THUNDER BAY – Braeden Prochnicki is trading in his football cleats for a pair of running shoes.
The former Churchill Trojans running back had offers to continue his gridiron career at both the University of Ottawa and Queen’s University, but instead will leave football behind and join the Lakehead track team, where he’ll focus on his sprinting game.
It wasn’t easy choosing one of the other, but Prochnicki said he ultimately went with track after starting to train with the team this past December, ironically to improve his football speed.
“I kind of started to fall in love with track, as I did with football back at the beginning of my high school career. It’s just a great feeling and I think that’s why I chose Lakehead University,” Prochnicki said.
His speed was evident throughout his high school football career, never more so than in last fall’s Superior Secondary Schools Athletic Association semi-final, when he rushed for 201 yards, including a breathtaking 92-yard score, that propelled the Trojans into the championship final, a game they captured to send the program out in winning fashion.
Still, his success in football didn’t outweigh his desire to try his luck on the track with a fledgling team that in the past focused more on longer-distance races.
“I can’t say that it’s got more exhilaration in the running, but it’s just the feeling of being at top speed, running against people, being the centre of attention on the track, and just the competitiveness, as in football,” Prochnicki said.
“I love them both and I think I decided to do track because of mainly the coaching, I’d say, and maybe the atmosphere.”
Lakehead assistant coach Joe McDonough said recruitment was not the initial plan with Prochnicki, but the teen had too much talent to ignore.
“He fell in love with the sport and he just kept getting more and more interested in it,” McDonough said.
“I know he’s an excellent football player, so I knew all the coordination skills would be there and that’s really what separates the top-skill sprinters from just your average level because he’s able to move his body in ways that will get him to the finish line faster and he understands a lot of the stuff that we’re doing in terms of muscle development and coordination.”
His foot speed and vertical leap are also top notch, McDonough added.
“It’s that multi-sport athletic dimension that he developed as a kid that is paying off now,” he said,
High school coach Mike Doromko said he fully supports the decision to switch sports.
“Absolutely,” said Doromko on Saturday. “It’s just good to see them move on doing something that they like and also getting their school paid for. It’s always a bonus.”
Prochnicki will focus on the 60-, 100- and 200-metre sprints, as well as the 4x100-metre relay.