By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – He does it for pure joy. It’s his unrivaled passion. It’s a place where he sets lofty goals and chases his dreams. It’s something he wants to do and not has to do. And Monday it became something extremely special: a full ride scholarship to the University of Miami.
Running, and in Gould’s case, hurdling specifically, represent so much more than simply sport. Rather, they are a living symbol of his overcoming and believing anything is possible.
For Gould, who officially selected Miami over his three other top finalist schools: Mississippi State, Clemson and the University of Nebraska, as his collegiate home, the journey has been filled with challenges, ones he has faced head-on and prevailed time and time again.
Flashback to age four when following his father around, he got his foot caught in a lawn mower. Having to rely upon crutches and a wheelchair for mobility, the young Gould eventually had a major surgery, rebuilding his foot, at age 11. Just one year after the procedure, the always active Gould, who was once projected to not be able to walk, was itching to do something.
“I wanted to go out for the track team, just to have fun; I always found running to be the best part of any sport I did, and so I just wanted to keep doing it,” recalled Gould. “I really just expected to be like any other kid on the team, and just have a good time doing what I loved.”
For the past six years Gould has made good on that fun focus, keeping his love for the sport at the forefront. He’s also far surpassed his initial expectation of being average. A two time Boys 400 Meter Hurdle New York State Outdoor Track and Field Champion, overall winner at the prestigious Penn Relays in that same event as well as the USATF 15 and 16 Year Old Athlete of the Year in New York State, Gould, whose list of track accolades is extensive, has been courted by an impressive number of some of the top running colleges in the country.
After a fall visiting blitz of the schools and narrowing the field to four, he finally made his selection Monday at Newburgh Free Academy’s North Campus Auditorium in front of a filled room of family, friends, school administration and faculty, as well as teammates. For Gould, an honor student, who makes academics as much of a priority as athletics, his Miami decision ultimately came down to that facet.
“Out of all the schools, they had the best program in my major, graphic design,” said Gould after proudly putting on the green and orange Miami baseball cap his younger brother Rayden had selected. “It just felt like home when I went there, and I really liked the three coaches.”
It’s that coaching and mentorship which have made a pivotal difference in Gould’s life, both on and off the track, since joining the Goldback’s track team when he was so little, coaches were hard pressed to find a shirt to fit him. Malcolm Burks, found a way to not only get that shirt to fit, but the head NFA Boy’s Track and Field Coach developed a detailed plan for his young charge’s future success, one the two have worked arduously at for the past six years, making good on a dream Gould expressed at age 13 to earn a track and field scholarship.
“The work is still not done; it’s not going to be easy out there because everyone wants to beat you, so you need to continue to stay focused and be a leader,” said Burks as he addressed his attentive athlete, flanked by his parents and younger brother, on the auditorium’s stage. “Even when you leave here, you will still always be a part of Newburgh, having that huge responsibility to represent us wherever you go and whatever you do.”
As the excited Gould closes out his final Goldback track and field seasons and prepares for his fall departure to the University of Miami, he is intent on tackling that next phase-challenge that lies ahead. He knows what adversity feels like. He has lived with people thinking he would never walk again, never mind run. He has seen the results of determination, hard work, focus and a belief in oneself, and he’s ready for what’s next.
“If you really want to achieve something, attack it,” stressed Gould. “Every time I run, it reminds me of how I can overcome, and do exactly what I was told I can’t do; anything is possible, just stay focused and don’t be scared.”