NCAA Men’s 4 x 100 — Auburn Shreds Expectations

Auburn placed 2nd to LSU at the SEC yet won its first-ever NCAA 4×1 title without its 100 favorite on the squad. (MIKE SCOTT)

THE ONLY PROBLEM Auburn sprint/hurdle coach Ken Harnden has is what to do with the plethora of riches he has at his disposal. He has one frosh (Kanyinsola Ajayi) and three sophs (Azeem Fahmi, Dario Matau and Makanakaishe Charamba) comprising his squad, a team that did not include either Favour Ashe or Ja’Kobe Tharp, the formchart 100 and 110H faves.

To say the least, the prelims of the relay produced surprises. In the first heat, T&FN formchart No. 1 LSU played second fiddle to No. 4 Auburn, 38.38–38.76, but No. 5 Kentucky’s 38.78 for 3rd was not going to be good enough to make the final.

A bigger surprise came in heat 2 when San José State (38.69) and Arizona (38.75) qualified for the final despite coming in 4th and 5th behind No. 2 Houston (38.48), No. 8 USC (38.54) and No. 10 Texas (38.60).

Arizona’s inclusion came about after No. 2 South Florida ran 38.68 in heat 3, but was DQed for passing out of the zone behind No. 6 Florida (38.45) and Texas Tech (38.67).

The final was loaded, with Auburn getting the preferential lane 6, and Arizona filling 1, San José State 2, Texas 3, Texas Tech 4, Houston 5. Florida 7, USC 8, and LSU 9 raced in the outer lanes.

LSU’s Myles Thomas got out well, handing off to Da’Marcus Fleming, as Auburn’s Fahmi had to extend to reach Kanyinsola’s outstretched hand and Houston’s Ireon Brown passed to Louie Hinchliffe.

A crisp pass from Fleming to Jaiden Reid kept LSU in front, but Hinchliffe’s leg was superb as he handed off to Cayden Broadnax and Ajayi kept Auburn in the hunt before getting the stick to Matau.

Matau ran an excellent turn, giving Charamba a clear advantage over Houston’s Shaun Maswanganyi, LSU’s Godson Oghenebrume and Florida’s Robert Gregory to start the anchor leg.

As they stormed down the finishing straight, Charamba pulled away from his pursuers, giving Auburn its first-ever 4×1 title, posting 38.03, the No. 2 mark in NCAA Champs history.

Thanks to Oghenebrume’s late charge, LSU edged Houston 38.21–38.25 for 2nd, with Florida taking 4th in 38.34 and Texas 5th in 38.99.

In the end, those five would be the only teams to score points, as Tech did not finish and DQs were levied on Arizona and San José State for passing out of the zone and to USC for impeding.

Those 10 points would elevate Auburn’s team aspirations and earned praise from head coach Leroy Burrell, who underscored the significance: “Those guys ran a great race and really set the tone for us.”


FINAL (June 07)

1. Auburn 38.03 (4C; #3 school) (Fahmi’, Ajayi’, Matau’, Charambe’);

2. LSU 38.21 (Thomas, Fleming, Reid, Oghenebrume’);

3. Houston 38.25 (Brown, Hinchliffe’, Broadnax, Maswanganyi’);

4. Florida 38.34 (Powell’, McCoy’, Smith-Band’, Gregory);

5. Texas 38.99 (Moore, Shelvin, Small, Rutledge);

… dnf—Texas Tech (Brown, Jones’, Drayden, Andrews’);

… dq[zone]—[5]San José State [38.83] (Snow, Tarver, Smith, Davis);

… dq[impeding]—[7]USC [39.02] (Stevenson, Thomas, Williams, Blockburger);

… dq[zone]—[8]Arizona [39.22] (White-Austin, Limage, Onanubosi’, Tippett).

SEMIS (June 05)

I–1. Auburn 38.38; 2. LSU 38.76; 3. Kentucky 38.78; 4. Mississippi State 39.37; 5. Alabama 39.83; 6. Louisiana 39.88;… dnf—Tennessee;… dq—Central Arkansas.

II–1. Houston 38.48; 2. USC 38.54; 3. Texas 38.60; 4. San José State 38.69; 5. Arizona 38.75; 6. Cal 38.90; 7. Texas State 39.51;… dnc—Georgia.

III–1. Florida 38.45; 2. Texas Tech 38.67; 3. Baylor 38.88; 4. Cal State Northridge 39.30; 5. North Carolina A&T 39.59; 6. UTSA 39.64;… dnf—Northwestern Louisiana;… dq—South Florida.