NCAA Men’s 4 x 400 — CR Caps Barrage Of Sub-3s

Ryan Willie’s 44.28 anchor leg held off Justin Robinson’s 43.91 in a historic meet-capper. (MIKE SCOTT)

THE TEAM TITLE BATTLE came down to this final event, but not really. Yes, Arkansas came into the 4×4 with a 5-point lead over Florida, but would have needed 3rd-place or better to block the Gators from repeating as champions.

The semifinals made that possibility look slim — a staggering 5 schools broke 3:00, and Arkansas wasn’t one of them. In semi III, Florida (2:58.62), Arizona State (2:59.14) and UCLA (2:59.51) ran the 3 fastest performances in meet history.

Another Hog hope was that Florida might drop points by losing the race (or a DNF/DQ) but that hope looked even slimmer — the Gators came to Austin sporting a shiny new Collegiate Record from the SEC Championships.

As it turned out, that latter scenario wasn’t unrealistic: Arizona State latched onto Florida’s tail like a pit bull and made the race an instant classic. Florida finally won in 2:57.74 (nicking 0.02 off their record) with the Sun Devils a mere 0.04 behind. The all-U.S. ASU foursome claimed the American CR.

Back in 3rd, UCLA drove to a 2:59.82, making this the first NCAA final with 3 teams dipping under 3:00. Arkansas placed 8th, adding only 1 point to its total.

Leadoff Leg
Emmanuel Bamidele tried to make Florida gold seem inevitable with a statement opener. His 44.6 put him solidly ahead of Arizona State’s Dubem Nwachukwu, who clocked 45.3.

Second Leg
The Sun Devils decided to rewrite the script, however. Jeremiah Curry blistered a 43.3 — the No. 3 split in meet history — to close down the gap on Jacory Patterson’s 43.9, most of that closure coming in the homestraight. At halfway, Florida’s 1:28.53 led by only 0.02.

Third Leg
On the third circuit, UCLA decided it also wanted a part in this play. Myles Misener-Daley ran the fastest split on this circuit, a 44.48 that raised spoiler potential for the Bruins. Up front, JeVaughn Powell’s 44.93 gave a little bit of breathing room for Florida, pulling away from Jaylen Drayden’s 45.32.

Anchor Leg
That gap proved extremely useful for the Gators. ASU’s 400 4th-placer Justin Robinson was almost literally breathing down the neck of Ryan Willie, runner-up in the open 4. But Willie was determined to give up nothing. Around the final curve, Willie cleverly slid out to the extreme edge of lane 1 — more distance to run, but the geometry forced even more meters upon Robinson. Willie finally eased up slightly in the final 3m, but it was too late for the Sun Devils. Robinson’s 43.91 wasn’t quite enough to catch Willie’s 44.28.

“We knew going in we had to win,” said Florida head Mike Holloway. “We couldn’t control what [Arkansas] did, but we could control what we did.

“We all talked about it a bit, we talked about the order, because JeVaughn hasn’t been feeling well this week. So instead of running him leadoff and maybe putting us in a hole, we put him on third and let him run out front free and he did a great job. But the great thing about that was, we talked about it as a family. Everybody agreed to it and we said, ‘Let’s go.’”


FINAL (June 09)

1. Florida 2:57.74 CR (old CR 2:57.76 Florida 23)

(Emmanuel Bamidele’ 44.6, Jacory Patterson 43.9, JeVaughn Powell’ 44.93, Ryan Willie 44.28);

2. Arizona State 2:57.78 AmCR (old AmCR 2:58.83 Florida ’22) (3C, 2 NCAA; #2 school)

(Dubem Nwachukwu 45.3, Jeremiah Curry 43.3 [#3 NCAA split], Jalen Drayden 45.32, Justin Robinson 43.91);

3. UCLA 2:59.82

(Antonie Nortje’ 45.6, Willington Wright 45.7, Myles Misener-Daley’ 44.48, Cameron Reynolds 44.99);

4. Alabama 3:00.81

(Chris Robinson 45.1, Tarsis Orogot’ 44.8, Corde Long 46.76, Khaleb McRae 44.14);

5. Texas A&M 3:00.90

(Eric Hemphill 45.6, Omajuwa Etiwe 45.3, DeMarco Escobar 46.03, Auhmad Robinson 43.95);

6. Baylor 3:01.63

(Matthew Moorer, Hasani Barr, Nathaniel Ezekiel’ 45.68, Dillon Bedell 44.66);

7. Georgia 3:03.22

(Christopher Morales Williams’, Matthew Boling, Caleb Cavanaugh 45.91, Will Sumner 46.68);

8. Arkansas 3:03.66

(Connor Washington, Ayden Owens-Delerme’, Lance Lang 46.73, Christopher Bailey 44.78);

… dnf—Clemson (Wanya McCoy’, D’Andre Anderson, Aman Thornton, Tarees Rhoden’).

(best-ever mark-for-NCAA-place: 1–2, 5–6)

SEMIS (6/07)

I–1. Alabama 2:59.24 (10 C, 6 NCAA; #4 school) (Robinson, Long, Orogot’, McRae 44.10);

2. Clemson 2:59.78 (10 NCAA; #7 school) (Thornton 44.73, Rhoden’ 44.42);

3. Baylor 3:00.58 (Francis’, Ezekiel’, Barr 44.85, Bedell 44.37); 4. Texas A&M 3:00.88 (Robinson 44.36); 5. USC 3:02.67 (Jones, Borzor, Brackins, Allen 44.43); 6. BYU 3:02.92 (Jackson, Jensen, Hazlett, Taylor); 7. Louisville 3:07.10 (Carmichael, Miller, Joseph, Pantiere);… dnf—Mississippi State (Eppie’, Daniels, Brodie, Simmonds).

(best-ever mark-for-NCAA-place: 3)

II–1. Arkansas 3:00.97 (Lang, Benson, Washington, Bailey 44.37); 2. Georgia 3:01.51 (Boling, Cavanaugh, Morales Williams’, Sumner); 3. Oklahoma 3:01.85 (fastest non-Q ever) (Brown, Bour, Johnson, Mattar); 4. Texas 3:01.90 (Hulbin, Jones’, Brinkley, Herron); 5. TCU 3:02.62 (Brown’, James, Seete’, Maketa’); 6. Kentucky 3:02.78 (Lawrence, Faust, Swann, Lightner); 7. Tennessee 3:04.61 (Bynum, Green, Hale, Griffith’); 8. Penn State 3:06.57 (Gallant, Hebron, Dodds’, Onwuka’).

III–1. Florida 2:58.62 (4 C, 1 NCAA) (MR) (Powell’, Bamidele’, Patterson 44.70, Willie 44.53);

2. Arizona State 2:59.14 (9 C, 5 NCAA; #6 school) (Nwachukwu, Felix’, Moyer, Curry 43.55);

3. UCLA 2:59.51 (7 NCAA) (Misener-Daley’, Wright, Nortje’ 44.37, Reynolds 44.13);

4. LSU 3:02.38 (Camel, Hicks, McKay’ 44.82, Burrell); 5. North Carolina A&T 3:02.62 (Jackson, Hayles, Chambers’ 44.93, Saint-Germain); 6. New Mexico 3:06.04 (O’Bryant, Williamson, Akhalu’, Young’); 7. Iowa 3:06.59 (Stapleton, Richards, Jefferson, Gudgel); 8. Alabama State 3:08.75 (Winfield, Mills, Knox, Tate).

(best-ever mark-for-NCAA-place: 1–3)