Arkansas Ready For Fearsome 4x400

AUSTIN, Texas -- Arkansas has already established itself as a sprint power with the exploits of senior Tyson Gay and sophomore Wallace Spearmon Jr.

Today, the Razorbacks will really be running with the big dogs.

While a host of American pros will star today in exhibition relay events led by the likes of Olympic gold medalists Maurice Greene and Allen Johnson, true team pride will be on the line in the final event of the 78th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.

The Cleburn Price Jr. Invitational 4x400-meter relay is loaded with the best teams in the nation and sets up an amazing group of anchor leg matchups.

Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Louisiana State, Mississippi State, Texas Tech and Southern California make up the field and represent five of the top eight teams from the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Championships and six from the NCAA indoor last month in Fayetteville.

Baylor, it should be noted, is known for more than football ineptitude, basketball murder/cover-up scandals and the newly crowd women's national basketball champions.

Baylor is the undisputed king of the 4x400 in the NCAA with 13 titles in the event indoors and out since 1985 and the Bears can boast alums like Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner, who both won gold medals in the 400 at the Olympics.

Baylor owns 16 Texas Relays titles in the 4x400 and will be anchored by Darold Williamson, a gold medalist on the winning American 4x400 team last August in Athens.

Florida, the 2005 NCAA indoor champion, will be anchored by new world indoor 400 record-holder Kerron Clement.

LSU will likely anchor with Bennie Brazell, who was an Olympic finalist in the 400-meter hurdles last summer and the Tigers will have gold medal winner Kelly Willie (4x400) as well.

Texas Tech, sixth at the NCAA indoor, will anchor with Jonathon Johnson, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials champion in the 800.

Arkansas was seventh in the 4x400 at the NCAA indoor, its first placing since the 2000 team finished second outdoors while setting the school record at 3:02.02.

The Razorbacks had already clinched the team title beforehand and Arkansas ran the relay with David Wittenmeyer instead of Gay, who won the NCAA 100 title last June and has five All-American honors but ran only one race during indoor season because of a hamstring injury.

Spearmon, who has won consecutive NCAA 200 titles outdoor and in and broke the American record in the indoor 200 twice on March 11 (20.2 and 20.1) anchored the team at the NCAAs but started out too fast and faded.

There's also Omar Brown, who anchored the 4x100 most of last season until injury or Terry Gatson, who ran the third-fastest collegiate 400 ever with a 45.29 to Clement's 44.57 last March in Fayetteville.

Senior Scott MacPherson of Plano, who will sign with the Razorbacks on Wednesday to kick off the spring early signing period, won the boys' 3,200-meter race in 9:02.19 Friday night.

MacPherson, part of a strong Arkansas recruiting class, qualified and was 39th at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships despite cross country not being his specialty.

MacPherson held off Andy Biladeau of Tampa (Fla.) Jesuit for the win after Biladeau, who was 29th at Foot Locker, fell with several laps to go but still managed to make it close at the end (9:04.12).

MacPherson also defeated another Arkansas commitment, Daniel LaCava of Grace Prep Academy, who was 35th at Foot Locker and third on Friday (9:16.23).

Arkansas expects to sign five of the 40 runners who qualified for the Foot Locker Championships, including champion Kenny Cormier and fifth-place Chris Barnicle.

The Razorbacks were also in the contention for Foot Locker runner-up Andrew Bumbalough of Brentwood Academy in Nashville, but he recently committed to Georgetown.

Former Arkansas sprints coach Steve Silvey is here in his first year as assistant/recruiting coordinator at Texas Tech. Silvey coached at Arkansas from 1994-2000, coaching an NCAA champion and two NCAA runners-up.

Prior to the current sprint regime of Lance Brauman, who has produced three NCAA champions and 20 All-American honors midway through his third season, Silvey had the most successful sprint tenure for the Razorbacks under coach John McDonnell with 15 All-Americans and 13 Southeastern conference outdoor champions.

Silvey's best year was his last with the sprint medley relay team setting the collegiate record at the Texas Relays and the 4x400-meter relay taking second at the 2000 NCAA outdoor championships and setting the school record in the process.

Silvey, who stopped and chatted briefly with McDonnell on Thursday, was at Oregon for the previous two seasons.

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