BJ Lawrence's mind is racing even when his legs aren't.
He'd love a break, he says, but if he's not training, he's watching track on TV. Or looking up results on the Internet.
He's determined to be ready when he lines up with track and field's fastest stars at the world championships in South Korea in August and at the Summer Olympics next July.
"It's the only thing I've been doing for the last year, just school and track,'' Lawrence said. "I've been training really, really hard.''
The NAIA sprint champion from Doane College already has qualified for worlds and the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the 200 meters for his home country of St. Kitts and Nevis, two islands about halfway between Miami and Trinidad and Tobago. He's a tenth of a second away from the Olympic qualifying time in the 100 and also is working to advance with his country's 4x100 relay team.
Although he's planning to return to Doane for his final year of track, Lawrence is back in the Caribbean training and racing.
"I just have to keep improving to up my spot at the Olympics,'' he said. "I'm just focused day and night.''
Lawrence already has tasted success this year on a much smaller stage.
He won NAIA titles in the 200 at the national indoor and outdoor meets. He also ran on the championship team in the 4x100 relay outdoors and was a national runner-up in the 60 and 100. He was chosen as the NAIA outdoor championship athlete of the meet while helping the Tiger men place second, their highest finish outdoors.
For his accomplishments, Lawrence has been chosen as The Omaha World-Herald's Midlands College male athlete of the year by a committee of writers and editors.
There couldn't be a better choice, said Dave Plendl, his track coach at Omaha Northwest.
"He's just a fine young man,'' Plendl said. "He's very courteous and respectful and treats people right. All the success hasn't gone to his head. He never missed a practice in high school and never pulled anything on me. It's very nice when your best athlete is your hardest worker.''
Lawrence, who won state titles in the 100 and 200 as a Northwest senior in 2007, calls Plendl his mentor and credits him for developing the dedication that has taken him to the next level.
But he didn't make that jump immediately.
Lawrence also played football at Northwest, and he decided to compete in that sport for the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
He redshirted as a freshman, and an ankle injury in the spring curtailed his football career before he played a game. Lawrence took a year off before Plendl steered him to Dana College, where he played running back and won an NAIA title in the 100 outdoors although not training seriously.
"I was having a lot of fun,'' Lawrence said. "I didn't care about running fast. I was just glad to be running track again.''
When Dana closed last summer, Lawrence chose to go to Doane, another NAIA school in Crete, Neb. The school has a respected track and field program, and Lawrence started working with assistant Jennifer Jenny on his core strength and starts and with another assistant, Paulvince Obuon, on acceleration and relays.
He trained with fellow Omahans Ben McCaleb and Thomas Hodges and hurdler Virgil Mitchell, and they pushed each other. McCaleb, Hodges and Chris Busby were on the winning 4x100 relay team with him at the national outdoor meet, and Mitchell won the NAIA 110 hurdles outdoors.
"I could see a lot of growth,'' Doane coach Ed Fye said. "He helped our whole program."
"You give him a little technique, and he turns it into gold and makes you look good. You don't get many of those kids. It's fun to have one.''
Lawrence, whose given name is Brijesh, lived in St. Kitts and Nevis before moving to the United States in 1998, and he began competing for his home country last summer. He got his biggest taste of international competition at the Commonwealth Games in India in October, where he reached the quarterfinals in the 100.
This summer, while he lives with an aunt and uncle in the capital city of Basseterre, he's following the program his college coaches developed for him. He plans to get a refresher on his starts when he visits Omaha later this month.
"It's kind of been hurting me,'' he said. "I'm down here to correct it and try to improve, be more explosive off the blocks.''
One thing he doesn't need to improve on is his demeanor. Two NAIA officials congratulated Fye on Lawrence's professionalism at nationals, which Fye said is a rare compliment.
That professionalism could come in handy when he lines up with the likes of Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell at the world championships. Lawrence said he's preparing hard so he can focus on doing his best against someone like Bolt instead of feeling intimidated.
"I'll probably try tripping him or something,'' he said, joking. "Hopefully, I get a good start. Hopefully, my start doesn't fail me.''
Fye said Lawrence has a long career ahead of him. Both he and Plendl are excited that they'll be able to say they've had an Olympian on their team.
"It's fun to see how excited he is and how much fun he's having down there,'' Plendl said. "He's getting a chance to experience a lot of things - travel the world and the whole bit. He's a great young man, and I'm just really excited for him.''
Story from Marje Ducey, Omaha World Herald