Cougars ready to race at NCAA Indoor Championships
The Cougars have 11 entries total with 10 athletes competing across 10 events at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Houston swept the American Athletic Conference Championships last weekend for the men’s fifth straight AAC title and the women’s first and are looking to continue the success with NCAA Championship medals.
“I’m happy with the way the team performed at the conference meet. We came in with a plan to not overextend our guys, and we managed to be successful,” said head coach Leroy Burrell.
But success at the conference level does not guarantee anything, and the Cougars are already preparing for its next challenge.
After its fourth win in the AAC last season, Houston went into the NCAA Championships with hopes of glory. It came out with individual medals but no team hardware.
“Last year we scored, but we didn’t quite do what we were capable of. But we were also relying on fewer people,” Burrell said. “This year, we definitely have more depth that will certainly serve us well, and it doesn’t hurt when you have two of the best 400m runners in the world on the team.”
Senior Kahmari Montgomery is currently No. 1 in the country with a 400m dash time of 45.04s, and senior Obi Igbokwe is No. 3 with a time of 45.35s.
Together with junior Jermaine Holt and senior Amere Lattin, the Cougars’ squad ran the season’s fastest 4x400m time of 3:01:51s at the Clemson Tiger Paw Invitational Feb. 8.
Florida won last year’s indoor title with 40 points while UH came in seventh with 26. Florida sent 10 men to the meet, six of whom scored points in the championship win.
Houston is sending six men to compete with seven entries, and it will take every member scoring and some help for the Cougars to take a medal in the men’s championship.
“We’re focused on trying to put together the best effort as a team and maximize our scoring opportunities and see where the chips fall,” Burrell said.
Some of the other athletes to look out for are senior Mario Burke and redshirt senior Trumaine Jefferson, who will compete in the 60m dash and long jump, respectively.
Igbokwe will also run in the 200m dash along with the 400m and 4x400m relay, while Lattin will be in the 60m hurdles.
Burke and Igbokwe are both No. 7 in the events they are in without other Cougars and need to move up in those events to get Houston to the podium. Lattin’s best time is No. 10 in the 60m hurdles.
Jefferson is the No. 11 long jumper in the country, and securing even a couple points by landing in the top eight could be the difference in what looks to be a close indoor championship.
On the women’s side, the Cougars do not have the numbers to challenge for a team podium spot, but all four athletes will have the chance to score points for the school.
Senior Taylor Scaife is No. 4 in the country at the weight throw, and from current scores she is the closest to earning a medal for the Cougars on the women’s side.
Sophomore Naomi Taylor is No. 11 in the 60m hurdles, but the difference between No. 11 and No. 5 is .04s and the difference between No. 5 and No. 3 is .09s.
Junior Brianne Bethel and junior Samiyah Samuels were the last to qualify for the 200m dash and long jump, respectively, but similar to the 60m hurdles, the differences between competitors is far from insurmountable.
Just .12s separate Bethel and a points-earning finish while Samuels is .09m away.
Houston preaches #RED, or Ready Every Day, and that is what the team and its opponents will need to be. The current scores are each athletes’ very best attempts from the entire season, but not every one hits their best mark on the day of the indoor championships.
Being ready and rising to the occasion is important and something the Cougars have the ability to do time and time again.
“(At the AAC Championships), we really relied on our most talented athletes and they came through,” Burrell said.
Houston will need to persevere again, and it will be the final time many of the runners don the red and white on the indoor track.
The competition starts Friday for the Cougars with the preliminary rounds, and the finals of most events are Saturday.