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  • Home / News / Ursuline College runner and Cleveland Heights High grad Alaysia Brooks wins national 800-meter title | Ursuline - Liberal Arts College in OH

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    Ursuline College runner and Cleveland Heights High grad Alaysia Brooks wins national 800-meter title

    March 14, 2024

    Story from

    By Jeff Piorkowski

    PEPPER PIKE, Ohio -- Ursuline College senior Alaysia Brooks was the lone member of the school’s track and field team to travel to the Division II NCAA Indoor Championships last weekend.

    She entered the competition as the No. 1 ranked competitor in the field of 800-meter runners.

    Once in Pittsburgh, Kan., for those championships, Brooks lived up to her top ranking by finishing in first place -- with a time of 2:06.97 -- and came home as the Division II national champion.

    For the 2020 Cleveland Heights High School graduate, who now lives with her family in Mayfield Heights, winning Saturday’s (March 9) indoor race could be the first leg of a clean 800-meter sweep, as she next prepares for the NCAA Division II outdoor championships in May.

    The 800-meter race is a test of speed and endurance, as runners sprint twice around the track.

    At Heights High, Brooks, now a nursing student at Ursuline, competed in the 400-meter race, meaning she had to work hard to build up endurance for the 800 while making sure to keep a swift pace.

    Asked what it took to make the transition to the longer distance, Brooks joked, “I had to sacrifice a whole lot -- I would start with my sanity.

    “I ran the 800 once in high school, but when I came to make it my main sport, my coach kind of tricked me. He said if I ran the 800, it would make my 400 better.

    “But for me to really make this change and to transfer to a longer event, I had to accept what I was good at and commit to that, and I had to take cross country (running in high school) more serious.”

    Initially, Brooks said, she quit playing volleyball to run cross country to make herself a better athlete. But she admitted that she “was just running it” for that purpose, and not necessarily to get better at long-distance running.
    She then realized that putting her heart more into cross country bolstered her endurance and mental toughness.
    “I had to really challenge myself to become a better athlete,” she said.

    Challenging herself paid off for Brooks, particularly in her sophomore year at Ursuline as a scholarship athlete. At the beginning of her sophomore year, her 800-meter time was 2:46. That time improved to 2:12 by year’s end.
    She took another step as a junior, clocking in at 2:09 indoors and 2:07 outdoors, earning her first trip to the NCAA Championships.

    Things were tough last year, however, as she entered the indoor nationals ranked 6th and left 17th.
    But Brooks showed why she is a champion last weekend as she entered as No. 1 and left as No. 1.
    Anyone who has seen an 800-meter race can’t help but notice the unrelenting pace. Brooks was asked what thoughts go through her mind as lap two begins.

    “What really helps me get through that 800 is (that) my coach (Alaric Best) constantly tells me a race plan. He tells me how I’m supposed to run the race.

    “He’ll tell me to get out fast, and that there are different points that I should, basically, speed up the race. That helps me a lot, to focus on a race plan, so you’re not just out there running. That helps me, to focus on something.”

    In the championship race, the 5-foot-2-inch Brooks followed the plan well, getting off to an early lead, maintaining that lead throughout and winning by about 30 meters ahead of the second-place finisher.

    Brooks said another factor in her improvement this year has been that she hasn’t had the race’s other runners in her thoughts.
    “I just kind of focused on myself,” she said. ”I didn’t worry about the other runners.

    “I kind of shocked myself because I only ran (as fast as) 2:06 once (before), so to do it again right after, I thought this is what I need to do to focus myself.”

    Brooks, who is also a member of Ursuline’s distance medley relay team, accomplished her first 2:06 on Feb. 24 at the Great Midwest Athletic Conference championships in Ashland, Ohio.

    Brooks credits the support of her parents, Anthony and Kawanda Brooks. She is also quick to add: ”People think I still live in Cleveland Heights, but we’re in Mayfield Heights. But I love Cleveland Heights.

    When asked how it feels to be a national champion, Brooks said: ”What makes it so believable is knowing what you have gone through to get where you are. What I mean is, the amount of time where you know what it feels like to lose.

    “The tears from the losses and all the tears from the workouts, it kind of brings you back to say, ‘This is why I’m a national champion, because I had to go through all of that.

    “I’m very faith-led, I’m very spirit-led. I’m a girl who loves Jesus, everything Jesus,” she said. “That’s one thing that I always remember, that the Lord has always told me that I’m a champion.

    “Something my coach told me that always stuck with me is that gold, to see if it’s real, has to go through the fire.
    “In order for me to get that national championship, I had to go through the fire, so I had to go through whatever I had to go through, just as gold, as I was before -- to be tested, to see if my faith was still strong enough throughout all the things that were happening to me.

    “To see if I was going to keep pushing to get my national championship.”
    Brooks, 22, says a lot of good things about her coach, and Coach Best happily returns that favor.
    “She’s very hard-working, dedicated; she’s very strong in her faith,” Best said. “As a coach, you kind of dream to have an athlete like that who can work hard and still stay level-headed and grounded and still do her academic studies, as well as her athletic career.

    “In terms of what it feels like to coach a national champion, it feels great. It’s just a testament to her hard work, dedication and to continuously trusting the plan we have set out for her throughout the year.

    “She stayed faithful, and it was a pleasure to see her reach that milestone in her career.”
    As for a future goal, Brooks said she is working to get her 800-meter time under 2 minutes. The NCAA best, set in 2016 by Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers, is 1:59.10.

    “I’m still working on that,” Brooks said. ”I’d love to run 1:59. So, we’ll see outdoor if I come any closer.”
    Brooks is referring to the Division II NCAA Outdoor Championships, at which she will compete in May at Emporia State University in Kansas -- and perhaps bring home another national championship trophy.