Leroy Burrell recalls that it was a beautiful day, warm and crisp and clear. He found a ball field on which to warm up, and a picnic table on which to stretch. He entered Downing Stadium, absorbing the classic venue. Then he walked to the starting line for his race in the USA/Mobil Outdoor Championships, blazed out of the blocks with a startling reaction time of .117, held off a hard-charging Carl Lewis, and set a 100-meter World Record.
It was June 14, 1991, on Randall’s Island, now home to the Diamond League’s adidas Grand Prix.This year’s event is set for May 25.
“I was out there and I didn’t realize, until 80 meters, what was going on,” Burrell told reporters immediately after the race. “I don’t think I ever felt that sensational coming out of the blocks. And then, all of a sudden, I realized I was tired. It was like someone fast-forwarded my body. Then I kind of came to consciousness about 80, and I could hear someone coming. I knew it was Carl. I just felt it. I could hear him breathing and I could tell he had a full head of steam.”
At 99 meters that day, Lewis—Burrell’s training partner at the Santa Monica Track Club—still held the World Record of 9.92. Moments later, it belonged to Burrell, at 9.91. He was not shocked.
“I had run pretty well all season, and broken the World Record in the 60 earlier, so I knew I was going to run really well,” he said recently. “My PR was 9.94, and with an opportunity like that, a great day, the competition, I knew I was going to have to do something important that day.”
Time passes. Children are born. They grow. And now it’s time for sons to have an opportunity, a great day, competition. Time for sons to dream of doing something important.
On May 25, Burrell will be in Austin, TX, coaching the University of Houston Cougars in the midst of NCAA regionals when his son, Cameron, gets into the blocks for the Dream 100 at the adidas Grand Prix. His wife, Michelle Finn—a sprinter who qualified for the IAAF World Championships at that same meet in 1991—will be in the stands at Icahn Stadium, keeping him updated.
Cameron Burrell, a senior at Ridge Point High School, is one of the top young sprinters in the country, the reigning Texas 4A 100-meter champion who’s run a wind-aided 10.07.
“He’s done a lot more with his high school career than I did,” quipped his father, who will become his coach when Cameron joins the Cougars this fall.
But first, the Dream 100, 22 years after Leroy Burrell broke the World Record in the same event on the same patch of ground.
“I guess,” said the elder Burrell, “you could say things are coming full circle, for him and for me.”