Hall wins historic double, team scores record points
While they did not leave with the team title, the Cougars had their best point total ever at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.
A historic individual performance from senior sprinter Elijah Hall, combined with individual efforts from junior sprinter Kahmari Montgomery and sophomore multi event competitor Nathaniel Mechler gave the Cougars the numbers to make a run at the team title.
The only thing that did not go the Cougars’ way was the 4x400m relay, where they failed to place in the top eight. But in the end, the Cougars scored 26 points to take seventh place along with a pair of titles and numerous broken records.
“My guys came out here and we fought,” Hall said. “We gave everything we got and that’s all I can ask as a team leader.”
Hall was the story of the championships. He came into the meet with top five times in both the men’s 60m and men’s 200m. As a result, Hall’s sights were firmly fixed on taking home both titles.
He put himself in position to do so by running the fastest preliminary times in both events. Hall improved on his personal best by running 6.56s, tying Raheem Chambers of Auburn for the fastest prelim time.
In the 200m prelims, Hall was matched up with Divine Oduduru of Texas Tech, who owned the fastest time in the country at 20.25s. Hall surpassed his challenger with ease, running 20.26s and shattering the school record. It marked the third time in his career that Hall broke the indoor 200m record.
In the 60m final Hall was given no favors. But he managed to overcome three other sprinters who ran personal best times to cross the finish line first with a time of 6.52s. This time, Hall was able to edge out Chambers by one one-hundredth of a second.
Hall’s time was a new personal record and cemented his spot at No. 2 on the all-time list at UH. But Hall saved his best for the 200m.
Again matched up with Oduduru, Hall shattered his own school record, crossing the finish line in 20.02s to take the title.
His time broke the NCAA, school, meet and facility records and is the second fastest time ever ran in the indoor 200m regardless of level.
“There’s a lot in store that the world should be looking out for and if they’re not looking out, HTown Speed City we’re here and if you haven’t heard of us we’re here to stay,” Hall said.
Hall became the first Cougar since Carl Lewis in 1981 to win two sprint titles at one indoor meet. In addition, Hall joins Olympic gold medalist Justin Gatlin and NCAA record holder Christian Coleman as the only sprinters to claim the indoor double — the first not from the Tennessee Volunteers.
Erasing past demons
Kahmari Montgomery accomplished his goal of making it to the finals of the men’s 400m, something he failed to do as a freshman at Missouri.
Montgomery came in with the No. 5 fastest time in the country. He qualified for the finals by running the fifth fastest preliminary time (45.81s).
In the final, Montgomery ran against Michael Norman of USC and Mylik Kerley of Texas A&M, the fastest sprinter in the country and last year’s bronze medalist in the 400m, respectively. Montgomery was unable to surpass them but his time of 45.24s broke his own school record as he finished fourth overall.
“I can’t be happier than (with) what I performed,” Montgomery said. “Obviously everybody’s goal is to win, come out on top. But as you guys can see you can’t sleep on me because I’m not like how I used to be last year. I want it more than everybody else and I feel like I can do it better than anybody else as long as I put my mind to it.”
A man on his own
Nathaniel Mechler came into the championship with different pressure from all the others. Ranked No. 11 out of the 16 heptathletes, Mechler only needed to finish in the top eight. As Burrell said, to steal a point or two.
But Mechler faced a different set of pressure: opening the competition on both days. With every meet, the heptathlon started the competition and Mechler ran in the first heat of the respective races on both days.
After day one Mechler was in 11th place with 3158 points after four events. His best performances came in the 60m dash and long jump, where he set personal bests in running 7.07s and hitting 7.48m.
Mechler would end up recording personal bests in five events over the two days. His most crucial came in the final event: the 1000m. Sitting in eighth place, Mechler ran 2:39.11 to finish fifth and secured his position.
Mechler’s 5758 points broke his own school record in the heptathlon and ensured his status as the first Cougar to become a first team All-American in the heptathlon.
“It was a long two days,” Mechler said. “I really can’t complain. A couple events didn’t go my way but as a sophomore getting here, becoming an All-American is a big deal so I’m hoping to improve each year.”
The Cougars now transition to the outdoor season with their first meet this Thursday as they host the Cougar Spring Break Invitational.