Podium finishes for men and women in Birmingham
In the lead up to the American Athletic Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships, track & field head coach Leroy Burrell expressed the importance for his team to perform their best when it matters most.
Both the men and the women had high expectations for themselves going in to the meet. The men hoped to defend their title and use the momentum to springboard them into the national championships, while the women had hopes to bring home gold themselves.
In a historical weekend at the Birmingham CrossPlex, the men won their third straight indoor title, No. 18 in school history and No. 14 under Burrell. Although the women fell short of a championship, their third place finish marks their first podium appearance since 2014.
Both teams bought into Burrell’s message of performing at their best as 24 athletes set PRs in 26 events to go with nine victories and 25 podium places.
The men claimed their third straight title on the backs of a sprinting unit accounting for 84 of their AAC record 174 points.
The Cougars owned six of the eight athletes who ran in the finals of the 60m, while four Cougars ran in the 200m.
Sophomore Mario Burke and senior Cameron Burrell went 1-2 in the 60m as both ran 6.59s.
Separated by only thousandths of a second, the two are currently tied for the No. 3 time in the NCAA. The two were the top placers in the 200m as well, Burrell winning the event outright.
Junior Trumaine Jefferson ended the weekend as the top point scorer for the men with 20. In addition to his victorious 67.66m long jump, Jefferson placed fourth in both the 60m and high jump.
Along with junior Jared Kerr and senior Antwan Dickerson, Jefferson led a unit that swept the medal stand in the long jump.
The other event wins for the men came from sophomore Amere Lattin in the 60H, senior Cameron Cornelius in the shot put, senior Chris Ibarra in the 800m and freshman Nathaniel Mechler in the heptathlon. Mechler set PRs in six of the seven events for the heptathlon on his way to 5,636 points.
The women had six athletes, as well as their relay and medley teams, make the podium in eight events on their way to 99 points. Like the men, the sprint squad of the women provided most of the points with senior Tori Williams and freshman Sierra Smith the top point scorers.
Williams set both a personal best and an event record with a 23.34s in her 200m victory. Her fourth place in the 60m brought her points total to 15. Smith totaled 16 points with her second place finishes in both the 60m (7.44s) and 200m (23.79s), both personal bests.
Junior Tonye’cia Burks had the third highest point total for the women, 14, following her marks in the triple jump and long jump. Her triple jump victory set a new school record in the event, 12.99m, moving her into the Top 25 of the NCAA.
In addition, freshman Birexus Hawkins, junior Jennifer Dunlap, senior Selena Sierra and the distance medley teams all set school marks.
Hawkins’ third place run in the 400m, 54.04s, is the third fastest in school history, while Dunlap’s 4:54.20 in the 1 mile is the fourth fastest in school history.
Sierra broke her own record in the 5000m with a 16:53.52 run, and the distance medley team set the second best time in school history with an 11:45.86 run.
One more week will pass before the Cougars know who will go to College Station for the national championships. In the interval, all they can do is train.