Athlete of the Week: Brayden Burnett

Senior Brayden Burnett ran a PR of 15:42.70 and placed second overall at last week’s district meet. He along with the rest of the Cedar Falls boys cross country team ran Friday, Oct. 28 in Fort Dodge at the Iowa High School Cross Country State Championship. The team finished fifth, and Burnett was the top placed for Cedar Falls at 12th place.


For you, what was a highlight of your most recent competition?

The last competition was Districts in Cedar Rapids. I got second overall and ran a PR. Just stuck with the leader the whole race until about 800 left. Learned how to just hold on to him for as long as possible.

What makes your sport special and different?

It’s funny because most people think XC is more of an individual sport, but it’s a little bit of both. Yes, you can only control yourself in the race, but the team scores five and runs seven. I’ve learned a lot about the importance of the fourth and fifth runners.

How long have you been into this sport and, and what were the early days of your participation? 

I have been running cross country for six years now, every year since seventh grade. The early years, it was super fun and competitive, but the heavy duty of mileage during practices didn’t increase that much until ninth grade. Slowly I have been increasing from 30 to now 60 miles a week. This increased about 10 miles a week per year.

How did/do you cope with any setbacks/losses you’ve experienced in your sport?

The biggest setback in my career would be COVID-19 ending my track season. Before, I had run a really good race at the Dickinson Relays, and then all of this just flushed down the drain. I mentally was out of place and didn’t want to continue training for any meets, so I took about three months off. Coach Gall, the head cross country coach, called me at the end of may and boosted my morale, and I started training for cross country that next week.

Who has been particularly influential in helping your growth in this sport?

For sure my coach, Scott Gall. From freshman year he always trained me just hard enough to have me improve the most as possible. He is also my boss at The Runners Flat, so personally I’ve grown my connection with him as a person as well. To add on, I would say coach Marquez, my assistant coach, has always been there for me and both him and Gall have very successful running careers/backgrounds.

What do you do to prepare yourself before a meet?

It’s all about sleep and hydration mostly. The day before, I drink about a gallon of water and get eight-nine hours of sleep. The day of, I make sure I’m eating healthy, enough protein and carbs to get by. I also try to stay off my feet as much as possible, just kind of relax throughout the day.

How do you work on improving your skills in this sport?

I would say the offseason is the most important area when it comes to growth. In the winter/summer, this is the time where workouts are toughest and you feel miserable and don’t feel like you have a reason to workout, but then you remember that this is where the fastest runners continue to grow. Always got to keep the end goal in mind.

What’s a personal skill that you are targeting lately?

Perfecting my pacing as I work on sticking with the top guys in the state. I usually try to chase down guys in the end of the race, but now I am working toward sticking with them all race and just holding on.

Do you have plans to play this sport after high school?

I am looking at a couple of schools—mostly Iowa and UNI on continuing my long distance career. I would love the opportunity to run with D1 talent and don’t necessarily want to be done yet.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your sport?

Just looking back over the years and seeing the growth of dropped time in each event. This just shows that all of the hard work and dedication has paid off. To add on, anytime you are competing at State, in either cross country or track, both are an honor and fun to compete with everyone in Iowa.

What has been a highlight for you/your team so far this season?

I would say as a team, I think at Districts we all competed really well. It seemed like everyone was at the top of their game. Personally, I would say the same. At Districts I ran  a PR time and got second, which felt awesome going into State on Friday.

As you see it, what are the biggest tests remaining for you/your team yet this season?

Well, Friday is State, and for most of the team, it’s their first appearance, which can be pretty nerve racking. I think we just gotta get dialed in and run the best we are capable of doing, but also just treat it like any other race. I’ve run there enough that I know what I’m getting into, but I am also the fastest I’ve ever been, so there are some high expectations.

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