Outdoor season brings championship goals for Cougars
Both the men and women of the Cougar track & field team enter the outdoor season with their own forms of momentum.
The men are hot off a third-straight indoor conference title, but fell short of their goals at the national championships in College Station. The women, behind the strength of a stacked freshmen class, are coming off a third place finish at conference and are still on the hunt for a championship of their own.
This season, the Cougars will face top competition at the Texas Relays, the Mt. SAC Relays and the Penn Relays. The two teams will once again be put against some of the best in the country in preparation for conference, and then nationals.
The two teams hosted the Cougar Spring Break Invitational last Thursday. On the day the Cougars won 13 events, three individuals set personal records. The meet faced fairly easy competition — Rice was the strongest opponent — but it got the Cougars back into the competitive mindset.
Continuing the dominance
Last season in the American Outdoor Championships, the men coasted to a conference title behind the power of their sprinting unit. The men scored 203 points at the conference meet, 55 points more than the second place Connecticut. Assistant coach Carl Lewis has been vocal that the men will improve on that mark, setting it as high as 250 points.
Last season, the men came in tenth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with 17 points. The Cougars had three athletes qualify: senior Cameron Burrell in the 100m, sophomore Brian Bell in the 800m and sophomore Amere Lattin in the 110m hurdles. But the majority of their points came in their 38.44s second place time in the 4x100m.
Burrell opened his junior outdoor season with a victory in the 100m. His 10.26s run is currently third best in the nation. In an attempt to avoid a similar disappointment like that at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Burrell aims to be one of the top sprinters and long jumpers this year. He has publicly said he will not be satisfied until he is a champion in both the sprints and the jumps.
This year, the Cougars will be hurt by Bell’s absence, who left the team earlier in the year. In all other areas, however, they have reloaded. Transfer sprinter Eli Hall-Thompson has helped fill the gap left by LeShon Collins. When healthy, Hall-Thompson was one of the top indoor sprinters and will find similar success once he recovers from an injury he suffered in February.
Alongside Burrell and sophomore Mario Burke, the Cougars have one of the best sprinting trios in the country.
Lattin came into his own during the outdoor season last year, sweeping the conference hurdling titles and finishing fifth at the NCAA’s. The graduation of Issac Williams and the transfer of Marcus McWilliams leaves Lattin as the top hurdler; his indoor performances proved that. But he has also taken new roles in the sprinting unit, currently holding the nation’s third best time in the 200m (20.82, a personal record).
But a large goal for the Cougars as a team is to win the 4×100 this year. Last season, the team of Burrell, Collins, Burke and sophomore Jacarias Martin broke the school record. They still lost, however, by two one hundredths of a second. With all the sprinters performing at such a high level — the relay team’s time of 39.47 is currently No. 3 in the country — it is likely they will end up competing for a title in June.
New pack on the rise
Last season, the women only scored 66 points at the American Conference Championships to finish eighth. But given their improved performance at the Indoor championships, it is clear they are on the rise. Assistant coach Carl Lewis has boasted that this squad is talented enough to win the conference this year.
Senior sprinter Tori Williams and junior jumper Tonye’cia Burks continued their team-leading performances. Both opened their outdoor season with victories. Williams won the 200m with a 23.45 PR, while Burks won the triple jump with a high of 12.81m. The two’s marks are the top in the conference at the moment and sit in the Top 5 nationally: No. 3 for Williams and No. 5 for Burks.
In addition, the women’s 4x100m relay team currently has the third best time in the country. Williams and freshmen Brianne Bethel, Sierra Smith and Samiyah Samuels ran 44.23 to win the season’s opening race. The three freshmen also hold top marks in either the 100m or 200m respectively.
All things considered, the women finally have a full roster capable of competing for a title in May.