By John Brannen
For nine months the Cougars meticulously trained to jump an inch further or run a millisecond faster. Eleven athletes wrapped up their season this past weekend in Des Moines, Iowa at the NCAA Championships.
Now, even if it is just for a few weeks, it’s time for the team to to take it easy.
“It’s a dramatic end to your season,” head coach Leroy Burrell said. “You work really hard and you get to the big meet, and maybe you don’t perform how you want to. I try to deal with the emotional issues first. Typically we’ll tell every athlete in our program that they had a great season, and they did everything they could. Many of our kids are in a place they’ve never been before when they finish at nationals.
“Then we tell them they have to learn from what they accomplished this year and how you got better. Let’s start next year where you finished. Then I tell them take some time away from it. You have to spend some time with your family and take your time off. Be a little lazy because that rest is good for regeneration. We send them home, give them a few things to keep them fit over the summer and see them back in August.”
Senior Chris Carter ended his career in style by finishing eighth in the triple jump with a leap of more than 52 feet, earning him All-American status. Carter will still be competing after UH.
“I’m happy for him, he had his best year here,” Burrell said. “I think there’s more talent there, it’s just going to take more time. He might be one of those athletes who blooms in their post-collegiate career.”
Along with Carter, other senior jumpers Lamar Delaney and Jonothan Williams finished successful tenures.
“Those guys did a lot for the program, they scored a lot of points for us. When you got that sure 30 points on the jumps at the conference meet before the running events start, it’s a comfortable place to be. That group was kind of similar to what we had when I was in school here.”
The women’s 4×100-meter relay team broke the school record in the preliminaries, finishing in 43.48 seconds. But in the finals, an athlete came crashing into the Cougars’ lane while the third leg was passing off to the anchor. The baton was not passed in the zone, and the Cougars did not finish after being in contention during the race.
“Anything can happen in that race, you can’t anticipate that but you prepare for what you know is supposed to happen,” Burrell said. “The real lesson there for our athletes is that you have to maintain focus even if things are going chaotic around you. By all means make sure that you make the pass — say something, holler.
“It was disappointing because I knew we were at our best, we were right there. I feel pretty comfortable thinking we would have placed third, where we were we had a good opportunity to even get second. Three of the four are back, we’ve got a good group coming in. We’ll be as good if not better next year.”
In the 400-meter dash sophomore Errol Nolan ran a personal-best in 45.3 seconds, but that still did not qualify him for the finals.
“He needs to run a better race, that’s all it amounts to. He did a good job of executing his race plan until he got about 250 meters in. That’s when the race was on and he kind of sat back a little bit and didn’t go with the rest of the group. He ended up paying for it. He was in position but that critical moment where he had to go and take the race he didn’t do it. It wasn’t a matter of fitness or ability, it was a matter of execution.”