Danny Branco : Sandwich High School
"Danny Branco is a soft spoken young man who lead this team by example all year long. He's a 3-season captain, ACL All-Star & League Champion for the Blue Knights who's hard work, patience and dedication to becoming a better athlete is matched by no other" ----Coach Infascelli
What do you enjoy doing outside of your running?
Not a whole lot, really. Biking, fishing, backpacking, working, sight-seeing, walking, semi-jogging. I don't live a very exciting life, unfortunately.
What are you going to miss most about your high school running career?
Everything. Seriously, if I didn't have running in high school, I wouldn't have known what else to do with my spare time. The boredom would have gotten to me, and I would have gone insane.
What was your most memorable race?
Either the ACL Championship meet at Plymouth South in May of 2010, or the NB Indoor National meet at New York in March of 2012. It's a close tie.
Out of all your high school running accomplishments, what stands out the most?
The ACL Championship meet was the first meet where I broke five minutes in the mile (by .02 seconds.) It was a revelation, so to speak, a moment where I realized, "Hey, maybe I'm good at this after all. I should work harder, I can totally bring that time down more!"
What was the most difficult obstacle you had to overcome?
There were no serious injuries for me, only a few shinsplints here and there. I count myself lucky on that. I guess the biggest obstacle I faced was my own mind telling me I couldn't do it. Some people are better than others at ignoring that little voice inside their minds, saying "Just stop, stop now, you're not gonna pass this guy, give up, you feel terrible and you know it, you're not gonna make the time, you suck, stop now."
Honestly, I really have no idea what it is I do to shut out that voice. I must do something, though, or else how would I have gotten the privilege to participate at a national level? It's definitely not something cliche, like tell myself, "Yes I can, yes I can, I'm tough, I believe!" When not in a competition, or even as I sit here writing this, I am not the same person as when I'm in a race. I become a totally different human being than the one I am right now. My body is operating at overdrive doing outrageously strenuous activity, I can only see in tunnel vision, every fiber of my being is screaming, and my mind frantically switches from thinking at a thousand thoughts per second to completely spacing out. And then that voice returns; it never showed up before the race, or even shows up in normal everyday life, but now here it is, mocking me as I run, telling me to stop, and making me doubt myself.
So, it's complicated. It's a strange feeling to run hard and experience this state of being, full of mental and physical pain accompanied by a strong sense of excitement fueled by pure adrenaline. And then to feel such tremendous pride after a hard-won race, it's almost like a bittersweet euphoria. I'm sure the next time I race or work out, the voice will come back, and then I'll find whatever it is inside me and push the voice away long enough for me to finish successfully. I don't know if I'm the only one who feels this way (I sure hope not!)
Do you have any advice for younger runners?
Well, if you like running, definitely stick with it. If you don't, that's OK. If you feel unsure about it, just give it a little time. But to all young athletes, at least try it before dismissing it. You never know, you could be the next Bernard Lagat or Maggie Vessey and not even know it!
If you were to change anything about your high school running career.....what would you change?
What are your college plans?
I am going to attend the University of Rhode Island in the fall to try to earn a doctorate in pharmacy. The cross country/track team holds tryouts, so I will give it a shot. I'm just dreading the idea of finding something else to do if I don't make the team. What else is there besides running??? That's all I've ever known!
Who would you like to say thank you to?
I would like to thank my parents for sticking by me and putting up with my fits of anger and frustration no matter what. They really were the inspiration I needed. I would like to thank my teammates for many seasons of success and for being some of the best people I've ever come to know. And I'd like to thank my coach Steven Infascelli for having such a zealous love for the sport and inspiring us to strive for excellence not only in running, but in every aspect of life. Thank you.
Coach Infascelli's Final Thoughts:
"Danny Branco is a soft spoken young man who lead this team by example all year long. He's a 3-season captain, ACL All-Star & League Champion for the Blue Knights who's hard work, patience and dedication to becoming a better athlete is matched by no other. Certainly not the most 'talented or gifted' but routinely made his presence known upfront. He was an absolute bull for us in every championship event he ran in a Sandwich uniform. He helped raise the expectation and performance level of every one pf his teammates, a feat which I am most proud of. I wish Danny nothing but the very best, as that's what he deserves. URI should be elated to have him as a member of their team. GO RHODY RAMS!"