Neosho’s Browning accepted to Naval Academy

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

On Apr. 8, Neosho senior Jayden Browning learned she had been accepted to the Naval Academy.

With an acceptance rate of just 8.3% in 2020, it’s one of the hardest schools in the country to be accepted in to.

Browning first heard from the Naval Academy in the fall of 2020 when they reached out to her with a recruiting package for track and field, her standout sport at Neosho.

Jayden Browning

After starting the application process back October, Browning saw a voicemail on her phone at track and field practice on Apr. 8 that let her know she had been accepted.

“I think it was just shock really,” said Browning on listening to that voicemail. “To get that call that I am going to be able to go, it was insane for sure.”

“I’m so excited and proud of her,” said Neosho girls track and field coach Terri Kemna. “She’s an elite athlete, elite student and a great young lady with great character. It’s so awesome to see her achieve this goal.”

The application process is more rigorous than your average university, requiring nomination from U.S. Representative or Senators representing your Congressional district or State, a medical examination, a candidate fitness assessment and an interview with a Blue and Golf Officer.

“I did a lot of research on (the Naval Academy),” said Browning. “It’s such a unique experience and has such great opportunities for their students during and after college. I thought it was something I wanted to be a part of and to serve as well.”

Browning started the application process in September, finished it in January and said she was beginning to get pessimistic about it after not hearing back.

Neosho boys track and field head coach Randy Mustain, who’s also coached Browning in the long jump and triple jump for the last six years, said he wasn’t too surprised Browning was accepted even with both parties a little nervous after not hearing anything for the past few weeks.

“When she applied, I told her I was confident she was deserving and would be accepted,” said Mustain. “It never really crossed my mind it wouldn’t happen. I’ve always seen her ability, drive and work ethic. It’s easy for me to believe in someone when I see the work every day and trust in what they’re doing.”

“He’s been so helpful,” said Browning on Mustain’s impact. “He puts the time in, he helped me through the entire application process, wrote me a letter of recommendation. We researched the school together. His attention to detail and making sure his athletes are doing the best they can got me to where I am today.”

Browning is thinking about studying Mechanical Engineering and would like to but isn’t sure if she’ll continue her athletic career there.

If she does, she’ll have an awfully good résumé.

Jayden Browning

Browning started track and field in the seventh grade after racing the boys on the playground in elementary school.

Her main events are the long jump and triple jump that she was entered into shortly after starting her track and field career.

“(I also ran) the 100-meter dash,” said Browning. “Then I did a backflip in front of Randy once and I was immediately entered in jumps. Right off the bat I did jumping.”

Browning’s love for jumping grew from there.

“She had the natural bounce. In the seventh grade, she jumped, I want to say she jumped 32’ and I was just like, ‘she’s got it,’” said Mustain on his first impressions of Browning in junior high. “She was smooth, she was strong. You could explain stuff to her, and she got it, it was quick. She’s a fast learner.”

Mustain said he had seen her success in track and field coming and told her in the eighth grade that he thought she could get to states all four years in high school.

She was a state qualifier her freshman and sophomore year and was on pace to improve upon her sophomore season before COVID canceled her junior year.

“(Browning) took second in triple jump and long jump her freshman year at districts and qualified for states in the triple jump her freshman year,” said Mustain. “Her sophomore year she qualified in the long jump and triple jump taking first place at districts in both and then took ninth place in long jump and tenth place in triple jump at states. We thought that (she was going to be an all-state athlete) last year and then COVID happened.”

Jayden Browning

With a background in martial arts, a black belt holder and gold medalist with Team USA in 2015, Browning said that the high expectations there helped her adjust to competing against older athletes in high school as a freshman and sophomore.

This year, Browning is on pace to break the school records for the long jump (17’4.5”) and triple jump (36’10.5”) set in 2014 and 2015, respectively, by Tiffany Gilford.

“It would be awesome,” said Browning on her chance to break those records. “I think just to have my name up there would be an honor. For other kids like me to look up there and see Neosho kids doing great things and that they can be even better.”

Just a few meets into the season, Browning is ranked in the top 25 in the long jump in the state in class five and no. 5 in the triple jump.

“I was disappointed for sure,” said Browning on the spring season being canceled last year. “I knew I could’ve broken the records my junior year. Now, I feel like I’m running to catch what I could’ve been that year. I feel like I’ve got everything I have to give and I’m putting it on the line because I don’t get another year.”