Burks adjusting to life at Alabama

Joy Harris
Special to the Enquirer

Transitioning from a small town high school into a major university can be hard for students, but that transition becomes even more difficult when athletic training is added to the already overwhelming social and academic changes.

Quanesha Burks, a 2013 graduate of Hartselle High School is one such student athlete. She signed with the University of Alabama’s track and field program Feb. 6 and is now training twice a day almost every day of the week while attending classes and adjusting to life away from home.

“Everything in college is so different than high school back in Hartselle,” Burks said. “Track and school keep me on a structured schedule, almost like a job, but it’s worth it in the end.”

Burks starts most days at 5 a.m. for track practice at 6:45 a.m. After practice, she heads to class and then back to practice again at 3 p.m. before spending a few hours in study hall and finally going to bed. Each day is a similar schedule with a rest “shake-out” day each Wednesday.

“Weekends are really special now,” Burks said. “I have to decide if I want to catch up on homework and rest or if I want to hang out, but so far I am loving college. I’m quickly learning time management and discipline.”

As a student athlete, Burks has a lot of unique opportunities opened up to her. UA athletes have open access to tutors and monitors who help with homework and help keep them on schedule. Special dining and study facilities for athletes are available for meals and quiet time. As a freshman, she is required to spend eight hours a week in study hall and has progress reports on how she is doing in class. Athletes even have separate seating in the student section for football games, further distinguishing her college experience from other students.

Along with the added benefits of athletic life come the added burdens of competition. Back in high school, Burks usually knew most of her competitors in the region. Now she will face athletes from all over the world at a much higher level of competition.

“I’m so much more confident than I was before I came to Alabama, but I’m still trying to prepare for the season and stay focused,” Burks said. “I’m excited to be a freshman at such a highly competitive level. I could look up opponents and find out who has won championships before, but I don’t really see the point in getting too worried about them right now. I just have to remember that I made it to this level just like them.”

Burks’ high school coach Kenny Lopez felt UA was a good fit for her that would further her progress.

“We tried to prepare Quanesha as much as possible for what she was going to face both in college and at track and field at that level,” Lopez said. “She still has a lot of raw talent and room for growth. With Alabama’s strength program and the excellent coaching staff they have there, it’s going to be fun to see how she continues to develop.”

UA Track and Field Assistant Coach for Sprints Miguel Pate said Burks’ small town background was one of the reasons he wanted to recruit her.

“Quanesha was already showing promise at a small town high school that wasn’t known for track,” Pate said. “She was excelling with little resources, so I saw great potential for her with more structured training. She is a good athlete for us with strong determination. I’m from a small town myself, so I knew it could be overwhelming stepping outside of her comfort zone, but I’m really excited about where she is now. She has grown so much already, but I look forward to watching her continually grow as an athlete and a person.”

Burks is a very young athlete, but she is showing promise in her upcoming seasons at the Capstone. The UA outdoor track season opener is the Auburn Invitational Jan. 18.

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