Brayden Hershberger, 13, a Jockey Hollow STEM Academy student, is a star athlete who earned the right to compete in the 400-meter at the New Balance Nationals, an indoor track event held at the sneaker company’s world headquarters in Boston earlier this month.
His father is Jeffrey Hershberger, and he lives with his mother Nicole and sister, Aubrie, who expresses her support by going to all of her brother’s meets.
“Brayden is finally seeing all of his hard work and dedication paying off,” Nicole said of her son. “He continues to improve and get better with each and every meet. Every time he steps onto the track, whether it’s practice or a meet, he is always striving to be better than the day before!”
Brayden Hershberger started running in meets in the Jockey Hollow program when he was in sixth grade.
“He did cross country that fall and loved it so much that he wanted to do track in the spring,” Nicole said. “Unfortunately, the next year they didn’t have a track coach so the spring track program was not offered. He was super bummed.”
Nicole learned about a Track club in Danbury called The Danbury Flyers Elite from talking to another family in town.
“I decided to check them out and that is how we found Gail Williams, owner and head coach of the Danbury Flyers,” she recalled, adding of Brayden, “he went to a trial practice the following week and said he was so sore and exhausted after it, but he loved it and wanted to go back! We are coming up on one year of being a part of this amazing team and I’m so glad we found them, and will miss them when Brayden goes off to Masuk in the fall.”
Brayden Hershberger answered a few questions from The Sun about his experience over email. Here’s the interview:
What sparked your interest in the sport? What do you like about it?
Hershberger: I really loved the sport when I first tried it in sixth grade and was really excited to continue when I got to seventh grade. Since my school didn’t have a track coach my mom researched a ton and then found Coach Gail and her program, The Danbury FLYERS Elite.
What I really like most about this team is that I worked really hard and was named Captain this past fall. I’ve never been Captain of a team before. I love being able to support my team in any way I can. I also really love the people I meet along the way, and being able to talk to new people during meets makes it a really great experience overall.
Why did you gravitate to the 400 meter as the event to compete in? Do you like speed over long distance and endurance?
Hershberger: The 400m race is the one I qualified for, for the NB Nationals, but I also compete in the 800m and the High Jump for my field event.
I always thought I liked speed over long distance, but then I did cross country in the fall and realized just how much I like distance running, so I would consider myself a mid-distance runner overall.
Are you on a track team at school or any running clubs? Do you ever compete in the Sprint for Monroe or other road races?
Hershberger: I am just running with The Danbury FLYERS until I go to Masuk. I haven’t ran in any of the other road races or Sprint for Monroe because usually my meets conflict since I have meets every weekend with each new season. But I do look forward to them when I can in the future.
Who is your biggest influence in the sport?
Hershberger: I would have to say my biggest influences are my coaches. Coach Gail, Coach Jen, Coach Glenn, Coach Kim, and Coach Rock.
How did you qualify for the NB Nationals? How did you find out you made it? How did that make you feel?
Hershberger: So for each meet I worked really hard to try and shave at least a few seconds off my times for my races. One night after practice, I was getting ready to leave and Coach Gail told me I had been invited to the NB Nationals meet for my 400m race.
At first, I thought it was pretty cool, but didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until Coach Gail was talking with my mom. I was the first one in all her years of coaching to ever have been invited to this meet! I then realized that, ok this was a big deal and a huge honor.
How was the whole experience of being there?
Hershberger: I think I can sum it up as exciting, a little overwhelming, and I just felt extremely honored that by putting in the hard work really paid off and I was able to make it there. What’s really cool too is I get NB trainers and a backpack.
How far do you want to take this? Do you plan to run in high school and college ?
Hershberger: I want to take this sport as far as I can! I most definitely am planning to run for Masuk and want to work my hardest so I can also get a great scholarship for college and run there too.
How do you train? Do you do a lot of running on your own? Anything you do with your diet?
I train two days a week with my team and then on my own another three to four days. I do a ton of core exercises and continuous runs outside if it’s not raining too hard or snowing.
With my diet, I only drink water and Gatorade at meets. I don’t eat anything special but I’m working towards incorporating more fruits and veggies and proteins into my daily diet.
Is there anything you want to add?
Hershberger: I really want to thank my teammates, parents, coaches, and my sister Aubrie for supporting me every step of the way and always having my best interest in mind and pushing me to perform my best.