HOUSTON – The Houston Cougar Men’s and Women’s Track & Field teams claimed their first three individual titles on the second day of the American Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships, on Saturday in Cincinnati.
ABOUT THE AMERICAN OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
Sunday will serve as the final day of competition, with running action kicking off at 3:30 p.m. CT, with the women’s 4x100-meter relay and will conclude at 6:50 p.m. CT, with the men’s 4x400-meter relay. The final nine field events will also conclude on Sunday, starting with the men’s javelin at 9 a.m. CT.
All three days of The American Championships will be streamed live on the American Digital Network via Facebook Live. Access to each of the streams can be found by clicking HERE.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Houston’s first individual title was won in dramatic fashion, when Jared Kerr claimed the long jump championship. Kerr entered the final round of jumps tied for second with teammate Trumaine Jefferson, before exploding for a leap of 26-8.5 (8.14m) to claim gold and break the American Championship and Gettler Stadium record.
Kerr’s leap is the third-best mark in school history and marks the first time that a Cougar has cleared the eight-meter mark since 1996. The 2017 champion in the triple jump, Kerr moves to No. 3 in the NCAA with the leap. Also with his championship, Kerr becomes Houston’s 13th conference long jump champion and its third straight in The American (Cameron Burrell, 2016; Jefferson, 2017).
Samiyah Samuels tabbed Houston’s next individual championship, when she helped the Cougars complete the sweep of the long jump after breaking the meet and stadium record on the women’s side as well. Samuels led the event from start to finish, but her fifth attempt traveled 20-9.25 (6.33m) to seal the victory.
Samuels, a sophomore, has now won back-to-back American Outdoor Championships in the long jump and is Houston’s 13th champion all-time in the event. The mark for Samuels moves her to No. 22 in the NCAA this season.
Houston’s third individual title came in the final event of the evening, when Brian Barraza claimed the 3,000-meter steeplechase championship. Barraza battled throughout the race with Emmanuel Rotich of Tulane and Ben Preisner of Tulsa, but as they entered the home stretch it was Barraza and Rotich one-and-two.
With just under 100 meters to go, Rotich pulled ahead of Barraza, but as they cleared the final hurdle, Barraza used an incredible kick to blow past Rotich and win the event 8:48.47 to 8:49.01, with each competitor breaking the previous meet record.
With the victory, Barraza becomes Houston’s first conference champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Also in the men’s long jump, Jefferson finished third overall with a leap of 25-6.75 (7.79m) to score six points for Houston, while Antwan Dickerson scored two points with a seventh-place finish at 23-11.0 (7.29m) and Nathaniel Mechler placed eighth at 23-6.0 (7.16m) to pick up one point.
In the women’s long jump, Houston scored a combined 20 points alongside Samuels’ victory. Naomi Taylor took fourth with a best leap of 19-0.75 (5.81m), while Justice Henderson (19-0.75; 5.81m) and Paige Lawrence (19-0.0; 5.79m) finished sixth and eighth, respectively.
In the throws ring, the women picked up four points from junior Nora Monie after her fifth-place finish in the women’s discus. Monie’s final attempt traveled 165-11 (50.57m), while McKenzie Chapa placed 13th at 145-11 (44.48) and Jennifer Ramirez took 22nd at 120-0 (36.59m).
On the men’s side, senior Zach Oliva scored three points for the Cougars in his final American Championships. Oliva's second attempt proved to be his best, as he marked 164-8 (50.19m). Kenneth Sessums placed 13th in the event at 150-11 (46.01m), while Jose Herrera (139-0; 42.38m) and Guillermo Galvan (135-11; 41.43m) took 18th and 19th, respectively.
Houston made a statement in the prelims of the 100-meter dash, qualifying five men and three women into the finals. The men won each of the three heats, with Elijah Hall running 10.23 to claim the third heat, Cameron Burrell running 10.26 to take the second heat, and Mario Burke winning the first heat in 10.29.
On the women’s side, Brianne Bethel booked her second finals trip, when she broke the American Championship and Gettler Stadium record in the straight-track sprint. Bethel crossed the line in 11.31 to grab the fastest-overall time, while Tristan Evelyn made her Houston debut to run 11.57 and qualify fifth, and Samuels passed on her final attempt of the long jump to run 11.72 and pick up the eighth and final qualifying position.
Freshman Naomi Taylor opened the track events with a qualification in the 100-meter hurdles. Taylor crossed the line in 13.49 to win the first heat and post the second-fastest overall time in the qualifiers. Birexus Hawkins finished the event 18th in 15.08.
On the men’s side, two more Cougars would advance to the finals, including Amere Lattin who punched his second ticket. Lattin, who qualified with the fastest-overall time in the 400-meter hurdles on Friday, again posted the event-leading time, this time in the 110-meter hurdles at 13.79.
A multi-athlete by trade, Nathaniel Mechler joined the individual qualifiers after running 14.61 in the hurdles to qualify fifth overall. Quivell Jordan finished the straight-track hurdle race in 15.05 to place 10th.
In the full-lap sprint, Kahmari Montgomery breezed to the fastest-overall qualifying time. Montgomery ran the 400-meter dash in 46.45 to win the second heat and book a berth in Sunday’s final. Thomas Alcorn finished ninth in the event at 48.49.
In the middle-distance, Blake Contreras picked up the ninth-overall qualifying spot in the men’s 1,500-meter run. Contreras completed the nearly, four-lap race in 3:56.78 to pick up the first of the non-automatic qualifying positions, while Devin Fahey placed 13th in 3:59.26.
The multi-events wrapped up on Saturday, with Cassie Leal using an impressive second day to vault herself into seventh to score two points for Houston. After jumping 16-2.25 (4.93m) to score 540 points in the long jump, Leal posted a 117-11 (35.94m) in the javelin to score 590 points and move into ninth. In the final event, the 800-meter run, Leal crossed the line in 2:30.28 to tally 689 more points, giving her 4,573 for the meet.
Anna Larsson finished the heptathlon in 12th with 4,390 points, with her best effort of the day coming in the long jump after traveling 17-9.75 (5.43m) to score 680 points. In the decathlon, Luke Barksdale wrapped up the two-day, 10-event competition with 5,559 points to place 12th.
In the women’s 400-meter dash, Nikesha Keith and Jazmyn Tilford-Rutherford finished 10th and 11th, respectively, with Keith running 56.73 and Tilford-Rutherford clocking a time of 56.88.
Meredith Sorensen picked up a 17th-place finish in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:51.04, while Claudia Santos ran 5:08.38 to finish 28th.
Maria Gonzales finished the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 12:09.64 to place 17th, while on the men’s side, Christopher Wallace (10:12.81) and Gabe Lara (10:15.22) finished 15th and 16th, respectively.
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