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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sports

Track and field team builds toward ‘monumental’ season


Senior sprinter Obi Igbokwe has made an immediate impact since transferring to Houston. The seven-time All-American returned to Houston over the summer after competing at Arkansas for three years. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar.

Bang.

The sound of the starting gun goes off followed by the pounding of powerful strides propelling athletes toward the finish line intertwined with the raucous crowd cheering them on from the stands.

Track and field season is in full swing.

Multiple records were broken at the Yeoman Fieldhouse last weekend in categories like the weight throw, 200m dash and 400m dash.

On the field side, senior thrower Taylor Scaife continued her outstanding final Cougar campaign, breaking her own school record for the third time in as many weeks Friday.

Scaife, the reigning AAC Female Field Athlete of the Week, marked 74-3.75 (22.65m) on her final attempt of the day, which shattered her old record and moved her to No. 1 in the NCAA this season.

The Cougars squad opened the year ranked No. 6 nationally, but this confident group of athletes has its eyes set on much more than just rankings. They want to make history.

“No one remembers what indoor is. Everyone remembers what outdoor is. Indoor you make your footprint, outdoor you make yourself memorable,” said senior Amere Lattin. “This is all a building block for us. We want to build our footprint in indoor nationals and then build our monument at outdoor nationals. We’re just trying to come together to get it all done.”

Lattin ran a 7.83 and finished first place in the men’s 60m hurdles Saturday.

New scenery

A foreign element introduced to the fieldhouse this season to take into consideration is the addition of a brand new 200m banked track.

“I think we have some growing pains getting used to the new track. When things change it’s a little unsettling,” said head coach Leroy Burrell.

Burrell also said he believes Houston has become a target for other programs because of the new track, as it gives other teams a chance to get on a banked track and compete against a highly-ranked team.

“It takes a lot to get accustomed to, but it feels pretty nice so far,” said senior Mario Burke regarding the new track.

Broken records

The other record-breakers from the Houston Invitational were seniors Kahmari Montgomery and Obi Igbokwe.

Montgomery’s winning time of 46.28 in the 400m dash became the fifth-fastest this season as well as the new fieldhouse record, overtaking the 46.77 time set by 2008 400m Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt.

Not long after Montgomery’s impressive performance, Igbokwe took to the track for his turn to shatter some records. Igbokwe finished with a 20.85 in the 200m dash, eclipsing another facility record formerly held by Merritt and giving him the third-fastest time of the season.

This was impressive, considering he was holding back.

“I did alright, I almost pulled out of it,” Igbokwe said. “I went at it really conservatively. Definitely bigger things to come. I got something good for you next week.”

Igbokwe spearheaded a sweep of the event, claiming first place with Burke, Lattin and sophomore Nicholas Alexander taking second, third and fourth places, respectively.

Endgame

While individual records are great, a team title at the national level is the ultimate goal.

“We almost won the outdoor last year, but things happened,” Burke said. “We’re all older and stronger, so we can get it done this year.”

The sentiment is echoed across the whole team. Lattin believes this group of athletes has what it takes to bring home a national title.

“I know we do. We’re a confident team. We have the man power. No one on the team is mediocre. Everyone’s going for something, everyone’s shooting, everyone has a goal. We have our attention on our intentions,” Lattin said.

Burrell, an Olympic gold medalist, knows exactly what it takes to perform on the world’s biggest stage and knows what it takes mentally to achieve goals like a national title.

“I think we have a pathway. It’s just a matter of if you execute well,” Burrell said.

When asked about Elijah Hall and his own son Cameron Burrell and the shoes the team needs to fill in their absence, Burrell just said he thinks “Obi and Kahmari have pretty big feet.”

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