North runners commit to D-I programs

Brianna Newell’s grandfather served in the Navy, her father was a Navy Seal and her brother currently runs cross-country and track at the Naval Academy.

So it only made sense that the Columbus North senior has decided to follow in their footsteps and commit to continue her running career at Navy. She was one of five Bull Dog seniors to participate in a signing ceremony on Wednesday in the school’s cafeteria.

“I think it kind of encouraged it, but it wasn’t a deciding factor or anything,” Brianna said. “(Older brother Matt) got me kind of interested in it because that’s how I first heard about it. But I’m not going just because he’s there.”

Brianna is a four-time All-Conference Indiana runner in cross-country and was part of North’s state championship team as a junior and state runner-up team last fall. She has been a state qualifier in track in the 1,600 meters and has been a member of 4×800 relay teams that have finished third and second at state the past two years and set a school record last spring.

Brianna also had offers to run at Army-West Point and Purdue, but ultimately decided on Navy.

“I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” Brianna said. “I really like how unique the entire school is. I like how there’s a huge emphasis on leadership and how it’s about the entire person, so academics and athletics are a huge part of everything. I like how it will be a bunch of like-minded people, and then afterwards, I’ll get to serve my country.”

Brianna is considering picking Aviation as her service assignment once her four years on the Annapolis, Maryland, campus are finished.

“Since my dad has his private pilot’s license, I’ve been able to go up in a small plane, and I think that’s cool,” Brianna said. “Then also my grandpa was a fighter pilot, so I would definitely be interested in aviation.”

Two North boys runners also have picked Division I schools in Kentucky. Mateo Mendez committed to Louisville last fall, and Kellen Hottell has committed to run at Murray State.

“My first priority was academics, and then how I fit in with the team and what the team meant to me,” Hottell said. “I could see parts of my North team in the members of the Murray team, and that’s what really helped me make my decision.”

Columbus North’s Kellen Hottell nears the finish line at the Brown County cross country semistate Saturday Oct. 21, 2022, at Eagle Park.

The Republic file photo

Hottell ran on North’s 4×800 relay team most of last season and was the first alternate on the state 4×800 team that set the state meet record. He was All-Conference in cross-country in the fall.

Hottell also had offers from Bellarmine and Hanover.

“I took unofficial visits to the others, but I was so sure of my official visit to Murray State that I wanted to go there,” Hottell said. “The size of the city hit me, and I just love the area.”

Hottell, who plans to major in agriculture, has known since he entered high school that he wanted to run in college.

“My freshman year, I told myself I’m going to run in college,” Hottell said. “That’s what’s going to get me through college, having a team around me to hold me accountable, to keep me on track with things.”

Five Columbus North seniors participated in a college signing ceremony on Wednesday. Pictured are, front row from left, Brianna Newell (Navy cross-country and track), Mateo Mendez (Louisville cross-country and track), Logan Branstetter (IUPUC volleyball); and back row, Kellen Hottell (Murray State cross-country and track) and Kaylee Cowan (IUPUC softball).

Ted Schultz | The Republic

Menawhile, two other Bull Dogs signed to stay in Columbus and join fledgling programs at IUPUC. Logan Branstetter plans to play volleyball for the first Crimson Pride team this fall.

Branstetter was named All-Conference honorable mention and Academic All-State in the fall. She picked IUPUC over offers from St. Xavier, Manchester, Madonna and Quincy. She plans to major in nursing.

Cowan will play softball for the Crimson Pride, who are fielding their first team in that sport this spring. She picked IUPUC over offers from Trine and Indiana Tech and plans to major in mechanical engineering.