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Leo's Marlon Britton takes off in the 400 relay after grabbing the baton from teammate Corey Pryor last season. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Marlon Britton didn’t get an opinion about what events he’d run when he got to Leo, but that’s OK.
Britton’s older brother Rex was a hurdler for the Lions for three years, which decided his fate, too.
“I came out, I told [Leo coach Ed Adams] he was my brother, he instantly put me in the hurdles,” Britton said. “I really didn’t mind. Most people would have a problem with it.
“But I didn’t mind. If my brother can do it, I know I can do it.”
Britton does it pretty well, too. He was the Class 1A runner-up in the 110-meter hurdles last season with a time of 14.69 seconds. He’s already gone 14.77 this spring after putting up one of the nation’s best indoor times in the 55 hurdles (7.47, No. 17).
Those numbers are even better than Adams expected, and he figured the younger Britton would be pretty good.
“I saw potential,” Adams said. “He had some speed, he had good height and good flexibility.”
Still, Adams said, “I didn’t realize he would be that good.”
Britton credits his coaches for his success, along with the fact that he’s a little taller this season. “Over the summer, I grew a few more inches so I have more clear over the hurdles and my form has gotten much better.”
Adams confirms that: “He’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s faster. His technique is much better. He’s worked hard to become a better hurdler.”
That’s not to say that Britton doesn’t wear his fame lightly.
“You would never know that he is an athlete on our track team,” Adams said. “He’s not conceited.”
Indeed, Britton won’t be drawn into a discussion of what he could do at the end of the season.
“I don’t want to put any pressure on myself,” he said. “I just want to go out and run my best.”
He’ll also be doing that in the 400 relay, an event Leo won last year at state en route to edging Newton 35-34 for the 1A team championship. Three-quarters of that unit return — Britton, junior Theo Hopkins and senior Corey Pryor — so the Lions hope to score some big points in that event again, especially now that Hopkins is back from an injury.
“We’re very encouraged,” Adams said about Hopkins, who also figures to be one of the state’s top 1A sprinters. “He’s not in the best shape right now, but he’s working hard to get in shape.”
The idea is for Hopkins, Britton and the rest of the Lions to peak at state in Charleston. That’s been a recurring theme for Leo, which has seven state titles — six under Adams since 1995.
And the 1A finals might not be Britton’s last time running at Eastern Illinois University. It’s one of the colleges he’s considering, and track and field’s high profile at the school is a definite plus in his mind.
“If I went down there, it’d be a great program for me,” Britton said.
Maybe the Panthers would even let him have a say about what races he’d do.