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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sports

Second-ranked recruiting class brings deep talent to Houston


Leroy Burrell

Head coach Leroy Burrell is looking to continue the Cougars winning ways, adding the nations second-ranked recruiting class to the already-present talent. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

All-Americans, state champions, national champions, international competitors and record holders. This is what comprises the No. 2-ranked track and field recruiting class of 2015, according to Flo Track.

Head coach Leroy Burrell and his staff have done a good job of finding a talented pool of athletes that will try to keep the Cougars in national contention for the next four years.

Marcus McWilliams (110-meter hurdles), Gerald Mills (200-meter dash) and John Lewis III (100-meter dash) comprise the MileSplit All-American members of the incoming class.

All three have the honor of holding the fastest times in the state for each of their respective competitions.

“They’re certainly a very talented group of young men and women who’ve had a lot of experience at the national level and who’ve had a great deal of success,” Burrell said. “We think that they bring a great deal to the program and we feel they’re still young but they certainly will help us push the program forward.”

For the coaching staff, they also have the advantage of grabbing athletes who were competitors in high school and have already been pushing each other to be better athletes.

In some cases, they have the luxury of recruiting both the first place finisher and the runner up at high level competitions.

Case in point: hurdlers McWilliams and Amere Lattin, former rivals who are now teammates.

“It’s great because not only did he help me get better throughout the season,” McWilliams said. “Now, he can help me compete in practice, so it’s a building process for each other. It’s just great.”

Another incoming freshman, Lewis III, expects the incoming group to help each other build every time they step on the track.

“It gives us a little extra edge,” Lewis III said. “Not only will we have fast kids competing, but we’ll be fast at practice as well so each of us will make each other better.”

The coaching staff has also used their international connections to snag a couple of athletes from Barbados: Mario Burke and Tristan Evelyn, sprinters in the men’s and women’s 100-m dash, respectively.

One thing the coaches made clear was that a little bit of luck went their way in terms of this recruiting class turning out the way it did.

“What happened this year was there was a pretty good amount of talented athletes in the Houston area that were interested in us because we were interested in them early when they were younger,” Burrell said. “It was a combination of really good fortune and really hard work among my staff and having a good story to sell.”

The coaches have no doubt that the 29 incoming athletes will be able to score points for the team immediately. But the coaches also have their eye on the national stage and what they can do for these kids.

“The kids that we found first and foremost all (were) very successful this year, so at that point we just recruited them, told them what we’re trying to do at Houston,” associate head coach Will Blackburn said. “If you come here, you train here and you stay here, and we’ll help you make the Olympic team.”

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