By Trevor Wenners
You could not have designed a more ideal Division III student-athlete than McKenzie Brunel of Broxton.
The 2020 LaGrange College graduate was the real deal for the Panthers' softball team from 2017-20. She was named to the USA South West Division First and Second Team, respectively, in 2017 and 2018. During the 2018 season, Brunel showcased her mental and physical strength, overcoming a torn ACL, MCL, LCL and meniscus.
Brunel earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing in May and is focused on making an immediate and considerable impact in the medical field. She will begin her career working in the critical-care department at Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Aug. 31. The Broxton, Georgia, native is ready to join the front lines and provide a helping hand for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I am really excited to start my nursing career, and oddly enough, kind of excited that it is in the middle of this pandemic," said Brunel. "These are unprecedented times for everybody, so it will be great to experience these times, alongside all other health-care workers. We truly are going through it together. It is not just new to me, but all nurses."
Brunel came to LaGrange in 2016 for all the right reasons. She wanted to gain a first-class education and continue playing the sport that she loved. Brunel got the most out of LaGrange's elite nursing program, going the extra mile in her studies and never putting athletics before academics. The impressive young woman served as the valedictorian of her high-school graduating class at Citizens Christian Academy in Douglas, Georgia, in 2016.
On the softball field, the down-to-earth Brunel was a game-changing presence and held a unique skill set. In one breath, the speedy center fielder could be seen making a highlight-reel grab on a fly ball that she had no business catching. During the next inning, she was racing down the first-base line and beating out an infield single.
The four-year Panther left a storied legacy in the program's record book. She ranks sixth in career on-base percentage (.429), sixth in stolen bases (39) and eighth in batting average (.361). Brunel competed in 95 games and finished with 84 hits and 24 RBIs.
Brunel took some time out of her schedule to engage in a Q&A segment, giving new Panther student-athletes advice and talking about the ways in which she grew during her collegiate years.
Q: What advice would you give an incoming freshman on the softball team at LaGrange?
A: One piece of advice that I would give an incoming freshman softball player would be to develop yourself into a well-rounded person at the institution. Head coach Jennifer Claybrook is extremely supportive of other activities. She encourages her players to get involved in other groups and clubs on campus.
Q: What did you learn about yourself over the last four years as a LaGrange student-athlete?
A: I have always considered myself a personable and outgoing person. Before college, I was a bit more reserved and chose to lead by example when possible. However, at LaGrange College, I found myself taking on leadership roles in areas outside of softball. I joined Kappa Delta and became a presidential ambassador, which both forced me to actively lead others. I developed a stronger, more outspoken personality, which will benefit me in my career.
Q: If you could go back and change something about your career, besides the pandemic, what would it be?
A: I am not really one to change anything about the past. Maybe, I would change the fact that I had to have my knee repaired, but the truth of the matter is that I learned a great deal about myself during that year. I had to mold myself into a different type of teammate. I was just as crucial to the team, but in a way that I had never experienced before.