Leaps and Bounds
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
A gymnast since the age of two, Illinois native Sierra Brooks has always been flipping and climbing her way to success. Like many of the athletes we talk to, her accomplishments are nothing to scoff at. She is a natural talent who has acquired tremendous skills throughout the years. If you’re one of Sierra’s classmates, teammates, or friends, you most likely know that Sierra is extraordinary in more than one department. One might even say that Sierra has it all, from personality, to intelligence, or even athletic ability. From the classroom to the gym she excels with a 3.78 GPA in Business Administration and a myriad of athletic awards. Sierra Brooks is undeniably a dazzling student and gymnast who will always be leaps and bounds above the rest.
Sierra’s Most Recent Achievements:
Big Ten Freshman of the Year
Six-time Junior Olympic National Qualifier
Four-time J.O. National Team Member
Five-time Illinois State Champion
University of Michigan Rookie of the Year for Athletic and Academic Excellence (2020)
All-Big Ten first team (2020)
2020 Big Ten regular season champions
2x WCGA All-American (2nd team, vault and all-around)
7x Big Ten Freshman of the Week
Michigan Team MVP
Team Newcomer of the Year (Michigan)
Won vault, beam, floor and the all-around at the 2019 J.O. Nationals
Placed second on vault three straight years at J.O. Nationals
Tied for second in the all-around at J.O. Nationals in 2016 and was third in both 2017 and 2018
Introducing Sierra Brooks
Sierra: So, my name is Sierra Brooks and I'm a gymnast at the University of Michigan. I'm a rising sophomore and I've been committed to Michigan since my freshman year of high school. So that journey started very early for me. I ended up graduating a year early from high school and came to Michigan, which was super stressful at the time, but something that I was really excited about. I’m from Plainfield, Illinois— the suburbs of Chicago, and coming to Michigan was nice because there wasn't a huge change of pace since I’m from the Midwest.
The Recruiting Process
Richmond: So what made you want to commit so early?
Sierra: I committed early because that was just the culture of gymnastics. Ever since I was super little, I never wanted to go to the Olympics because the time commitment is just a lot more and there's a good chance you're gonna end up homeschooled. So basically, level 10 is like the maximum level for most gymnasts unless they want to pursue the Olympics. I just didn’t want to do that. So from a younger age, I knew I wanted to go the collegiate track.
Eventually, the recruiting for college gymnastics started happening earlier and earlier and earlier. It originally began at like, junior and senior year of high school, but by the time I was getting recruited, I was getting letters like in the middle of seventh grade. It was just super early. I was offered in the beginning of my freshman year by Michigan and that's where I always wanted to go. So I committed because it was more of just like, if you get an offer from a school and you know that’s where you want to go, odds are you're going to accept it now and not necessarily wait. For colleges, it was always a race to see who could get to the recruits quickest even if they were like 13.
Richmond: Yeah, I mean for us the earliest we could begin the recruiting process was like junior year. Which is the same for many sports. So, I didn't have a clue where I was going for the longest time. I didn’t commit until like December of senior year. So, it took me forever.
Sierra: Which is nice because I mean, I went all of high school knowing where I was going to college. Which was good, but then also, you're always looking forward to leaving and not so much paying attention to high school. So it's weird. Since a lot of people were recruited early there's a lot of decommits and everything, but I think they recently changed the rules to where now, you can't commit until junior year. So it's actually back to being more level headed.
Getting Into Gymnastics
Sierra: So, I started gymnastics probably around the age of three with parent taught classes where I’d go with my mom. The reason I was actually put in gymnastics is because I was super busy as a child. I think my aunt mentioned to my mom that I should go into gymnastics because I was climbing on furniture which wasn't necessarily safe. So they eventually were like, “Okay, let's put her somewhere else safer.” So that's how I ended up at least getting started with gymnastics with the parent taught classes and things like that.
Eventually we ended up moving and I joined a team at the age of seven, which was like level four, which is our compulsory level.
[Compulsory level means that each gymnast at that level must perform a set routine to demonstrate their skill set].
And then from there, I went from level four to level six, and then seven to nine and then ten. So in sixth grade around the age of 12, I was at level 10, which was pretty young to reach level 10. Following that I actually made nationals my first year in level 10, which was something that I definitely didn't go in thinking would happen since level nine hadn't been that great.
From then on, I stayed at level 10 because I didn't have any desire to go any higher. That's really when I was able to gain more confidence as a gymnast and like, perfect the skills that I had been doing for so long. So that's how that process went.
After that I began getting offers my freshman year of high school, and just going on from then to 2019, that's when I had my last nationals and I actually won that meet. That was super exciting because I'd come in second I think twice out of like the previous three years. So that was super rewarding. It was also nice that it happened at my last nationals. Fast forward a little bit and now I'm at Michigan!
Sierra’s Freshman Experience
My freshman year was an amazing experience. It definitely took me by surprise. I came into freshman year, kind of just like, “we'll see how it goes.” I didn’t want to try and specifically have like these exact things that I wanted to do. Having a great freshman year was something that was really rewarding and really exciting for me personally and it just got me even more excited for the years to come. My transition couldn't have gone better. I'm glad that my freshman year really set the tone for the rest of college.
Sierra’s Advice for Aspiring Gymnasts
“Honestly, just know that your work ethic is going to speak for itself. That's something that I've really tried to focus on my entire gymnastics career, like really making those corrections. Make sure you're putting in your full effort all the time. You should really just let your hard work speak for itself. No matter what, always keep pushing. Don't dwell on the negatives and every single turn you take. Just make your time and effort matter.”
Sierra’s Fun Fact
“I love school. I don't know if that's something that a lot of people know, but ever since I've been young, I always have looked forward to going to school and I love math and learning. I don't know if that's a thing that people know about, but that's definitely something because people tend to focus on the athletic portion of life a lot, not so much other parts.”
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