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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Sports

Burrell sets sights on dual titles after last season’s shortcomings


A second-generation Cougar, Burrell has big shoes to fill as he starts his senior season. | Justin Cross/The Cougar

 

 

At the Leonard Hilton Invitational last year, senior sprinter Cameron Burrell became the fastest man in the country, running a 6.55 in the 60m. At the time, he had the fastest time in the world.

One year later, at the very same meet, Burrell has gotten off to another fast start with a time of 6.66 in the win, the No. 6 fastest time in the country.

One of the most accomplished athletes for the Cougars in recent years, Burrell starts his senior season with the motivation of just missing out on a national title last year. Burrell and Ronnie Barker from Texas Christian University ran the No. 3 and No. 4 fastest times in NCAA history. Only one one-hundredth of a second separated the two.

“It’s the first meet of the season, and that’s usually about where I start off,” Burrell said. “I want to finish what I started. End my senior year with that national championship I’ve been working so hard for.”

Four years ago, Burrell had big shoes to fill when he arrived on campus as the son of Olympic gold medalist and Houston head coach Leroy Burrell, but he has quickly put his success on a platform of its own. He has become a figurehead for both the sprinting unit and the entire track & field team.

Even with the Burrell’s successes on the track, he has not accomplished his goal of becoming a champion in multiple events. Hoping to win both the 60m and the long jump, Burrell looks to assistant coach and Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis for inspiration.

Were it not for an error at the American Athletic Conference Indoor Championships last year, Burrell might have already accomplished this goal. Still, whether he is a champion in both events at season’s end will determine for him the success of the season.

“He wants to go beyond his personal best — he wants to be a national champion in the long jump.” Lewis said. “If he does that then the sprints will happen. He’s locked in in the sprints and it’s just a matter of getting his long jump back where he’s confident.”

The sprints were a key cog in the men’s dual conference championships last season and nothing has changed this year. They are expected to win numerous events for the Cougars and score valuable points when they matter.

Burrell will not only be looked at as a key athlete who will win events but also as a leader through performance for his teammates. For junior-college transfer Eli Hall-Thompson and sophomore Barbadian international Mario Burke who are expected to continue the success of past sprinters, getting to train with Burrell has only helped them perform at the collegiate level.

“He’s been a huge help,” Burke said. “Coming from back home, I used to be running the fastest on the team, winning all the time. My transition on the team has been from being the hunted to hunting Cam.”

In addition to being the school record holder in the 60m, Burrell has won numerous conference titles and has always qualified for the NCAA. The question has been raised whether the senior has become one of the athletes that will bring future talent to the program.

The humble Houston native is the proof of the impact of his coaches. While the program might not have as much money or as costly facilities as other schools, they do have coaches that care about their athlete’s well-being and who will prepare them for the future.

“I think he feels he failed to reach some of his goals [last year],” Leroy Burrell said.“I would hope that he’s expecting to perform at the level he performed last year, be in the hunt to put himself in position to compete for an NCAA championship. I think he’s looking forward to being a solid two event athlete and leading the team to bigger and better things.”

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