There were days she went from track practice directly to club volleyball practice. To be honest, it was a grind for McKyla Brooks. She learned a lot about time management and recovery, knowledge she’s eager to apply to another year as a standout two-sport athlete.
It’s a grind, but one that Brooks embraces. The junior at Frontier is a key force for the Falcons’ volleyball team. Meanwhile, she has already racked up nine Section VI titles in track along with one state title.
“She’s been gifted physically,” Frontier track and field coach Jim Zubler said. “She physically just has a lot of natural talent. Add to that the fact she has a lot of desire to be the best that she can possibly be.”
That desire evolved for Brooks, who began playing volleyball and running track and field as a seventh grader. She loved volleyball. Loved the team sport. Loved the spirit.
Sprinting and jumping? It took some time for that love affair to develop.
“A couple of years ago I was not a big fan of track of all,” Brooks said. “But then I realized I could actually go somewhere with track. I’m exited to see what I can accomplish.”
As an eighth grader, she won the Section VI outdoor triple-jump title.
Then in 2012 and 2013, as a freshman and as a sophomore, she won the indoor and outdoor sectional titles in the long jump and triple jump. Last year, she won the New York State outdoor triple jump with a jump of 38-8. She was a medalist (top six finisher) in the long jump and triple jump during indoor season.
She sprints, too. But that’s early in the season. When the big meets come around, Brooks focuses on the jumps.
Her early success in the triple jump gave Brooks some confidence and got her thinking about possibilities.
“I love both of them,” Brooks said. “People always ask me which one I would choose, track or volleyball. I honestly have no idea. That’s why I want to go to college for both. Playing the two sports I love in college would be the best.”
She already has some colleges interested and agreeable to working with her as a two-sport athlete, including Clemson, the University at Buffalo, Ohio University and Kent State.
In the meantime, she’s focused on the volleyball court, where her Falcons squad is looking to capitalize on a fast start.
Brooks is averaging about 10 kills and five blocks a game for Frontier and is working well with senior setter Sydney Rojek, who has committed to Marist.
“She’s a good teammate and she’s very blessed to be working with Syd,” volleyball coach Debbi Schruefer said. “She’s a real coachable kid. She wants to learn. Right now, she’s playing more back row for us. It’s a little awkward for her, so she works harder at it. … The other girls’ roles have changed because McKyla has grown with the sport but there’s no animosity. She’s respected among other teams, too.”
For Brooks, the success of the volleyball team comes from chemistry. And while individually she excels on the court, her success is also tied to the team.
“We’ve known each other for so long,” Brooks said. “We can communicate with each other easily and we’re all really good friends. It’s easy for us to talk to each other and point out what’s wrong and what’s good. We’re a really close team, which is really good. I like close teams.”
Brooks is still receiving letters from college coaches and just beginning the process of thinking about where she wants to go next. She still has one more full volleyball season and four more track and field seasons (two indoor, two outdoor) ahead of her. In that time, it’s likely she will break the Section VI long jump record, set by Mary Saxer in 2005.
Brooks’ personal best is 19-4.50. Saxer’s record is 19-9.25.
There are records, state titles and national meets for Brooks to focus on. There are long-term goals, like being a two-sport Division I student-athlete. There are even big dreams, like making an Olympic team.
“All you need is hard work and this,” she said, pointing to her head.