The new Lakewood Ranch High School cross country coach Kristina Bratton is no stranger to the limelight. She won the state championships four years in a row, from seventh grade to her senior year at Bradenton Christian.
Kristina Bratton is a kindergarten teacher at Palmetto Elementary school. She is in her sixth year teaching in Manatee County, and her second teaching kindergarten.
Bratton has been coaching cross country and track and field since 2005. She started her coaching career at Bradenton Christian High School, coaching there for six years. She also spent a year with the Braden River Pirates.
"I also coach a part of Florida Express Track Club Inc. for youth children from the ages of 5-18 in both cross country and track and field in the summertime," Bratton said.
Bratton's love for running started when she was five. She ran in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and in USA Track and Field (USATF) events during the summer.
Bratton received a scholarship to the University of Florida and ran cross country and track and field.
LRHS cross country sophomores Elizabeth Chandler and Katie Wray were excited when Bratton was hired, and they love her as a coach.
Chandler said, "I think she is friendly, personable, and encouraging!"
Wray said," We were so excited when she was hired!"
In previous years, the team won the state championship and many runners got to the regional and state level.
The new coach yearns to continue the LRHS cross country winning tradition this year.
Although 2011 state champ Olivia Ortiz did not place at states last year at the 2012 meet, star runner Devin McDermott performed well enough so snag a scholarship to the University of Florida for running and academics.
"My hopes and goals for the cross country team this year," said Bratton, "are for both the girls and the boys teams to show up at the state meet and to come back with great performances and/or a state title."
Wray said, "My hope for the team this year is to qualify for states and place in the top 10."
Chandler has very high hopes for the team this year, "Our varsity girls are very talented and because we have several seniors," she said, "I know they will put out their best efforts."
Practices differ by exercise intensity and amount of running. Weightlifting has been worked into the practice session.
In addition to plenty of running during practice, Bratton said, "The workouts are different every day and before the kids start their workouts, they do core work every day and lift weights a couple days throughout the week."
Chandler believes that LRHS cross country has changed for the better, "The new coach has incorporated afternoon swim sessions and morning practices into the workout regimen," she said.
"The practices are really tough and hot most days, but I know it's for the benefit of me and the team," said Wray.
Coaching is a challenging job. Bratton, like other good coaches, gets on a personal level with every athlete to find strategies that will encourage each one to improve his or her best time.
"The most challenging part with me for coaching is learning everyone's name," said Bratton, "But my favorite part of coaching is when athletes can walk away with their goals being accomplished whether it's physical or mental.
"I have always wanted to be a part of a great school that takes pride in their school traditions," said Bratton. "I feel Lakewood Ranch encompasses all of that not only in athletics but in academics."