by Adam BurnsDaily Cougar Staff
The list of winners at Saturday's Gallery Furniture Games draws instant recognition: Dan O'Brien (60-meter high hurdles), Leroy Burrell (60-meter dash) Johnny Gray (800-meter dash) and Darius Pemberton (long jump).
The Houston Cougars junior had a jump of 25 feet, nine and one-half inches to beat out teammate Sheddric Fields (25-6 1/4), the world renowned decathlete O'Brien (25-4 1/2) and Mike Conley (25-2 1/2) for the only first-place finish at the meet for a collegiate athlete.
"It's good to get a victory out of this," Pemberton said. "It was great to compete against Dan O'Brien and Mike Conley."
Carl Lewis said he was not surprised by Pemberton's finish. "Just happy and proud," he said. "Darius is going to be a great jumper."
Burrell agreed. "I think you can just chalk it up to (Pemberton and Fields) preparing well for this meet," he said.
O'Brien, who finished third behind the two Cougars, said, "Sometimes you forget about the college athletes in these meets."
Although O'Brien is known for his versatility, the long jump is not one of his strongest events.
"I didn't long jump well last year," he said. "This was my first real chance to long jump indoors, and I just wanted to jump 25 feet."
O'Brien won the 60-meter high hurdles with a time of 7.75 seconds against Texas Longhorns hurdler Derrick Spears (7.84), Roger Kingdom (7.85), Pemberton (7.94), Kevin Ellis (8.00) and other Cougars competitor Slade Combs (8.40).
"I didn't get off to a good start, but I accelerated well," O'Brien said. "If I'm in the lead after the fifth hurdle, I can cause trouble."
The most popular event for the 4,450 in attendance at the UH Athletics/Alumni Center had to have been the men's 60 meters, won by Burrell with a time of 6.64 seconds.
Mike Marsh (6.71) finished second, Raymond Stewart (6.72) third, Takayuki Nakamichi (6.83) fourth and Lewis (6.84) a disappointing fifth place.
Burrell was well off his personal best (6.48) and, like the athletes in the rest of the events, was nowhere near the world record (6.41); thus, no one won the Ferrari Testarosa that was to go to the competitor who could break an existing world record by the largest margin.
"I think I can shave time off the start and improve my acceleration a bit more," Burrell said of his performance.
About his last-place finish, Lewis said, "At least it was only the 60 (meters) and not the 100."
Burrell and Lewis, promoters and participants in the games, said they hoped the games will become a yearly event.
There were, however, minor problems with the event. The events were often run out of order and started late.
Burrell said these are the kinds of kinks that needed to be worked out in future events.
"When the meet got a little behind schedule, that kind of took the wind out of the crowd," he said.
Burrell said, "Track and field is marketable. I think (the success of this event) sends that message."