Brooklyn Giertz is so talented and so versatile of an athlete, especially in track and field, that she even surprises herself every now and then.
The recent Seneca High School graduate capped a fantastic senior year – one that already included earning The Times Girls Basketball Player of the Year and a spot on the Times All-Area Volleyball First Team – by medaling in the maximum four events at the IHSA Class 1A State Meet at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium in Charleston.
And that, to no one’s surprise, has now earned her The Times 2021 Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year honor.
“If I get to the end of an event and I can still stand, I know I could have pushed myself harder. I ask myself, ‘Could I have pushed myself harder or did I give my all?’ If I can say yes, I can live with whatever happens.”
— Brooklyn Giertz, The Times 2021 Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year
The speedy Giertz burst onto the statewide track scene as a sophomore in 2019 when she placed fourth in the 1A pole vault, a time when her efforts on the track that year – among them joining Mara Bruno, Taylor Draves and Grace Alley on the school record-setting 800-meter relay – foreshadowed bigger and better things to come.
But that was not to be. She and her Irish teammates were heartbroken when the pandemic cost them all of their junior track season.
“I was devastated. Track is my favorite, so to have a year of it taken away was awful,” Giertz said. “I had hoped to do even better in the pole vault, and I know we would have had a great 4-by-1 relay. … Also part of that was knowing that junior year is when colleges start looking at you and make offers, so I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, everything’s going away now because of COVID.’ I was really bummed.
“When I heard there would be not only a track season but also a postseason, I was so happy, because not having it for basketball and volleyball hurt. We could have gone farther than the year before in both, so we’re left to wonder if we could have or not. … But though I wasn’t counting on it for track, I would have been devastated if there wasn’t one. I was so glad.
“This season kind of made up for it.”
It was rare occurrence when Giertz did not win all four events she entered on a given day, even when she had to go away from her strength. At the cold and windy Tri-County Conference Meet in Granville, she took part in and won her usual 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and the 400 relay. However, there was no pole vault competition, so she was added to the 1600-meter relay.
Though “not a fan of the 400,” she admitted, Seneca won that, too, earning her all-conference honors in all four events and leading the Irish to their ninth straight conference team title.
“I set really high goals, and even though sometimes I can’t achieve them, I still want to push myself as hard as I can go, to give 100% all the time,” said Giertz. “If I get to the end of an event and I can still stand, I know I could have pushed myself harder. I ask myself, ‘Could I have pushed myself harder or did I give my all?’ If I can say yes, I can live with whatever happens.”
Giertz feels her best day of the season was not at the State Meet, but at the Seneca Sectional when she posted PRs in all four of her events: 12 feet, 3 inches in the pole vault, 15.92 seconds in the 100 hurdles, 48.02 seconds in the 300 hurdles, and 50.90 seconds as part of the 400 relay with Caitlyn O’Boyle, Emma Smith and Anna Bruno.
The next week in Charleston, the relay finished with a time of 51.12 seconds, good for fourth place. Individually, she placed fifth in both the hurdles events – 15.46 seconds in the 100 and 47.88 seconds in the 300 – and finished tied with teammate Teegan Johnson for sixth in the pole vault at 10 feet, 11 inches.
“I surprised myself in both hurdles events,” Giertz said. “I was trying to get low-16s, that was my goal for the 100s, so at the beginning of the year when I was going 16.2, 16.4, I knew I could make it to state, but maybe not medal. I felt I had the potential to do that, but I wasn’t sure I could push myself that hard, to that point. … But at the Irish Invitational right before sectional, I got under 16 – a 15.8, 15.9 – and I thought, ‘I could actually medal, I have that in me’ … and it worked out that way.”
That tells you a little something about her season: that the day she won four medals at state ranks with her all-state basketball honor as her most proud accomplishments, but was not her best day on the track.
It was impressive enough, however, for Indiana State University to give her a spot on its women’s track and field team.
True to character, Giertz admits the pole vault is her favorite event but that medaling in the relays was “very special” to her. In fact, she credits the success of the team for much of her own success.
“It’s like when your team succeeds, you want to push yourself to succeed also, and we definitely did that this year,” she explained. “And not just the girls. Our whole team, girls and guys, was very successful, and that helped us individually.
“Success brings on success, and I’m proud to have been a part of the success here at Seneca.”