Column: Present, future look bright for track and field
Like many universities, football reigns supreme at UH. Track and field often goes overlooked, but the teams plan on changing that this year as the men look to build on past success and the women look to improve the overall strength of their team.
Where they finished last year.
Both the men and women’s outdoor track and field teams finished on a high note for the 2015 campaign. During the American Conference Championships, the men’s team finished third overall and the women’s team finished seventh.
As a whole, the men and women sent 15 athletes to the NCAA West Regionals in Austin. At regionals, nine Cougars qualified for the NCAA Championships. As a junior, Isaac Williams finished third overall in the 110m hurdles at the NCAA Championships.
Where they are.
The Cougars signed 29 athletes, 15 men and 14 women, for this season. Joining the Cougar men are three high school All-Americans: Marcus McWilliams (110m hurdles), Gerald Mills (200m) and John Lewis (100m). McWilliams is starting the 2016 indoor track season as the No. 43 ranked 110m hurdler in the nation. The women also have a strong recruit in Jahnavi Schneider, who was the No. 3 ranked cross-country runner in Texas according to txrunning.com.
In addition to a strong recruiting class, the Cougars are bringing back several athletes who are nationally-ranked in their respective events, including No. 1 ranked Cameron Burrell (60m), No. 24 ranked Diayja Sheppard (high jump), No. 17 ranked Isaac Williams (60m hurdles) and No. 32 ranked Felipe Valencia (shot put).
The men’s team is also bringing back all four member of the 4x100m squad that qualified for the NCAA Championships.
The men’s team came into the indoor track season ranked 25th nationally. They only trailed the University of Tulsa, ranked 23rd, in the American Athletic Conference.
Although it’s still early in the recruiting process, the Cougars have commitments from nine athletes, seven of whom are from Texas. Among those who are expected to join the Cougar squad next year are seven women and two men.
Key members who are headlining the class include Samiyah Samuels, Sierra Smith, Cecilia Tamayo and Dartez Hamlin.
Samuels, a Cypress Spring native, is ranked No. 2 in the nation in the long jump. She is also a sprinter with range from 60m to 200m.
Smith, a teammate of Samuels in Cypress Springs, is a state champion in the 200m. Her time of 24.13 was good enough to be ranked No. 9 in the state.
Tamayo, who is from Mexico, holds the youth records in the 100m and 200m in her native country. She has represented her country on the international stage at the Youth Olympic games and the World Youth Championship.
Hamlin, who hails from El Paso, ran the 10th best 200m time in the nation last year, which was good for second best in the state of Texas. Despite having a great 200m time, Hamlin is coming to UH to be a 400m runner.