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Track and Field: Men’s relay team prepares for NCAAs

By Megan Boyle / Staff Writer

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The Pitt men’s track and field 4×400 relay team has run rampant over its competition this year and, as its season nears its climax, has no plans of slowing down.

This past weekend headlined the sport’s “championship” season as the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) Outdoor Championships took place at Princeton University in Princeton, N. J. More than 90 schools from along the East Coast gathered to compete in the 138th edition of the meet.

Carvin Nkanata and his fellow relay members haven’t changed their approach.

“Go out there, compete and win,” Nkanata said.

 And by Sunday evening, they and the rest of their Pitt teammates had done that. 

The Panthers won the IC4As, the men’s championship, for the first time since 1940.

“It’s ironic because this is going to be our last year in it,” head coach Alonzo Webb said, explaining that next year, the ACC Championships will be held on the same date as the IC4As.

Senior sprinter Brycen Spratling jokingly held the winning trophy over his head before handing it off to Webb. Team members were all smiles as they huddled around the trophy for a picture on the infield.

“We have a handful of seniors who have really done a lot for this team, who’ve never experienced winning a championship,” said Webb. “It’s their first championship since they’ve been [at Pitt], and it feels good.” 

The men’s team, ranked No. 24 in the nation, has made a name for itself over the course of the season. The 4×400 meter relay team  has played a big role in  the success. 

“We came a long way,” Spratling said.  “We went from ‘kind of being a good relay team’ to winning things like Penn Relays. So for that to happen, it just shows our hard work and everything we put in.” 

The 4×400 meter relay event consists of four different runners, each running one lap around the track. The lead-off leg gets the momentum of the race going, while the fourth runner, or the anchor leg, is typically the fastest of the four. 

The veteran relay team has three senior runners, Micah Murray, Nkanata and Spratling, who have relied on their shared experience and talent in their final year. This season, not only has the team broken the school record of 3:04.16 (set at the Penn Relays last year) by a full second, but has also been ranked as the top seed in many meets.

On Sunday, with Nkanata sitting out and Dustin Fuller in his place, the team finished fourth.  

The 400-meter dash, while not the most popular event among runners, is the favorite event for Murray and Spratling. 

“It’s fun to see how fast we can actually run as a unit together,” Spratling said. “[The relay is] about running it with guys who you know is [sic] going to work hard with you.”

Nkanata prefers to run the 200-meter dash, but his speed made him an asset in the relay. These three seniors have run the 4×400 together for the past two years, and it seems like they have always found themselves running the 400 meters one way or another.

“When I first came to Pitt my sophomore year, I knew I was going to be on the 4×4 team,” said Spratling. “Coach Webb had already talked to me about it. So ever since I came to Pitt, I’ve been running the 4×4 mostly every meet.”

The addition of fourth member Desmond Palmer, a freshman from Pickering, Ohio, has enhanced their ability.  

“It’s not necessarily the fastest four, it’s the four who has the best chemistry and who works best together,” Webb said. “It just so happened that the four that we have now are probably the fastest four. They each have their own qualities and they fit perfectly.”

The men on the relay team, although they all come from different backgrounds, have a similar collegiate end goal: the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., which take place the second week of June. 

The three also share a similar goal that extends after their collegiate career: They hope to compete professionally. At the international level, both Spratling and Murray aim to run for the U.S. team and Nkanata aims to compete in the Commonwealth Games representing his home country of Kenya. 

Despite their individual goals for after the season, the men are taking it one meet at a time and are currently focusing on the East Regional Championships in Jacksonville, Fla.,  beginning on May 29. 

The lead leg will set everything in motion as he toes the starting line, baton in hand, waiting to hear the gun to go off to signal the start of the race. What goes through the runner’s head before the signal is the same each race.

“Run,” Murray said. 

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Track and Field: Men’s relay team prepares for NCAAs