GVSU freshman grows through faith, humility, hard work
Bright-Mitchell broke 44-year-old GVSU record in 100-meter dash
GVL / Sara Carte - Twelve time Track State Champion, Lawson Bright-Mitchell, practices at the Kelly Family Sports Center on Monday, Apr. 4, 2016.
On April 2, the Grand Valley State track and field team watched the men’s oldest school record fall.
Redshirt freshman Lawson Bright-Mitchell broke Robert Eubanks’ 10.50-second record in the 100-meter dash, set in 1972, with a blistering time of 10.48 seconds at the Eastern Illinois Big Blue Classic.
But it almost didn’t happen.
Eight days earlier, Bright-Mitchell had showed up late to a 6 a.m. morning workout. Sprints and hurdles coach Alan Dunson was not pleased.
“I told him to go home,” Dunson said.
One hour later Dunson received a text from Bright-Mitchell.
"Sorry for coming to practice late this morning,” the text said. “I feel like I let the team down. I won't let it happen again. It didn't feel right going home and not doing anything. So I ran to the Laker hill and ran 10 hills."
Dunson gave Bright-Mitchell another shot.
“I presented him with an opportunity to make up his workout that following Monday,” Dunson said. “Let's just say that was the only workout all year that I'm confident he did not feel like he could do one more rep. I communicated to him he earned his chance to compete that week.”
Bright-Mitchell responded by running the fastest 100-meter dash in GVSU history.
Shattering records is nothing new for the budding star. He won three team and 12 individual state titles in high school, was named Michigan’s Mr. Track and Field in 2014, set the New Balance National Outdoor Meet Emerging Elite 200-meter dash record and broke the GVSU record in the 60-meter dash earlier this year, just to highlight a few of his accomplishments.
Simply put, Bright-Mitchell knows how to win.
He’s only in his first year of college competition. and yet Bright-Mitchell has already proven he can find success. His humility and ability to place others above himself has helped him become a winner.
Bright-Mitchell’s grandmother began instilling the value of humility in him from the day he was born. She raised him and his younger brother in the small town of Albion, Michigan. GVSU's proximity to Albion played into Bright-Mitchell’s college decision.
“It wasn’t too far away, but it was just close enough for me to go see my grandmother and my family,” he said. “I love my grandmother. I have a close connection with her. Being able to see her and my little brother really helps me out a lot.”
For Bright-Mitchell, it's an honor to don the GVSU logo.
“I used to dream about it in middle school and high school,” he said. “I never knew I would make it this far, I didn’t know, but now that I look back and I’ve come this far, I’m a part of something special here. I like putting on the Grand Valley State University uniform.”
His grandmother taught him the importance of truly caring about the people around him, not only his teammates, but his opponents as well.
“Every time before I race I pray to God,” he said. “I ask him to give me strength, courage, wisdom and power. I ask him to allow me to do my best and to make it through my entire race with no injuries. And I pray for everybody else at the meet, even if they aren’t on my team.”
Humility is only a piece of the personality that has Bright-Mitchell beloved by his teammates and coaches.
“Our first outdoor meet was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina about three weeks ago,” Dunson said. “As we crossed the state lines, entering and exiting during our venture, Lawson made sure to travel from the back of the van to the front of the van, simply to place his hand on the dashboard, in an effort to be the first one to enter the state.”
Senior hurdler Sean Wells said even after Bright-Mitchell has graduated, the memory of his personality will live on.
“He’s always just trying to get his teammates going during the meets,” Wells said. “Honestly, just that laugh and that smile.”
Wells has had a special impact on helping Bright-Mitchell grow as a college athlete.
“(Wells is) the two-time national champion,” Bright-Mitchell said. “I look up to him. He’s a beast.
“To have the mentality that he has, and the courage and strength that he has, to get through his everyday workouts, I look up to him. I always seek out advice from him.”
Wells recognizes the role he has in Bright-Mitchell’s life, but also the potential impact the budding star can have for the Laker track and field program as a leader.
“I’m just teaching him how to be self-motivated and who to surround himself around,” Wells said. “He’s only going to push him(self) and I’m not there every day to push him in practice. He’s going to need to be that leader when I’m gone."
Bright-Mitchell credits Dunson for getting him to run increasingly fast times.
“I love him,” Bright-Mitchell said. “He helped me so much on my block starts this year.
“He took the time to stay out and help me after practice and develop my sprint work, my footing and my blocks. I think that’s why I’ve run so fast, because of my block starts. He has helped me so much mentally and physically. He has always been there for me.”
With several fast times under his belt already, Bright-Mitchell is poised to make an impact on the national level. He earned All-American status at the 2016 NCAA Indoor National Championships, but he believes he is on the cusp of something greater.
“Everything I’m going through, I’m going through for a reason,” he said. “At the end of the summer, hopefully I’m a national champion. I pray and hope that I’m working hard and I’m a national champion. Whenever I think about quitting or giving up, I think about my grandmother and the people who look up to me, and how hard I have to work to get to where I need to get to.”
But Bright-Mitchell is daring enough to look beyond winning NCAA titles.
“I want to be the best, I want to be on top,” he said. “Eventually, I would like to go to the Olympics. That’s a dream and the only way I can get to that is if I work harder than anyone else.”
He may not be alone in believing he can make it to the Olympics.
“I believe he has extraordinary potential, U.S.A. potential,” Wells said. “But it really all depends on how hard he works and how hard he grinds these (next) three years.”
Wells wasn’t willing to give the youngster superstar status quite yet, though.
“He’s good, but I’ve yet to see him be great,” Wells said. “Right now he’s good. He’s not really surprising me, but once he runs that 10.20 this year, that’s great.”