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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Sports

Team Nike awaits track and field Cougars at Mt. SAC Relays


Junior hurdler Amere Lattin is one of several athletes who will have the chance to run against the likes of Team Nike at the Mt. SAC Relays. He will be going up against 2012 Olympic gold medalist Aries Merritt in the 110m hurdles. | Peter Scamardo/The Cougar

With 71 athletes and six relay teams, the track & field team will be one of the largest squads at the Mt. SAC Relays this weekend.

Originally started in 1959, the relays are held annually on the campus of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California. The relays have grown famous for drawing thousands of competitors every year and for being the site where several world records have been broken.

Notably, head coach Leroy Burrell and assistant coach Carl Lewis broke the 4x200m relay record as members of the Santa Monica Track Club in 1994, when they ran a time of one minute, 18.68s.

This ability to draw talent from all over the world has led to the relays coining the phrase “Where the world’s best athletes compete.”

While notable schools like No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 4 Georgia sent small squads, teams like LSU and Texas Tech sent nobody. Instead, the majority of athletes competing hail from USC, Iowa and of course, Houston. In every race or event, they will be going up against numerous clubs and professional athletes.

Whereas the Texas Relays was a matchup between the Cougars and the LSU Tigers, the Mt. SAC Relays appears to be a matchup between the Cougars and the professional athletes of Nike. Many of the top athletes have been seeded into the invitational races against those who were just competing at the IAAF World Championships in London and Birmingham.

In the 100m invitational, senior Cameron Burrell and juniors Mario Burke and John Lewis III will be matched up against Ronnie Baker and Kyree King of Nike. Baker notably beat Burrell in the 60m final at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships. This March, Baker took bronze in the 60m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.

In the 200m invitational, Burke will be back with junior Jacarias Martin and senior Elijah Hall. Along with Baker and King, who won the Mt. SAC 200m in 2017, the Cougars will face off against Fred Kerley, also of Nike. Kerley is a 400m specialist and the reigning NCAA champion but is expanding his repertoire by running in the 200m.

Junior sprinter Kahmari Montgomery will not be up against any athletes from Nike in the 400m invitational, but he will be two lanes away from Michael Norman of USC, the indoor 400m world record holder.

In the 110m hurdles invitational, junior Amere Lattin will have a chance to outrun 2012 Olympic gold medalist Aries Merritt, also of Nike. While not in the same heat, Merritt will force Lattin to run a big time or else risk Merritt overtaking him in the second heat.

Another notable event is the 3000m steeplechase invitational. Redshirt senior Brian Barraza will be running in his first steeplechase since March 23 at the Victor Lopez Classic. Many media outlets are predicting Barraza will win this race at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, so a strong showing at Mt. SAC could go a long way.

Lastly, the Cougars will be sending teams in the 4x100m relay invitational and the 4x400m relay invitational.

In the 4x100m, the team of Lewis III, Hall, Martin and Burrell will be sandwiched between two teams from USA Track & Field as well as from USC and Oregon.

Lattin, Burke, Hall and Montgomery will then close out the meet in the 4x400m, running against teams from USA, USC, Iowa and Tennessee.

The event is set to start Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and carry on through Saturday.

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