Burrell Family In Class Of Its Own

Celebrating A Century of NCAA Track & Field Championships

Burrell Family In Class Of Its Own

A truly fast feast.

Like most family gatherings for Thanksgiving, the Burrell household in Houston will undoubtedly have some tales told about incredible accomplishments. 

If any of the stories involve speed, they will most likely be true. 

The Burrell family is blessed to have a father, mother and child with titles at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships – all in the 100 meters.

The mom is Michelle Burrell, who owns the most NCAA titles in the family with four. She was Michelle Finn then, and in 1985 she swept the NCAA Indoor 55 meters and NCAA Outdoor 100 meters, the latter beating a field that included future Olympic greats Gwen Torrence (Georgia) and Gail Devers (UCLA).

Michelle is the only Burrell family member with an NCAA team title – she actually has two as part of the Florida State juggernaut that won the 1984 NCAA Outdoor and 1985 NCAA Indoor crowns. Finn – a native of Orlando, Florida – completed her collegiate career in 1987, becoming the first woman to score four straight years in the NCAA Outdoor meet in two events – the 100 meters and the 4 x 100 relay.

In 1992, Michelle was still a couple years from becoming a Burrell, but she was the first in the family to earn an Olympic gold medal – as the women’s 4×100 relay in Barcelona was held some 20 minutes before the men’s race that included her future husband. 

The dad is Leroy Burrell, a native of suburban Philadelphia who would make his home in Houston, first as a student-athlete before in 1998 taking the baton as UH head coach from his mentor, USTFCCCA Hall of Famer Tom Tellez. 

Leroy’s days as a collegiate athlete were among the best – at Houston or anywhere.

Family-wise, he’s got dibs off the track as the only one with NCAA field-event titles, going back-to-back in the indoor long jump in 1989 and 1990. He even entered the 1990 NCAA Outdoor Championships as long jump meet record holder (8.37m/27-5½), but not making that final helped him focus on the most dominant men’s 100 meters in meet history. 

Even though Leroy won his 100 semifinal in a meet-record 10.01 – just 0.01 off the collegiate record set in 1981 by Carl Lewis (then a UH freshman) – no one could foresee the explosion he showed in the final, where he destroyed a superb field by an unheard-of 0.25 seconds. That winning margin is still the meet’s largest, and Leroy’s time of 9.94 – albeit slightly wind-aided (+2.2 m/s) – was then the fastest any collegian had run under any conditions. 

Two weeks earlier, Leroy was similarly incredible in winning the Southwest Conference 200 meters in 19.61, a wind-aided performance that was not only the fastest ever recorded, but also a decisive 0.30-second victory over Michael Johnson of Baylor (It was Johnson’s only loss that year). 

Leroy also owns the only world records in the family – 11 in all, including two in the 100 meters (9.90 in 1991 and 9.85 in 1994).

Cameron Burrell was the first child of Michelle and Leroy. He became a national-leading prep star, just like mom and dad, but his decision to become a Houston Cougar created a struggle for Leroy. He would have to juggle being a coach and a father: So, in came long-time friend Carl Lewis to do the coaching. 

In a move that surprised many, Cameron put away his long jump skills (PR 8.06m/26-5½) and concentrated on the sprints. As a senior in 2018, Cameron starred at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon: He won the 100 and anchored the Cougars to a repeat title in the 4×100 relay with a collegiate-record 38.17 – which is the only collegiate record in the family.

posted: November 26, 2020
1921-2021
The NCAA's First Championships

The NCAA and collegiate track & field will mark a momentous milestone in the spring of 2021 -- the 100th anniversary of the NCAA Championships and with that, the NCAA Track & Field Championships. In June 1921, the University of Chicago hosted the first track & field championships in NCAA history.

This point can’t be emphasized enough: Not only was the event the first for NCAA track & field, but the first championships for any sport under the sponsorship of the NCAA.

To celebrate, over each of the next 365 days, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) will celebrate moments, student-athletes, and coaches that have made a century’s worth of championships special. From humble beginnings to important historical milestones to the modern-day, collegiate track & field has evolved with the American society.

The 2021 edition of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships begin with preliminary round action on May 27-29 in Jacksonville, Fla., and College Station, Texas. The championships final site and culmination of the celebration is slated for June 9-12, 2021 at the newly rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Memorable Moments
NCAA 100 On Spring Break

With the plethora of collegiate track & field and cross country slated to take place over the first-half of March, our daily posts highlighting the best from a century of NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships will take a “spring break” from March 1-15.

Greene Came Up Clutch In 1989 Long Jump
June 2, 1989

One of Joe Greene’s best days of long jumping started off dismally. It would end with a victory in one of the most memorable competitions in the near 100-year history of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Cal’s Williams Set World Record In 1936
June 20, 1936

Archie Williams set a world record in the 400 of 46.1 in the heats of the 1936 NCAA Outdoor T&F Championships. Williams then won the NCAA title by just 0.1 seconds!

Sternberg Reached New Heights In 1963
June 15, 1963

Brian Sternberg won the pole vault title at the 1963 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. He was the first athlete to clear 16 feet in meet history at 4.97m (16-3¾).