Running the RaceMay 20, 2020 07:38PM ● By Sherri Martin
Adrianna Haynes is a normal 10-year-old. She likes to skate, spend time with her family, go bowling, go to church, play outside, and even clean, sometimes. She makes funny videos with her sister, and thinks about being a hairstylist one day.
Her 5th grade classmates at Perdue Elementary have recently discovered something different about Adrianna. During PE, when the game involves speed, always pick Adrianna for your team.
Her father, Carlos Brooks, realized that she had exceptional speed when he was coaching her in basketball at the Warner Robins Rec Department. Adrianna has always been involved in sports, beginning with gymnastics as a preschooler, then going to basketball. But when Carlos saw her outrunning everyone on the team, he knew she needed to be running track.
That was three years ago, and since then, Adrianna has racked up award after award, and has competed both at the state and national levels. She runs for the rec department, and competes in the Amateur Athletics Union and the U.S. Association of Track and Field. She is a two-time national champion and four-time All-American.
The final state and national rankings for the 2019 track season feature her name several times. In national competition, Adrianna placed 1st in the triathlon, which combines the scores from the 200 meter (200m) race, high jump, and shot put; she also ranked 5th in high jump, 4th in long jump, 16th in 200m, 28th in 100m, and 30th in 400m. In the state of Georgia, she is ranked in her age group 1st in high jump, 3rd in long jump, 4th in shot put, 6th in 200m and 400m, and 11th in 100m.
When competing in the Junior Olympics this year, Adrianna competed in a field of 50 other 10-year-olds, and was actually behind until her final event, the 200 meters. In that final, she had the eighth, or outside, lane. This means that she was at a disadvantage because the staggered start, which compensates for the curve in the track, placed everyone behind her, and she would not know how her competition was faring. But Adrianna is a determined young lady who likes to compete and likes to win. She won the race in a time of 28.51 seconds, clinching the 200 meter race and the triathlon title. “When you win, it shows that you can beat other people if you push yourself,” she says.
To compete at that level takes a lot of work, as well as a lot of people supporting her. Carlos, who is the union president and works in electrical instrumentation at CEMEX, and his wife, Ashley, an ICU nurse in Macon, have a blended family of six children. (“We don’t use the word ‘step’ in our family,” Carlos explains.) Adrianna’s older sister, Aryanna, also runs track, plays basketball, and cheers. Other siblings (Adrian, London, Austin, and Eli) are involved in a variety of activities; Adrianna is in the middle of the six. Carlos and Ashley keep each child busy, putting church and school first, then extracurricular activities, at their home in Kathleen. “We are busy, but it works,” Carlos says.
Carlos and Ashley also stay involved in their children’s lives. For Carlos, that means coaching something he never dreamed of coaching. Although he ran track at Houston County High School, he also played football and attended college on a football scholarship. He always figured if he coached anything, it would be football.
But all of that changed three years ago; now he is the head track and field coach at the Warner Robins Rec Department. He volunteers many hours to train the young people for their competitions. He is helped by assistants Terris Deans and Samantha Keeby locally, and assistant Andre Kennedy with the AAU. He also depends on skills he learned from speed coaches in football, and on people he meets along the way. One afternoon at the track, Carlos and Adrianna met shot putter Greg Farms, who, in 30 minutes, trained her in the proper form and style for shot put.
For Carlos, however, coaching is about a lot more than form and style, and times and winning. “I grew up in a rough area, and sports taught me a lot about life,” he explains. “If we are going to make a difference in these young people’s lives, we are going to have to teach them life lessons, such as teamwork, accountability, and respectability.”
He also pays attention to the most effective and safest ways to train, such as plyometrics – “a lot of jumps” – and running on sand or grass rather than concrete and asphalt. The Warner Robins team makes their mark, with several winning state in their events, and some setting state records. One of those setting a new record this year was Adrianna, who set a new long jump record by breaking her old one from last year; her new record is 14’10.5”.
Being both coach and dad is not without its difficulties, however. “I try to find the balance between dad and coach,” Carlos says. “Adrianna is self-motivated, but sometimes I have to become the coach and push her.”
To keep a balance, Carlos and Ashley only allow track to take up part of the year, from February to August. Some athletes in other areas compete in indoor track during the off-season, but the Brooks feel it is important to have a break. This year, Adrianna is also going back to playing basketball, which she enjoys.
She will also have the chance to enjoy a hamburger or pizza during the off-season. During track season, they follow a track-friendly diet of lots of vegetables and good carbohydrates, and lots of water.
Adrianna says with a shy smile that she loves to have her dad as her coach. One day she will be able to see all that he is putting into her life through coaching. “It means a lot to be able to coach her and watch her grow and progress, to see the hard work she puts in, and how she handles failures, but also how she learns to come back from a failure,” Carlos says. “I am able to teach her about life through track. I take pride in being able to coach her and teach her about life along the way. I hope she continues to run and to enjoy running, and will continue on to the college and professional level.”
Adrianna, at the age of 10, thinks less about college or the Olympics than the next race. She is a competitive dynamo, who equally enjoys meeting new people, which she says is the fun part of track meets, and beating them.
“My goals are to beat people in my competitions, set new records, and become first in the nation in all my events,” she explains. She adds that winning medals is the best part. “I feel proud when I do it,” she adds.
Her family recently got a new display case for her medals, which can hold 120 medals; she has 46 in it so far. Adrianna says, “My goal is to fill it up, mainly with first places, because I don’t like to get second.”
It’s a pretty safe bet that those spots will be filled quickly, as quickly as she runs the 200m or tags her friends on the playground at school.