Q&A: With Darian Brooks
STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford triple jumper Darian Brooks sailed as a freshman, was grounded as a sophomore and now seems poised to resume his track and field progress as a junior.
Fully healthy after a stress fracture in his heel forced him to miss the 2013 season, Brooks could be one of the surprise performers for the Cardinal this season, which begins indoors on Jan. 18. Brooks’ wind-aided 50-2 as a freshman was Stanford’s ninth-farthest jump under all conditions.
Q: What’s it like to be healthy?
A: Every day’s bright. I come to practice and I feel good. All my marks in practice are farther than ever before. I feel more fluid. That year off actually helped me work on my mechanics.
Q: How’s your speed? You ran 10.71 at Kennedy Catholic High and won a Washington 3A 100-meter title.
A: It’s looking good. I would say I’m probably faster than I was in high school. I think my coach (Michael Eskind) is going to have me do some 60’s this year. That will be pretty exciting.
Q: For training purposes, or to see what you can do?
A: I think both, because speed is a big part of triple jumping. I’m going to test my speed to see where I’m at, and I’m probably fast enough to compete with the actual sprinters.
Q: How much is the triple jump about strength?
A: My freshman year, I had a meathead mindset. I was trying to gain a lot of weight and get a body that was fit for the beach instead of the triple jump. At the end of the year, (then-) coach (Edrick) Floreal and I had a serious talk about how unnecessary it was. If I’m going to be a champion, I’m going to have to change my ways. Last year, I took the year off, but I was still lifting and getting stronger in areas that I should be. I ran unattached at the Stanford Invite, did a half approach and almost PR’d (reaching 49-8½).
Q: You said flexibility is important too and that your muscles tend to be tight. Has your hamstring ever cramped up in class?
A: Oh yeah. You’ve got to creep slowly out of class. Don’t make any facial expressions. Just hobble out.
Q: How has coach Eskind helped you?
A: I was pretty angry when I found out coach Flo had left (after the 2012 season). He and I had a pretty solid relationship. No matter who the new coach was, I was going to be angry at that person. We kind of clashed at first, but I started to see that his program worked. Now, he knows my style and I know him better. Not only is he my coach, but he’s somewhat of a counselor for me. I can talk to him about anything. That relationship means a lot.
Q: What does your training emphasize?
A: Most of all, it’s just repetition on the runway. My strength is there and it’ll keep growing by itself, it’s not something that we need to focus on. But the approach can be altered off the first step, so that repetition needs to be hammered in over and over. If you start reaching toward the board, your whole jump’s off.
Q: When you’re in competition and your adrenaline’s flowing, it must be hard to keep it under control?
A: It is. It becomes a matter of how can you maintain your composure and simply go out and do what you do in practice.
Q: How did you settle into being a triple jumper after being a three-sport athlete in high school?
A: It’s what made me happy the most. Football was fun and everything, but being on the track and doing the triple jump … My whole family ran track. It’s something I’ve been around all my life. My sister Devin was an amazing athlete, a four-time state champ. Because I was around that all my life, I was more primed to like track and field over any other sport.
Q: Were your parents involved in your development?
A: My dad (Randy) was a hurdler along with my sister. He started coaching hurdles when my sister was old enough to run track. He started coaching at my high school my sophomore year and he’s still coaching there.
Q: Was your household competitive?
A: My sister is four years older. We argued a lot. She was always stronger. I was just waiting for that moment when I was faster and stronger than her. Unfortunately for me, it took me until I was in high school. I still couldn’t beat her high school accomplishments, but it’s always been something to strive for.
Q: Were you a hurdler?
A: I was a hurdler when I was young. I did the 80-meter hurdles, but then the hurdles started growing and I didn’t. I was 5-foot-3 coming into high school and it wasn’t going to work with the high school hurdles. Then I focused more on jumping.
Q: What are your goals for this year?
A: I’m going to do something that catches attention. I want to be that person where people notice, ‘That junior Darian Brooks out of Stanford did this.’ That’s the goal, regardless of how far it is or what place I get, I’m going to surprise some people.
Q: Do you feel strong mentally?
A: At this point, yes. You have to be broken down to get back up. I felt like I was broken down as a freshman and sophomore, but now I’m stronger for it.
Q: As a psychology major, what fascinates you about the subject?
A: I want to do sports psychology. I want to help athletes. I feel that having a background in sports helps me, because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be down about something, but still have to go to practice and be able to flush that, or else practice is going to be affected. I was an engineering major when I got here, but psychology is more interesting to me, to break down the human mind and body. I like to build, so it’s like engineering, but a different form. I think of psychology that way, which is why I’m taking a lot of neuroscience classes, so I can see the human mind and how it works.
Q: So, you can counsel yourself?
A: Yes, as soon as I get that psychology degree.