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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sports

Quartet of Cougars to represent UH at Indoor Track Championships


The moment the men’s track & field team was done celebrating their third straight indoor conference title, they went straight to work, preparing themselves for the outdoor season.

But while the majority are prepping for the Spring Break Invitational, four are getting their last two weeks of training in before the Indoor National Championships. Senior sprinter Cameron Burrell, sophomore sprinter Mario Burke, sophomore hurdler Amere Lattin and senior distance runner Brian Barraza all either won or were runners up in their respective events at conference.

The four accounted for 60 of the men’s record-breaking 174 points.

“This is the most we’ve had in a while,” said assistant coach Carl Lewis. “My first year, we had none. I think the guys are ready. It could be the first time that we have two 60m finalists.”

Setting records

Burke and Burrell both ran 6.59s to finish first and second in the 60m conference final. The two were separated by mere thousandths of a second — the second victory for Burke this season under such circumstances.

In addition to setting a personal record for Burke, his time jumped him into the top tier of the NCAA. After sitting on the edge of qualification going into conference, he is now tied with Burrell for the third-fastest time in the country.

“I’m happy for him because he needed that PR and conference title more than I did,” Burrell said. “Now that he jumped up into the tie for third place along with me and some of the other guys in the NCAA. It’s good for him because he’ll get that championship experience he needs for the future of the University.”

Burrell is returning to the event that saw him finish as runner-up last season, even though he set the school record with the fourth-fastest time in NCAA history. But he says he’s not thinking about it; Burrell has been improving every meet, getting his fitness level to a point at which he can execute in every race.

“I practice with Cam and Eli (Hall-Thompson) everyday, so I know that we’re the best out there,” Burke said. “I know if I can beat them in practice, I’ll be able to win the meets. It would be nice to send a message heading into outdoor because we lost the 4x100m (last year). So we’re coming to win it and if we got to the finals, it would show everyone that we’re ready.”

Avenging the past

After failing to make an impact during the indoor season last year, Lattin has been one of the top athletes in the 60m hurdles all season long. He has all the confidence he is going to win, plus he has the advantage of having run against the top national hurdler already.

Lattin’s only collegiate loss came at the Tyson Invitational, where he finished third with his season best, 7.74s. That day, Grant Holloway of Florida set the top time of 7.59s. While Lattin is aware that Holloway is expected to win nationals, he knows that if he continues to work hard, he may be able to win it himself.

Until the last week of competition, Brian Barraza had been in the national marks for both the mile and the 3000m. Although he was knocked out of the top 16 for the mile, he is currently No. 14 for the 3000m.

Barraza ran solely in the mile for the first month of the season, but he broke his own 3000m school record in his first race of the season. His second place time of 7:53:60 at the Husky Classic still sits in the NCAA Top 16.

As long as the athletes perform to the best of their ability, they will have success in College Station. While a team championship is a reach considering the number going, the men have their sights on a top-10 finish. They believe this will send a message to fans that the Cougars are on the rise to becoming one of the best teams in the country.

“If you’re in the final, you’re in the race,” Lewis said. “Don’t try to do anything special. Just do what got you there. Keep it simple and you’ll be successful.”

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