Big season for Callaway track family

Published 1:15 pm Friday, May 10, 2019

It’s been a smooth transition for Callaway High’s Niakoe Burks.

A year ago, Burks was in middle school, and she was leaving her fellow competitors in the dust.

Burks is now a freshman at Callaway, and while the stage is a bigger one, she’s continuing to dominate the opposition.

Burks will finish her exceptional freshman season by competing in three events at the Class AA state track and field finals in Rome.

Burks will be joined by a bunch of her teammates who have also enjoyed successful seasons.

The top eight finishers in each event will place and receive a medal.

Burks is participating in the 100-meter dash, the long jump, and she’s part of a 400-meter relay team that will be one of the favorites to win the championship.

Burks was second in the 100 and the long jump at the state sectional last weekend, and the relay team finished third.

While the competition in high school is obviously better than what she faced in middle school, Burks felt she was ready.

“I knew I could do it,” Burks said. “I’d done it before in middle school.”

Melissa McDonald, Callaway’s coach, said Burks is all business on race day.

“She goes out, and she stretches, and she puts the head phones in and she stays zoned in and focused,” McDonald said.

Burks runs the anchor leg for a 400-meter relay team that has turned in some terrific times.

With a time of 49.43 seconds at the state sectional, Callaway will be the number three

seed in the state finals.

Joining Burks on the relay team are Aniyah Simpson, Markiya Harris and Leijorey Sanders.

Harris and Simpson will compete in individual event as well.

Harris earned a first-place finish in the 200-meter dash at the state sectional with a time of 25.86 seconds, and Simpson was second with a time of 1:00.78.

Callaway’s boys’ team will have plenty of competitors in the state finals as well.

That includes a pair of high-jumpers in Elliott Smith and Antinez Blount who have both cleared 6-2 this season.

If they do that in Albany, they’ll likely be on the podium and may have a chance to win.

Senior Curmondre Bray is racing in the 200-meter dash after finishing fifth in the state sectional.

Osiris Rivas was fifth in the 400-meter dash, and Darrick Williams was seventh in the 100-meter dash.

Also for Callaway, Tely Fanning, Rivas, Larry Davis, Jalin Shephard and Blount make up the 1,600-meter relay team that finished fourth in the state sectional to make it to state.

It’s been a fantastic all-around season for Callaway’s track team, and McDonald said it’s been all about having everyone invested in the program, from the coaches to the athletes.

“I didn’t coach basketball this year. I feel like that made all the difference,” McDonald said. “I felt   like once I fully committed to them, they fully committed to the program. We were able to do more fund-raising, and we were able to spend more time together.”

That time together wasn’t just about going to the track and running.

“We went down to the (Mike Daniel Recreation Center) on Saturdays and did water resistance training,” McDonald said. “That was something they’d never done before. And then we did a lot of agility and dynamics to get them flexible, to get their core strong. We went in the weight room which some of the girls hadn’t done.”

McDonald also said the team members look out for each other.

“Instead of me having to fuss at them, they were accountable to each other,” McDonald said. “Our motto was to train hard, run fast, and win with class. The train hard was the difficult part.”