Semi-finalist at the 2005 World Track and Field Championships. Eleven-time All-American in track and cross country. Four-time National Champion in both indoor and outdoor track.
That is how Nate Brannen’s resume reads. So it’s safe to say that Michigan men’s cross country coach Ron Warhurst had no trouble deciding whether to extend Brannen an invitation to join his coaching staff when the track star graduated last year. Luckily for the Wolverines, Brannen accepted Warhurst’s invite.
“Coaching has always been something that I wanted to do,” Brannen said. “I want to try and climb up the ranks in the coaching world once I’m done competing.”
Losing arguably the most prolific runner in school history would seem to precipitate a drop-off in the team’s performance. But Michigan is hoping the addition of Brannen the coach will help offset the loss of Brannen the runner.
“I think he has an interest (in coaching),” Warhurst said. “He’s got the respect, and he’s got the credentials as an international runner. He can help the younger guys through tough times, like when they get injured, because he’s been through it all.”
Not only was Brannen the Wolverines’ best runner last year, but he was also the captain of the team. Now he is helping in the search for this year’s leaders.
“Last year, I talked to (senior Andrew Bauer) and kind of put the idea in his head that he is the best runner that we have,” Brannen said. “I talked to (sophomore Mike Woods) over the summer and sent him a few e-mails and put it out there that he is one of the leaders on this team.”
Even though the team has only been practicing for a week, a new dynamic appears to have developed.
“(Brannen) was usually the leader in the workouts, but now everybody takes a turn up front, and we’ve been really working together well,” Bauer said. “He’s still there to motivate us even though he isn’t participating in all the workouts
Because Brannen is just one year removed from being a member on the cross country team, he is still close to many of the returning runners and can better address their needs throughout the season.
“He’s been going into Ron’s office and sitting down with him and really planning out workouts for the season,” Bauer said. “(He’s) been really focusing on how to help us in the long term, rather than just being our best now.”
Brannen will also continue to compete internationally.
“He’s always been a good leader, and, being an assistant coach (now), he’s really going to be able to contribute that much more in terms of leadership and training,” Woods said.
Brannen’s impact as a coach will not be clear until the NCAA Championships in November where the Michigan cross country team will look to improve on its 26th place showing last season.