Branch stepped to the forefront for the Lions at the Westover Invitational in Albany Oct. 5, where she finished fifth with a personal-best time of 18 minutes, 53 seconds.
“She ran with a lot of determination,” Lovett coach Jimmy Jewell said. “I have never seen her that determined in that race. She seemed to get stronger as the race continued.”
It has been a solid year for Branch, who also ran 20:51 to finish 23rd at the Battle of Atlanta in McDonough Sept. 21, 21:28 in an 18th-place finish at the Clara Bowl Berry Invitational Aug. 31 and 21:33 in another 18th-place showing at the Marist Coach Benson Double Dip Sept. 7.
“Through her sophomore and junior years, she had some problems with injuries,” Jewell said. “Her goal was to stay free of injury and it’s so far, so good – knock on wood.”
In the last three years at the state meet in Class AA, Branch finished 18th (22:16) last year, ninth (20:08) in 2011 and 14th (20:35) in ’10.