Regina Leader-Post

Branning shows he’s a fast learner

- IAN HAMILTON Kahlen Branning ihamilton@leaderpost.com

Kahlen Branning is doing what he can to overcome a slow start.

The 21-year-old Moose Jaw product has been at the University of Regina since 2011 — his first season with the Rams football team — but he only started running track for the Cougars this season.

Despite being a rookie with the track team, Branning has qualified for the 2015 CIS championsh­ips. He’s to compete in the men’s 60 metres and with Regina’s 4x200m relay team at the meet, which goes Thursday through Saturday in Windsor, Ont.

Asked if he expected to be at nationals in his first season, Branning replied: “Honestly? No.”

“The main reason I joined (the track team) was just to practise and get fast,” he continued. “Then I guess I ended up being kind of good at it, so now here I am, going to nationals with some of the fastest guys in Canada.”

Branning goes into the meet ranked 12th in the 60m after posting a careerbest time of 6.95 seconds at the Canada West championsh­ips. He finished fourth at that meet.

In Windsor, he’ll face athletes who have been concentrat­ing solely on track for years.

“I’m pretty nervous and anxious but mostly excited,” Branning said.

“I’ve been doing a lot of training lately, working on a few technique things, and I’m really excited to see where that can put me at nationals.

“This will be good to have on my resumé for the CFL combine (March 23 in Edmonton) as well. If I can compete at a high level (at the CIS meet) and show off my speed, I think it’ll really help me and show scouts what I’ve got.”

Cougars head coach Bruce McCannel tried to recruit Branning out of Moose Jaw’s Central Collegiate, but Branning opted to focus only on football with the Rams.

“I was enrolled in engineerin­g and I thought I would just be too busy, doing two sports plus engineerin­g,” Branning said.

“Then after a while, I thought, ‘If I can do football and manage fine in university, I think I can do track and manage (school) in the winter.’ ’’

It also helped that he had seen fellow cornerback Tevaughn Campbell do double duty with the Rams and the track team. As a result, Branning decided to join the Cougars this season.

But things are different for him now.

Like Campbell, Branning put on muscle to handle the rigours of playing Canada West football. At 185 pounds, he doesn’t have the optimum build for a sprinter anymore.

He also had to remember the finer points of track.

“He certainly needed to tune up his technique because it’s something he hadn’t done since high school,” McCannel said. “He had work to do, but by the end of the season, his natural talent showed through. He contribute­d a lot this year.”

Branning admitted he was rusty in the early going, but practice and the coaching of Cougars sprints coach Alger Seon have helped Branning regain his form.

His time with the Cougars also has helped Branning gain a new respect for track.

“(In high school) I always found it to just be a way to train,” he said. “It wasn’t one of my favourite sports.

“But it’s a different environmen­t in university. The competitio­n is so good, you’re forced to love it almost. I’ve really grown fond of track now.”

“THIS WILL BE GOOD TO HAVE ON MY RESUMÉ FOR THE CFL COMBINE (MARCH 23 IN EDMONTON) AS WELL.” KAHLEN BRANNING

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