Under just about every conceivable notion, Kilgore’s own Tonye’cia Burks’ recent trip to Taiwan, to represent the United States in a track competition, was a complete success.
Burks, a Kilgore High School alumni and a record-setting member of the University of Houston’s track and field team, returned Sunday from the 2017 Summer World University Games. The UH track program, one of the most tradition-rich in college sports, were selected to represent the U.S. by the United States International University Sports Federation.
Tony and her teammates spent about 2 ½ weeks in Taiwan, and she told the News Herald on Friday it was the time of her life.
“The experience itself was incredible,” she said, “and opened a lot of doors to meet new people and make new friends. It gave me a more broad view of the world and other countries, and how individuals that are so different can become so close and have so much in common. I wouldn’t change anything about that journey. It’s definitely something I would love to do again, really soon.”
According to a description on its own website, the Summer World University Games, which is held every two years, is an international sporting and cultural event second only to the Olympic Games. It normally showcases 14 sports and as many as three optional sports chosen by the host country. The 2011 games featured 10,622 competitors, a record.
The record figures are 10,622 participants in Shenzhen, China, in 2011 and 174 countries in Daegu, Korea, in 2003.
Burks, the UH record-holder in the women’s triple jump, was an NCAA West regional qualifier and is the defending American Athletic Conference women’s TJ champion. She and the other triple jump athletes had to compete in the rain in Taiwan, though, and while she didn’t do her best – she finished 12th overall – she’ll use it to motivate herself to get ready for indoor track season in December, the next big event on her athletic calendar.
Adjusting to the time change in Taiwan – about 13 hours from U.S. Central time, Kilgore time – might have been the biggest problem, she noted.
“I struggled with adjusting for about four days,” Burks laughed. “But I always seemed to wake up every morning at 4 a.m. over there. And as of now, I’m still adjusting to our time difference. I fall asleep around 7 p.m. and wake up at 3:30, 4 in the morning and stay up for the whole day. It’s crazy.”
Burks didn’t hesitate naming the most positive portion of the trip.
“My favorite part was being able to walk around and enjoy the city and the culture of Taiwan, and how they’re so friendly and love Americans so much. They made us feel so welcome that we could not believe it.”
Burks moves on into offseason training for the indoor season, and she’s already got a driving point: strong start, she said, and strong finish.
There was one other thing. The Cougars were delayed in their return by the mess that was Hurricane Harvey. Fortunately, though, Burks’ off-campus apartment is on the third floor – she avoided damage to her place, but not her car.
“The only thing that got messed up was the carpets in my car,” she said.
Burks is one of several athletes from Kilgore High School that have gone to UH – and she’s one of three in major programs there now. Cooper Coldiron will be a senior in the Cougars’ baseball program in spring, and currently, former KHS running back Kevrin Justice is on the Cougars’ football team, slated to open its season tonight at the University of Arizona.