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Nicholas Burke shines at North American Indigenous Games

Local track and field athlete hit the podium six times
Nicholas Burke shone at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games, winning five medals (one gold, two silver, two bronze). (Photo: Matt Durnan)

One of the city's promising young athletes had an outstanding performance at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto last week.

Nicholas Burke, a 15-year-old Lasalle Secondary School student, shone at the games that featured more than 5,000 athletes from around Canada and the United States. 

Burke would walk away from the games with five medals draped around his neck, as he was one of the standouts in the U16 track and field events.

A true multi-sport athlete who plays basketball for the U16 Sudbury Jam as well as volleyball, Burke took the hectic schedule of the games in stride and leaned on some positive words from his friend and mentor Dale Beausoleil. 

The two have been working in tandem since Burke's days at Northeastern Elementary School, where Beausoleil coached the youngster and introduced him to track and field.

"This was probably the biggest event I've ever taken part in, as far as the level of competition, the number of people and the number of people in the crowds," said Burke.

Things started out rather calm for the soon-to-be Grade 10 student, as the first event he took part in was the 4x100m relay, a team event that was held in the evening at the York University track.

"The stadium was starting to clear out a bit by the time our heat came up, but the next morning when I had to run the 300-meter it was a lot more nerve-wracking. I called Mr. B and we talked on the phone for maybe 25 minutes and he just told me to enjoy the moment and I would be fine."

Turns out, Beausoleil's words rang true as Burke would advance to the finals and end up winning silver in the boys 300m race; one of a handful of medals he would bring home. 

That silver medal was a nice start, but Burke speaks highly of a pair of events in not-so-ideal circumstances where he rose to the occasion. When asked about his strongest event, Burke doesn't hesitate to say that the high jump is where he feels most comfortable.

At the 2017 NAIG he decided to give the 800m a try and wound up taking home the silver medal. Perhaps more impressive than his second place finish in a new event was the fact that the 800m bumped up against the high jump in terms of scheduling.

"I had to run my preliminary 800m heat while the high jump was already going on," said Burke. "So I knew I'd be coming in late and the bar was already at 1.60 meters when I got over there."

The advantages of youth and high level athleticism paid off and Burke says he thinks running the 800m was actually an advantage in his high jump performance.

"It was such a hot day and a lot of the jumpers were just sitting around in the sun waiting for the event," said Burke. "You could really tell that it was getting to some of them. When I got over to the high jump, my adrenaline was still going and I was loosened up and ready to go."

Burke leaped past the competition with a gold medal-winning jump of 1.66 meters. He would go on to add bronze medals in both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, bringing his medal total up to five for the games.

The youngster is now looking forward to his next track and field season at Lasalle Secondary as well as further down the road to the 2020 NAIG competition, which is slated to take place in either California or Newfoundland.

"I'm hoping to narrow my focus a little bit more, I want to focus more on hurdles and high jump and the shorter distance events," said Burke, who made sure not to forget a few thank yous.

"I really want to thank my mom for driving me to the games and supporting me the whole time. I also want to thank Mr. Beausoleil for his support and coaching over the years. This was a great event for me, I met so many new people from around the country and the United States and I'm just looking forward to the next one."

Matt Durnan

About the Author: Matt Durnan

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