“I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW that I had gotten the record when I crossed the line because it wasn’t even a goal of mine going into the race,” says Mia Brahe-Pedersen (Lake Oswego, Oregon) of her HS indoor 200 record 22.89. “I walked off the track and one of my coaches is just like, ‘Hey, nice national record!’ And I was very taken aback because I was not expecting that.”
At New Mexico’s Kirby Elite Invitational on February 10, prep junior Brahe-Pedersen had dashed a lap of the track to place 2nd to Oregon soph Jadyn Mays’ 22.86 finish. Her unexpected result clipped an impressive 0.08 from the record then Mississippi high schooler Bianca Knight set back in ’07.
To hear the 17-year-old junior talk about her sprinting, one gets the immediate impression that here is someone who though she works very hard for success, keeps getting amazed that her legs are moving her faster and faster.
She is hoping to build on her smashing sophomore season, in which she continued to make a name for herself. (The name, by the way, is pronounced “bra-hey” and, she adds with a laugh, “I want people to know my name is spelled with an “en” on the end and not an ‘on.’”)
She hit outdoor bests of 11.25 and 22.95, plus a pair of windy 11.09s. She finished 2nd in both sprints at the USATF Juniors, and then made both finals at the World Junior Championships in Cali, Colombia, placing 7th in the 100 before her 4th in the 200.
Two races stand out to her, the 11.09s. The first one came at her State Meet, with a 3.2 breeze, as she won the title by 0.21. “When I ran that race at State,” she explains, “I ran with a few of my close friends and it was overall just a really amazing experience. I was surrounded by really good people.”
The second came in the USATF final, with a 2.7 wind: “Arguably making Team USA with the same 11.09, could have been No. 1.” But the State performance, emotionally, meant more to her, she says. Ironically, she got some of her biggest local headlines from a different race, her preliminary round at USATF, where she produced her PR 11.25. That took down the 54-year-old state record of 11.30 that Margaret Bailes had set at the Mexico City Olympics.
With a legal wind in that final, Brahe-Pedersen most likely would have gone faster than her prelim time. “We’re thinking it probably still would’ve been like, 11.1-high or something. Still, it kind of shows what this season could hold.”
The trip to South America, being for her first international competition, was naturally a “really big learning experience.” She adds, “Figuring out how to navigate my way through international competition and being on the world stage. It’s definitely a different ballpark as far as being in your proper mental state goes. I was trying to keep myself calm and I was only 16 at the time, so that was a lot for me to handle. I had some good people surrounding me to teach me and lead me in the right direction.”
Running rounds against the highest level of competition she had ever faced was the biggest challenge: “Honestly, at certain meets I am able to do what I need to do, go through the motions and still make it through. You have to have a maturity to realize that you don’t have to have a great time as long as you just make it through, because what you really are doing is saving for the finals.
“But in Cali, I didn’t have that advantage. I was not the top seed going in or anything close to that, so I had to push it in every single round. And that unfortunately left me a little bit busted up for the final. But I think going forward I’ll be stronger.”
That her road took her to the World level in track & field is still surprising to Brahe-Pedersen. As a child, she played a lot of soccer, and much of the time, her father was her coach: “My teammates told me, ‘Hey, you’re pretty fast, you should run track.’ And I was questioning them, because ‘Why would I want to run for fun? That’s the punishment that our coaches give us when we don’t have a good game. Why would I want to do that for fun?’”
In the end, they convinced her, and the spring of her sixth-grade year she joined the middle school team, “and I just kind of fell in love with it over the season. By my seventh-grade season, I realized this is what I really want to do. So I quit soccer, which I had been playing for 9 years at that point. I picked up track and started taking it seriously and giving it all I had. That’s when I really started to see the big changes.”
After hitting 13.14 and 26.90 that first season, she progressed fast. Coming into high school she had bests of 11.7 and 24.3. As a frosh at the Nike Outdoor Nationals, she took 4th in the 100 (11.57) and 8th in the 200 (23.78).
Almost two years ago Brahe-Pedersen started training with John Parks, who coached Olympian Ryan Bailey (9.88 PR) among others. Just recently he has become the head coach at Lake Oswego, in suburban Portland. She also trains with the Inner Circle Track Club and coach Hashim Hall.
She says, “I really love training with my club and I also really love my high school team. She describes it as a “half-and-half” mix of training. “My time is split pretty even with them [Parks and Hall]. I get different things from both of them. I don’t think I could be the athlete that I am without either of them.”
Says Parks, “First time I saw her run, she had some major biomechanical flaws, but you could tell. You knew she was going to be exceptional. She just embraces the process. That’s what makes it fun.”
The focus now in training is, the honor-roll student says, “My strength overall. My form is pretty good, though there’s still room to improve. But overall, I just need to work on my strength and power because I’m really tall — just short of 5-10 [c1.78] — and that means there’s more mass to move. I just need to develop enough strength to handle the rounds and getting out of the blocks every time in the rounds.
“Last season, I mean, you couldn’t tell from looking at me necessarily, but I was definitely quite — I wouldn’t say scrawny — but I did not have the muscle mass or strength to be as fast as I was. Based on how fast I was last season, you would’ve thought I would be a lot stronger.”
For the coming outdoor campaign, she says, “I try to never set a limit on myself by putting a goal time out there. So I give myself a range. I can tell you that I’m hoping to dip into the 10-second range. If I can do that, then I think the possibilities are endless for what I can do in my career.”
Might we see her at the senior version of USATF? “That’s definitely the topic of discussion,” she reveals. “We’ll see how I’m doing though the middle and the end of my high school season and we’ll go from there. Right now, my stronger event is probably the 200 and I’m hoping to run 22-mid. If I can do that, then maybe.”
Now she is training hard, while starting on the official visits phase of her college search. “I’m starting to narrow it down,” she says. “I couldn’t say that I have a favorite right now, but I’m sure that will probably change in the next few months.”
She adds, “There’s definitely a lot more room for me to grow in college.”