June 27th, 2012
NFA boys track members all going to college
All eleven of the NFA Boys Track Team’s seniors are headed to college. From left are; Coach Malcolm Burks, Shaquille Wimberly, Conroy Fletcher, Anthony Wilmot-Francis, Faheem Hayden, Michael Corlette and Isaiah Valentine.
NEWBURGH - There are no exceptions. When it comes to education, it’s always at the top of the list; he’s not hearing otherwise. It’s a mantra Newburgh Free Academy Head Boys Track Coach Malcolm Burks has diligently instilled in his athletes for the past 14 years. The results don’t lie: during his tenure, 98% of his graduating seniors have entered the collegiate ranks. The class of 2012 has a 100% distinction. That track record appears to be on steady ground; his overall 42-member team grade point average registers a 92.
“It’s not so much about championships and times,” pointed out Burks, who just completed his third season at the head position. “It’s more about developing student athletes and preparing them for life.”
That process begins immediately when one becomes a member of the Goldback Boys Track Team. Burks’ charges are required to maintain at least an 80 average, and their marks are consistently monitored. The consequences of not hitting the books vary from being on probation, to sitting out a track meet, to doing extra work on the track.
“It’s all about expectations; if they’re set and enforced, they will be followed,” said Burks. “I also think they begin to realize after a while what it will take to get to the next level and be prepared for not only track, but life.”
Sprinter Isaiah Valentine, who earned ten Varsity Letters during his NFA track career and placed second in the 200 meters in the Section IX Championships this spring, is headed to St. Augustine’s College, an historically black college in Raleigh, NC. While Valentine is grateful for Burks’ guidance on the track, he is quick to credit him for other priceless intangibles.
“Focus is the hardest thing about being a student athlete; you really need to be responsible, prioritize and budget your time,” said Valentine, who would often do his homework on the bus rides to meets or while awaiting his event. “Without Coach Burks I never even thought about going to college; he has never given up on any of us, looking out for us like we were his sons.”
Another track member, Shaquille Wimberly, is headed to Morehouse College. A Section IX Champion in the 400 meter hurdles, as well as a 2012 New Balance All-American, Wimberly joined the NFA Track Team as a seventh grader, where he continued for four years before transferring to a nearby school for his junior year. Witnessing a big difference in his new track team’s atmosphere, he returned to NFA for his senior year.
“Being on this team has taught me to be patient, and my time will come,” said Wimberly, who intends to major in graphic design and join the track team at Morehouse. “I want to apply all Coach Burks has taught me about running and life when I go to college.”
Hurdler and triple jumper Noel Alexander carries a 97 grade point average, highest on the team. He is off to Cornell in the fall to major in engineering.
“I knew Coach Burks would be supportive and allow me to find the balance between school and track,” said Alexander, winner of the Petrillo Scholarship. “My advice to anyone who wants to join a sport is do the right thing, go to class and always make education the priority.”
“This group really makes me proud,” stressed Burks. “They beat the odds, and it truly proves all that is rumored about not much good coming out of Newburgh wrong.”
Rounding out the NFA Boys Senior Track Team Members earning college entrance are; Xaiver McAllister (Iowa Central), Terrel Moore (Albany University), Michael Garrick (Ulster County Community College), Kyle Farrington (Hampton University), Michael Corlette (Mercy College), Faheem Hayden and Anthony Francis (Monroe College), and Conroy Fletcher (Fairleigh Dickinson University).