(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- Track and field is not usually an athlete’s first love. Running, jumping and sprinting are often seen as necessary evils when working towards team goals in youth sports such as football, basketball and soccer.
The idea of running as a sport within itself is not typically realized until an athlete is mature enough to understand its purpose and benefits, or until an athlete notices they have a natural gift for the sport. BYU senior All-American Mindy McClurkin is no exception.
Unlike many young athletically driven children, McClurkin tried out track and field at a young age when her parents signed her up for a YMCA club team. Her team membership did not last long, however, because many of the meets were run on Sunday afternoons.
With track no longer an option, McClurkin turned her focus to basketball, where she ended up loving and playing for ten years. It was not until her freshman year in high school that track was ever brought up to her again.
That basketball season, her high school head track coach happened to be watching one of her basketball games, and noticed her ability to consistently beat opponents up and down the court. As he watched the game, he began to envision her as the anchor to his teams’ 4x100-meter relay team. McClurkin joined the high school track team later that year, but the sport would remain secondary to basketball in her life.
“I always enjoyed basketball a bit more in high school,” McClurkin said. “But once I started getting recruiting letters for track from across the USA, I tried harder to excel in my events.”
It was during her junior season that McClurkin began getting heavily recruited by Division I schools from across the nation, but BYU was not one of them. McClurkin’s early focus was on UCLA, whose campus was only two hours from her hometown.
BYU joined the recruitment of McClurkin late in the game, when she was very close to officially signing with UCLA. Assistant BYU coach Dick Legas stopped by her house and convinced her to come visit BYU on the same weekend she had planned to sign at UCLA.
“Needless to say, the Lord works in mysterious ways,” McClurkin said. “It was not that I had fallen in love with BYU, it was more of a prayerful confirmation that I should attend this school. I signed with them the week after my recruiting trip.”
McClurkin is now in her fifth season at BYU and has experienced a wealth of ups and downs. One positive that has remained a constant throughout her career has been her parents.
Since signing her up for the YMCA club track team, McClurkin’s parents have been heavily involved and supportive of her athletic endeavors. Her father always had high expectations, and her mother always provided an excellent example and confidence.
“As I have matured at BYU my relationships with my dad has grown immensely,” McClurkin said. “My mom has always been a pillar of strength throughout my life, and I know no matter what she will love me just the same.”
Following the upcoming outdoor track and field season, McClurkin’s illustrious BYU career will come to an end after five seasons. Her different experiences have left her with warm memories and a bright outlook for the future.
McClurkin’s accomplishments on the track are immense, but a select few moments in time stick out to her as she remembers the past four and a half years.
“Earning All-American honors in the long jump, qualifying and competing at the Olympic trials, breaking numerous BYU records and going to Europe to compete in Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic were four of the highlights of my time at BYU,” McClurkin said.”
McClurkin recently finished her final indoor season as a Cougar, one that will go down as her best season yet. She earned All-American honors in the long jump and broke the BYU record for the 60-meters, long jump and indoor 200-meters.
Looking into the future, McClurkin has some specific athletic goals she would still like to achieve. She plans to continue her training in hopes of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London, and also has plans to move to North Carolina with her husband while he pursues his PhD in finance.