Barkley stops by EPC track meet
In his line of work, Saquon Barkley is accustomed to drawing a crowd.
It’s usually opposing defenders with the intent of bringing down the elusive running back as he looks to pick up yardage as a New York Giants running back.
On Wednesday those crowds turned into EPC and Colonial League student-athletes who swarmed the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year as he returned to the Zephyrs Sports Complex to cheer on his sister as she competed in the 2019 EPC Track & Field Championships.
Aliyah Barkley was competing in three events at the Championships. She was participating in the 100 meters, the 4x100 relay, and the long jump.
The former Whitehall standout, who won EPC gold in the 100 in 2015, graciously posed for pictures, signed autographs, and just basically hobnobbed with old friends and teachers while waiting for his sister’s busy day to complete.
He was in attendance to support his sister. She was competing in the same events he did during his senior season, the only difference being that he threw the shot as well.
As a former sprint champ, Barkley said that he didn’t really know how to run when he won his gold medal at the league championships. He finished in 11.15 that season to earn the medal.
As Aliyah prepared for her day, Barkley said that he would just remind her of a few things as she settled into the blocks.
“The biggest thing I would say is obviously stride length,” said Barkley.
That advice came with the caveat of taking those strides mindful of not pulling any muscles. He said that she has powerful legs, and pulling any leg muscles is always a concern for sprinters.
“She just has to learn how to use that power,” said Barkley
Aliyah used that power during her leg of the 4x100 relay. Her effort, along with those of teammates Aspen Schache and Helen Davis, enabled Kate Bonshak to take a commanding lead down the straightaway en route to the gold.
Barkley said that her hard work and determination set up the success she experienced at the EPC Championships.
“I’m just happy for her because the year before she didn’t make it to leagues, and she really worked hard to get here,” said Barkley.
Aliyah began her track career as a hurdler and long jumper, and has subsequently transitioned to the sprints this season. She continues to jump, but she’s also become an integral part of the 4x100 team this postseason. They will now try to set a new school record in the 4x100 at the district tournament, something they narrowly missed at the league championships.
Aliyah said that receiving the gold medal from her brother was the icing on the cake, but it wouldn’t have been possible without all their combined efforts.
“Getting the medal from him was definitely awesome; it was great, but definitely winning for our team, and the time that we had, that was great,” said Aliyah.
As the afternoon unfolded, Barkley posed with a host of athletes as Whitehall Athletic Director Robert Hartman busily snapped pictures for the constant stream of kids who were competing that day.
Barkley even encouraged their presence, noting there should be no trepidation about approaching him.
“I see them come up a little nervous and a little shy to ask me for a picture,” Barkley said. “There’s nothing to be shy about. I was just in their position a couple years ago. I don’t mind taking pictures. I don’t mind having a conversation because you’re put in a position to have an impact on people, especially the youth. Why not use that?”
Barkley’s kindness and generosity was on display throughout the afternoon just like it was four years ago when he gave Rachel Panek his gold medal.
“Great to see how he has remained grounded and appreciative,” said Hartman.
When the subject shifted to being a role model, Barkley said that he doesn’t prescribe to the notion of patterning oneself after an athlete, or anyone else for that matter.
“For me, I was never raised on believing [in] and having a role model,” said Barkley. “My father and my mom never really let me live that way or think that way because, when you have role models, you want to be like somebody.
“You never want to be the next someone. You want to be the next you, the next version of yourself. That’s why I never say role model because I’m not perfect. I’m not the best at this; I’m not the best at that. There’s so much more room for me to grow. So, why would I want a kid to be exactly like me, when he can be or she can be way better than me?”
Still, his appearance was rooted in family. He understands that hard work and sacrifice are necessary to be successful. And he just wanted Aliyah to know that.
“I just want her to know that I love her and I’m here to support her,” said Barkley.