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Female Area Athlete of the Week: Brownell opens season with win on home course – Brainerd Dispatch

There was no championship hangover for Audrey Brownell.

After anchoring the Staples-Motley 4×800 relay team to a state title in the spring, the now sophomore opened the cross-country season with a win at the Cardinal Invite with a 19:10.3 time at The Vintage at Staples.

“It felt really good,” Brownell said. “That was my goal coming into the race. I knew that I had been training a lot this summer and was getting excited to see what I can do because our home course is pretty tough. So to be able to do that I’m pretty happy.”

Staples-Motley head coach Bruce Fuhrman said there has been a positive carryover from spring to fall with Brownell.

“She worked and trained all off-season really well,” Fuhrman said. “She is going to be a force to be reckoned with by all the area schools this year. She has some lofty goals, but she has to run well at these meets and keep her training up. Running against some of those great runners on other squads helped her with her confidence. She was always confident, but in the back of her mind these are kids that are older and she’s watched them be ranked in front of her and now she’s the force to be reckoned with, which I think is cool for her.”

Brownell added: “Keep training is the big part. There is always the confidence we have after winning the 4×800 relay. We know that we are pretty good. We just keep training because we know there is more to come if we keep working hard.”

In the summer, Brownell ran a lot of what he she called “easy miles” to prepare for the cross-country season.

“I was just building my endurance and building my base before the season,” Brownell said.

Brownell’s running style is to pace herself and show off her endurance toward the finish line. She doesn’t get rattled when others pass her at the start and is confident she’ll catch them.

“I’ve been coached to figure out my pace and stick with it,” Brownell said. “When I’m with a group of people, I tend to go to the back and wait it out. You have time in a 3.5-mile race to be patient and make your move and be smart about it. It’s about timing and knowing that if I go now I’ll have a big kick at the end and being confident in myself to run smart. Whenever I go into a race, I think to myself that if it comes down to a kick I got it.”

Fuhrman added: “She knows how to pace herself. A fast start isn’t really what she is looking for even though her start is going to be faster than most kids. Her running style is more of a glide now. She spends a lot of time focusing on her form. Her foot placement is the same every step and she is very consistent in those things and she is very fundamental in how she runs.”

Brownell’s role for Staples-Motley is to be the leader of the pack in races and practice.

“It was definitely a big adjustment,” she said. “I was always one of the back people of the group and listening to what other people would say. Now, since we have graduated people the whole team has changed and it’s been fun to be able to tell the younger kids what to do and we have a lot of fun.”

Fuhrman added: “She’s embraced it and the little kids gravitate towards her. They look up to her and they see that she’s evolved into a fantastic runner. We got quite a few fifth graders hanging around our program and they are learning a lot from her.”

Last year at the state cross-country meet, Brownell led the Cardinals to third place when she finished seventh in 18:59.5. As an eighth grader, Brownell placed 13th at state, which helped the Cardinals win the state title in 2021.

The hope is Brownell can help the Cardinals reclaim the team title and grab the state individual, too.

“We have a good group that is going to be up there,” Brownell said. “I think it’s a goal of mine to win the state title and then go to regionals to see what I can do there, too.”

Fuhrman added: “She’s got the ability. She’s shown the various levels of speeds from the 400-meter to 3200-meter in track. We started to see it last year in the cross-country season that she was really developing and now she has become more focused as a runner. She loves to train.”

Brownell was friends with Nevis’ Jade Rypkema who won the state cross-country title last year as a senior. Brownell credits Rypkema and others with shaping her as the runner she is today.

“She’s really awesome,” Brownell said. “The past year I’ve gotten really close with her and some other girls from different schools that I run with and train with. You build that bond and give you all the confidence in the world. I have a good friend at Pequot Lakes in Calia Chaney and she’s awesome. It’s helpful to have people like that.”

Other notable performances:
Volleyball: Ella Kratochvil, Pequot Lakes, recorded 50 kills and 27 digs in two games last week.

Year: Sophomore
School: Staples-Motley
Sport: Cross-Country
Highlights: She won the Cardinal Invite with a 19:10.3.

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