23 May 2016

Ellis Jr. Continues Family Track and Field Legacy

Ellis Jr. Continues Family Track and Field Legacy

Track and field star Burkheart Ellis Jr. followed his parents’ footsteps when he received his diploma at the 2016 Saint Augustine’s University commencement recently (May 14).

Like his mom and dad, Ellis Jr. ran for legendary Head Coach George Williams and graduated from Saint Augustine’s University. Sophia Ifill and Burkheart Ellis, Sr. were both track and field standouts in the 1990s.

Sophia Ifill, Ellis Sr., and grandmother Dorrien Ifill were on hand to watch Ellis Jr. walk across the stage at the University Quadrangle. For Sophia Ifill, who is a masseuse on the track and field team, her son continued a legacy that she and Ellis Sr. started.

“I am very proud of him,” Sophia Ifill said. “The whole four years he has been on the honor roll in addition to running track.”

Added Ellis Sr.: “It is a big significance that we graduated under one great coach.”

Ellis Jr. graduated with a sports management degree. He was on pace to finish earlier but stretched out his credits to compete in track his senior season.

And what a season it has been. Ellis Jr. is currently the nation’s fastest 200-meter sprinter in Division II. His career-best time of 20.36 seconds is the third-fastest in Division II history. He also posted a career-best time of 10.25 seconds in the 100-meter dash, and he ranks fourth nationally in the event. Ellis Jr. is also a member of the country’s top-ranked 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relay teams at Saint Augustine’s University.

“When I came here, I had big shoes to fill,” Ellis Jr. said, referring to his parents’ college achievements. “It’s been a great four years. This has been my best year by far.”

His decorated career includes five NCAA Division II national titles including three outdoor crowns. The Falcons have also won eight CIAA men’s championships (four indoor and four outdoor). Ellis Jr. is a 15-time All-American on the track and an academic All-American in the classroom.

Ellis Jr. is the latest of numerous track and field scholar-athletes to graduate from Saint Augustine’s University. Under the leadership of Coach Williams, the Saint Augustine’s University track and field program wins big in athletics and academics. In addition, winning 37 NCAA national championships, the track and field program has a 95 percent graduation rate among its scholarship student-athletes.

Coach Williams has coached family generations of track and field All-Americans who have graduated during his illustrious 40-year career.

“I have had Burkheart, Jr. and a few other kids whose parents have run here. So, I feel that we must be doing something right,” Williams said. “Many of them ran fast, but all of them graduated. Most of my former scholar-athletes who send kids to me trust that I will do the best that I can to help them reach their potential on the track, support and encourage them academically, and send them off, hopefully, prepared to achieve their life goals.”

Ellis and the Falcons will aim for their four straight NCAA men’s outdoor championship on May 26-28. Ellis Jr. will cap a fantastic season with a trip to the Rio Olympics in August. He will run for Barbados, the native country of his father.

Once his sensational collegiate career is completed, he will run under Williams, who was the 2004 U.S. Olympic coach. Williams has won the most NCAA track and field titles of any coach regardless of division.

“It’s been a long road for B.J.,” Sophia Ifill said. “I am happy to see him succeed. When Burkheart was in high school, I told my friends that in 2016, he will run in the Olympics.”

As impressive as Ellis Jr. has been on the track, Sophia Ifill is just as glad he graduated from her alma mater. His grandmother Dorrien Iffil is elated as well.

“It is something that you can’t put in words,” Dorrien Ifill said. “It makes me feel very good to see [the legacy] continue. It must be something in the genes.”