Douglass senior Kim Brackeen hasn't had an easy time growing up. But the diminutive distance runner plans to use her experience to benefit others.
"In college, I want to study child psychology; I want to help troubled kids," she said after recently winning the 3,000 meters at the Fifth Regiment Armory National Guard meet in Baltimore. "I like kids. I was troubled, so if I can help somebody else, that would be great. I want to help somebody with the same problems as me."
Brackeen said when she attended her first cross country camp this summer she learned how to relax. That, she explained, is the single most important aspect that has helped her running.
"Actually, I'm a very tense person. When I first started running my shoulders were like this," she said, hunching her shoulders about her neck. "I've learned to relax and it's made a big difference. Now I know when I'm tense, I get headaches, my neck hurts. If I can relax I don't dwell on the race. If I'm tense, I dwell on it and don't do as well."
Brackeen doesn't usually run in the summers; she is too tired by that time, she said. At the outset, the fall of her sophomore year, running was a vehicle to get in shape for basketball. That year, she finished 28th in the state cross country meet. The next year she finished third. This year, she won.
"I've learned a lot from cross country," she said. "At first I didn't think I could do it -- I put myself down when I started running. But when I finished 28th, I was still a winner because I came across the line and finished. That's part of the reason I'm still running. If it wasn't for the coaches telling me I could do it, I probably wouldn't be running now. They told me I had to put it in my mind I could do it. Once I did that, I started winning."
Last fall's cross country victory wasn't for herself. "I gave my coach (Pat Majors) my gold medal," she said. "My goal was to win it for her. She's been by my side -- with running, emotionally, with everything. She's worked with me and made me what I am today."
Brackeen doesn't set goals for herself. After she quit running during the indoor season of her junior year, Majors talked her back out on to the track. That outdoor track season, Brackeen finished third in the state mile and fourth at two miles.
Perhaps realizing that competitive running has aided her off-track development when she most needed it, Brackeen is serious about her seasons on the track.
"It's sort of hard for me to run around in circles," she said. "I don't really run for the fun of it. Now I'm trying to get to college, so most of the time, it's serious. But I like being a part of a big team and I like running the relays to help the team."
At the National Guard meet, Brackeen helped the team in a big way. She supplied 22 1/2 of Douglass' 62 points that secured the team's first title in that meet. She won the 1,500, the 3,000 and anchored the winning 3,200-meter relay.
Brackeen also helped the Eagles win their first indoor title, March 4 at Annapolis, when she finished second in the 3,200-meter run in 11:50.9.
"I'm in it for the team," she said. "That's what I like most in track. I like to shine, but I like working for the team better. In cross country, our team wasn't that good. It was more of an individual thing, so I got my glory then. But it's all been worth it since I started running. That's when people started acting proud of me."