The Houston Cougar men's 4x200-meter relay squad, and sprinter Eli Hall won Championship of America races as the Cougars wrapped action at the 123rd Penn Relays and the Longhorn Invitational on Saturday.
FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP IN 28 YEARS
Eyeing their first sprint relay championship at the Penn Relays since 1989, the Cougar men's 4x200-meter relay squad of Amere Lattin, Mario Burke, Jacarias Martin and Eli Hall were on the track for Saturday's final. Houston qualified for the finals with the third-fastest seed time of 1:23.44 on Friday.
The Cougars rushed out to a blistering pace and finished the 800-meter relay in 1:21.17 for their first sprint championship in 28 years (1989, 4x100-meter relay). The victory was Houston's second all-time in the 4x200-meter relay and its first since 1980, when then-athlete Carl Lewis led the squad.
Houston has now claimed a Penn Wheel at the carnival in back-to-back seasons after winning the men's shuttle hurdle relay at the 2016 competition.
HALL TAKES GOLD IN 100-METER DASH
Junior Eli Hall was back on the track in the 100-meter dash, alongside teammates Mario Burke and John Lewis III in a final that saw one-third of the competitors wearing Cougar red. With the wind at his back, Hall ran one of the top races in Penn history when he crossed the line in a wind-aided 10.00 to claim the championship.
Hall's mark moves him to No. 4 in the NCAA this season and gives Houston its second consecutive Penn Relay Championship of America title after LeShon Collins won the race in 2016. The Cougars have won eight 100-meter dash championships at the Penn Relays, the most for any school in the 123-year history of the event.
Following the conclusion of the meet, Hall was named College Individual Athlete of the Meet, the first time in program history that a Cougar has won the award.
Burke finished the race in third in 10.17 moving him to No. 8 in the nation this season, while Lewis III placed sixth in 10.37.
LATTIN RUNS STRONG IN 110-METER HURDLES
Sophomore Amere Lattin was the fourth Cougar in action as an individual on Saturday after qualifying for the finals of the 110-meter hurdles in 14.07 on Friday. In the Championship of America event, Lattin crossed the line in 13.91 to place fourth.
4X400-METER RELAY CLOSES WITH TOP-5 FINISH
The final event of the 2017 Penn Relays, was the Championship of American Men's 4x400-meter relay, where the Cougars were in action in lane three. Houston's team of Amere Lattin, Raymund Clarke, Mario Burke and Trumaine Jefferson crossed the line in 3:07.32 to place fourth and officially close the relay carnival.
FOUR TOP-5 FINISHES AT TEXAS
Four Cougars picked up top-5 finishes while competing at the Longhorn Invitational. In the distance, Houston had a fourth place finish in each of the men's and women's 3,000-meter runs after Jahnavi Schneider ran 4:47.58 in the women's race, and Blake Contreras ran 4:08.61 for the men.
In the middle distance, Britani Gonzales set a new season best in the 800-meters after finishing fourth in 2:15.67, while in the pole vault, Haley Houston went up-and-over the bar at 12-7.5 (3.85m) to match a personal best and finish fourth.
COLLINS SHINES IN FIRST POST-GRADUATE PENN
The Penn Relays are always special for alum LeShon Collins, who returns home to Philadelphia for the event. However, Collins made sure 2017 was an even more special year, taking home two tiles at this season's carnival.
Representing Team USA, Collins was on the track as the first leg of the men's USA vs. The World 4x100-meter relay. Collins helped his squad, also consisting of Wallace Spearmon, Beejay Lee and John Teeters, run 38.87 and take the championship. Collins was in action for the first time since leading Team USA to the gold medal in the 4x1 at the IAAF World Relay Championships last week.
Later in the afternoon, Collins was on the track as an individual, representing Team Perfect Method in the Olympic Development 100-meter Dash. Collins crossed the line first in 10.11 for his second-consecutive 100-meter dash championship at Penn after winning the Championship of American race as a senior in 2016.
A LOOK BACK AT THE WEEKEND AT PENN
Senior Alex Garza took home Houston's first individual championship of the weekend, winning the college competition of the men's shot put on Friday. Garza qualified for the finals with a mark of 58-6.0 (17.83m) before launching the shot 59-2.75 (18.05m) in his fifth attempt to take the gold.
Houston entered a competitor in each of the championship and college divisions of the men's long jump on Friday. Junior Trumaine Jefferson was on the runway first in the championship portion. Jefferson posted a season best, but wind-aided, mark of 25-4.75 (7.74m) to finish second by just eight-tenths of an inch.
Antwan Dickerson followed in the college division of the long jump. Dickerson leapt 24-2.25 (7.37m) on his final attempt to move into third and collect bronze.
The Cougars saw three more throwers reach the finals at Penn, including Cameron Cornelius who made the final for the Shot Put Championship of America. Cornelius' top mark went 59-5.5 (18.12m) to place him seventh. Meanwhile, Nora Monie set a new personal best in the discus at 164-4 (50.10m) to finish fifth, while Mikaila Martin just missed breaking her own school record in the hammer throw when she finished sixth in 187-10 (57.26m).
AN HONOR FOR COACH BURRELL
Head Coach Leroy Burrell has been named as the Honorary College Referee for Relay Events at the most prestigious meet in his hometown of Philadelphia. Burrell has been a staple in Philadelphia track & field for three decades beginning with leading Penn Wood High to a state championship in 1985.
In 1989 and 90, Burrell won the 100-meter dash at the Penn Relays, setting the meet record in his performance. In his professional career, Burrell returned to set the Olympic Development Record in the 4x200-meter relay at Penn alongside teammates Carl Lewis, Floyd Heard and Michael Marsh. In 2010, Burrell was honored by being named to the Penn Relays Wall of Fame.
UP NEXT FOR HOUSTON
The Cougars return home for the final meet before the American Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships, when they host the Tom Tellez Invitational on Friday, May 5 at the Carl Lewis Complex.