A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: Kiski Area’s Braden Mika

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Monday, May 8, 2023 | 11:21 AM


Kiski Area senior Braden Mika is a 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman on the football team and thrower on the track team.

That makes him one of the bigger, stronger gardeners you’ll ever see.

One of Mika’s hobbies is horticulture.

“The covid-19 pandemic is what got me into gardening,” Mika said. “We had space in the backyard, and with everyone being home, I figured I’d take advantage of that. My garden is 30 by 30, and it is something that I enjoy doing as a pastime.”

Mika is a member of Kiski Area’s horticulture club.

“We have a greenhouse at school, and we take care of the plants there until they’re ready to sell to the faculty and staff,” he said. “We have a community garden as well that anyone can take plants from. If you’re in the club, we do give plants when they’re ready. It’s something that’s similar to a life skill that not everyone has access to, and why not plant fresh food that is easily accessible to you?

On the track team, Mika has turned in top five finishes in the javelin and shot put at the Butler Invitational, Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association meet and Lady Spartan/Wildcat Invitational in recent weeks.

“It was an absolute honor to be competing, especially at Butler where I’m going against 70-80 different schools,” Mika said. “Butler had really good competition, and it’s something cool to look back on. WCCA was a good meet to be at, and it was good to see local teams and see people I know. It was hectic running back and forth for events, but it was a great experience.”

Braden is the son of Christa and Rob Mika. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club, Cavalier Leadership Club, high honor roll and the senior committee. He has been throwing for six years and playing football for 12.

“I chose throwing because it fell into the cards for me to do during football offseason,” Mika said. “It was also something I easily picked up on. Shot put and javelin are what I’m good at.”

Mika took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer some questions for a Senior Spotlight Q&A:

Was it intimidating for you to try javelin and shot put for the first time?

Oh, 100% it was intimidating. Not many people say, “Hey, lift up a 12-pound ball and a spear-looking thing.” Coming into it, I knew there was always someone better than me until this year. Another thing that is intimidating is the competition. I’ve never come in first, and that always shows me that I’m not the best. For middle school shot put, we didn’t practice in a circle; we practiced on a hillside. Freshman year was rather unique. For javelin, we had three weeks of practice then got sent home for covid. But I met a lot of great seniors and picked up some things they taught me.

What type of things did you learn from last season that are translating into this season?

Our coach this year threw at IUP and knows a lot about the events, especially javelin. I learned a lot from him and these are the best months I’ve had.

What are the team and individual goals for this season?

The team goals were to be section champs, which we managed to do, and we are back-to-back champions and made it to the WPIAL team playoffs. Individually, I’d like to go to the WPIAL meet and do well there. And if the cards are in my favor, then go to states, but that’s a future thing that I can’t worry about yet.

You were chosen for the Steelers All-Peer Team. Tell me a little bit about that experience.

Being chosen for the Steelers All-Peer Team isn’t solely based on how you do athletically but what you do in the community. This experience was a true eye opener. We started with a Zoom call where I met a ton of kids from Western Pa. Then, we were on the field for the last game of the season. It was a great game, and I met a ton of great players.

You are committed to play football at Westminster. Tell me a little bit about the recruiting process.

It was hectic. Every other day, I got a phone call from a coach or someone who was at the school to see me. Friday night, I’d play the game and Saturday morning, I’d drive three hours away to watch a college game. The coaches are all great people. I personally fell in love with the campus, the people and coaching staff at Westminster.

Do you plan to garden while in college?

Not sure yet. Where I’m going, it’s a bit of an Amish town and rural. Who knows? I may have a window plant or a tomato plant growing outside.

What did you want out of a potential school?

Academics is first. This is something that not everyone looks at, but it’s a true reality that we have to face as many of us won’t have our sports last forever. Second was sports. No one likes being on a losing team, and I think that Westminster is great at sports and has a history of winning. Last was the people. Those people will be your friends for four-plus years and that has to be taken into account when going to school. It comes down to this: Can you see yourself here?

What advice do you have for anyone going through the recruiting process?

Be open to everyone and never close a door because you don’t know when the next one will open. People say it a lot, but it’s so true. Also never burn a bridge because you never know where a coach will go next. Go to as many things as possible too, as you never know where they will be. Really utilize emails, texts, calls and any type of social media. Post your highlights on Twitter. That is how you get recognized.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to leave with your teammates?

Always try your best at everything you do. There will be people that want to beat you down or tear you down. You have to know who you are; don’t let someone negatively impact you. You have to believe in yourself.

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