Jake Bragger owns the Allentown High School record in the 300-meter dash.
In 2018, at the Ocean Breeze Freedom Games in Staten Island, Bragger ran a 39:23 in the 300 meters, setting Allentown’s program mark. Almost exactly a year later, on Jan. 5, 2019, Bragger broke his own record, crossing the finish line in 36:97.
The winter track standout is only a junior, so he will have another chance in 2020 to beat his own record again. It is a safe bet that he plans on doing so. The event is ideally suited to Bragger’s running style.
As a longer sprint, the 300-meter race favors fast runners with distance runner endurance. Bragger is a naturally talented sprinter. But he also runs cross-country for the Redbirds in the fall.
“He’s a real strong kid. Running cross-country gave him a base of mileage and strength,” said Allentown track coach Rick Smith. “But he’s at his best when he can let it rip. Put spikes on and go as fast as he can for as long as he can.”
Bragger dropped almost three seconds off his 300-meter time from last winter. Since he keeps improving, Smith expects him to shatter another Allentown record soon, too.
Allentown’s 400-meter sprint mark is seven years old, one of the oldest standing records in the program’s book. Nicholas Caruso set the mark, 52.84, at the Colonial Valley Conference Relays in 2012.
Smith thinks Bragger can top Caruso’s time this winter. The junior will have at least one more chance to run the 400 meter dash, at the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional meet on Feb. 9 in Toms River.
Bragger nearly topped Caruso’s time earlier this season. He ran a 53.28 in the event at the Bob James Invitational in Princeton on Dec. 18.
“So I expect him to get that in one of the next couple times we run the individual 400,” Smith said.
Cross-country does not just condition Bragger for longer sprints. It also builds the lung capacity to run in various events on a single day. Smith uses the junior in 200, 300 and 400 meter dashes. The coach also enters his standout in relays with other talented Allentown runners.
Bragger can handle it all.
“Cross-country gives him such a good base. He has endurance to run a great time in his third event,” Smith said. “He’s got a lot of mileage in his legs as soon as he shows up for the season. We don’t need to get him into shape. Jake runs a ton of miles from July to November.”
“In winter track, we just have to get him powerful for sprints,” Smith added. “He just has to get in the weight room because he’s already in great shape.”
Smith also does not have to push Bragger. He works hard on his own.
“I can trust him to be accountable,” Smith said. “He’s that type of kid.”
Unfortunately for Allentown track, though, it will lose Bragger to the school’s baseball team in the spring. Cross-country and winter track help Bragger on the diamond. They aid his base running, ability to get to balls in the field and leg strength at the plate.
“It definitely helps him there too,” Smith said.
Bragger has talent, the right attitude and athletic versatility. That is why he is succeeding in multiple sports, and even breaking records in his best one.
“Jake always does the right thing and is trying to figure out how he can get better,” Smith said.