They came, they saw, they conquered – that could be the new mantra for the University of Houston track and field team after an impressive performance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The Cougars matched their best finish ever at the championships in Eugene, Ore., finishing third overall for the first time since the 1959 season. Houston scored 35 points as a team, matching the second-highest total all-time and the most since reaching the same mark in 1984.
Out to show that last year’s win in the 4×100 relay was no fluke, the Cougars came out flying. The 2018 squad of John Lewis III, Elijah Hall,Mario Burkeand Cameron Burrellblazed around the track in 38.17 to claim the gold medal and set a new collegiate, NCAA meet, Hayward Field and school record in the process.
The win for the Cougars gives them three all-time in the event (1982, 2017) and marks the first time since the 1987 and 1988 seasons that Houston has won an event title in back-to-back seasons. For their efforts, Lewis, Hall, Burke and Burrell earned First Team All-America honors.
“This is an amazing group of guys,” said UH head coach and Olympic gold medalist Leroy Burrell. “We’ve had five years with Brian and Cam, two with John and two with Eli. They have worked their hearts out and put it all on the line for the university and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”
Assistant coach Carl Lewis, an Olympic legend with nine gold medals and Burrell’s former teammate, emphasized the success of the relay team.
“I’m so proud of them,” Lewis said. “They’re the defending champions. They came into the season, they didn’t drop the stick one time, they won every single meet. They got there, put it on the line in the rain and ran the best race they’ve won all year.”
Cameron Burrell (Leroy’s son), Burke and Hall returned to the track as individuals later in the meet, where Burrell ended his historic career at Houston in style with a gold medal in the 100-meter dash. The 2017 silver medalist in the event sped down the track in 10.13 to win Houston’s first individual title on the outdoor slate since Sam Jefferson in 1994 and Houston’s sixth title all-time in the 100.
Hall stormed back over the last 20 meters to claim the silver medal, finishing just behind Burrell at 10.17. Burrell and Hall became just the second duo from the same team in NCAA history to finish one-and-two in the 100-meter dash, and the first since 1983 (Emmit King and Calvin Smith, Alabama).
Cameron Burrell said the Cougars’ accomplishments were a testament to the success of the entire track and field program.
“This has been an incredible weekend for our program,” he said. “We accomplished a lot. We reached every goal that we wanted to. We grew closer as a team. With the 100-meter dash, that victory was for Brian (Barraza, steeplechase) because he laid it out on the line for us and I wanted to do the same for him.”
For Cameron Burrell it was a form of déjà vu since his dad accomplished the same feat during his tenure as a student athlete. In addition, Cameron’s mother, Michelle Finn-Burrell, was an award-winning sprinter.
“They were super proud,” Cameron said. “I went up in the stands and gave my mother a hug. It was great.”
Burke picked up a big point for the Cougars with an eighth-place finish in the 100 in 10.41. The trio all claimed First Team All-America honors for their efforts in the event.
Junior Kahmari Montgomery followed on the track with two points for the Cougars in the 400-meter dash. Montgomery raced one lap around the track in 45.75 to finish seventh. With his finish, Montgomery earned First Team All-America honors in the event.
Houston wrapped up the NCAA Championship meet with a fifth-place finish in the 4×400-meter relay. The Cougar team of Amere Lattin,Trumaine Jefferson, Burke and Montgomery completed the 1600-meter relay in 3:04.03 to score four points for the Cougars and clinch the third-place finish as a team.