March 18 was a milestone type of day in the life of Miami Trace High School senior, Caleb Brannigan.
Before his parents, two of his siblings, coaches and a host of friends and teammates, Brannigan signed a letter of intent to attend Ohio Northern University, located in Ada in Hardin County.
“I’ll be running cross country and outdoor and indoor track,” Brannigan said. “I’ll probably just end up running in whatever events the coaches think best for me. I’ll probably focus on one or two specific things.”
What factors led to Brannigan’s decision to attend Ohio Northern?
“I first had to go on my major, which was going to be either sports management or civil engineering,” Brannigan said. “Some sort of engineering. Then I had to decide if I wanted to compete at the collegiate level. I looked at schools with good running programs. I ended up going with engineering. They have a whole new building just for engineering, hands-on stuff.
“I met their team and did some Zoom meetings and I ended up really liking it,” Brannigan said. “There were other schools, but not a lot for engineering, after I figured out that was what I wanted to do, but a lot for sports management. I really liked the other programs, but it just came down to my major.”
Brannigan has been a key contributor to the cross country and track teams at Miami Trace. He also played basketball his freshman year.
What about his experience at Miami Trace?
“It’s changed me for the better,” Brannigan said. “I really like the programs here at Miami Trace, especially athletically. We’re always competitive. The people will be personal with you, one-on-one and help you out with situations in life, or academics, or athletics.
“I’ve really strived,” Brannigan said. “Miami Trace has made me who I am today. I went to Xenia before and it wasn’t really a good situation. It’s been a very good experience here, overall.
“I’d like to thank my parents, number one,” Brannigan said. “I moved in with them and they brought me here to Trace and put me in sports, really. They’ve been with me every step of the way. They’ve really guided me to where I am today. I wouldn’t have imagined myself going to college or signing for running in college. They’ve really helped me; they are the reason I am here today.”
Brannigan said his favorite subject in the classroom is math. He also said he enjoys science classes.
“This year has been a little crazy, with COVID in the last year,” Brannigan said. “I haven’t really gotten to enjoy school as much as I usually do.
“My favorite teacher is probably Mr. (Brent) Noes,” Brannigan said. “He’s my track coach, as well. He’s very disciplined in his teaching and in sports and he’s really helped me.”
What will it take to be successful in college?
“A lot of self-discipline,” Brannigan said. “Being on my own, having to keep my schedule. I won’t have as many people around to tell me to go out and run or to study. Avoiding distractions, being aware; definitely self-discipline, I would say.
“Jeff Smallwood (the Miami Trace cross country coach) and Mr. Noes, they are the main reasons I’m even decent at my sport. Because of the sports I do with them, and them teaching me, it’s really shaped me into who I am today. The lessons I’ve learned from them will always be with me.
“And my friends that I’ve run with,” Brannigan said. “A lot of them are here today and I’m very glad for that. They’ve helped me, pushed me, made life a lot easier. They’ve been with me in tough times, run with me and competed with me. They’ve pushed me to be who I am today, too. I’ll always remember them.”
“Miami Trace track and field and the entire Miami Trace community are extremely excited and proud of Caleb for all of his hard work and his dedication to his sport,” Miami Trace track coach Brent Noes said. “He’s had a great career here, not only in track and field, but, cross country, as well. We’re excited that he’s going to be able to carry this on at the next level.
“He’ll be successful at it,” Noes said. “He’s a very hard worker. He’s logged a lot of miles over the last four years that he’s been a part of this program.
“He was a Regional qualifier on our 4 x 800-meter relay team in 2019,” Noes said. “This year he’s going to be leading our distance program. We have high expectations for him and we know he’ll be able, through his work ethic, to reach those goals that he’s set for himself. We’re excited to see what the season brings for us.”
“I’m so proud of Caleb,” Miami Trace cross country coach Jeff Smallwood said. “He’s an exceptional young man. He’s been a part of our program since he came here in the eighth grade. He’s been a two-time, All-FAC runner, two-time, All-District. He’s a leader on our team. He worked hard in the off-season, and it showed.
“ONU is a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference,” Smallwood said. “It’s a great Division III school. I’ve been to ONU quite a few times and played them in basketball when I played for Muskingum. I’m sure he’s going to accomplish all his goals, because he works hard. I’m just excited for him to be able to do that.
“He’s not only a worker on the field, as far as sports, he’s been working 20, 30, 40 hours a week, working at Wendy’s and McDonald’s, while doing a sport, while maintaining the outstanding grade point average that he has,” Smallwood said. “I just think he’s a great young man and I would do anything for him and he knows that. We’re really close.
“You know, after you coach someone for half a decade, he’s like a family member to me,” Smallwood said. “That’s where he stands with me.”