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High School Track and Field: Brooks makes leap to state contender

McKyla Brooks has made the leap from a middle schooler learning the varsity ropes to a sophomore standout at Frontier with state championship hopes. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

McKyla Brooks was only an eighth grader when she first qualified for the state championships in track and field.

While Brooks had already reached that level in ability, she had not yet grasped the importance of the accomplishment.

Brooks nearly skipped her first chance at the state competition because she didn’t want to miss her class field day event that same day. It took some convincing from Frontier coaches and an older teammate Rachel Stoklosa to get her to go.

Now a sophomore, she and her coaches can laugh about that now. It’s proof of just how far Brooks has come along. That, and of course, all of her accomplishments.

“She can’t believe that was even a thought in her mind at the time,” said Frontier coach Jim Zubler, who also credited a selfless act by Stoklosa, who stood to benefit from Brooks not going since she was the first alternate from Section VI in the triple jump.

“Rachel went to talk to her and said, ‘listen, McKyla, you need to go, you should go. You’re not going to remember a field day but you’ll remember the state championships.’”

Naturally, it’s taken some maturing from when she first began with the varsity as a seventh grader, but Brooks is figuring just how good she can be and how far it can inevitably take her in competition.

“It was all so new to me at the beginning,” Brooks said. “I know I really didn’t try as hard because I didn’t know what I was capable of...It just snapped in for me one day. I was like, ‘whoa, I can really do this.’”

Brooks has performed so well that she is already the school record-holder in the long jump at 38-feet and 6-inches and in the triple jump at 19-1.5. Not to mention, she’s made plenty of additional trips to state competition. She took second in triple jump and fourth in the long jump just recently at the indoor state championships.

“She’s quite an athlete,” Zubler said. “She’s raw talent. It’s nice to see her mature from a seventh grader and she’s still only a sophomore.”

She started the spring season with a 19-foot long jump after leaving off in the winter in the 18s. She’s also trying to triple jump 39-feet and is getting closer.

“Getting to 19-feet was my goal and I was happy to get it. Now, I’ve been just trying to get further and do better each meet,” Brooks noted.

Brooks has qualified for nationals the weekend of June 14-16 in North Carolina and badly wants to challenge this season for a state title. Though she still has time the next two seasons if she doesn’t reach that feat this spring, it hasn’t slowed Brooks from working toward it.

“You know, she really wants to be a state champion,” Zubler said. “I fully expect that before she graduates, she’ll be a state champion, probably multiple times between indoor and outdoor. The state meets have been very beneficial to her in maturing as an athlete and figuring out that she really can be good.”

She also learned from the state meet that just because an athlete qualifies for three events, it’s not always beneficial to participate in all of them.

At the Section VI Championships on May 31 and June 1 at Pioneer, she may just be focusing on her jumps and although she’s also an accomplished sprinter, Brooks may put the 100 and 200 meters on the back burner.

She qualified for states in two jumps and the 55 meters over the winter and wanted to do all of them. The coaches knew it might be too heavy of a workload, but figured they’d let Brooks learn that on her own. And in fact, running back and forth to the events and participating in trials and finals in the sprints only took away from her jumps.

“We figured let her try it,” Zubler said. “But when you have a kid that’s young, she’ll be back multiple times so you have to let them figure that out. At the end of the state meet, she said, ‘I think I really just want to do the jumps.’ She got it.”

“It’s a lot to do,” Brooks confirmed.

Brooks thrives on the competition and leaving her mark. Another one of her goals is to triple jump 19-6.5. The reason for that specific number is that it would break the Section VI all-time mark.

Her jumping coach, Edwin Streety believes it is within reach. He also credits Stoklosa, who’s now competing at the University of Columbia, with being a good example in the pit.

“She has the explosion — she’s a strong athlete, it’s just getting her to get up in the air, reach out and forget about gravity,” Streety said. “She’s been a lot of fun to coach, especially when it was her and Rachel here.”

And to think, the sophomore almost never participated in track and field.

“Absolutely, it’s an honor to accomplish what I have,” Brooks said. “I never wanted to do track but my mom was like just try it once. When I started jumping that’s when I really loved it. Maybe my mom saw something in me. I’m pretty sure she did.”

Brooks is also proud of her team, reporting that she was not the only one breaking records. “We’re all family. I love this team,” she said. “They’ve got my back and I have theirs.”

Fellow sophomore Rebecca Stiefler will go along with Brooks to the national competition next month. Stiefler is now the school record-holder in the discuss with a throw of 132-5.5.

Senior Pat Osuch broke the school record in the 55-meter high hurdles during the indoor season and is close to doing the same in the 110 and 400 hurdles this spring. He’s also training for the pentathlon in hopes of qualifying for state competition. Zubler said Osuch is a good long jumper and the 1500 is not an issue since the upperclassmen also runs cross country.

Also of note, Katlyn Buck, who’s a senior, broke the school record in the 55-meter hurdles during both the indoor and outdoor seasons, and sophomore Markus Diehl is running a stellar 51.3 seconds in 400 meters and while still learning strategy.

The young Falcons’ boys and girls teams both finished with winning records in the same season for the first time in nearly a decade. They were each 3-2. The girls have stood out for about the five seasons prior, while the boys were winning for a series of years before that.

Also coming up are the ECIC Championships on Friday and Saturday (May 24-25) at Hamburg.
TJ Hornberger was named MVP over the weekend after setting two records on the track.

Over the weekend at the Lancaster Carl Roesch Invitational, Lake Shore junior standout TJ Hornberger was named the MVP of the meet. He ran the 1600 and the 800 in meet record times as well as school records. His 1600 is now at a new personal best for him at 4:15.82 (two seconds faster than his mile time from indoor states) and his 800 is down to a 1:54.50. The races were less than an hour away from each other, making his performances even more exceptional.

He also holds the school record in the 3200. Hornberger is atop the leader board for Section VI for the 800, 1600, and the 3200 and will most likely be going to states for two events. As of today, he is third in the 800, fifth in the 1600 and seventh in the 3200 in the state. He’s also qualified to run at New Balance Outdoor Nationals next month in Greensboro, N.C.

The Hamburg girls finished the regular season with two dual meet wins against the Williamsville East and South. The results left the Bulldogs in third place in ECIC Division II.

The last meet, against South, Brooke Dehlinger, Sam Ruszczyk, Lexi Kinsman and Lenaya Walter pulled off the win in the final event, the 400-meter relay, for the 71-70 victory. Other highlights included Amy Villarini winning the 100, 200, and long jump. First, second and third places for Alicia Giles, Erica Smolinski, and Libby Bassini in the shot put and Meghan Hagerty, Taylor Thurnherr and Erin Cuddihy in the pole vault. Leah Covelli and Renee Meinhold went one-two in the triple jump with Covelli recording a personal best. Ruszczyk and Meinhald had bests in the 400 hurdles.

Against East, personal bests were recorded by Hagerty and Thurnherr in the long jump and 100 and Rachel Peck, Ericka Wicher, Sarah Connolly, Bethany Wojcik, Amanda Becker and Giles also in the 100. Also with bests were Gabby LaRosa, Molly Kabsa and Cassie Tabor in the 1500; Anna Chiachia, Grace Maecker, Erica Smolinski and Julia Mule in the 400; Nicole Dubill, Katie Lawson and Wojcik in the 200; Meghan Gorman in the 400 hurdles; Emilee Puccio and Erin Kane in the 3000. Amy Villarini made her first appearance in the 800 and won the event. Bulldog throwers Bassini, Isabel Wollenhaupt, and Clarisa Delgado had bests in both the shot and discus. Nathalie Collins had a best in shot and Dubill, Puccio, Katie Monin and Emily Hawes in the discus.

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