Record-setter Brooks is back on track

Alena Brooks will look to break her two school records after returning from a hamstring injury.

Megan Ryan

Alena Brooks will compete in the two events in which she holds school records at the University of Georgia track and field meet this weekend.

The 400-meter dash and 4×400 relay will be her first races of the 2012 season.

The middle-distance runner suffered a grade-two right hamstring strain in January and missed the entire indoor track season and part of the outdoor season.

“It was really hard for me — heartbreaking, actually — because I really trained hard over the off-season,” Brooks said.

Brooks’s 4×400 relay teammate Nyoka Giles said Brooks turned the injury into a positive experience.

“She grew as a person,” Giles said. “She was positive about it and looking at the bigger picture.”

Giles and Brooks, along with Sharyn Dahl and Kelly Stalpes, set the school record last year in the 4×400 with a time of three minutes, 38.03 seconds at the Big Ten outdoor championships. Earlier that season, Brooks posted an individual school record of 54.35 in the 400.

Brooks struggled during her recovery and reinjured her leg again. After three months, Brooks is now fully fit for competition.

“I’ve just been training [and] training, and as an athlete you want to compete,” Brooks said. “Everyone else is competing, so it’s just exciting to get back out there.”

Now that she’s back, the junior’s goals for this season are typical: win the Big Ten championships, go to the NCAA championships and break her records.

But her biggest goal will come this summer, when she hopes to complete in the 2012 London Olympics. Both Brooks and Giles have been members of Trinidad and Tobago’s national team.

“To reach my goals of going to the Olympics, I have to break [the 400] record,” Brooks said. “My aim is not really like, ‘Oh I want to break records,’ but it’s representing my country, which will result in breaking the record.”

Giles said having a teammate on both Minnesota’s team and her national team is an advantage.

“It’s lucky having someone who understands my culture and who understands where you come from,” Giles said. “She’s a really good friend. She is quiet at times, but once you get to know her, she will open up to you a little bit.”

After an indoor season marked by injuries, head coach Matt Bingle said he is excited to have Brooks healthy.

Men

The men will compete April 13 at the St. Thomas Twilight in St. Paul, Minn. The team will also compete April 13-14 at the Falcon Invite in River Falls, Wis.