By: Taylor Eastman
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Beginning with its first 4x400 meter relay national championship in 1985, the Baylor men's track team has dominated the event claiming eight indoor and 10 outdoor titles. Baylor's 18 total championships in the 4x400M relay are the most in the event in collegiate history.
Entering the 2008 indoor season, Baylor has won four-straight 4x400-meter relay titles claiming both the indoor and outdoor championships in 2007 and 2008. That current streak ranks second in NCAA history for consecutive victories in the event over both seasons. In addition, the team that ranks first in NCAA history is also from Baylor, having won five-straight relay titles from the 1990 to 1992.
The Bears are hard at work to surpass that record.
“We hope to break three minutes,” senior Quentin Iglehart-Summers said. “We want to run 2:59, but a 2:58 would be nice, too.”
In 2008, Baylor ran 3:00.22 at the outdoor championship meet Ė a time that ranks as the fifth-fastest time in collegiate history. That victory in the relay was the 29th-straight against DI competition, dating to the beginning of the 2007 indoor season. At the 2007 outdoor championships, the Bears set a school record time of 3:00.04 - the fourth-best time in NCAA history.
Leading the way for the Baylor relay is junior LeJerald Betters. Over the past two years, Betters has been a valuable asset to the team, participating on all four champion relay teams. A seven-time All-America selection, Betters became the 10th Baylor quarter-miler to run a 44-second 400-meter sprint, clocking a 44.83 to finish third at the NCAA Championships.
Iglehart-Summers ran on three national champion relays, missing only the 2008 indoor championships due to injury. Serving as the Bears’ anchor over the past two seasons, Iglehart-Summers enjoys the responsibility of being the last leg on the relay.
“It is a lot of pressure because whatever happens during the race it basically comes down to me as to whether we win or lose,” Iglehart-Summers said. “I have to make sure I hold the lead or chase down whoever is in front of us. If I’m behind, I know that my teammates trust me to get the win.”
Marcus Boyd returns to the Baylor squad after claiming two world junior titles this summer at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He earned two gold medals, one in the 400 meters and the other as the lead-off leg in the 4x400 meter relay. Boyd, who ran the lead-off leg last year, knows what it is like to be the premiere team in an event.
“Every year we come in with targets on our back and with people expecting us to do big things,” Boyd said. “It’s a lot of pressure because we know every day at practice that we have to work hard because there is someone out there working harder trying to beat us.”
The remaining spot on the 2009 relay will be up for grabs after the departure of senior Justin Boyd (no relation to Marcus Boyd). Boyd, a transfer from Angelo State (Division II), competed just one season at Baylor, but won two NCAA Championships and finished as a three-time All-American.
Leading the battle for the fourth position will be juniors Trey Harts and J.T. Scheuerman. Harts ran the first leg on Baylor’s 2008 indoor championship relay, while Scheuerman earned All-America honors at the 2007 and 2008 outdoor championships after running a leg of the relay in the preliminary heats.
There should be a fierce battle for the remaining spot. All-American Robert Griffin - the Big 12's Freshman of the Year as the Bears' quarterback - high school All-American James Gilreath and junior college All-Americans Thaddeus Gordon and Michael Liggins will be in the running.
“It’s a very special thing to earn a spot on our relay team,” said Iglehart-Summers. “It’s not something that we take lightly. We work hard to earn that spot and you have to work even harder to keep that spot.”
Given the school’s 4x400 history, this year’s team will not lack motivation.
“It proves that all of our hard work is meaningful,” said Iglehart-Summers. “It means that everyone wants to beat us. It keeps our eyes on the prize. We realize that we have a pretty special relay this year and it’s our title to defend.”