Morris County’s premier sprinter was originally destined to be a distance runner.
When Christian Kildal-Brandt first tried out for track and field in fifth grade, he was penciled as part of the team’s distance contingent.
“I actually wasn’t bad at it,” Kildal-Brandt said. “I started playing soccer, but I wasn’t very good. Someone suggested running cross country because I ran all over the field in soccer. I got pretty good in cross country, but I didn’t enjoy it much.”
In eighth grade, Kildal-Brandt became a sprinter.
“I didn’t have success right away, but it was pretty cool to try it,” Kildal-Brandt said. “I eventually became a pretty good sprinter.”
Kildal-Brandt remained with the Mendham varsity and had some success as a sophomore.
But he wanted more. As Kildal-Brandt prepared for his junior year of indoor track, he realized he had a chance to make a mark.
“I trained a lot in the fall,” Kildal-Brandt said. “I definitely wanted to be a major contributor this year.”
Kildal-Brandt’s father Paul is an active marathoner, so he set up a training regimen for his son to follow.
“He set me up on the same program that Sebastian Coe and Michael Johnson used,” said Kildal-Brandt, referring to the former Olympic champions. “The training included running lots and lots of hills. I thought that was a key for me. My leg strength was a huge key. If I could run the hills, then I could run anywhere.”
Mendham head coach Roy Hamblen knew that Kidlal-Brandt was a special athlete.
“I knew he was talented,” Hamblen said. “But he just took it to another level. He was maturing, both mentally and physically. He always had a lot of confidence. As a coach, I didn’t know how he would react to everything. But he ran fearlessly. He embraced the role and you can’t coach that.”
Hamblen loved the way Kildal-Brandt prepared for his junior year.
“A lot of kids who don’t play football or soccer are on a program to improve their strength,” Hamblen said. “Christian ran the hills religiously. He also has this great burst of speed that can’t be taught. The great speed and strength is a tough combination to beat.”
Kildal-Brandt proved to be very tough to beat. In fact, during the course of the indoor track season, he was only defeated twice — in the NJSIAA overall Group III and the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. And both times, Kildal-Brandt was right there, finishing second.
He was clearly the county’s most dominant runner. He won the 600-meter run at the O’Leary Lid Lifter in 1:23.67 and won the 600-meter at the Passarelli Invitational, setting a new meet record of 1:23.11 in the process.
Kildal-Brandt went on to win the 400-meter dash at the Back Invitational, setting a new meet record of 51.37. He won the 300-meter dash at the Valentine Invitational in 36.70.
At the Morris County Championships, Kildal-Brandt won the 600-meter run in 1:24.15. On the state level, Kildal-Brandt was the gold medal winner in both the 400 (50.11) and the 800 (1:58.73) at the NJSIAA North 2, Group III state sectional.
He finished second in the 400 in both the overall Group III and NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
For his efforts, Kildal-Brandt has been selected as The All Daily Record Boys Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Kildal-Brandt said. “Getting it as a junior feels even better. I did things this year that I was never able to do before.”
Kildal-Brandt had a feeling that this was going to be his breakout campaign.
“I definitely felt stronger coming into the season than I ever did,” Kildal-Brandt said. “But I never expected all of it. Just to be that close to someone like Jamaad Muse (of Timber Creek, the winner of the Meet of Champions) was amazing and pretty special to me. He’s someone I look up to. I think that’s the race that really shocked me.”
While Kildal-Brandt has improved physically, he has done so without lifting a single weight.
“I think it’s good that I stay away from weights,” Kildal-Brandt said. “I just want to keep improving my strength through high school into college. My goal this year was to see if I could compete at the highest level. I guess I did.”
Kildal-Brandt has yet to receive any attention from college recruiters.
“I haven’t received an offer and I’ve only gotten about 10 letters,” Kildal-Brandt said.
The letters will come. It’s just a matter of time.
Hamblen is not surprised with the way Kildal-Brandt dominated this year.
“The only thing that surprised me was the way he adapted to everything so well,” Kildal-Brandt said. “I didn’t know he would develop that quickly. He should be full of confidence now. Just getting kids to believe in themselves, that’s the big thing. He has mental toughness and believes in himself. You can’t teach that.”
Kildal-Brandt is not settling for having a standout junior indoor track campaign.
“I definitely want to go even harder next year,” Kildal-Brandt said. “A lot of other people get caught up in times. That’s not me. For me, it’s all about the competition. I love indoor track, because you’re lined up right next to the guy you’re running against. You know where you are. It’s a little different in outdoor track.”
What’s the next challenge?
“I might try the mile (the 1,600-meter run),” Kildal-Brandt said. “Just so I can see how I would do. I’m just trying to have a little fun.”
Kildal-Brandt also divulged the reason why his last name is hyphenated.
“Kildal is my mom’s (Nancy) last name,” Kildal-Brandt said. “My parents liked the way it sounded.”
Just like Christian likes the sound of the gun going off, because it means in less than two minutes, he’ll be a winner once again.