Trio of Cougars prepping for Nationals
The men’s track and field team ended its indoor season by defending itsIndoor Conference Championship.
The Cougars did that and captured four championships, numerous top five finishes and 152 points to finish at the top of the standings.
But with the conference title in the bag, the Cougars now shift their focus to the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Birmingham, Ala. this Friday and Saturday.
The Cougars have 10 athletes in the top 50 across eight events. But to qualify for nationals, they have to rank in the top 16 in the nation.
Three athletes are definitely traveling to Birmingham for the championships, while the others require people ahead of them to drop to qualify.
The three athletes, junior sprinter Cameron Burrell, senior sprinter LeShon Collins and freshman hurdler Marcus McWilliams, will carry heavy expectations for themselves and the program when they travel to Alabama.
Burrell has qualified since his first meet this season at the Leonard Hilton Memorial where Burrell ran a 6.55 in the 60m to win the event.
This was the fastest finish across all levels at the time, but it is now the fourth-best in the NCAA.
Coming off of a sophomore year that saw Burrell limp through the indoor season before redshirting the outdoor season, the performance immediately put him back in the spotlight.
Winning the American Athletic Conference 60m championship has only made this season better for Burrell, who made it clear that the championship is only a part of a larger goal.
“I’d say it’s part of the process of going off to do what I want to do,” Burrell said. “It feels pretty good to win conference nonetheless. I’d say it’s a short term goal compared to my long term goals, but it feels good.”
At the Leonard Hilton Memorial Invitational, Collins also gave a performance worthy of an invite to the Indoor nationals.
His time of 6.64, also in the 60m, is listed as the 12th best performance in the NCAA. Collins finished second in that meet.
For Collins, being consistent in the 60m and in the 200m has been crucial for him in his final Indoor season, despite losing his conference title to Burrell.
Collins sees himself and Burrell being held to a higher expectation when they go to nationals because they come from Houston.
“Ultimately, I want to win nationals,” Collins said. “As far as the team, me and Cam are expected to go one, two.”
Despite thoughts that he would finish behind senior leader Issac Williams, McWilliams defied expectations by qualifying for nationals after the Howie Ryan Invitational, where he ran a time of 7.72 in the preliminary rounds of the 60m hurdles.
This tied the school record for fastest time in the 60m hurdles, a record shared with Williams, and stands as the 12th best finish this year.
McWilliams topped off his season by winning the conference 60m with a time of 7.74.
“Marcus (McWilliams) has a good chance of making that hurdle final,” Collins said. “So we’re expected to score points and maybe even get top four, top five at nationals if we can.”
But Burrell is making sure he and his teammates are focused on their task when it comes to nationals.
“Right now, let’s take it one step at a time,” Burrell said. “My goal is to repeat my performance of what I did to get there in the preliminary round in order to earn a spot in a preferred lane in the final. That will be step one. Step two would be to go out and set a personal best in the final and win it.”
With the amount of talent and depth that the Cougars have, they will be primed and ready for the Outdoor season once nationals wrap up.
“I’m very impressed by the talent that has come out,” Collins said. “I’m very happy as far as them coming to the team; not just them in particular, but all the freshmen. I love this team.”