NCAA Men’s 4 x 400 — A&M’s Robinson Wins Anchor War

Auhmad Robinson prevailed on anchor for Texas A&M as Florida captured the team title. (MIKE SCOTT)

IT CAME DOWN TO the relay. The great meets always do. No fewer than four teams still had a mathematical shot. Surprising Auburn sported the lead but, alas, didn’t have a horse in the final race. Florida, 5 points out, was the defending champion in the relay but had placed only 3rd in the SEC race. Both Alabama and USC sat 8 points out; the Crimson Tide had narrowly lost to Arkansas at the SEC, beating Florida. USC had Johnnie Blockburger plus 44.65 performer William Jones. Either team could theoretically win, given a fantastic effort combined with disaster for their foes.

Desire cannot be quantified but Florida’s Gator fans will say they wanted it most. The team looked good. While occasional 4×4 runners Robert Gregory and Wanya McCoy were out as options after having run the 200, JeVaughn Powell and Reheem Hayles, who finished 3rd and 7th in the 400 final, would be ready.

First leg: Tennessee’s Emmanuel Bynum, subbing for injured hurdler Clement Dukos, got out best, handing off with a split of 45.49. Texas A&M’s Jevon O’Bryant ran 2nd in 45.64. The other contenders stayed close at 45.84, with Alabama’s Chris Robinson, Florida’s Hayles and USC’s William Jones all together and Arkansas’s TJ Tomlyanovich (45.94) a step back.

Second leg: Christian Parker of Tennessee got out of the zone fastest, and took a significant lead past the cut-in cones. Florida’s Powell, the only returning member of the Collegiate Record team, had slipped behind Texas A&M and Alabama but drove hard down the backstretch to enter the turn behind Parker. Coming off the turn Powell burst into the lead, finishing well for a 44.34 split that gave the Gators a 0.62 lead over A&M (Cutler Zamzow 45.16).

Third leg: Suddenly Florida had a 10-meter gap with the stick in the hands of 45.41 performer Rios Prude. A&M’s Kimar Farquharson and Arkansas’s Steven McElroy chased him down the backstretch and Farquharson, on his way to a 44.38, pulled even with the frosh (44.90 split) in the stretch.

Anchor: Florida’s Jenoah McKiver got the jump on A&M’s Auhmad Robinson and raced full-tilt down the backstretch but could not lose him. Off the final turn, Robinson turned it on and drove past McKiver. In the final 10m, McKiver started to flail and fast-closing James Benson flew past to give Arkansas the runner-up spot.

The splits told the rest of the stunning story. McKiver covered his leg in 43.91. To catch him, Robinson had to run 43.20, good for a world-leading 2:58.37. And to bring Arkansas into 2nd position in 2:58.83, Benson had to split 43.17. Both are among the fastest relay splits ever run, and close to the legendary 43.3 that Maurice Peoples split in the mile relay for Arizona State at the ’73 NCAAs.

Robinson, who had been disqualified for a lane violation in the 400 after finishing 4th in what would have been a 44.75 PR, said that just gave him extra fire. “It was like poking the bear. That fueled me, that fueled everybody else. My whole mindset was just go out there and kick their butt. We did it.” Robinson came in with a history of fast relaying in this meet, having anchored Stephen F. Austin home with a 43.44 back in ’21.

Florida, 3rd in 2:58.98, celebrated the loudest, as 6 points in this race gave the Gators a 1-point team win. Three-peat achieved. Said Gator coach Mike Holloway, “Once we got clear on the third leg, I knew we would be fine. I knew the other two anchors were good, but I just put trust and faith in the guys we put on the track.”


FINAL (June 07)

1. Texas A&M 2:58.37 (WL) (5C; #4 school)

(O’Bryant 45.64, Zamzow 45.16, Farquharson’ 44.37, Robinson 43.20);

2. Arkansas 2:58.83 (9C; #6 school)

(Tomlyanovich 45.94, Lang 44.91, McElroy 44.81, Benson 43.17);

3. Florida 2:58.98

(Hayles’ 45.84, Powell’ 44.34, Prude’ 44.90, McKiver 43.90);

4. Arizona State 3:00.87

(Davis 46.03, Robinson 45.23, Simpson 45.22, Felix’ 44.39);

5. Tennessee 3:01.22

(Bynum 45.49, Parker 45.79, Hale 44.88, Griffith’ 45.06);

6. Texas 3:01.41

(Mosley 46.70, Popelka 44.99, Rutledge 45.03, Herron 44.69);

7. LSU 3:01.57

(Burrell 46.40, McKay 44.99, Epps 46.35, Bedell 43.83);

8. USC 3:02.68

(Jones 45.84, Andrews 45.71, Rainey 46.06, Blockburger 45.07);

9. Alabama 3:03.18

(Robinson 45.84, Weaver 45.54, Ogazi’ 44.45, McRae 47.35).

HEATS (June 05)

I–1. Florida 3:01.78 (McKiver 44.30 [3]); 2. LSU 3:02.95 (Bedel 44.78); 3. Tennessee 3:04.28; 4. South Florida 3:05.59; 5. UTSA 3:06.74; 6. Mississippi State 3:07.08; 7. Harvard 3:08.73; 8. Penn State 3:11.01.

II–1. Texas A&M 3:01.17 (Robinson 44.59); 2. Arkansas 3:01.56 (Benson 44.36 [2]); 3. UCLA 3:04.60; 4. Campbell 3:05.48; 5. Virginia Tech 3:05.80; 6. Purdue 3:07.71; 7. Pitt 3:08.44; 8. Kansas State 3:08.86.

III–1. Alabama 3:01.88 (McRae 44.71); 2. USC 3:02.29 (Blockburger 44.31); 3. Texas 3:03.51; 4. Arizona State 3:04.48; 5. Oklahoma State 3:06.33; 6. Baylor 3:07.00; 7. BYU 3:07.46;… dnf—Texas Tech.