NCAA Women’s 4×4 — Awesome Arkansas: 3:17.96!

Nickisha Pryce and Kaylyn Brown splits of 49.19 and 49.04 finished the first collegiate sub-3:20 run. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

ARKANSAS CAME TO the 4 x 400 holding 2nd-place in the team standings, its 53 points 6 behind the 59 that Florida had. That the Razorbacks could capture the team title on the strength of their relay seemed — in a sport with no sure things — shall we say, abundantly assured? On the one hand, Florida had no 4×4 squad. On the other, Arkansas would be fielding the four women who swept the 400 final, all of them breaking 50 seconds.

On the third hand — is that a thing? — the Arkansas 4×4 had finished 0.21 in front at the NCAA Indoor, yet lost those 10 points to a lane DQ.

Still, it would take major disaster to keep the Razorbacks off the top of the podium. And their recent Collegiate Record of 3:21.92? All the pundits agreed that mark was critically endangered.

In heat 1 on Thursday, South Carolina topped Tennessee, 3:27.10–3:27.65, frosh JaMeesia Ford reeling in the Vols with an impressive 49.72 anchor. The second race went to Houston in 3:27.55, with LSU at 3:28.04. In the third, the Razorbacks led off with Aaliyah Pyatt, who split 52.98 to hand off 4th. Nickisha Pryce ran a 50.24 to grab the lead, followed by Rosey Effiong (50.84) and Amber Anning (51.46) running comfortably to a 3:25.51 ahead of the 3:27.79 of Texas.

For the final, coach Chris Johnson could have put together a variety of foursomes that would likely have given the Razorbacks a team title to celebrate. Instead, he and the athletes decided to make a statement. Out marched the A-team.

“We had a goal in mind coming in here, to break the Collegiate Record again,” said Johnson. “We talked to the young ladies coming out, we said, ‘Take care of the stick.’”

Anning, the Briton who had placed 3rd in the 400, led off and dominated the first leg, her 50.52 carry leaving Oregon (Shana Grebo 51.37) and Texas (Lauren Lewis 51.43) far behind. Then Effiong, the 400 4th-placer, took the baton, and it became a rout as she blistered a 49.21. The chase was on, not just for the Collegiate Record, but also for the honor of being the first college to break 3:20. Georgia ran Aaliyah Butler second. Her 49.18 brought the Bulldogs up from 4th to 2nd as Texas held 3rd with Ziyah Holman splitting 50.61.

For the third leg, new 400 CR holder Pryce would take her turn, the Jamaican delivering a 49.19 that stretched the lead to a mind-boggling 30m-plus. Texas regained the second spot, Akala Garrett hitting 50.81. And Tennessee moved to 4th, with Dajour Miles splitting 50.46. A strong 49.62 leg for Jermaisha Arnold put Texas A&M in 5th.

The Razorbacks put frosh Kaylyn Brown, the 400 runner-up, on anchor, and she ran an inspired 49.04 to bring the team home in a stunning 3:17.96, a nearly 4-second demolition of the CR and the No 10 performance in world history, albeit from a mixed-nationality team. Only three nations have ever run faster.

In all the excitement, fans may be forgiven if they barely noticed the rest of the race. Tennessee and Texas battled down the stretch, Brianna White splitting 49.58 to help the Vols prevail 3:23.32–3:23.68, with Georgia 4th in 3:24.26. Houston would be 6th in 3:24.73 and South Carolina 7th, Ford’s 49.16 finishing off a 3:24.86.

Said Anning, “I was a little bit nervous at first, I don’t usually run the 4 x 400 that often. But it wasn’t about me it was about the team and getting around clean. I knew that if we didn’t get around then we wouldn’t win the title.”

“We knew we could get out there and run fast,” said Johnson.


FINAL (June 08)

1. Arkansas 3:17.96 CR (old CR 3:21.75i Arkansas ’23; only 3 countries faster)

(Anning’ 50.52, Effiong 49.21, Pryce’ 49.19, Brown 49.04);

2. Tennessee 3:23.32 (#6 school)

(Valcourt’ 52.03, Robinson-Hubbard 51.25, Miles 50.46, White 49.58);

3. Texas 3:23.68

(Lewis 51.43, Holman 50.61, Garrett 50.80, Ken. Davis 50.84);

4. Georgia 3:24.26 (#8 school)

(K. Harris 51.58, Butler 49.18, S. Harris 52.32, Tate 51.18);

5. Houston 3:24.73 (#10 school)

(Townsend 52.29, Babineaux 51.25, Beckford’ 50.71, Mouton 50.48);

6. South Carolina 3:24.86

(Akins 51.68, Chelangat’ 51.52, Jamison 52.50, Ford 49.16);

7. Oregon 3:25.82

(Grebo’ 51.37, Clayton 51.29, Wright 51.29, Hall 51.87);

8. Texas A&M 3:25.89

(Wood 52.79, Dickson 51.35, Arnold 49.62, Wade 52.13);

9. LSU 3:32.38

(Onojuvwevwo’ 52.44, Bellamy 53.18, Rose 52.32, White’ 54.44).

SEMIS (June 06)

I–1. South Carolina 3:27.10 (Ford 49.72); 2. Tennessee 3:27.65; 3. Texas A&M 3:28.73; 4. Oregon 3:28.77; 5. Kentucky 3:30.66; 6. Clemson 3:32.66; 7. Utah 3:34.50;… dnc—Harvard.

II–1. Houston 3:27.55; 2. LSU 3:28.04; 3. Georgia 3:28.29; 4. Ohio State 3:31.03; 5. Northern Arizona 3:31.28; 6. Northwestern Louisiana 3:32.24; 7. Miami 3:33.43; 8. Colorado 3:45.57.

III–1. Arkansas 3:25.51; 2. Texas 3:27.79; 3. UCLA 3:30.26; 4. South Florida 3:31.21; 5. Stanford 3:31.66; 6. UTEP 3:39.46; 7. USC 3:41.20;… dq—Penn.