The last few months have been a homecoming for Branna MacDougall. The Kingston native recently returned to her hometown after transferring from Iowa State to run for the Queen’s Cross Country team this fall.
A highly-touted high school recruit from Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School, MacDougall considered several possibilities to continue her academic and athletic career. After taking a hard look at the University of Michigan, MacDougall decided to take her talents to Iowa State, where she began last fall.
MacDougall, who has run on the international stage four times, has come a long way since taking up the sport in the ninth grade. She said she discovered her talents while participating in triathlons growing up and was introduced to running by Queen’s Cross Country coach Steve Boyd.
“I used to do a lot of triathlons when I was younger and I was always really good at the running part, so I decided to pursue the running component only,” MacDougall said.
While training under Boyd in high school, the pair formed a strong bond. MacDougall’s breakout came in grade 12, where she set the Canadian U20 5000 metre record at the 2016 IIAF World U20 Championships with a time of 15:48.80.
In addition to having competed at the U20 World Championships, she’s run in two U20 Pan-Am championships and the U20 World Cross Country championships.
Coming off a highly successful World U20 championships, MacDougall entered her freshman year excited and ready to conquer the competitive world of top level American collegiate sports. But not long after the excitement faded, MacDougall was hit with a string of injuries — including a stress fracture in her foot — leaving her unable to train and compete.
Pondering her options, MacDougall decided to return home to Kingston this fall and transfer into the department of Civil Engineering at Queen’s. She credits Boyd as one of the main factors in her decision to return to Kingston. Having been coached by Boyd throughout high school, MacDougall knew what type of environment she was getting into.
“He’s really level headed, calm and collected and that rubs off on the athletes. That’s why I came back,” MacDougall said about Boyd.
Most former athletes who have gone through a serious injury understand the impact of not pushing themselves too quickly. With such a longstanding working relationship with Boyd, MacDougall believes he won’t put too much stress on her in training.
“He doesn’t get too far ahead, I don’t need to do anything super special in training, just stack them up and stay consistent,” MacDougall said.
This training philosophy contrasts significantly from that of her previous program at Iowa State, where training sessions were expected to be done at high levels of intensity.
Under Boyd’s high mileage program she’ll have more flexibility and freedom, which she says will help her remain healthy and fit for competitions.
“In Iowa, everything was kind of a race, workouts were always to the wall. That’s the main difference. The reins are a lot more pulled back,” MacDougall said. “Because the training was so crazy there, I didn’t really trust the coach.”
This year, MacDougall is aiming to stay healthy while helping the cross country team improve on their success from the past couple of years.
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