With Georgia already confirmed as the team champion, the final event of the day was simply a run for the ages. Nothing was on the line except winning the race. Given the conditions, fast times—sub-3:00 and maybe even the CR of 2:59.59 set by LSU in the ’05 meet—might have been put on hold, except that the vagaries of weather had done little to hinder USC standouts Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin, each of whom had set CRs in their specialty events. As the lead runners took to their blocks, the Hayward Field lights were reflected in calm puddles around the track; no sign of the earlier spritzing rains was visible.
Opening Leg: USC Breaks On Top
USC senior Ricky Morgan ran in lane 3, having switched positions with frosh Zach Shinnick, who had led off the Trojans’ indoor CR team with Morgan running third leg. From the gun, Morgan was running comfortably around the first turn on down the backstretch, most of the teams running even. The field began to spread as the teams ran the second turn. Texas A&M’s Bryce Deadmon closed best in the stretch, running 45.5 and handing off first. Morgan was a couple of steps behind, after his 45.9, with LSU and Florida another two steps back, LSU’s Jahnoy Thompson having run 46.2 and Florida’s Kunle Fasasi at 46.3. The favored SoCal crew was already 0.5 up on LSU’s record pace.
Second Leg: Benjamin Blows It Open
Benjamin took the baton from Morgan and closed up 3m on the turn. At the break, A&M’s Kyree Johnson—running in lane 4—held a slight lead, but not enough to pass Benjamin and get to the pole. Behind them came Houston, already 8m back as this was turning into a 2-team race. The long-striding Benjamin gobbled up ground as he opened a lead on the backstretch and then tore around the curve. Opening a lead of nearly seven meters by the end of the curve, he extended his lead to a full 10m at the exchange as he covered his leg in 43.6, the meet’s fastest second leg ever. Johnson ran a quick 45.1, but had given up A&M’s 3m lead plus a lot more. LSU’s Correion Mosby and Florida’s Chantz Sawyers tried gamely to stay close after their legs in 45.1 and 45.3, but they were another 8 and 9m behind A&M. The leaders were now a hefty 1.3 up on LSU’s record tempo.
Third Leg: Record Pace Almost Disappears
Ilolo Izu closed the gap slightly on the backstretch for A&M, but Shinnick ran comfortably, waiting for the challenge. LSU’s Renard Howell was running fastest on the stretch, now within 5m of A&M at the halfway mark, with A&M 6m back of USC. Shinnick continued his run on the curve, then widened the gap over A&M down the homestretch. Florida’s Benjamin Lobo Vedel closed best in the straight, pulling the Gators ahead of LSU with his 44.89. Shinnick’s 45.85 was enough to hold a 5m over Izu’s 45.42 with Florida now 3rd, 6m back of A&M. But the margin over LSU’s record pace was just 0.2 and the vintage Tigers had gotten a 44.0 closer from the X-Man Xavier Carter.
Anchor Leg: It Was All Up To Norman
Norman, whose 43.61 set the CR in the open 400, took the stick with A&M’s 800m 5th-placer Devin Dixon trying to maintain contact. Florida’s 110-hurdles winner Grant Holloway was 3rd when he took the stick, but without enough room to cross to the pole ahead of LSU’s Jaron Flournoy, the 200m 4th placer. At the end of the first curve, Norman had lengthened his advantage to 8m and then continued to pull away down the backstretch. But coming to the final curve Dixon began his charge, gradually narrowing the lead. At the top of the homestretch, with the lead down to less than 5m, Norman—who had produced a 43.06 carry at the West Regional—opened up dramatically, pulling away strongly to finish 8m up with a CR 2:59.00, this leg covered in 43.62, the No. 4 split in meet history. Dixon’s 43.92 brought A&M home in 2:59.91, the sixth-fastest time in collegiate history. Flournoy’s 44.05 finished up LSU’s 3rd-placing 3:00.56, as the first three teams recorded best-ever marks-for-place.
NCAA MEN’S 4 x 400 RESULTS
1. USC 2:59.00 CR (old CR 2:59.59 LSU ’05)
(Ricky Morgan 45.9, Rai Benjamin’ 43.6 [=6 NCAA split; fastest NCAA second leg], Zach Shinnick 45.85, Michael Norman 43.62 [4 NCAA split]);
2. Texas A&M 2:59.91 (AL) (6 C, =4 NCAA)
(Bryce Deadmon 45.5, Kyree Johnson 45.1, Ilolo Izu 45.42, Devin Dixon 43.92);
3. LSU 3:00.56
(Jahnoy Thompson’ 46.2, Correion Mosby 45.1, Renard Howell’ 45.20, Jaron Flournoy 44.05);
4. Florida 3:01.83
(Kunle Fasasi’ 46.3, Chantz Sawyers’ 45.3, Benjamin Lobo Vedel’ 44.89, Grant Holloway 45.37);
5. Houston 3:04.03
(Amere Lattin 46.5, Trumaine Jefferson 45.6, Mario Burke’ 46.36, Kahmari Montgomery 45.53);
6. Arkansas 3:04.53
(Roy Ejiakuekwu’ 47.7, Obi Igbokwe 45.2, Hunter Woodhall 45.70, Kenzo Cotton 45.92);
7. Baylor 3:04.54
(Caleb Dickson 47.4, Howard Fields 45.8, Antwuan Musgrove 46.38, Wil London 44.93);
8. Stanford 3:05.50
(Frank Kurtz 47.0, Julian Body 46.4, Gabe Navarro 46.14, Isaiah Brandt-Sims 45.94).
(best-ever mark-for-NCAA-place: 1–3)
SEMIS (June 06)
I–1. Texas A&M 3:01.13 (Deadmon 45.6, Johnson 45.5, Izu 45.58, Dixon 44.45); 2. USC 3:01.30 (Morgan 46.3, Benjamin’ 44.1, Shinnick 45.67, Norman 45.18); 3. Florida 3:01.61 (Fasasi 45.8, Sawyers 44.5, Lobo Vedel 45.96, Holloway 45.35);
4. Iowa 3:04.93 (Frye, Woodard, Harris 44.76, Hofacker 46.64); 5. TCU 3:05.59 (Flowers, Ogwo, McClanahan, Mokaleng’ 45.58); 6. Mississippi State 3:06.12 (Waters, Tatham, James’, Castillo); 7. Memphis 3:07.34 (Austin, Champlin, Pasley, Norment); 8. Auburn 3:15.78 (Ceneus, Bloomfield’, Tenkiang, Allen’).
II–1. Houston 3:06.51 (Lattin, Burke’, Burrell, Jefferson 46.16); 2. Baylor 3:06.52 (Musgrove, Fields, Dickson, London 44.97);
3. Iowa State 3:06.52 (Berry, Dennison, Roomes, Fogltanz 45.80); 4. North Carolina A&T 3:07.02 (Hamilton, Harding, Dickson, Stewart); 5. Western Kentucky 3:07.48 (Alexandre, Gates, Hayes, Morris); 6. Ohio State 3:08.04 (Bramwell, Gray, Burke, Jeff); 7. Oregon 3:08.15 (Harvey, Emilien’, Daniel, Stone); 8. Clemson 3:16.47 (Tolbert, Lamb, Gordon, Green).
III–1. LSU 3:02.68 (Howell’, Flournoy 44.30); 2. Arkansas 3:03.98 (Stephen, Woodhall, Ejiakuekwu’, Igbokwe 44.93); 3. Stanford 3:04.82 (Navarro, Brandt-Sims 45.56);
4. Nebraska 3:05.43 (Neal, Moss, Mohammed, Bransby 46.66); 5. Rutgers 3:06.30 (Griffith’, Aris, Madeus, Brown); 6. Kansas 3:06.92 (Henry’, Cole, Hoppel, Daniels); 7. Tennessee 3:08.11 (McConico, Harris, Elion, Strother); 8. Bethune-Cookman 3:13.44 (Williams, Jackson, Okwaraji, Moore). □