Braydon Waller was always fast. Despite that fact, he didn’t run track until his junior year at Marian Catholic.
Even after he came out for the team in March of 2022, his training wasn’t like most of the sprinters he competed against. His natural talent was still enough to earn a third-place finish in the 100-meter dash and a couple of relay medals last year at state.
Now, after an offseason spent in the weight room, learning proper form and taking the teachings of first-year coach Curtis Crossley, Waller is a Class 2A state champion in the 100 with a 10.75 second run.
“This has been something that I’ve been really focusing on and working for and it feels really good,” the Spartans senior said. “It was a lot of pressure but I pulled through. I’m really proud of myself for that.”
Marian’s last state champion was Erick Gavin, who won the 100-meter hurdles in 2010.
Waller also anchored a third-place 400-meter relay team with Paul Frazier Jr., Michael VanHootegem and Tyler Lofton. That group posted a time of 42.28, not far from the school record.
“(Frazier) ran a great first leg. Michael VanHootegem was awesome. Tyler Loft, our (football) running back, ran the third leg and then you have Braydon Waller, our anchor. That group was just amazing,” coach Curtis Crossley said. “When all the money’s got to be put on the floor, it’s got to be these four guys.”
Waller also anchored the 800-meter relay team that didn’t make the finals.
He said the biggest difference between his junior and senior year was an improvement in his gas tank. Weight lifting and endurance training were new to him.
“I really didn’t have the stamina to finish races (as a junior),” Waller said. “I developed more of a technique. Last year was just more talent, I guess you could say, and (Crossley) really helped nurture it.”
Crossley said he knew almost immediately upon meeting Waller and looking over his times that a state championship was possible. On the track, Crossley saw that second or third gear that most sprinters don’t have. The kid was raw, though, so a plan was put in place to maximize his potential as much as possible in a one-year window.
Waller’s personality was just a benefit that came to light as the two got to know each other.
“Braydon’s a highly-intelligent kid, a hard-working young man with a wide range of interests,” Crossley said. “As a first year head coach, it was great to have a senior that I was able to put in a leadership role, who accepted that leadership role and really thrived. He was able to lead by example and by the middle of the season he was able to lead vocally.”
Being at the state meet for a second time helped Waller jump a mental hurdle, as well. The pomp and circumstance of an event like that wasn’t overwhelming.
That experience also helped Waller overcome a disappointing result in the 200-meter dash on the first day of the meet. He failed to qualify for the finals.
“That set me back a little, in my mindset. I was upset about it for the entire day after that. I felt really melancholy,” Waller said. “I was like ‘I have to race tomorrow. I have a four by one to run tomorrow and a 100. I can’t stay like this. I have to stay motivated and keep a straight head so I can go out the way I did go: On top.’”
With that, Waller may have earned himself a college scholarship. He’s visited a few schools and hopes to see a couple more this summer before heading off to become a business major. He said he’s open to anything.
“He’s really smart and comes from a great, supportive, two-parent home,” Crossley said. “Braydon has worked his tail off. He worked year-round for that.”
The Spartans girls squad had a few medalists, as well.
Junior Mia Rodriguez finished eighth in the 100 and 200. The 400-meter relay team of Rodriguez, Bethany Peoples, Autumn Price and Brooklyn Holmes ran a 49.27-second race which was also good enough for eighth. Senior Kayden Porter was fifth in the shot put with a throw of 11.81 meters.
As a team, Marian was 25th in Class 2A with 11 points.