Freshman preparing for greatness in new country
Freshman sprinter Mario Burke traveled 2,000 miles from his hometown in Bridgetown, Barbados to compete for UH and, hopefully, the 2016 Olympic Games.
“For me, it is a big transition because everything we’re doing here in Houston I’m not really accustomed to back home,” Burke said. “(The coaches) know what to do to get me to the top, so hopefully they can guide me in that direction.”
While competing in Barbados, Burke was highly successful in track competitions, becoming a three-time national champion and gained numerous primary school records along the way.
His greatest achievement was at the Caribbean Fair Trade Association games, a competition of the best athletes under 20 years old in the Caribbean.
At the 2015 games, Burke was the champion in the 100 meter and 200 meter.
“Those games are a mini Olympics,” Burke said. “The CARIFTA games are really a stepping stone toward the Olympics, so it was a great opportunity for me.”
The coaches see his time at the games as a great help to his further career.
“It’s definitely going to help him here and also on the international circuit,” associate head coach Will Blackburn said. “With that experience, he will hopefully be able to come into the national meet and be able to contribute pretty well based on being in that same intensive competitive environment.”
The coaches feel that Burke will become a top competitor for the Cougars, but they also note areas for improvement.
Specifically, he needs time to adjust to assistant coach Carl Lewis’ system, as well as erase the injury factor that has hampered him in the past.
“I work backwards, I guess you could say,” Lewis said. “We start off with a personal best and a time we want to achieve, and then we go out there and achieve that time. It’s really about the time in the process because our process is long term.”
Blackburn also pointed out what Burke needs to learn in his freshman year as a sprinter.
“The first year he has to learn technically how to run better,” Blackburn said. “He’s got to have a better start. If we can fix those two things we should be able to have him at the national meet in June.”
The track and field team prides itself on its Olympic history and numerous athletes come to UH to try and enhance their skills.
But Burke is an anomaly, where, even as a freshman, he has an opportunity to get onto the Barbados team to represent his country at the Olympics in 2016.
“He has a chance if he does well to qualify for the Olympic games for Barbados,” Blackburn said. “That’s the ultimate goal for us and him this year.”
Lewis said that the Burke will not only grow athletically but academically as well in his time in Houston.
“We expect Mario to be here four years, get a degree and then continue to train here post-collegiate to become a long-term Olympian,” Lewis said.
Now that he has bought into what the coaches philosophy and training diligently, the track and field staff is confident that Burke will have a long and successful international career.
“The big jump is really the second year, but I expect Mario to do very well,” Lewis said. “The goal is for him to represent his country in Rio.”