Senior Whitney Brannan hasn’t followed the usual path of college athletics.
Brannan transferred from Oral Roberts University and joined the Golden Eagles as a junior, hoping to continue in college soccer.
Brannan maintained a competitive presence as a midfielder throughout her junior year here at JBU, registering 37 shots on goal.
However, a torn ACL at the beginning of the 2013 season put all college soccer on hold, and Brannan would miss the rest of the season. This is also where Brannan’s athletic career departs from normal.
“It was just a really long process, and we were trying to get my eligibility for another year since I had to go another semester anyway,” Brannan said. The powers that be did not grant her another year of eligibility.
An athlete since childhood, Brannan didn’t like the idea of “just going to school here and … that’s all.”
“I have always been an athlete, played a sport, been a part of the team,” Brannan said.
Brannan then had an idea that would allow her to continue being a student-athlete: joining the cross country team.
Following rehabilitation and receiving approval from athletic director Robyn Daugherty, women’s soccer coach Kathleen Paulsen and cross country coach Scott Schochler, she joined the cross country team at the start of the fall semester.
Brannan, having transferred universities, was perhaps better prepared than many to change teams yet again. Even so, adapting to a new, already close team can be difficult.
Brannan said her fellow cross country teammates have made the transition easier.
“I have totally enjoyed it because everyone on the cross country team has been so welcoming and so sweet and so encouraging,” Brannan said. “I couldn’t have been better welcomed onto the team.”
As one of the newest runners, Brannan is far from the most experienced. However, coach Schochler noticed some of her soccer-oriented mentality bringing a new dimension to the team. The longer duration of soccer matches and the presence of an attacking rival force players into a necessarily aggressive mental stance. Cross country is a little different. Runners aren’t looking to score goals and defend against another team but to finish the race and place as high as possible.
“The biggest thing Whitney has brought to our team is a little aggressiveness,” Schochler said. “Most runners are pretty laid back and react to what happens around them. Whitney, coming from a soccer background, is willing to be much more assertive and animate a workout or race. She is a fiery and demonstrative competitor, and that is something that is helping our entire team.”
Brannan is adjusting well to the change. In Ft. Smith, at the Platinum Buffalo Invitational, Brannan finished second behind the first place sophomore Annie Brown to help the Golden Eagles win their first event of the season.
It is rare to see an athlete switch sports so late in their college career, though Brannan’s departure from the norm is paying off.
The team will be competing this weekend in Lawrence, Kan.