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Tennessee Tremain runs and dribbles his way to world record

Sets a new mark for running a mile while dribbling a basketball

With the high school and summer track and field seasons effectively wiped out by the pandemic, Guelph’s Tennessee Tremain was looking for something that could get his competitive juices flowing a little.

An Ontario high school champion runner, Tremain decided to take a shot at breaking a world record for running a mile while bouncing a basketball.

“I saw that Dylan Sorensen, an assistant coach at (the University of North Carolina), broke the record (in May) and it got a lot of attention,” Tremain said.

“I sort of thought that because I played basketball for seven or eight years leading up to this, I thought that 'wow, this could be a great combination of two different things.' Also, with the fact that there wasn't any promise of a (track) season following up, it was sort of an interesting goal that I could reach toward.

“It was just something I could look to because I wasn't expecting to race anytime soon and this could be a competitive opportunity for me.”

Sorensen celebrated his 30th birthday by lowering the mark to four minutes and 37 seconds and the 16-year-old Tremain took some more time off that mark last week. When he’d finished running four laps of the track at the St. James facility, dribbling a basketball the entire way, Tremain left the record at 4:33.9.

“It was certainly very difficult, but I think one advantage that I had was that because I played basketball for a while,” he said. “It made it a lot easier. I didn't have to spend as much time on the basketball as I think other people might have to so I felt that was really helpful. I didn't really have to practise using the ball on the straights.”

A member of Waterloo’s Laurel Creek Track and Field Club, a club he joined at the beginning of 2020, Tremain devoted a little time at the end of his club workouts on the Resurrection high school track in Kitchener as preparation.

“It was mostly just practising going around the corners because corners are very weird going around with a basketball,” he said. “In basketball, you're used to quick, explosive back and forth movements but this was a long turn. At the end of every (track) practice I'd do a couple of hundreds around the corners.”

He also found that it was better to bounce the ball from one hand to the other rather than the usual basketball trend of dribbling almost exclusively with one hand.

“Going around the track and stuff like that, even if you watch Dylan Sorensen, it's so much easier to continuously cross over just because of the way you're running with the ball,” Tremain said.

“I actually had a lot of people ask me when I was doing it why I didn't just use my dominant hand the whole time because it would seem like you would have much more control but it's actually really interesting. When you try to do that it's actually very difficult to try to dribble really fast with one arm for an extended period of time. In addition to that, your one arm would get really tired. It's a lot of torque on one side of the body whereas if you're continuously pushing it out in front of you with both hands, it actually makes it a lot easier. It sort of made everything even and everything flow with each other.”

Tremain, who played two seasons of junior basketball at Guelph CVI, didn’t play in what would’ve been his first season of senior basketball in the recently-completed school year.

“This year I started to take running more seriously than previous years,” he said. “I did play in my previous two years in Grades 9 and 10, but this year I decided to just focus a little more on running and just be happy and competitive with what I was doing with running.

“I love playing basketball, but I also love running. At some point you have to make a decision, you have to make a choice and I'm choosing running.”

However, there wouldn’t be any running in the spring as the high school track and field season was called off.

“That was very disappointing,” Tremain said. “As soon as I knew it, I was like 'Ah, shoot. This is really too bad.' I was really disappointed as this was going to be a big year.”

For the basketball run, Tremain didn’t have a specific time in mind other than to beat the previous mark.

“The main goal was certainly just beating the record,” he said. “In my head I definitely thought I could break something like 4:35. I thought that was certainly in the question. I think if someone went out and broke the record in a new time, I think it's definitely possible that I could've gone under 4:30.”

And if someone did break his record, would he try to get that record back?

“It was fun and there's a possibility that I might want to do it again, but for the rest of the summer I think the one time I did it was certainly enough although it was great and I'm happy that I did it.”