Cougars travel to Austin to face nation’s best
For 92 years, every first weekend of April, the national track & field community goes to Austin to compete in the Texas Relays. The best of high school, university and even professional athletes in the track & field world go to test their limits. A meet that has produced countless Olympians over the years, the Texas Relays presents itself as a precursor to the outdoor national championships in June.
Assistant coach Carl Lewis made it public that he wants them to win the Texas Relays. There they will encounter several teams that will end up finding their way to Oregon for the outdoor national championship.
One goal for the Cougars in particular is to win the 4x100m relay. Over 60 different relay teams will be running at the four-day event, among them Texas A&M, USC and LSU. These teams rank in the top three nationally for both genders. The Cougar men rank third in the nation with a time of 39.37s, while the women rank eighth with a time of 44.23s.
Last season, the men’s team finished third behind TCU and Texas. Though sophomore Mario Burke and senior Cameron Burrell are the only returning athletes from that relay, they are fixated on winning it this year.
The same goes for the women, who did not qualify for the finals last year. They are powered by the freshman class that led them to a third place finish at the indoor conference finals. Four of the five sprinters eligible for the squad are freshmen.
Between the men and women, six athletes will be participating in the sprinting events. Burrell and Burke will be running in the 100m invitational. Fresh off their trip to the Indoor NCAA Championships, the two will be running against professional athletes rather than fellow collegians. Among them: class of 2016 Cougar LeShon Collins.
Collins, the mutli-time NCAA qualifier, was instrumental in the Cougars’ sweep of the conference titles last season. Burrell and Burke currently rank No. 3 and No. 24 nationally in the 100m. Given the trio’s past performances as teammates, expect a strong finish from all three sprinters.
Freshman Nathaniel Mechler kicks off the Relays for the Cougars by competing in the decathlon. Since winning two heptathlon meets during the indoor season, Mechler has won every event.
Senior thrower Cameron Cornelius is another athlete who has yet to lose an event in 2017. Cornelius currently has the No. 8 best shot put throw in the country, 18.88m.
In addition to Cornelius and Burrell, the Cougars have two other athletes who rank in the top 10.
Junior Tonye’cia Burks broke the school triple jump record, 13.23m, in her win at the Victor Lopez Classic. Burks now holds the indoor and outdoor school records in the triple jump as well as an indoor conference championship.
For the men, sophomore hurdler Amere Lattin has the No. 6 time, 13.91s, in the 110m hurdles. After only finishing fifth at last year’s meet, Lattin will be looking to improve by a wide margin on his quest for a national title.
Burks and Lattin both earned American Conference Athlete of the Week on Tuesday for their record-setting performances.