Then the Arkansas senior beat everyone but the new world record holder to tape, broke into the all-time top three in NCAA history and helped the Razorbacks to another national championship.
Gatson wasn't intimidated by Darold Williamson of Baylor, the anchor on America's winning 4x400 team at the Athens Olympics last summer, or Kelly Willie of LSU, another gold-sporting member of that team.
Gatson edged Williamson to the first turn of the second lap, sending Williamson stumbling off stride.
"It set it up perfect," said Arkansas sprints coach Lance Brauman. "That's exactly what we talked about doing."
As Kerron Clement of Florida strode around the final turn en route to a world record indoor time of 44.57 to shatter Michael Johnson's 10-year-old best of 44.63, Gatson powered around Willie in the final 30 meters and took second in a full second personal-best 45.29 for eight valuable points in the Razorbacks' pursuit of John McDonnell's 40th NCAA title.
"I had it ready and waiting," Gatson said of his final burst down the homestretch. "I was just waiting on the opportunity to do what I do best. If you let me stay right behind you, I'm going to get you."
Gatson, whose previous best individual accomplishment as a Razorback came with a fourth-place finish in the Southeastern Conference Championships two weeks ago, was easily the most lightly decorated athlete in the four-man field among Willie, Williamson and Clement.
But Gatson was the favorite in the hearts of the heavily partisan Hog fans in a crowd of 5,461 with a view toward the team scores.
Fresh off his world-record performance, Clement jogged around the Randal Tyson Track to a golf clap compared to the standing ovation for Gatson, who danced and pumped his arms down the backstretch taking high fives and hugs from his teammates and Brauman.
Coming fresh off the heels of fellow senior James Hatch's remarkable second-place and personal-best time in the 800 minutes earlier, Gatson's run all but made up for the 10 points taken away from Arkansas following the distance medley relay team's disqualification for impeding Michigan on the anchor leg Friday night.
Gatson ran the 400 leg on the DMR and stayed up past 1 a.m. fuming about the disqualification.
"We weren't going to let this happen," Gatson said. "We weren't going to let Michigan take over this meet and beat us in our own home."
He told McDonnell he'd be bringing something special in the 400.
"Absolutely amazing," McDonnell said. "He's a talented kid -- he couldn't do it unless he had talent -- but he was fired up. He told me beforehand, ‘Don't worry about me.'"
Gatson's Guts Highlight World Record 400 Meters
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