Behind the strength of their sprints, the men’s track & field team won their fourth straight American Athletic Conference Indoor Championship this weekend.
At the Birmingham Crossplex, the Cougars took home six gold medals and two school records on their way to scoring 139 points. Even with an early scare, several athletes were able to put a stranglehold on their trip to the NCAA Championships.
The Cougars fell short of matching their success in the long jump and shot put from last year. For the first time in AAC history, a Cougar did not win the shot put title as both redshirt junior Felipe Valencia and senior Cameron Cornelius, the champions from the last four seasons, failed to reach the podium.
In the long jump, redshirt senior Antwan Dickerson was the only athlete to finish in the top three, taking silver with a 7.54m jump. But once again the sprinters came through for the Cougars.
Senior sprinter Elijah Hall was named the Co-MVP of the meet after he took gold in both the 60m and 200m. The team had four sprinters in each final, but Hall came out victorious in both, crossing the finish line in 6.67s and 20.78s, respectively.
The defending champion, junior Mario Burke, finished second in the 60m with a time of 6.72s. Regardless, Hall’s win ensured a Cougar has won the 60m title every year of the AAC’s existence.
Junior mid-distance runner Cameron Laverty had the most dramatic ending out of all the races. Coming into the 800m final with the top qualifying time, Laverty was neck and neck with the runner from ECU. Diving at the finish line he came up one one-hundredth of a second short of gold, taking silver.
Still, Laverty’s time of one minute, 50.26s goes down as the No. 3 time in school history, in addition to being a personal record.
Junior Amere Lattin became the first athlete to have a repeat as conference champion in the 60m hurdles, winning in 7.90s. Lattin’s win makes it four years in a row that a Cougar has won the hurdling title.
After being quiet for most of the season, sophomore Nathaniel Mechler had the performance of his career in the heptathlon.
Mechler’s 5703 points broke the meet and school record as well as the Canada U23 record. Mechler’s win shot him up to No. 10 in the country in the heptathlon, a mark that will send him to the NCAA’s if it holds up.
Junior sprinter Kahmari Montgomery was arguably the most dominant athlete on Saturday. After transferring from Mizzou in the summer, Montgomery has been inching his way toward the school 400m record.
At the conference meet he shattered it, crossing the finish line in 45.53s and winning the title. Montgomery’s trip to the national championships has long been secured, but his time Saturday moved him to No. 5 in the nation, forcing everyone to take notice.
Montgomery’s night was not over yet. Closing out the championships with a win in the 4x400m relay, Montgomery carried the baton across the finish line as the Cougars celebrated their fourth straight title.