First-year Brynn Brown is no stranger to making history, and at the start of her first-year season of cross country, she's already doubled up on ACC’s Weekly Awards.
When the UNC women’s cross-country team took home first place at the Battle of Beantown – beating out 20 other teams for the win –Brown finished with a 16:53 finish time at the competition.
And she doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
Before coming to North Carolina, Brown was shattering Texas state records in distance running. She's currently ranked No. 8 in U.S. history for her 15:56.89 5K time at the Texas Distance Festival in March.
But before she started running, Brown was an avid soccer player.
“I was always a player who was very mobile on the (soccer) field …the coach came up to me and was like ‘you should run for my team,’” Brown said. “I started my freshman year. I decided to go all out on running, and it started to take off.”
Her talent showed when she ranked first in the Texas UIL District 6 Regionals with a three-mile run time of 16:51 her first year.
Brown struggled with injuries during her high school career, including a stress fracture during her junior year. Returning from an injury going into college was difficult, but Brown continued to push herself.
“I learned a lot about myself through those injuries,” she said. “I look at (setbacks) as a prerequisite for a stronger comeback.”
North Carolina women's cross country head coach Dylan Sorenson, a key player in Brown’s recruitment process, saw her competing after coming off of a huge injury at a national qualifier.
“I knew how she handled this race would be really telling about who she is as a person,” he said. “The gun went off, and she fell right on her face. Then she got up and displayed this remarkable character by fighting ... the whole way.”
During high school, one of Brown's teammates, Dylan Dorrell, died after cross country practice. Since then, Brown has run for something bigger than just herself.
“It was just this big underlying motivation, and our motto that whole year was just ‘Run for Dylan,’' Brown said. "I think that was one of our most successful seasons as a team, and it really taught me the importance of seeing something bigger.”
Even after leaving high school, her ability to form deep connections and camaraderie with her teammates has continued into her time at UNC.
“The girls and everyone here is so supportive,” Brown said. “We all have each other’s backs.”
Brown believed North Carolina was an amazing opportunity to grow both in her sport and in academics, allowing her to push herself in every avenue.
“I love pushing myself on the field, in the classroom,” Brown said. “I love seeing how far I can go, where that boundary lies.”
Brown's high school coach Jonathan Ponsonby said her drive to succeed was present during high school as well. After starting cross country as a first-year in high school, she continued to push herself to do better.
“Brynn's never missed a workout, lift or race,” Ponsonby said. “I recall one stormy day during the winter break when she didn’t have a ride. Most would use that as an excuse to miss, but she rode her bike in the rain to the field house and never batted an eye.”
Coming into her first season at UNC, Brown was named the 2019-20 Gatorade Girls’ Texas Track and Field Athlete of the Year and a three-time cross country national qualifier in high school, starting her first college season as one of the nation’s top recruits.
Brown’s debut came at the same time as when former distance assistant coach, Sorenson, stepped up as the head coach for the women’s cross country team. He said he saw a tenacity in Brown that he thought would fit well into his vision of their team.
Sorenson says he’s confident that Brown’s achievement only raises the bar for her and other runners to go harder.
“She is fierce, and she has this tenacity ... and she knows how to run hard," Sorenson said.
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