Brooklyn Decker (actually Manna)

BROOKLYN MANNA of Woburn had an outstanding spring track season. The junior trackster won the long and triple jumps for the second year in a row at the recent New England Meet and then went on to compete in the long jump in the nationals in Greensboro, NC.

WOBURN — The amazing rise of 17-year-old Woburn junior Brooklyn Manna from a novice competing in outdoor track just two years ago, to now competing, not just at the state, but at the national level, took her to new heights even she couldn’t have imagined before.

By winning both the long and triple jumps at the New England Championship meet at Thornton Academy two weeks ago, Manna qualified for the outdoor track National meet in both events, which was held in Greensboro, NC this past weekend.

But due to school commitments which include final exams, she did not compete in the triple jump, which was held on Saturday. Instead she competed in the long jump, which on Sunday.

“I had finals and other things going on last week so I would have had to leave for North Carolina on Friday and miss school if I did the triple jump,” explained Manna. “I decided to just do the long jump, so that I wouldn’t have to leave to go there until Saturday.”

At the Nationals meet on Sunday, Manna completed her incredible outdoor track season by finishing 18th in the long jump with a leap of 18-8¾.

“I am very proud of Brooklyn (Manna) and all of her accomplishments this season, as she had an incredible season,” said Woburn girls track coach Jacqui Barrett. “She is a two-time New England champion in the long and triple jumps, and she broke her own school and facility record in the triple jump. All of her hard work certainly showed at the National meet, and I am glad she finished her junior year strong at that meet. I am looking forward to what she will accomplish in her senior year.”

Qualifying for a National meet is nothing new for Manna, as she competed in the same meet last year as part of a Woburn relay team. She also competed in the indoor track National meet this past March. But this was the first time she competed in the outdoor track National meet in an individual event, and Manna was excited to earn the opportunity.

Manna just completed a stellar outdoor track season, where she won every event in dual meets she competed in, as well as in three of the four invitational meets after the dual meets ended. Manna is satisfied with what she’s done this season, and gives credit for much of the success she’s achieved this season to her jumping coach.

“I didn’t even think last year that I would be close to where I am now,” she said. “I feel a lot of that to due to the help of coach Pereira. We get along really well, and he really knows what he is talking about.”

Manna also attributes much of the success she’s achieved this season to the help, advice, and guidance of Barrett and lifting coach Keane, along with Pereira.

“I did sprints and hurdles in dual meets, but focused more on the long and triple jumps starting at the league meet,” said Manna. “I didn’t push myself too hard, to save myself for the most important part of the season.”

Through the help of her coaches, Manna developed and used a special technique this season when she competed in the long and triple jumps. She felt through her own hard work was a big factor in increasing the length of her jumps.

“I make sure to drive with my knees, and to keep my legs in the air parallel to the sand for as long as I could,” said Manna. “I’ve really worked hard on those techniques, to try and increase the distance I can jump.”

While competing in mostly the long and triple jumps, Manna displayed her versatility in the sport by also competing in the high jump, the 100, 200, and 100 hurdles in dual meets.

Her efforts helped the Woburn girls finish 5-0 in dual meets, to win the Liberty Division championship for the fourth straight year.

After she helped two Woburn relay teams finish second in the long jump (48-9) and third in the high jump (14-0) at the Division 2 State Relays, Manna really started to assert her athletic superiority at the Middlesex League Championship meet. There, she won three events, the long jump (19-4 ½), triple jump (36-3 ½), and 100 hurdles (15.85).

“That was really exciting to win three events at the league meet,” said Manna. “It was really important for our team for me to do well there.”

Her achievements at the League Meet proved to be just a precursor to what she’d accomplish at the Division 2 Championship meet.

Manna not only won the long jump and the triple jump, but her leaps of 19-9¾ in the long jump, and 39-1½ in the triple jump, both set new school and meet records in those events.

“I remember at that meet I just leaped out of the pit after I jumped happy and excited,” said Manna. “It was definitely something that I dreamed of doing, but didn’t think I would break school and meet records at that meet, so I was really excited. I knew it was possible, but I wasn’t expecting to do it at that time. But now I know what I’m capable of doing.”

Her record-breaking jumps qualified Manna for the All-State meet the next week in those events. While she still did well enough to qualify for the New England Championship meet in both events, finishing third in the long jump (18-9), and fourth in the triple jump (37-10), by her standards, she had an off day.

“I know I could do better,” said Manna. “I guess that wasn’t my best day, since I wanted to place better in both jumps. But that motivated me to train harder the next week, and focused more on the things I needed to improve on.”

Her efforts during the next week paid off at the New England Championship meet. Manna not only won the triple jump, but her leap of 39-4 broke both her own school record, and set a Thornton Academy facility record as well. While her leap in the long jump (18-3½) wasn’t her personal best, it was still well enough to win that event as well.

“I was just really excited for what I did at the New England meet,” said Manna. “I couldn’t believe I not only broke the record for myself in the triple jump, but for something way bigger than me. So I was really excited how that went down, and I can’t believe I did that. It was really one of my best meets.”

A GYMNASTICS STAR

Her stellar success in outdoor track this season would indicate Manna has many years of experience in the sport dating back to her young childhood. But amazingly enough, she only picked up track two years ago, after competing in gymnastics from a very young age until that same year as a freshman at Woburn High, when she earned All-Scholastic honors.

“I had never competed in track before I started outdoor track in my freshman year,” said Manna. “I competed in gymnastics from when I was four years old until my freshman year. That’s all I knew my whole life up until then.”

But once she started to compete in outdoor track two years ago, she decided that was the sport that she could best utilize her athletic talent. So last year as a sophomore, she quit gymnastics, and participated in volleyball in the fall, and indoor and outdoor track in the winter and spring.

“In the spring of my freshman year I decided to do outdoor track, and I liked it,” said Manna. “So for my sophomore year I quit gymnastics, since it took a physical and mental toll on me, and I was not in love with the sport any more. So since I wanted to try something new, I did indoor track for the first time, and it opened up new doors for me.”

SENIOR YEAR AHEAD

For all she has achieved this season, it may seem hard to believe Manna still has one more year of high school competition remaining. When based on this year’s achievements the sky is the limit as to what she can accomplish next year. Manna would like to continue to improve on her personal bests she recently set in the long and triple jumps in her final year of high school.

“I hope next year I can jump around 21 feet in the long jump, and improve my personal best in the triple jump,” said Manna. “I felt doing 39-4 this year in the triple jump was crazy. Next year I really want to pick up where I left off this year and jump around 40 feet in the triple jump. Hopefully I will do personal bests next year in both jumps as much as I did this year.”

While high school graduation is still a year away for her, Manna is already planning for what she wants to do at the college level. She is considering moving on to attend one of the Boston schools, and while still undecided on a major, Manna definitely wants to compete in indoor and outdoor track at the highest college level.

“I’ve been talking to Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern,” said Manna. “I want to be a jumper in college, but if they want me to do other events I will do those too.”

Like many outstanding track athletes, Manna hopes to stay within the realm of track once her competitive days are over. She may well follow the same path of her own head coach Barrett who once was a stellar track athlete at UMass Lowell, and someday become an indoor and outdoor track coach, to help younger athletes follow her own lead and become great athletes themselves.

“I feel maybe whatever job I do will be related to athletics, since that’s what I’ve done my whole life,” said Manna. “I probably would like to help coach girls in track just like my coaches help me now. I would definitely want to help other athletes follow in my footsteps.”

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