Red Arrow All Star – Austin Branagan

Kathryn Atwood will be submitting Red Arrow All Star profiles for Lowell’s First Look to publish.  Articles and photos are by Atwood unless otherwise noted.  We thank Kathryn for sharing stories about Red Arrow athletes!
Branagan, on the court during his junior year, has been a consistent force for the squad on both sides of the ball as a four year varsity starter.
By Kathryn Atwood
Standing tall at 6’ 7” it is no surprise to see successful Lowell High School (LHS) senior Austin Branagan on the hardwood as a Red Arrow. The sharp shooter helped propel the boys varsity basketball team to its first district championship since 1978 last season ending a nearly four decade drought, is a consistent high scorer for the squad and boasts equally ferocious defensive skills. The three sport athlete also shared his athletic prowess on the football field and on the track infield during his high school career.

Branagan was a tight end for the varsity football squad during his sophomore and senior year playing all the way to the state semifinals last season and earning MHSAA All Conference honors.
The dynamic trio of Branagan, Ryan Stevens and Matt Beachler lit up the court last season leading to the teams best season on record since the 1977-1978 school year ending 18-6 overall.

A Little Red Arrow

The son of Ty and Jenn Branagan and Cynthia and Jeff Visser, Branagan is the third of four children raised in the Lowell community. Like many LHS students the standout athlete said his success started with family, “My father and mother have been my biggest fans since I can remember. They have always been there for me at my games, bringing me to practices, helping me with homework, projects and attending conferences. They have pushed me to succeed and stay focused on what’s right.”

His siblings have also had a huge impact according to Branagan cheering him on in all of his endeavors and sharing a likeminded drive for excellence on and off the court.  His younger sister Makyla is a current junior at LHS hooping it up for the girls’ varsity team. His older brother Josh played alongside him in all three of his chosen sports at LHS especially developing his love of football from their athletic interactions as children, “Growing up my brother and I loved to play some touch football that eventually turned into us trying to hit each other as hard as we could.” said Branagan. Soon thereafter he was a full blown little Red Arrow.

Towering above his teammates on the sidelines, Branagan stands in huddle during the teams dominant 41-6 victory over Ottawa Hills last September maintaining their undefeated Pink Arrow record.

The Gridiron

Spurred on by his brother, who is currently on the football roster at Davenport University, Branagan made football his debut sport trying out in elementary and making his first team, “Going into the third grade I decided to try football, to say the least I loved to play defense and hit.”

At the high school level Branagan would play tight end both his sophomore and senior year earning All-Conference honors in the later season as well as participating in a championship run that lasted through the state semifinals. The talented Red Arrow squad earned the conference, district and regional crowns before falling to east side Division II heavy hitters Walled Lake Western, “We accomplished a lot as a team this year.” said Branagan of his last football season, “We didn’t reach our ultimate goal of state champions but I am proud of how hard the boys worked this year and what we did accomplish on the field.”

Branagan honored Vonnie Miller at Pink Arrow IX this past fall. Miller, represented on the field by husband Tom and family, was the mother of Lowell High School football and baseball coach Juston Miller.

Win or lose Branagan said that the chance to play with some of the best in front of some of the best fans was an honor in itself, “Playing every Friday night with the lights focused on us in front of our community is a feeling that’s hard to describe. There is a nervous feeling throughout the day knowing you have the community coming to watch you but there is also a pride in being able to play every Friday.”

Adding to that sense of pride was the ability to take part in the programs immense cancer fighting Pink Arrow project playing in honor of the mother of teacher and football coach Juston Miller, “His mom was a big fan of the Lowell football team and loved the community. It was such an honor to be able to play for such an amazing person and family.” said Branagan of the experience, “That night was so much more than just a game and it was an amazing opportunity to be a part of something bigger than us.”

Welcome to the Hardwood

The proverbial tall drink of water did not gravitate to the hardwood naturally. Already towering above his classmates in elementary school people assumed it would be his sport of choice, “Basketball was a learning experience for me. I have always been the tallest in my class and everyone told me I should play basketball.” explained Branagan, “I think it was fourth grade when I first took the court under Coach Phil Beachler. It was a slow start but I began to fall in love with the sport.”

Working directly under Beachler for five seasons as a Red Arrow and in club basketball as well, the senior credits the coaches dedication for his ability to excel on the court, “He has taught me everything I know about the sport and the skills I have today. He has helped me reach my goals and is a big reason why I am where I am today.”

Those skills have shone on the court during his four years as a varsity starter at LHS. Earning All-Conference honorable mention during both his sophomore and junior years and well on his way to top honors this year, Branagan has been an invaluable asset to the team and part of the record breaking squad who took the basketball program to long sought heights last season.

Branagan and Matt Beachler go airborne for the same rebound. The longtime friends and teammates have led scoring every game this season and have both signed to play at the collegiate level.
The Cutting of the Net
Alongside the dynamic duo of long time friend and teammate and Matt Beachler and success driven athlete Ryan Stevens and an equally star studded bench, Branagan and company captured a district championship for the school for the first time since the 1978 season. The record breaking team celebrated the victory on court atop a ladder cutting the game winning net and draping the pieces victoriously around their necks, “Winning districts is an amazing memory.” said Branagan of the momentous win adding that his fellow Red Arrows made the victory all the sweeter, “All of last year was the most fun I have ever had playing basketball thus far thanks to each of the guys who were a part of that year’s team they were much more than teammates.”

The win followed a 14 win finish during Branagan’s sophomore year, the best for the school in 31 years.  This season in his final effort as a Red Arrow all star the team is again experiencing long unprecedented success as they vie for their first OK White conference championship in 39 years this week, “There is one thing I have always wanted to do for our community and fans. I want to put a number 14 on the banner hanging in the gym. It’s been sense 78 that we have won conference and I hope to change that with these guys.”

The 6′ 7″ athlete tips off at center court using his height and aggression as an advantage to propel the team to victory.

A defensive warrior and the team’s second best scorer, Branagan said he especially appreciates the opportunity to play and reach milestones one last time alongside Beachler, son of Coach Phil Beachler, who he regards as a brother, “We have grown up together on and off the court. We know how each other play and what we will do in different situations. We have grown together as teammates and friends, spending our summers together in hotels at tournaments or in each other’s back yards messing around. We will always be friends and continue to support each other.”

Branagan has committed to share his basketball talents next year at Goshen College where he will continue his education as well as play a vital role in the still developing basketball program at the school. He said he is thrilled with the opportunities afforded to him through his participation in the sport which have included travel and the growth of what he hopes are lifelong friendships, “I love to play basketball. There is something about playing that makes me want to never put the ball down. But it’s not just playing, I love playing with the group of guys that surround me.”

Off the Court

Alongside his football and basketball success Branagan also participated in track from middle school until his sophomore year participating in infield events such as long jump, high jump and shot put while adding an occasional running event.

Academically the college bound soon to be graduate maintains a 3.2 GPA with a heavy course load of AP classes both his junior and senior year. He has held a position on the schools honor roll throughout his career at the school. At Goshen next fall he will begin to pursue his career aspirations when he begins courses in architecture, “Being an architect has been a long dream of mine. LHS has helped me develop the skills I will need to start my degree in architecture. They provided me with art and math classes that will help me succeed at Goshen.”

Center court with sister Makyla, who plays for the girls varsity squad, and military honoree and Uncle Larry Branagan during the Lowell basketball programs first Military Salute game this season.

A Well Prepared Man

As he prepares to make the official leap into adulthood Branagan, said that he will always remember his years as a Red Arrow fondly and with appreciation, “Being a Red Arrow has meant and taught me a lot. But mostly it has been an honor to be able to play and represent such an amazing Lowell community. They are so supportive and care so much about sportsmanship and other communities. They have taught me the right way to work hard but also be respectful towards others.”

Being a Red Arrow has given him an extra edge that he will carry forward in all of his life endeavors according to Branagan who said he will utilize the life lessons acquired in the classrooms and in competition at LHS, “Being a Red Arrow has challenged me to play at my highest level and has showed me how to fight though adversity and become a better person.” he explained, “All the coaches, teachers and students have had a positive influence on the person I am today. I now am comfortable to move on to the next level with the skills and support the Lowell community has given me.”

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