Freshman McKyla Brooks has never had a great relationship with gravity.
This was made clear in the middle blocker’s rookie season with the Stony Brook Volleyball team. Brooks was named to the America East All-Rookie Team after leading all America East freshmen with a .268 hitting percentage.
However, Seawolves fans will not have to wait until volleyball returns to Pritchard Gymnasium in the fall to catch Brooks’s leaping prowess in action. Brooks competed in Stony Brook Track and Field’s Quad Meet on March 24, making her the only multi-sport student-athlete competing for Stony Brook.
“On the court and track, her athleticism is apparent,” Volleyball head coach Coley Pawlikoswki said.
Brooks placed fourth out of six competitors in the Women’s Long Jump event during the Track & Field team’s outdoor season opener, calling it a “very rusty start” and admitting she was nervous before her first collegiate meet. Brooks recorded a 4.92-meter leap.
“McKyla’s been away from doing these types of jumps for about seven months, so part of the process right now is working to get her rhythm back,” assistant Track & Field coach Howard Powell said. “We’re excited to have McKyla on our team this season.”
But Brooks’s ambition to compete in both track and volleyball began back at Frontier Central High School.
The Blasdell, New York native racked up accomplishments in both, ranking No. 2 nationally in the triple jump by MileSplit.com in her sophomore year and finishing All-State for volleyball in her final two seasons. She participated in the two sports all four years of high school, lettering in both.
“Honestly I always wanted to try out for sports, so those were the two main sports I wanted to try out for — volleyball and track,” Brooks said. “I used to do basketball, but then I ended up quitting to do track, and then I realized that I had potential in both, so I just kept going.”
Brooks received more scholarship offers for track & field, but Stony Brook was the only school that offered her the ability to continue doing both sports.
Pawlikowski approached Track & Field head coach Andy Ronan and Powell while she was recruiting Brooks and expressed her desire to do both sports. They worked out her schedule over several conversations, eventually feeling confident enough to allow her to compete in both.
Brooks wanted to carry over her two-sport agenda to college because she fell short of a couple of high school goals — recording a 41-foot jump in the triple jump and a 20-foot bound in the long jump. Working toward those benchmarks with practices and lifts while juggling schoolwork can be tricky, though.
“Oh my god,” Brooks said when asked about her schedule. “Very busy. It’s literally track, volleyball, school, bed. That’s all I do, every single day. I like it, I like staying busy.”
Brooks says she does not have a preference between the two sports, but there are differences in how she prepares for each, despite how much they overlap. She will compete in jump events for Stony Brook Track & Field and spends most of her time playing volleyball above the net.
“Actually, it’s really different,” Brooks said. “They’re two different jumps. For track I’m jumping broad jumps, basically. And then volleyball I’m jumping up… There’s different training for both jumps. It’s kind of hard, but I’m used to it already because I’ve been doing it forever.”
Pawlikowski says Brooks’s devotion to both track and volleyball is “beneficial” and “adds a cross-training component.” Yet multi-sport athletes have dwindled in recent years at both the college and high school levels.
“Very anecdotally, the trend is toward specialization,” John Gillis, assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, said in the St. Louis Beacon in 2008.
So why are there not more multi-sport college athletes?
“Because it was too much for them,” Brooks said. “It is a lot, it’s a lot, I’m not going to lie, but I’m just trying to stay positive. I don’t want to drop one sport, I can’t.”
Brooks is the exception and plans on keeping it that way for the long haul. Her next track meet is on Friday, April 15 at The Metropolitan Championships, beginning at 2 p.m..
“I had a couple goals to set in high school, which I didn’t achieve,” Brooks said. “I can’t just stop here now, I have to keep going, I have to set those goals.”