In 2nd season, Brooks’ transition outdoors improves

Alena Brooks faltered in the outdoor season her freshman year, but has already set a school record in the 400-meter as a sophomore.

by Dane Mizutani

Alena Brooks said she wasnâÄôt feeling well prior to the 400-meter dash at the Jim Click Shootout two weekends ago.

But an ailing Brooks would not be stopped.

When the gun sounded, Brooks shot out of the starting blocks and raced ahead of the pack. She crossed the finish line in a speedy 53.55 seconds âÄî a new school record.

âÄúI was pretty shocked that I broke the record,âÄù Brooks said. âÄúWe had a really tough week of training âÄî I was pretty shocked, but it felt good.âÄù

This feeling resonated throughout the team.

âÄúEveryone was really excited for her,âÄù head coach Matt Bingle said. âÄúShe is ranked pretty high in the nation with that time this early in the season. Any time you get a school record, that is a nice thing to put on your résumé.âÄù

BrooksâÄô performance in Tucson, Ariz. may have been the highlight of her career with the Gophers.

During the indoor season of her freshman year, Brooks finished as the Big Ten runner-up in the 600-meter but faltered somewhat in the outdoor season.

Bingle said this falling off in the outdoor season last year was not a testament to her skills as a runner.

âÄúIndoors she had a great season and helped the team quite a bit,âÄù he said. âÄúJust outdoors she got fatigued and worn out from being away from home.âÄù

Brooks hails from Diego Martin, Trinidad, and before her stint with the Gophers she competed at the international level with Trinidad and Tobago. Running at the2010 CARIFTA Games, Brooks captured a silver medal in the 800-meter and another silver medal in the 4×400-meter relay.

Brooks predominantly ran the 800-meter event as a freshman but has recently started to branch into others.

Bingle said he is extremely impressed with BrooksâÄô versatility as a runner.

âÄúThere are not a lot of people who can run the anchor leg of the 4×100-meter, run the 800-meter in the time she runs it in and then run the 400-meter,âÄù he said.

In her second year with the team, Brooks attributes this early-season success to her off-season training.

âÄúIn the off-season I worked most on my speed. That helped me a lot,âÄù Brooks said. âÄúI have that endurance because I run the 800-meter as well, so [improving] my speed really helped me the most.âÄù

This improvement in her repertoire has already been displayed in competition through in the first three meets of the season.

âÄúI have already improved a lot,âÄù Brooks said. âÄúI had almost a second off of my 400-meter and last weekend I also ran a [personal best] in the 800-meter, so it just shows I am much stronger right now than I was last year.âÄù

Brooks noted her year-to-year progression with the team, but knows she still has a great deal of room to improve.

âÄúI feel pretty confident, but I know I still have a lot of work to do,âÄù she said. âÄúI still feel confident and feel like I can do some pretty good things.âÄù

Bingle agrees, but said her evolution is dependent on her work ethic.

âÄúItâÄôs totally in her court and she has a ton of potential,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôm excited for this season and the next few years for her to mature as a runner. She has no ceiling in my mind.âÄù

Aside from her development as an athlete, Brooks said a lot of her motivation to succeed with the Gophers stems from her mother.

âÄúIâÄôm the last child and my older brother and sister arenâÄôt very successful and I know she works so hard,âÄù Brooks said. âÄúI just strive to make her proud âÄî at least one of her children is doing well. I know no matter what I do she will always proud of me.âÄù