.
Brown had faith in his coach. He said he was an “inside-man” who “knew what he was doing,” and he could not be more right. Without that vision by Palczak, Brown would not be where he is today.
His coach isn’t his only supporter, though. Brown acknowledged all of the love and encouragement from his mother, who pushed him in more ways than one. She always gave him a good feeling of support, which he said was a “big plus.”
He also appreciates all of the assistance from his teammates, who work hard and push him. These are some backbones in his life, and when he talked about what they mean to him, he had nothing but positive comments and memories to accredit his success to.
Brown currently holds the University record in the 400 meter with a 45.27 time, which he achieved back in 2016 as a freshman. He also comes in third in the 200 meter, holding 20.95 as a freshman as well. Imagining the idea that he ran faster than people with at least double his experience is astonishing.
Brown owns the Big Ten Championship record for the 400-meter dash, which he posted in 2017 with a time of 45.32.
Much like his sprints, Brown’s career with the Knights is also coming to an end quickly. In addition to being a four-time Big Ten Indoor champion, Brown's Rutgers resume also includes four First Team All-Big Ten recognitions, 2016 Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Year, and 2016 Big Ten Indoor Freshman of the Year.
This list doesn’t even touch the surface of how many awards Brown has achieved. Diving into his career and highlights takes time, but his talents are nonetheless lengthy and thoroughly impressive.
Regarding Brown’s future in track, there is no clear path he is going to take. With many options in mind, there is one thing that Brown plans to achieve within the year.
“Time flies by like there’s no tomorrow,” Brown said, “But I’m just gonna take this one step at a time. I would be content with just starting a life and family. But I want to end this year with a bang.”
For updates on the Rutgers men's track and field team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.