Branan Entering Rare Territory With His Speed & Strength

Kendall Branan started his track and field career in 8th grade as a distance runner, contesting the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs and 4x800 relay.

And while the Indiana Area senior still can hold his own, thank you very much, over 5K in the fall, long dashes and short runs are more his style.

"I love the 400-800 a lot more," Branan said of his current area of expertise while looking back on his start in the sport.

Thus far in the 2020 indoor season, the University of Pittsburgh signee has shown that, in addition to liking the shorter races, he is one of the state's best at events that always are in the conversation for the toughest around.

With only two weekends left in the Pennsylvania indoor season, Branan is second in the 800 with a PR 1:53:37 and PA#4 in the 400 with an indoor best 49.21. Jonah Hoey, who is running unattached this year against collegiate and pro competition, is the state's fastest in the 800, while the faster 400s all were run on banked ovals. Branan is just one of two boys, along with PA#1 Salim Epps, that have run sub-50 flat track times this season.

"My coach, Mrs. (Lisa) Kinter, threw me in the 400 one day my freshman year and I ended up beating our two guys in the 400," he said of his introduction to the shorter races. "And I just kind of fell in love with the race after that."

Branan is weeks away from completing a feat that only two other Pennsylvania boys have accomplished since 2010 - ranking in the top 5 statewide indoors in both the 400 and 800.

Former Cheltenham standout John Lewis was the first to do it, setting the bar high as PA#1 in both events with clockings of 48.81 and 1:50.57 in 2015. His 800 performance at the PTFCA finale at Penn State also was US#1 for the 2015 indoor season.

In 2017, Brookville Area's Ryan Thrush was PA's third fastest undercover with 48.52 and 1:54.43 performances. Now a junior at Harvard, Thrush ended the season 20th in the 400 and 18th in the 800 nationally, according to MileSplit's database.

Currently, Branan is US#5 in the 800 and tied for 50th nationwide at half the distance.

Last fall, Branan was one of the top Class AA performers in Pennsylvania. He won the Carlisle Invitational Champions Race with a season-best 16:15.8 before finishing fourth at WPIALs and ninth in the PIAA final. As a junior, he was 46th at Hershey and was more than a minute slower.

On Saturday, Branan will look to defend his 800 title in the TSTCA Championships at Edinboro University. He has won a pair of 400s and an 800 on the Scots' 236.621-meter oval.

"It really helps me in that first lap," Branan said of the benefit in the 800 that he receives from racing 400s. "I can hold the pace for the first lap, and then I try to hold on for that second lap and try to kick with 200 left.

"My quads start burning and stuff. Then I just try to really hold on for 200 meters, and then the last 200 meters, I really try to kick. It's really not much of a kick, but I try to speed up."