Gordon and Burton bring bond past 40 Acres

Michael Shapiro

The last time Chrisann Gordon dug her spikes into the track donning burnt orange, she was at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon. In the final meet of her collegiate career, Gordon saved her best for last, winning the 400m in 50.51 seconds. She led from start to finish, becoming just the seventh Longhorn to win the event in school history.

Gordon graduated from Texas in the spring. Now, she’s eyeing victory on a greater stage: the 2017 IAAF World Championships, beginning on Aug. 4 in London, England.

“This year I’m living my moment,” Gordon said. “I get to leave Texas knowing I’m an NCAA champion, and that’s a good feeling… I can’t wait to step on the track (in London) and run the way I train.”

Gordon is no stranger to competing on the world stage. She earned a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Jamaica’s 4x400m relay team and ran for her country at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships in 2016.

But the championships in London will be Gordon’s first solo mission in international competition. Instead of running as a member of Jamaica’s relay team, Gordon will be all alone, with goals of a medal placed squarely on her shoulders.

“It will be a different feeling (at the championships),” Gordon said. “I’m always in the relay pool, but this year I have a lane to myself. Hopefully I can get some more (personal records) and get on the podium too.”

Joining Gordon in London is a Longhorn with decidedly less experience in international competition. Fellow Jamaican and rising sophomore Rushelle Burton will aim to parlay her strong showing at the collegiate level into podium placement at the world championships next week, competing in the 100m hurdles.

Burton had nearly unparalleled success as a freshman. She dashed her way to the top time in the NCAA in the 100m hurdles at the Texas Invitational in April and was named Big 12 Athlete of the Week soon thereafter. She also racked up the accolades during the indoor season, earning Big 12 Outstanding Freshman of the Year.

“For Rushelle to come in as a freshman and have the success that she did, making the national team at such a young age, that’s quite the feat.” head coach Mario Sategna said. “I think she’s raised the bar. Nobody else compares to what she’s done at such a young age.”

The two runners share a unique relationship on and off the track. The veteran Gordon has taken to mentoring Burton in her first year with the Longhorns, dolling out advice on how to navigate both the collegiate track circuit as well as life in a new country. Despite being nearly 1600 miles from home, Burton has found a sense of family in Austin with the help of her older teammate.

“(Gordon)  is always there for me  — she’s like my mom,” Burton said. “She’s always on my back, telling me what to do, telling me what’s right… She really helped me believe in myself.”

The pair’s time together in Austin is over, but the bond they share extends past the 40 Acres. Burton and Gordon will sport the same green and yellow jersey in London on Aug. 4, and continue their careers side-by-side at international competitions for years to come.

“This is very big for us, the first time with both of us going to the world championships,” Gordon said. “We’ll get together, and I’ll make sure to give her a pep talk like I always do.”