Mt. San Antonio College Relays : Burrell Runs 20.40, Fastest 200 of Year

Times Staff Writer

As sprinter Leroy Burrell settled into the starting blocks for the 200 meter dash at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays on Sunday, he looked to his left.

Burrell, a junior at the University of Houston, couldn't help noticing Danny Everett, the Olympic bronze medalist in the 400, who was dropping down to the 200.

"I wasn't really focused on beating Danny," Burrell said. "I was focusing on running my race."

Burrell ran his race well.

Burrell burst out of the blocks, ran a strong curve and maintained his lead in the straightaway. Burrell was clocked in 20.40 seconds, fastest time in the world this year, in beating Everett.

"I'm happy I won the race," Burrell said. "And I'm happy to have beaten someone of Everett's caliber."

Everett, who was left in the blocks, was timed in 20.53, fifth fastest time in the world this year.

Everett, who said his legs were tired, got out of the blocks so slowly that it looked as if he was waiting for a recall.

What happened?

"That's the curse of me not really training for the 200," Everett said. "Once I get into the rhythm of the race I can try to make up the ground I lost coming out of the blocks, but it doesn't always work out that way."

It didn't work out that way Sunday.

Carl Lewis was among the first to congratulate Burrell, who plopped down on a milk crate to catch his breath after the race.

Lewis is an assistant coach at the University of Houston, where he trains with Burrell.

Was Lewis surprised by Burrell's strong showing?

"I'm not surprised at how well he (Burrell) did," Lewis said. "I've been talking about Leroy for years. I think he's one of the great sprinter/jumpers. I'm not surprised at anything he does.

"I see him train every day and he's very talented. He's the best sprinter in the NCAA and one of the greatest in the world right now."

Burrell said Lewis has been an inspiration. Like Joe DeLoach, gold medalist in the 200 meters at Seoul who blossomed after training with Lewis, Burrell is learning from Lewis.

Burrell, 22, a high school sprint star in Philadelphia, said he enrolled at Houston because he wanted to train with Lewis.

What quality does Burrell admire in Lewis?

"His mental focus," Burrell said. "One thing that I learned from Carl is that you've got to be driven. When you look at Carl, you see he's so driven in whatever he does."

Like Lewis, Burrell is a multi-event athlete. Burrell plans to compete in the 100, 200, long jump and 400 meter relay at the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. championships in June.

What's his favorite event?

"I really can't say," Burrell said. "My best event is whatever event I'm doing."

Burrell's race was the highlight of Sunday's competition. But there were other outstanding performances on the final day of the 31st annual meet.

--After failing to break the world record in the 800-meter relay because of an awkward handoff on Saturday, the Santa Monica Track Club recovered to run the fastest time in the world this year in the 400-meter relay, 38.63 seconds. It was also a meet and stadium record.

Lewis, who decided to run the anchor leg after Saturday's disaster, said: "We ran because yesterday was like a semi-joke."

After being hampered by a poor handoff on the anchor leg Saturday, the Santa Monica Track Club passed the baton smoothly on Sunday.

After strong opening legs from Joe DeLoach and Floyd Heard, Mark Witherspoon ran an extraordinary third leg to vault his team into the lead. Witherspoon made a nice pass to Lewis, who held the the lead down the stretch.

"We were not sure until the last minute if we were going to run," Lewis said. "We're just pleased to get it around the track."

Did Lewis feel vindicated after Saturday's fiasco?

"Yesterday is gone," Lewis said. "That race happened and it's over with. We're just glad to be able to get around without a major problem today.

--The men's and women's discus competition also produced some good marks.

Wolfgang Schmidt of West Germany, former world record holder while competing for East Germany, threw the discus 219 feet to beat Mac Wilkins, the top-ranked American in 1988. Wilkins, whose best throw was 210-10, edged Mike Buncic (209-4).

Schmidt had a good series, getting off throws of 217-8, 214-1 and 213-5.

Laci Barnes won the women's discus with a throw of 198-9, best in the United States this year.

Track Notes

The University of Florida ran the fastest 1,600-meter relay in America this year, 3:02.51. Florida's team consisted of Dennis Mitchell, Earl Diamond, Tyrone Kemp and Mark Everett.

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