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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sports

Record-setting jumper sets high mark for teammates


After failing to make the top five at conference her first two seasons, junior Tonye’cia Burks owns two school records and has proven to be one of the best jumpers in the country. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Junior jumper Tonye’cia Burks started 2017 with high goals for herself. Not only did she want to grasp the concept of the triple jump, she wanted to break the school indoor record in the event.

Burks ended up going one step further by breaking the indoor and outdoor school triple jump records. To top it off, she claimed the top mark in the NCAA as well. 

“I always wanted to be called the best triple jumper that UH had,” Burks said. “I feel I accomplished that goal. But then again, I still have to come back every day and remember that I’m still here. To do better than what I have done. To keep driving.”

Burks, senior sprinter Tori Williams and sophomore thrower Taylor Scaife were by far the most consistent performers among the returning athletes. All three won numerous events throughout the year and set expectations for the rest to follow.

“They understand what they’re doing, and they’re driving to get that so it gets everyone else on board to follow that path,” Burks said.

Claiming victory

In her first two seasons of competition, Burks failed to place in the top five in the triple jump at the American Athletic Conference Indoor Conference Championships.

After placing eighth and seventh in her first two attempts, Burks claimed gold in her third campaign, setting a new school record, 12.99m, in the process.

“I was at a loss for words,” Burks said. “When they called 12.99, I was like ‘Really? Oh my God,’ because that jump felt so easy. It didn’t feel like I was working hard for it. I wasn’t tired. It was really pleasing and relieving to know I got there without even knowing I did it.”

Burks’s win went a long way. The women’s team earned their first top-three finish at AAC Conference since 2014. Burks, Williams and Scaife all placed in the top three of their events, each either set or nearly set school records during the indoor season, contributing 26 of the women’s 99 points at Conference.

Nation’s best

Despite not qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships, Burks knew she still had a long season ahead of herself. In just her second meet of the outdoor season, the junior once again made school history as she broke the school outdoor triple jump record at the Victor Lopez Classic at Rice University.

Her mark of 13.23m was No. 1 in the NCAA. The mark is still good for No. 5 in the country, firmly cementing Burks as one of the best jumpers and overall athletes in the nation.

Her success has Burks setting her goals high for herself and her teammates come May and June.

“We’re going to take first,” Burks said. “No doubt about it. (We’re going to) sweep the conference titles, get to the national meet and keep going as far as I can.”

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