Midwest Recruiting: South Christian’s Bruxvoort chooses to run track at Iowa over basketball
Grand Rapids – At first glance, Mariel Bruxvoort seems a natural for running down a basketball court, but her heart led her to another kind of running. Sprinting, actually.
At 6-1, the Grand Rapids South Christian senior features the type of long, lean body ideal for basketball, and she has excelled at that sport the past two seasons. But instead of pursuing that sport at the next level, Bruxvoort elected to focus on track, where her combination of size and unique running ability is more uncommon.
Bruxvoort, an 11-time letter winner in three sports who also carries a 4.0 grade point average, realizes that physically she may have been better off accepting a scholarship offer to play Division II college basketball, but her choice was instead to accept a scholarship from Iowa to run track. Bruxvoort could be a force inside in basketball, but she contends her long legs lead to a much-sought, four-step stride also make it easier to sweep over hurdles in track.
"With my height, yeah, it’s actually more of a body built for track," she said. "I enjoy both sports and basketball was my first love. I’ve always been pretty tall, but I think that gives me more of an advantage in track."
Bruxvoort, whose father, Jim, is 6-4 and her mother Crystal, 5-10, has excelled in both basketball and track while also playing three years of volleyball, which many contend she could have also played in college. After helping South Christian to the 2016 Class B state final as a sophomore, she averaged 16 points and four rebounds as a junior and then 17.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. But after becoming the first South Christian girl to win state championships in the 100-meter high hurdles (14.84) and 300 low hurdles (43.06) last spring, Bruxvoort said track overtook basketball as her favorite sport.
Six times Bruxvoort made all-state in track. She took third at the state meet in the 300 as a freshman and as a sophomore. As a sophomore Bruxvoort placed 13th in the high jump and ran on the 1,600 relay team that took third. She’s also competed in the 200 and 400, and once ran the 100 in 12.98 seconds.
Still the decision to make track a priority wasn’t an easy one, she said.
"I thought long and hard (about the decision), but then I did better at the state meet as a junior than I thought I would," she said. "I talked to my mentor and prayed about the decision. There was no specific moment that I decided, but a lot of people helped me make the decision."
One of the reasons why Bruxvoort, in an age of specialization, was involved in three sports was that each required different training. She said the various training methods needed in all three was an attraction. She doubts whether dropping a sport in favor of putting more time in another would have made her a better athlete.
"I’m a big fan of playing multi-sports," she said. "I think you can learn different things being in all three and that can be applied to other things. And I like three sports because I see more people that way."
South Christian coach Eric Grimm said it isn’t Bruxvoort’s size which makes her special, it’s her worth ethic. Grimm said while some athletes work their hardest in a group setting, Bruxvoort’s effort is the same whether with teammates or by herself.
"She’s a leader by example and quiet by nature, but as a senior, she’s also a vocal leader, too," said Grimm, entering his 28th year as coach. "She’s one of those athletes who can do a monster workout on her own.
"Her winning the 300 hurdles at state wasn’t a real surprise because she was the No. 1 seed. She was No. 2 in the high hurdles so in my mind she was going to take first or second. I think she thought the same way because she’s so competitive."
Bruxvoort, who plans on being a marketing/management major at Iowa, is one of just six candidates for the Detroit Athletic Club Athlete of the Year Award, to be announced May 14 in downtown Detroit.
"There are a lot of good candidates, though," she said. "It would be an honor to win."