Cameron Burrell takes his family legacy in track and field seriously.
Of course, even casual track fans in the Philadelphia area remember his father, Leroy Burrell, a two-time world record holder in the 100-meter dash and a gold medalist in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. But there’s also his mother, Michelle Finn Burrell, who also won a gold medal at Barcelona, and his aunt, Dawn Burrell, who competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the long jump.
Now, after a successful career at the University of Houston, where he was an eight-time All-America, Cameron Burrell, 24, has embarked on a professional career. He will anchor one 4x100 team representing the United States in Saturday’s 20th annual USA vs. the World competition at the Penn Relays.
He looks to carry on the Burrell name whenever and wherever he races.
“I want to add to the family legacy,” he said Friday at a news conference with four of his USA vs. the World teammates. “I’m very, very privileged to have a family who has done a lot in this sport between my father, my mother, my aunt. So my biggest motivation is just to add to that legacy.”
Leroy Burrell, his coach with the Cougars, enjoyed a spectacular career at Penn Wood High School and Houston. He still holds the Penn Relays record for the college 100, 10.10 seconds. He later went on to hold the 100-meter world record twice, 9.90 in 1991, and 9.85 on July 6, 1994 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
He held that record for more than two years before Canada’s Donovan Bailey ran 9.84 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Cameron Burrell gets plenty of advice from his father, but he also has the resource of Houston’s assistant track and field coach – Carl Lewis, who won nine gold medals in four appearances at the Olympics.
“I’ve asked my dad and Carl stories about when they were running all the time, just to try to get myself learning their perspective on how to train and how to prepare for big meets,” he said. “They’re really good people who have done a lot for me and the running community back in Houston. So even outside of the coach-to-athlete relationship, from a father-and-son perspective, or Carl being a mentor to me, it does feel like a family.”
Burrell has made a few trips to the Penn Relays but none more memorable than his freshman year of high school in 2010 when he stood in the infield to watch Jamaican legend Usain Bolt compete in the 4x100.
“I remember that he would just do a stride with some high knees, and the crowd would just go insane,” he said. “I remember it being so loud that they had to restart the race because the crowd just would not be quiet. That’s just one of those things that’s so special about this meet is that the fans really do get into it. The competitive spirit of this meet is second to none.”
Burrell’s visit last year to Franklin Field, his final one as a Houston Cougar, was a success. He anchored his team to victory in the 4x100 relay and ran the third leg on the victorious 4x400 squad.
“The 4x4 for me was a big step because I’ve never competed in that event in a meet this big, and I didn’t really know I had it in me,” he said. “I ran a really good split, and we broke the school record that day. That was probably my biggest memory here as far as competing was concerned.”