Michael Pinckney has great expectations for both his athletic and professional futures with the hope that they will collide sometime after he graduates from UCLA in 2026.
Pinckney, who won't turn 17 until Dec. 9, is planning to study civil engineering when he arrives in Southern California next year. He's also planning on being part of the U.S. Olympic track team that will participate in the 2028 Summer Games, which will be held in Los Angeles. The only thing that would make the moment more special for the senior from The High School of Construction [Ozone Park] would be if he could actually be part of the team that will do the planning and building of the Olympic complex.
"The Olympics will be coming around and I'll be graduating in 2026," said Pinckney, who committed to the Bruins at the end of November. "There will be a lot of building going on around that time and if I could work on it, it would be a good way to start my career. There are opportunities by going to UCLA.
"After I get my degree, I want to work in the public sector with bridges and tunnels and stuff like that. I want to improve roadways and reduce traffic. I wanted to work with my hands and I always loved building stuff and I also love driving. My goal is to build an Autobahn [in the United States]."
Achieving that goal, as lofty as it is, may have to wait a few years, though, at least until Pinckney is done competing. He is one of the premier prep weight throwers in the country, a fact that he drove home with authority once again on Nov. 28 when he captured the weight throw and the shot put at The PSAL Gobbler Classic at The Armory. His toss of 79-9.25 in the weight throw was not only a personal-best, but it was also the fourth-longest throw in state history (and US #14 All-Time to boot). Pinckney recorded a personal-best in the shot put as well [58-8.25].
Not only that, but the Weight mark also bested the PSAL Record held by current Olympian Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, who threw 75-8 back in 2011. Pinckney had been competing unattached during the pandemic, and had thrown several fine marks in the hammer. However, they were ineligible for PSAL records, due to the unattached nature of the competition.
The Gobbler Classic was Pinckney's first meet of the indoor season and despite his overwhelming success, he says he still has a great deal of work to do before he ends his high school career. He said his weekend at The Armory was about refining his technique.
"I really tried to focus on technique and footwork," he said. "My footwork helped me out a lot this weekend. I accelerated the ball more. By speeding up the ball, which allowed me to put more weight on my left side. Because I was distributing my weight better, I accelerated the ball faster and that's what a big difference, the speed.
"On Saturday [Nov. 27] I didn't have a very good day with the weight throw. Later that night I decided this is the stuff I need to work on. So, I practiced and practiced through the night and in the morning I had to go out there and execute. No more thinking, I just had to execute."
Pinckney said he wasn't angry on that Saturday night. Rather, he was taking a lesson that he learned when he was a freshman at the New York State Championships and applied to his effort at The Armory.
"When I was a freshman I made it to the States and I was the only freshman there," Pinckney said. "I fouled out on all three throws and I was heartbroken. But it taught me that you're not always going to have your best day. You're going to have good days and not so good days. What you have to do on the days you don't have a good meet is go back, check your technique, move forward and get it next time."
That remarkably mature approach as a 16-year-old is just one of the things that makes Pinckney a bit more special than much of his competition. It is also one of the reasons that he was one of the most sought-after prep throwers in the country. He said the recruitment process proved to be an exciting time because he was able to experience many things for the first time, such as being on the West Coast. Pinckney also visited Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Massachusetts, where he went to Harvard. Initially, he said he expected to go to Harvard but "stuff didn't work out with admissions".
Landing in Los Angeles, however, was not a consolation prize.
"Stuff happens for a reason and I think that's what led me to UCLA," he said. "I would say, to me, it was just a vibe I got there between the resources, the engineering program and athletics. I felt like it would be a perfect balance between athletics, academics and my personal life."
Before he hits SoCal, though, he still has a few prominent meets at which he intends to compete this season, including The Millrose Games and several other national championship meets such as Nike and New Balance, which will be at The Armory this year.
"This right now is not my busiest time of the season," Pinckney said. "My busiest time comes in February and March when all the championships are."
Between now and then he can continue to work on his technique and begin drawing up the plans for the dorms in the 2028 Olympic Village.