2005 College Men's Relay Preview

Arkansas, long known for its distance runners, is a threat in the sprints as well at this year's Penn Relays.

Coach John McDonnell's Razorbacks boast the reigning 100-meter and 200-meter NCAA champions in senior Tyson Gay and sophomore Wallace Spearmon.

They will be joined by teammates Mike Grant and Omar Brown in the 4x100 and 4x200, where Arkansas will be co-favorites along with such traditional sprint powerhouses as LSU, TCU, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi State.

TCU won the 4x1 at last year's Relays, Mississippi State the 4x2.

Arkansas has won those events only once before at the Relays, in 1985 when they won both. The anchor of those two teams was Wallace Spearmon Sr. His son Wallace Jr. was 4 months old at the time.

The younger Spearmon won the NCAA indoor 200 last month, setting American records of 20.21 and 20.10. Earlier this month he won the 200 at the Mt. SAC Invitational in California in 19.97, the fastest time in the world this season.

LSU has the year's 2nd-fastest collegiate time in the 4x1, 38.94, in winning the Texas Relays. The Tigers, coached for the first time by Dennis Shaver, have two Olympians, Kelly Willie and Bennie Brazell, on that squad.

Willie won a gold medal in the 4x4 last summer in Athens, while Brazell was on the U.S. team in the 400 hurdles.

At the Sun Angel Classic in Arizona this month, Willie won the 400 in 44.97, Brazell the IH in 48.54, both the fastest times in the world for this outdoor season.

Mississippi State won the 4x2 at Texas, in 1:21.62, and was 3rd in the 4x1 there in 39.09. It is led by Jamaican Steve Mullings.

Tennessee ran 39.10 in the heats at the Texas Relays but failed to finish the final. The Volunteers won twice on their home track, 39.29 at Gatorade and 39.54 at SeaRay. They also ran 1:21.75 at SeaRay.

South Carolina was 2nd at Gatorade in 39.79. Houston ran 39.27 at Texas.

The Florida Gators were 2nd at Texas in the 4x2 (1:23.01) and 1st in the event at their own Florida Relays in 1:22.08.

Florida is led by sophomore sensation Kerron Clement, the reigning NCAA outdoor champion in the 400 hurdles. Clement also won this year's NCAA indoor 400 in a spectacular 44.57, breaking Michael Johnson's world indoor record.

A year ago at the Relays, Clement anchored the winning 4x4 team to victory in 3:01.10, breaking the Carnival record that had stood since 1977.

Clement also ran anchor on the Gators' winning 4x4 at this year's NCAA indoor, where they ran a collegiate-record 3:03.51.

At the Texas Relays they won in 3:02.47, the fastest college time in the country so far this season.

Other contenders in the 4x4 include Arkansas (best of 3:04.86 this season), LSU (3:05.19), Texas Tech (3:05.21) and Mississippi State (3:05.45).

The Gators are also defending NCAA champions in the 4x1, which they won in 39.11 last year in Austin. One member of that team, Michael Morrison, a sophomore from Willingboro, N.J., competed in four events in last year's NCAA -- both relays, the long jump and the high jump -- a quadruple he is expected to attempt at this year's Relays as well.

Clement also ran leadoff on last year's winning shuttle hurdle relay team for the Gators. He is the reigning NCAA champion in the 400 hurdles. Two other members of that squad, Dwight Ruff and Josh Walker, also return. Walker, yet another NCAA champion, won the outdoor highs last spring.

In the distance relays, Arkansas is also expected to be a contender, as usual. The Razorbacks won the sprint medley, 4 x mile and distance medley a year ago.

* SMR -- The team of Spearmon, Brown, Terry Gatson and James Hatch all return. The Razorbacks will be challenged by Texas Tech, winner of the Texas Relays in 3:13.06, thanks in part to a 1:46.4 anchor 800 by Jonathan Johnson, the NCAA champion in the event.

Gatson (400) and Hatch (800) were both NCAA runnersup in the NCAA indoor, helping Arkansas to the team championship.

Last year's win was Arkansas's first in this event at the Relays since 1983, the first year the school won any race at Penn.

The school's 3 victories last year gave it a total of 41 over the years at the Relays, allowing it to pass Michigan and move into 3rd place on the all-time list of men's relay victories. Villanova is 1st with 88, Penn 2nd with 54 1/2.

* 4 x mile -- Hatch and Said Ahmed return from last year's squad, which ran 16:21.74, the slowest winning time at the Relays since 1975. (The event was restored in 1998, after many years of the 4x1500). Arkansas has won this event 10 of the last 11 years, the lone exception 2001 when Stanford took the title. (Arkansas did not contest the event that year.)

The main challengers this year should be Michigan, anchored by Nate Brannen, and Stanford, anchored by Don Sage.

* DMR -- Last year's anchor, Alistair Cragg, has graduated. Ahmed is expected to assume that role this year. Last year's winning time, 9:33.74, was the slowest at the Relays since Villanova ran 9:36.78 in 1981. It was only the Hogs' second win here in the DMR since 1999.

Arkansas was upset at this year's Texas Relays by Kansas, which will be attending the Relays this year after a long absence.

Other challenges are expected from Michigan, winner of the NCAA indoor; Stanford, 4th a year ago, and last year's runnerup, Georgetown, anchored by Chris Lukezic.

Michigan will be anchored by Nick Willis, who ran in last year's Olympic Games for New Zealand, and Stanford by Joaquin Chapa, son of the former NCAA 5,000 champion, Rudy Chapa.

Lukezic was a member of last year's winning 4x8. The Hoyas won in 7:13.75, the fastest time here in 20 years.