Adrian Brown needed some time off, so he took it. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
He'd been running, hurdling and jumping since he was 6 and he was ready to try something else. For as long as he could remember, he'd been saying no to every opportunity that didn't involve track and field.
So from the moment he crossed the finish line at the 1991 State meet until the day Golden West College Coach Matt Simpson asked him to run again, Brown was strictly a spectator.
No meets. No workouts. No pressure. Nothing.
Brown got a part-time job. He went to Las Vegas for a vacation. He hung out with friends. And he didn't run a step.
You can almost imagine the conversation when Simpson bumped into Brown one day last year.
Simpson: "Hey, didn't you used to be Adrian Brown?"
Brown: "Yeah, that was me."
Simpson: "Ever think about running again?"
Brown: "Sure do."
The timing seemed perfect. By then Brown had had enough rest and relaxation, and this seemed like the best--and perhaps only--chance to return to competition.
Brown hasn't wasted the opportunity, running the second-fastest community college time in the state this year in the 110-meter high hurdles and qualifying for the Southern California prelims Saturday at Cerritos College.
Most importantly, Brown's year off has rekindled his passion for track.
"When I was in high school, I swear, track was my whole life," said Brown, who graduated from Huntington Beach in 1991.
As a senior, Brown dreamed of getting a scholarship to one of the nation's top track schools. He believed his credentials were flawless. After all, he was second in the State meet in '91, running a personal-best 14.13 seconds for the 110 hurdles. He was the Southern Section 3-A champion and was the county's top hurdler for the second consecutive year.
What more could a college coach want?
Something extra, it turned out.
A lack of available scholarships only cinched Brown's decision to take a break.
"I wanted to sit down and do what I wanted to do with my life," Brown said. "There were so many other things I wanted to do. There were just little things that wouldn't be big things to anybody else.
"I'd been running since I was 6. This was a good chance to take a year off. I told myself that this was my best chance and that nobody was going to miss me."
Simpson, a former coach at Fountain Valley, remembered the talented, outgoing high school standout and wondered where he'd been. Eager to turn around Golden West's sagging track fortunes, Simpson knew a runner such as Brown could work wonders.
"I went looking for him," Simpson said. "I knew he missed running and wanted to get back into it."
Brown jumped at the chance and seemed unfazed by the fact that the Rustlers were operating on a small-time level. After running in front of 10,000 fans at the State high school championships, a local community college meet could have seemed like a comedown, but Brown was determined to make the most of his surroundings.
He has been a real team player, according to Simpson.
For instance, when Simpson asked for volunteers to triple jump in an early-season meet in San Diego, Brown spoke up.
"Sure, I'll go get a mark," said Brown, who hadn't triple-jumped in several years.
After a few minutes trying to remember exactly how to triple jump, Brown soared "about 44 feet" and won the event. More times than not, Brown has contributed victories in events other than the hurdles.
Saturday, he will compete in the hurdles, the 200, the 400-meter relay and the long jump.
Most likely, he'll run only the hurdles at the State meet in two weeks at Redding. His best of 14.44 is the second-fastest time in the State this season.
"The year off definitely affected me," Brown said. "If I stayed in school that year, I would be a lot faster right now. But it seems to have worked out fine. I got it out of my system and now I've got my head on straight."
There were a few adjustments awaiting Brown when he returned to school. But Simpson said Brown has been a good student and a reliable member of the team.
"He never misses workouts," Simpson said.
As it turned out, the most difficult hurdle for Brown this season has been the hurdles themselves. Collegiate high hurdles are 42 inches, three inches higher than those in high school. It doesn't seem like much, but to Brown it's like "jumping a building."
"It seems like a foot (difference)," said Brown, who at 6 feet is short for a high hurdler.
He couldn't break 15 seconds in his first meet at Golden West, a humbling start to his comeback.
"I hadn't run in the 15s since early in my high school career," he said.
Brown dipped under that barrier soon enough, however, running his season-best of 14.44 at a meet April 21 against Fullerton and Riverside.
He won the Orange Empire Conference title in a time of 14.85 last Saturday at Balboa Stadium in San Diego.
Finally, Brown feels comfortable again.
"I think if I would have stayed out another year I would have never come back," he said. "But I always knew I'd come back. The first chance I got, I came back. I'm on pace. I want to stay injury-free and keep it going."