Houston sets Hayward Field record in 4x100m relay

The first handoff between Houston's Mario Burke and John Lewis III in the 4x100m Relay. Photo: TrackTown USA - Josh Phillips

By Kylee O’Connor / TrackTown USA

EUGENE, Ore. – Rainy conditions led to slower-than-expected times  throughout the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday, but that didn’t stop the Houston men’s 4×100-meter relay team from cruising to victory in record-setting fashion.

Houston’s 4x100m Relay team celebrating on the podium at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Photo: TrackTown USA – Josh Phillips

The Cougar team of John Lewis III, Mario Burke, Jacarias Martin and Cameron Burrell won in a blazing 38.34 seconds. That time is not only a school record, but a Hayward Field record, as well.

“We knew that as long as we got our stick around we’d be fine, because realistically we have the most speed out of everyone,” Burke said. “We finally got our perfect race together.”

Going into the race, the Cougars had nothing but confidence. With Olympic gold medalists Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell coaching them, they were the best prepared that they could be.

“We’re learning from the best,” Burke said. “Those guys were Olympic medalists, world record-holders. So to have them have faith in us, it means a lot to us. It gets us motivated and they’re some great coaches, too.”

Going into the race, Burrell said that Lewis told them it’s all about execution.

“He said that we had the fastest four – quartet – out there, and so we just had to go out and execute and it all came together today,” Burrell said.

“This is honestly just the beginning for us. There’s more to come in the future.”
– Mario Burke

The coaches also took a few risks going into the final. In the prelim, Lewis III said that he “ran up on [Burke] a bit.” So, going into the final, coaches Lewis and Burrell made the decision to stretch the 
handoff zones.

“It’s kind of guess work whether or not stretching the zone was the right move or not, but it turned out it was,” Lewis III said.

On top of the confidence that the team gained from the coaches, they also were running with a vengeance. In the championship meet last year, the Houston 4×100 lost to LSU by just .02 seconds.

Houston So. Mario Burke moments before the 4x100m Relay final. Photo: TrackTown USA – Josh Phillips

“That was on our minds all year,” Burke said. “How close it was, how hard it was to stand on the podium in second place, so our thing was that we can’t lose again.”

And, they didn’t.

Burrell, who also placed second in the men’s 100-meter final, helped seal the victory on the homestretch by out-leaning second-place Auburn. Burrell also broke the school record – previously held by his father and current head coach Leroy Burrell – in the 100 prelims on Wednesday.

Burrell is a junior, while the other three members of the team are just sophomores. With the entire team returning next year, Texas Christian University’s 4x100m NCAA meet and collegiate record of 38.23 from 1989 is likely to be on the chopping block.

“This is honestly just the beginning for us,” Burke said. “There’s more to come in the future.”