Pickering's Shaquan Williams accepts scholarship to Lincoln University

Pickering High School grad specializes in 400m

PICKERING -- There was a time, not so long ago, when Shaquan Williams wished he could just keep up with the rest of the field every time he stepped to the start line for a race.

After signing a scholarship to attend Lincoln University in Missouri, those memories are distant ones, for sure.

The track-and-field athlete, who specializes in the 400m, has signed on a semester late, joining the Blue Tigers team for the January indoor season. He left shortly after the Christmas holidays to begin classes this week in accounting.

"To be honest, when I did track, I was never really fast," he says of the first few times he raced competitively. "I did it in high school and I was pretty much the slowest on the team for boys and girls.

"I joined The Speed Academy to get serious because I was tired of losing."

Williams initially thought football might be the game where he could convey his athletic talent into something beyond the high school level. But after starting to play in Grade 9, he began to realize that his size wasn't progressing like some of the others.

"As I got older, I realized I wasn't getting bigger for football, so I started doing track," he says of the switch. "I started thinking about a scholarship when I joined The Speed Academy. That's when the idea of a scholarship came about. Not for football, because of my size, I'm a pretty skinny, slim dude.

"When I joined The Speed Academy I got really serious and started to think about a scholarship."

In three short years, he made huge strides in the sport. By the time he was in Grade 12, he finished first in the 400m and the 4x400 relay at the LOSSA championships, then picked up a bronze with his Pickering High School relay team at the OFSAA provincial championships.

When the 18 year old finished second at the Ontario Jr. championships in July, it was enough to surface on the radar of NCAA schools. Some work by Tony Sharpe, his coach at The Speed Academy, secured a scholarship offer.

"He really has no accolades in terms of championships, he's just a real consistent, hard worker," says Sharpe, a former Olympic medal winner for Canada. "Based on his work ethic and good marks, I felt I owed it to this kid to really go to work for him and try and find him a spot."

Because of the short time frame, Williams was unable to visit the school before committing, but is confident it will meet his expectations. He wanted to go to a school that people respected for its academics, as well as provide an opportunity to improve on the track.

"I really specified I wanted a place that would provide a good education background. If I put (the school) on my resume, people would recognize it as a good school," he says.

At the very least, he will have a familiar face when he gets to Lincoln, as Speed Academy teammate Wesley Best also accepted a scholarship to the Missouri school.

Tony Sharpe helps score scholarships for track and field stars

tony sharpe

Sharpe, the former Canadian Olympian, runs the Speed Academy, a developmental track and field club in Pickering, which has helped dozens of athletes get NCAA scholarships.

The club was founded in 2006 and Sharpe left his corporate account manager’s job at Bell to track athletes full-time a few years later.

“I’m a full-time coach, you know, not something people do often in Canada,” says Sharpe, 59, adding about 50 Speed Academy athletes have received scholarships.