Before Friday, Rushelle Burton had heard her teammates refer to the Texas Relays as “the big thing.”
Competing in the Relays at Myers Stadium for the first time, Burton on Friday participated in the prelim heats for the 100-meter hurdles and the 400-meter relay. She’s competed before on large stages including this year’s NCAA indoor meet and the IAAF world junior championships.
The Texas freshman has been told stories about the Relays, though.
“Thousands of people might be here, watching,” Burton said. “I’ve got to come out here and do my best.”
On Friday, Burton competed alongside UT teammate Chrisann Gordon, a senior who ran the opening leg of the 400 relay. Both Burton and Gordon are from Jamaica, two of five Jamaicans on this year’s Texas roster. A third, freshman triple-jumper O’Brien Wasome, also competed Friday. A fourth, Senoj-Jay Givans, is expected to run on Texas’ men’s 400-meter relay on Saturday.
“Chrisann considers herself as my mother, so she’s always encouraging me,” Burton said. “Me and O’Brien, we’re just close. We’re always pushing each other. Chrisann, Senoj-Jay, Nick Phynn, we’re always behind each other, having (each other’s) back.”
With Gordon and Burton serving as the bookends, Texas turned in a fourth-place time of 44.45 seconds in the 400 relay. (LSU was first, at 43.25). Burton then hurdled her way to a time of 12.98 in the 100-meter hurdles. That gave her the third-best qualifying time with UTEP’s Tobi Amusan topping the nine-finalist field at 12.75.
Burton will return to Myers Stadium on Saturday for the finales of those aforementioned events.
Wasome, meanwhile, finished fourth in an abbreviated appearance in the men’s triple jump. He hit 53 feet, 6.25 inches on his first attempt, but eventually passed on three of his six jumps. Matthew O’Neal, the ex-South Florida leaper who’s an unattached entrant at the Texas Relays, won the event with a leap of 56 feet, 8.5 inches.
O’Neal’s winning jump was wind-aided, so it will not go into the Texas Relays record books. O’Neal, however, did break the meet mark, which was established by Arkansas’ Melvin Lister of Arkansas in 1999, with a wind-legal jump of 55 feet, 11 inches. Baylor senior Felix Obi also set a school record with his second-place leap that covered 54 feet, 8.25 inches.
Afterward, Wasome said he’d be fine and just didn’t want to test a back problem. The Relays was the second meet of the outdoor season for Wasome, who placed third in the triple jump at the NCAA indoors in mid-March. Wasome said he set a standard for himself during the winter, and he thought that his early-spring performance was acceptable.
“It could be better, but it wasn’t bad,” said Wasome, who became Texas’ sixth-best performer in the triple jump with that wind-legal jump.
Burton and Wasome have both made various adjustments during their first year at Texas. Burton, for example, said she struggled at the beginning of the school year as she transitioned from high school to college. Wasome, on the other hand, needed to adjust to the weather and food in Texas. While he’s discovered Chinese food, the Caniac Combo at Raising Cane’s and a Jamaican food truck, he still misses that home cooking from his mother.
“I’d go back to my mom’s curry chicken and dumplings any day,” Wasome said.
Heading into Friday’s evening session, only one Longhorn had reached the Relays’ medal stand. UT junior Lauryn Caldwell placed third in the Section B shot put with a throw of 49 feet, 7 inches.
Junior Alan Zapalac (fourth place, Section B men’s discus) and sophomore Georgia Wahl (fifth place, Section B women’s triple jump) also had productive days. Sophomore Brian Peterson, who hails from nearby Cedar Ridge High, vaulted to the top of the performer’s list in the Big 12 with a sixth-place throw of 176 feet, 11 inches in the discus.