As a track star for Hartselle (Ala.) High School, Quanesha Burks won 11 state championships and set seven school records. In 2013, she won the Class 5A title in the 100 meters, long jump and triple jump. It all helped her earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of Alabama.
All the while, she also worked at McDonald’s.
In a recent story for Sports Illustrated, Burks detailed how she worked at the fast-food restaurant to help pay for her grandmother’s car insurance. She did this from 4-10 p.m. on weekdays, after track practice, as well as in the mornings on weekends. During the week she would also drive her grandmother to work each morning at 4:30 a.m., and then her sisters to their schools.
On June 26, Burks’ years of hard work paid off when she booked a trip to the Tokyo Olympics. She finished third in the long jump at the U.S. Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., to earn her spot, setting a personal best of 6.96 meters in the fifth round of the long jump finals.
Over the past year, Burks had spent time speaking her “future into existence.” The social media videos displayed some of the same confidence she had while in high school.
“When I worked at McDonald’s, I thought it was the best job ever,” Burks told Sports Illustrated. “I was making $100 every two weeks. It’s terrible, but I came to work every day happy and I knew it was all part of my goal to go to college.”
— Quanesha Burks OLY (@strongbelieverQ) June 29, 2021
Seeing sports as her ticket to enter college and determined to receive a scholarship, Burks researched to see exactly what needed to be done.
“I remember looking up the requirements to earn a full scholarship and I wrote those goals down,” Burks said. “I jumped 20 feet and that’s when everything changed.”
Burks became the first in her family to go to college, where she continued to dominate, earning the 2015 NCAA outdoor long jump title as well as the 2016 NCAA indoor long jump title.
Following her college career, Burks continued as a professional long jumper — her first paid job since McDonald’s. In 2020, she won the U.S. indoor title, but was prevented from competing in the World Athletics Indoor Championship because of COVID-19.
While training in February 2021, Burks hit another obstacle, bruising a bone in her femur. While this hurt her chances of reaching the Olympics, she dialed in more of her famed determination.
“I was facing so much, but I kept going back to when I worked at McDonald’s,” Burks told Sports Illustrated. “I had my goals set and I knew I could do it.”
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Burks described the injury as a time in which her faith in God was challenged.
“Becoming an Olympian is a promise God made to me before the trials or injuries,” Burks said on Instagram. “I held on to that promise through the good and bad!
“Being an Olympian is great but it could never be as fulfilling as the joy of knowing how my faith was tested beyond measures and I held on to Gods promise with all the trust I had, and He never left my side.”
Burks has long been outspoken about her faith through social media, where her Instagram bio reads “GOD FIRST” and her Twitter bio says “Trust God.” Prior to the Olympic qualifier, Burks said that God writes her story.
“[T]his season has been one for the books but I’m so glad God is the author of my story,” Burks said on Instagram.
Realizing that her success is a blessing from God, she praises Him for His goodness.
“I will continue to Thank God for all his blessings. I’m thankful!” Burks said on Twitter May 30.
And as she prepares to enter her first Olympic Games, Burks continues to remember where she started.
“Golden Arches to Golden Medals,” Burks said on Twitter last week.
Burks is now training for her Olympic debut, which will take place Aug. 1 with the women’s long jump qualifying round, before the final on Aug. 3.
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