The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa second-year distance runner Brayden Burnett sees career off to a quick start, full of progress

Burnett fosters support from his former coach and fellow teammates as he makes strides in his early career as a Hawkeye.
Kathy Le
Iowa’s Brayden Burnett warms up during a practice outside the Hawkeye Indoor Track Facility in Iowa City on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023.

Iowa second-year distance runner Brayden Burnett never thought it would be possible to run cross country at the Division I level. Now, Burnett is making a name for himself on the team ranked No. 15 regionally.

Hailing from Cedar Falls, Iowa, Burnett started his running journey in middle school as a multi-sport athlete.

With so many experiences in so many sports, Burnett attributes his competitiveness to his experience with the handful of youth athletics he participated in.

“I was always that kid who went hard in the [physical education class] mile,” Burnett said. “And that came with doing five different sports growing up, mostly soccer and basketball.”

In seventh grade, Burnett looked to add to his athletic experience arsenal and went out for cross country. Shortly after, he put the basketball and soccer ball down in exchange for a pair of spikes — and never turned back.

“It naturally happened,” Burnett said of trying out for the cross country team. “I knew my talent was in long-distance [running], so I went from doing five sports a year to only track and cross country.”

After finally finding his niche in running, Burnett quickly made an impact for the Cedar Falls Tigers.

Scott Gall, Burnett’s high school cross country coach, recalls Burnett making immediate contributions to the program upon joining the team — so much so that he ran varsity as a freshman.

“I think his mom was worried about it because it’s a lot of pressure on a ninth-grade student-athlete,” Gall said. “One of her questions was something to the point of, ‘Are you sure he needs to be running varsity as a freshman?’ and I said, ‘yes.’”

Burnett and Gall developed a tight-knit bond over the art of running, as Gall doubled as Burnett’s coach and boss at Gall’s local running store.

“He started working for us real young, so I hung out with him at the store and at practice,” Gall said. “Poor guy had to hang out with me a lot.”

When Burnett wasn’t working on selling shoes in his coach’s store, he was working on his speed.

During his high school career, Burnett was named four-time first team all-conference and three-time first team all-district, and he placed 11th at the state cross country meet his senior year.

In the classroom, Burnett was a Gold Scholar graduate with a 4.01 grade-point average, erasing any concerns his mother had for his grades when he first started running.

Following graduation, though, Burnett’s commitment to continue his academic and athletic career at the University of Iowa — and rep the Black and Gold day in and day out — came unexpectedly.

“I was actually raised an [Iowa State] Cyclone fan, unfortunately,” Burnett recalled. “Plus, I just never thought it was even a possibility for me to run at the college level.”

Despite this, Burnett proved himself worthy to be a Hawkeye student-athlete early on in his career with the Black and Gold.

He ran collegiate bests in the 6,000-meter and 8,000-meter races with finishes of 22:42.20 and 25:41.20, respectively, in 2022 before running season bests in the mile and 3,000 meters in 2023.

Burnett’s teammate and Hawkeye second-year Carson Houg attributes Burnett’s early successes to his teammate’s immense dedication to the sport.

“[Burnett] had a good opening freshman track season, but you could tell he wasn’t satisfied,” Houg said. “He went home this summer and worked his tail off. When he got back to school, we were all just blown away with how far he had come over the summer.”

This season has been one of explosive leaps for Burnett.

At the Hawkeye Invite on Sept. 1, Burnett ran 18:33.10 in the 6,000-meter races for a college best. At the Wisconsin Badger Classic on Sept. 9, he ran a 25:39.60 in the 8,000-meter race for yet another college best.

At the Joe Piane Invitational on Sept. 29, Burnett ran a 25:17.0 in the five-mile — his third college best three weeks in a row.

Burnett’s most recent highlight as a Hawkeye came at the Big Ten Championship meet on Oct. 27 where he finished third among the Iowa men’s squad. In the 8,000-meter race, Burnett finished 65th with a time of 26:03.70.

“At this point, it is just an honor to sit back and watch him continue to progress,” Gall said. “He’s just a really good person who is having some good things going his way.”

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About the Contributors
Mia Boulton
Mia Boulton, Sports Reporter
Mia Boulton is a freshman at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism & Mass Communication, as well as exploring a possible double major in Sports Media. She works at the Daily Iowan as a sports reporter. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Mia has been a photographer for her hometown newspaper, The Record.
Kathy Le, Photojournalist
Kathy Le is a fourth-year student at The University of Iowa majoring in 3D design and Art History. This is her first year working as a photojournalist of Daily Iowan.