Freeport runner Michael Braun named Valley News Dispatch boys athlete of the year

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Saturday, June 29, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Michael Braun had a couple of major goals he set for his junior year at Freeport.

He wanted to earn a top 10 at states in cross country and a top five in track.

Some challenges came his way, like a sprained ankle and tendinitis in his knee, but at the end of the year, he ended up crossing both of those goals off his list.

Braun placed ninth in the PIAA Class 2A meet in cross country and was third in the 3,200-meter run during the Class 2A state meet in track and field.

In total, between the WPIAL and PIAA cross country and track championships, Braun earned six medals and is the 2024 Valley News Dispatch boys athlete of the year.

“There were some ups and downs, but I’m pretty happy to walk away with a top 10 in cross country and a top three in track,” Braun said. “I wanted top 10 in states in cross country and top three in the two mile and would’ve liked top five in the mile, but I’m pretty happy with seventh considering the circumstances.”

Before his ninth-place run at the state cross country meet, Braun finished seventh at the WPIAL Class 2A championship.

He improved from an 11th-place finish at WPIALs last year as a sophomore.

At states, Braun paced himself well and turned it on late to secure the top 10 he wanted.

“At the start of the race, I was pretty far back, but as the race went on, I slowly picked off people, especially in the second mile,” Braun said. “I knew I was close to the top 10 when I finished, and finally I was told I placed ninth. I was pretty happy, especially since I was the second-fastest junior in the race.”

Braun’s sprained ankle came during indoor track season in the winter, and it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

He worked his way back to full strength, but his knee tendinitis cropped up toward the end of outdoor season.

Even so, he nearly repeated as the WPIAL Class 2A 3,200 champ, finishing second to Mohawk’s Jaxon Schoedel. He also took third at WPIALs in the 1,600.

At states, he battled muggy conditions to get his top three in the 3,200 and seventh-place finish in the 1,600.

“Obviously, I came up a little bit short at WPIALs, but I feel I made up for it at states,” Braun said. “We had pretty good weather at almost every meet I ran this year, except the state meet, but I still did pretty well, so I’m happy with that.”

After high school season, Braun went to the New Balance Nationals in Philadelphia in June and participated in the two-mile run. Braun placed 39th in a field of runners from all over the country.

“It was tough, because my entire heat struggled,” Braun said. “We started out really slow in the first mile, and the second mile it was pretty divided. Nobody kept to the pace to what our (personal records) said we should. You just kind of had to hang on and hope your time was good.”

Braun has been receiving interest from colleges and plans to visit a few schools later this summer before making official visits in the fall.

In the meantime, he’ll be running at least six days a week in preparation for his senior year.

“The goal is to get back (to nationals),” Braun said. “Not sure what event, but probably the two mile again. I’d like to get to indoor nationals as well and do Foot Locker regionals for cross country.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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