Houston Cougars sprint to glory at NCAA championships

It was déjà vu at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. For the first time since 1982 the University of Houston Cougars are champions in the Men’s 4×100 meter relay.

The Cougar relay team of John Lewis III, Mario Burke, Jacarias Martin and Cameron Burrell etched their names in the record books as national champions. In addition, Burrell captured his second consecutive second-place finish in the 100 meters.

Houston’s winning time of 38.34 broke the school record that was set in 2016 when that squad consisting of Burrell, Martin, Burke and LeShon Collins took silver in 38.44. The mark for the Cougars ranks as the No. 4 time in NCAA championship history and is the sixth-fastest time ever run in the collegiate ranks.

Houston also set a new Hayward Field mark, topping LSU’s NCAA championship winning time of 38.42 from 2016.

The 4×100-meter relay championship was the second in school history for the Cougars and the first since Charles Young, Mark McNeil, Anthony Ketchum and Stanley Floyd won gold in 1982 (38.53). That team’s mark stood as the school record until 2016.

“There’s no better feeling than crossing the finish line in first place and sharing this with my teammates,” anchor leg Burrell said. “We’ve worked so hard all season. We were close last season, but everything came together this year on the biggest stage of all…We have worked and sacrificed so much. It’s just an awesome blessing what we’ve accomplished together – we’re champions.”

The Cougars’ gold medal was the first NCAA championship for the Houston men since 2013 when Errol Nolan claimed the indoor 400-meter dash title. The win was the first outdoor championship for the Cougar men since Sam Jefferson’s 100-meter dash win in 1994.

“You can’t minimize what this does to the profile of our over track program here at Houston,” Burrell continued. “Our success is just another example of what we’re building here. We have a program that breaks record and creates champions.”

An hour after the relay finals, Burrell was back on the track for the finals of the 100-meter dash. Burrell qualified third overall earlier in the week after winning his heat in a school-record 9.93.

With the conditions cold, wet and windy for the final, Burrell crossed the line in 10.12 to claim the silver medal. The runner-up finish for Burrell is the top Houston performance in the event since Jefferson’s gold in Boise, Idaho.

Burrell is the son of legend and UH head track coach Leroy Burrell, and trains under the eye of another legend, Carl Lewis. He takes pride in what the current UH team has accomplished.

“It’s spectacular to follow in the footsteps that my Dad and Carl and so many others helped to create,” the younger Burrell said. “To wear the uniform, to match some of their accomplishments, it’s great to see the pride in their faces.”

With the second-place finish, Burrell completed his fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA championships in a straight track race after qualifying for the indoor 60-meter dash and the outdoor 100-meter dash in each of the last two seasons.

Burrell’s silver medal was the fourth of his career after taking second in each of the 2016 and 2017 NCAA indoor 60 championships and helping the Cougars to a runner-up finish in the 4×100-meter relay in 2016.