The powerhouse sprint squads at Florida and Texas A&M will square off at this year’s Penn Relays, with LSU and Florida State ready in the wings should anyone slip up.
A&M won the NCAA Indoor 4×4 last month, in 3:04.40, and would seem to be the favorite in that event – except that Florida ran 3:00.31 at its own Florida Relays three weeks later, one of the fastest times ever run by a college team outside of the NCAA outdoor championship meet. (The collegiate record is 2:59.59 by LSU in 2005.)
A&M is also defending champion at the Relays in the 4×1 and 4×2 – yet Florida ran 38.93 at Florida Relays, the fastest time of the young college season. The Gators’ lineup was Jeremy Rankin, Jeremy Hall, Terrell Wilks and Jeffery Demps. Demps won the NCAA indoor 60-meter dash, just ahead of A&M’s Gerald Phiri. Demps, who set the national high school record in the boys’ 100 meters in 2008, was a member of the Gators’ national championship football team in the fall of ’08.
A&M ran 38.79 to win last year’s Relays 4×1 – Phiri ran the 2nd leg – just ahead of Florida State (38.82) and LSU (38.89), making it the first time three teams had broken 39 flat in the same Penn Relays. Florida State returns three members of last year’s team – Brandon Byram and Maurice Mitchell, both of whom made the 200 final at this year’s NCAA indoor, and Charles Clark, the reigning NCAA outdoor champion in the 200.
LSU’s anchor from a year ago, Trindon Holliday, passed up his senior year of eligibility in favor of trying out for professional football.
In the 4×4, Florida’s lineup at its Relays was R. J. Anderson, Tony McQuay, Christian Taylor and Calvin Smith. McQuay, a freshman, won his section at the NCAA indoor in the 400 in 45.74 and wound up 3rd on time. He ran a PR of 45.37 over the weekend at the Tom Jones Memorial Classic in Gainesville. Smith won that meet in a lifetime-best 44.81, the fastest time in the world this year, while Anderson also PR’d over the weekend, running 46.37. Taylor, the NCAA triple jump champion, has run 45.34. The Relays record is 3:01.10, by Florida State in 2004.
Florida last won the Relays 4×4 in 2005. Last year’s win was the first ever for FSU here in the 4×4, while A&M – which was 2nd to Florida State in last year’s NCAA outdoor 4×4, giving Coach Pat Henry’s squad enough points to clinch the team championship – has won it once here, in 1996. At this year’s NCAA indoor, A&M was 1st, LSU 3rd, Florida 4th.
The Gators are defending champions in the shuttle hurdle relay but have not entered a team this year. The favored teams are South Carolina, Clemson, Nebraska and Texas Tech. South Carolina is led by Booker Nunley and Johnny Dutch, Nebraska by Lehann Fourie and Tyrell Ross, Texas Tech by Omo Osaghae and Jansen Hyde. Clemson has run 57.45 this season.
In the 4×2, the usual suspects are the teams to watch. Florida won its own Relays in a fast 1:20.38, using a team of McQuay, Hill, Wilks and Smith, while Texas A&M won the Texas Relays over Mississippi State, 1:20.61-1:21.09, running a lineup of Tran Howell, Phiri, Demetrius Pinder and Curtis Mitchell. The Aggies later won the 3:01.55 4×4 using Tabarie Henry, Howell, Miller and Mitchell. Mitchell, a JC transfer from California, was NCAA indoor champ in the 200, in 20.38.
Mississippi State is another team to watch in all of the sprint relays. The Bulldogs are led by the new young star Tavaris Tate, a freshman who recently ran 44.86 out of the blocks.
The sprint medley relay, won last year by Tennessee, has many contenders. LSU won at Texas this spring, running 3:16.01 with Richard Jones on the anchor in 1:46.5, while Delaware State, anchored by Donte Holmes, defeated the host Gators at Florida, 3:17.69-3:18.47. Texas A&M, with Joey Roberts on anchor (1:47.9), was 2nd to LSU, 3:16.42.
Other possible contenders in the SMR include Coppin, Albany, Princeton and Virginia. Coppin State, Albany and Delaware State have never won a championship at the Relays. Princeton’s last win in the SMR was in 1940, the last year Old Nassau won a Penn Relays title. Virginia’s last men’s title was in 1943.