Jeff Braun had quite the collegiate track and field career at the University of Wisconsin, winning eight Big Ten championships in the shot put and discus.
Over four years (1976-1979) with the Badgers, Braun became the only shot putter in conference history to claim four consecutive Big Ten Indoor titles while winning the Big Ten Outdoor event three times. He was the Big Ten champion in the discus in 1979.
These accomplishments are a few of the reasons why Braun, who coached and taught at Lake Mills High School from 1997-2005, was inducted into the UW Athletic Hall of Fame recently.
“It’s been a very grateful time to realize people recognize your accomplishments as hall of fame worthy,” Braun explained. “It’s been an uplifter and quite an honor.”
Only one other athlete has won a field event four straight seasons, Charlton Ehizuelen of Illinois in the indoor long jump and triple jump from 1974-1977.
Braun, who earned a degree in physical education, finished on the podium at the NCAA meet once, placing third in indoor shot put in 1979.
Braun, 62, went on to compete internationally from 1980-1988, a career that saw him win the U.S. National championship in the indoor shot put in 1982 at Madison Square Garden.
He competed for Team USA vs. England in 1982 and at the Pan-American Games in 1987.
Not bad for an athlete who initially tried track and field in seventh grade but took a two-year hiatus because he wasn’t a fan of the running required.
As a high school sophomore at Seymour, Braun threw 33 feet in the shot put before bursting onto the prep scene as an upperclassmen with the help of Bill Collar, a Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer, and a few books on proper throwing techniques.
“My junior year I improved to 51 feet which is a good competitive high school throw,” Braun said. “To get to state you have to be in the mid-to-upper 50s. At the state meet, I hit a 63-footer as a senior. I had a nice improvement during high school. That led me to get a scholarship to Madison.”
He threw 63 feet, 1¼ inches to win the WIAA Class A state crown as a senior in 1975.
Braun, who is known to some as “Braunie”, started his coaching career as an assistant track and field coach for the UW from 1983-1989, helping mentor throwers and non-throwers, as well as playing a role in signing recruits.
He was known on campus for having patience, great attention to detail and the ability to alter coaching techniques. Dave Niemuth was a thrower for the Badgers in the mid-1980s and also deaf. Braun became knowledgeable in sign language so the two could communicate.
Braun got the itch to leave his sales career for another opportunity to coach in the early ‘90s. He moved to Lake Mills in 1991 and went on to earn a teaching certificate.
LMHS hired him in 1997 and he started working with the track and field program under head coach Pat Hauser while also spending three years as head varsity football coach.
“High school coaching is different from college coaching in that you’re teaching an event from the ground up,” Braun said. “In college, you have people who know events and have been doing it.”
“When he came here his experience was unbelievable for us and big for the program,” Hauser added. “He was excellent with the kids. We averaged 10-15 throwers which is a large number for a team our size. I asked if he was trying to get back into college coaching. He loved working with high school kids and watching them develop.
“He never saw it as a step down. He was here because he wanted to be. Kids loved him. He was very natural with the kids.”
Hauser and Braun quickly developed a lasting friendship.
“For me, he was a track junkie and loved pouring over results,” Hauser said. “We’d set up the teams and make it as strong as we could for the meets. In college, he was involved in recruiting and knew all of the events. A lot of the things he did (at the UW), as good of friends as we were, I learned for the first time when he was inducted.”
Braun departed the district for an administrative role at Tomahawk High School in 2005 shortly after receiving a Masters degree and is now retired in Pulaski.
CLASS OF 2020
The 10-member class that will be inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in September also includes former men’s basketball head coach Bo Ryan, Richard Bartman (boxing), Tom Burke (football), John Byce (hockey & baseball), Aaron Gibson (football), Ted Kellner (special services), Carla MacLeod (women’s hockey), Mike Wilkinson (basketball) and Jackie Zoch (rowing).
The 11-member HOF class includes men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan.