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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | July 28, 2022

NCAA Video Vault: How a dropped baton led to co-champions in the 2013 men’s track and field championship

Men's 4x400 - 2013 NCAA outdoor track and field championship

The 11,482 fans remained in their seats at Hayward Field for the 2013 NCAA outdoor track and field championship's final event, the men's 4x400 meter relay. The men's title would be decided as two teams, Texas A&M and Florida, vied for the championship. No one could've predicted what would happen next.

As we go inside the NCAA Video Vault, we'll take a look at a chaotic ending to track and field's premier collegiate event.

The stage

Saturday, June 8, 2013 marked the final day of the 2013 NCAA outdoor track and field championships. On the men's side, Southern California and Texas entered the day tied for the team lead at 32 points each with 13 finals scored. Behind the co-leaders sat the newest member of the SEC, Texas A&M — the winners of three of the last four titles — with 21 points. The defending champion Florida Gators entered the day with 15 points, looking like a long shot to repeat on the podium with just eight event finals remaining.

The day begins

The first men's event of the day was the men's 4x100 meter relay. Florida began the day with a win, capturing the fifth 4x100 meter relay outdoor title in program history by a hundredth of a second. The Gators received 10 points for the win, bringing their team total to 25 points.

RESULTS: See complete results from every event of the 2013 outdoor track and field championships

Here are the team totals after the 4x100 meter relay:

Team Score
Southern California 32
Texas 32
Florida 25
Texas A&M 21

Neither of the aforementioned four teams scored in the 1500 meters, the next event on the track. Then, Aggie Ameer Webb took home first place in the 200 meters, adding 10 points to Texas A&M's total. Likewise, Southern California added 10 points of its own with two scorers in the event.

Here are the team totals after the 200 meters:

Team Score
Southern California 42
Texas 32
Texas A&M 31
Florida 25

The next two events were the javelin and the 110 meter hurdles. Texas A&M's Sam Humphreys took home another Aggie event title in the javelin, followed by teammate Wayne Davis II winning the 110 meter hurdles. 20 more points for the Aggies.

Florida finished second in the 110 meter hurdles as Eddie Lovett crossed the finish line .02 seconds before third place. Meanwhile, Oregon and Arkansas crept up to the top of the team standings with three events to go.

Here are the team totals with three events to go:

Team Score
Texas A&M 51
Southern California 42
Oregon 38
Arkansas 34.5
Florida 33

Three events to go

The 5,000 meters, triple jump and 4x400 meter relay remained.

The 5,000 meters concluded first. Texas A&M's Henry Lelei used a big kick over the final two laps of the race to jump from 11th to eighth, adding one point to Texas A&M's total. Arkansas' Kemoy Campbell added four points for the Razorbacks, finishing fifth.

Then came the triple jump.

Early in the event, Florida lost one of its projected point scorers, Marquis Dendy, the fourth-place indoor triple jump finisher, thanks to a foul. The Gators had Omar Craddock as their last hope. Luckily for Florida, Craddock was the defending triple jump champion.

Craddock jumped a season's best 16.80 meters on his opening jump to lead the field from the start. For the icing on the sand-pit cake, Craddock lept a personal-best 16.92 meters on his final jump, adding a stamp on his individual title and needed points to Florida's team total.

Thanks to Craddock, Florida moved into second place with 43 points. Neither Texas A&M nor Arkansas scored in the triple jump.

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The final event

One event remained before a 2013 men's outdoor champion could be crowned: the 4x400 meter relay.

Texas A&M led the field with 52 points and had a team running in the relay. Florida was only team within reach of the Aggies after its Saturday surge; its 43 points trailed by nine ahead of the meet's final event. Southern California trailed the Aggies by 10 points, but without a 4x400 meter relay team, the Trojans were done for the day at 42 points.

The 2013 title was Texas A&M's to lose. First place in the relay received 10 points. Second-to-last place (7th) in the relay received two points. Last place (8th) in the relay received one point. Texas A&M had the fastest semifinal time in the 4x4, but as long as the Aggies finished the race and did not get disqualified, they would secure at least a share of the title. 

Here's the team scoring entering the race:

Team Score
Texas A&M 52
Florida 43
Southern California 42
Arkansas 38.5
Oregon 38

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The lineups

All eyes were on Texas A&M and Florida entering the relay.

The Aggies started the relay with a lineup of Ricky Babineaux, Aldrich Bailey Jr., Carlyle Roudette and Deon Lendore. The Gators had a lineup of Najee Glass, Hugh Graham Jr., Dedric Dukes and Arman Hall.

Here's the complete field of entries for the 4x400 meter relay final:

Lane School SEMIFINAL TIME
1 Illinois 3:04.97
2 Baylor 3:05.38
3 LSU 3:04.08
4 Texas A&M 3:02.38
5 Florida 3:02.64
6 Arkansas 3:04.00
7 Oregon 3:04.20
8 TCU 3:04.71

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The race

The 4x400 meter relay is one of the most exciting events in all of track and field, and the men's 2013 final did not disappoint.

The first lap

With the firing of the gun, the runners were off. Each had to stay in their own lane around the first lap of the track, as are the rules in the 4x400 meter relay. 

Exiting the second curve, TCU in lane 8 maintained its stagger and looked to be in the lead. But down the homestretch, TCU's lead disappeared. 

Arkansas and Baylor were the first two teams, respectively, to successfully complete their handoffs to the second leg. Yet, while the Razorbacks and Bears smoothly transitioned to the rest of the race, two teams struggled to pass the baton.

The first handoff

The two teams that struggled to pass the baton on the first handoff were the two teams with a chance at the team title. 

Could it have been the pressure? Maybe. Here's what happened.

Florida's lead-off runner, Najee Glass, finished his lap and began to pass the baton to Hugh Graham Jr., the second leg. The baton bobbled between the hands of the duo, slowing down the Gators out of the handoff. Luckily for Florida, the baton stayed off the ground.

The same could not be said for Texas A&M. 

As Ricky Babineaux approached his handoff, the baton slipped from his hands, hitting the track, just as the second leg Aldrich Bailey Jr. began his takeoff.

The baton, round in nature, didn't simply stay put after hitting the track. It rolled.

And rolled.

And rolled.

The baton rolled from lane four to lane one, narrowly missing the legs of LSU and Baylor's teams for what could've been a catastrophic accident. 

Babineaux avoided the other teams and picked up the baton out of lane one, handing it to Bailey, who then took off in hopes of lessening the wide gap created by the mistake.

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The backstretch

While Texas A&M was trying to handle its handoff issues, the rest of the field continued the race. The runners merged on the backstretch and Florida, despite handoff issues of its own, ran from lane five to lane one to take the lead.

Also of note, the announcer was wrong in his statement that Arkansas could win the meet if it won the race. As already described above, Florida and Texas A&M were the only two teams based on team scoring with a chance to win.

The second handoff

After a chaotic first handoff, the second handoff went smoother, with no juggles or drops to be found. Florida, LSU and Arkansas passed the batons first, respectively, and the race for first continued.

Here are the times of the first two legs of the relay combined:

School Leg 1 and LEg 2 SPlit Time
Florida 1:31.39
LSU 1:31.75
Arkansas 1:31.89
Baylor 1:32.47
Oregon 1:33.02
TCU 1:33.55
Illinois 1:34.10
Texas A&M 1:36.73

The third leg

Florida and Arkansas were battling for positioning throughout much of the third leg, at times appearing even after a backstretch-surge from Razorback Caleb Cross. However, Cross might've gone too hard too soon as Gator Dedric Dukes pulled away on the homestretch, finishing the leg 1.17 seconds ahead of the pack.

School Third Leg SPlit Time
Florida 45.10
Illinois 45.37
Arkansas 45.77
Oregon 45.87
Texas A&M 45.95
LSU 45.99
Baylor 46.01
TCU 46.54

The anchor leg

Florida's anchor leg Arman Hall received the baton with the lead and didn't let up. While Arkansas and LSU battled for second place until the homestretch, Hall ran the second-fastest split of all the anchor legs, finishing the race in 44.87 seconds. In total, Florida won the 4x400 meter relay in 3:01.34. 

School Anchor SPlit Time
Oregon 44.74
Florida 44.87
Texas A&M 44.97
Arkansas 45.24
TCU 45.29
Illinois 45.37
Baylor 46.37
LSU 46.90

But where was the points leader entering the final event, Texas A&M?

The Aggies finished last in eighth place thanks to the baton drop in 3:07.64, over two seconds behind the seventh-place finisher.

Again, the announcer was wrong in his statement that Arkansas had a chance to win the meet if it won the race. As already described above, Florida and Texas A&M were the only two teams based on team scoring with a chance to win.

Instead, Florida tied Texas A&M for the team title with its 10 points scored to A&M's one. Each program sat at 53 points total. Yet, a review would decide if the Gators would win outright or not.

Here are the complete results from the 4x400 meter relay:

Place School Time
1 Florida 3:01.34
2 Arkansas 3:02.89
3 Oregon 3:03.61
4 LSU 3:04.62
5 Illinois 3:04.83
6 Baylor 3:04.84
7 TCU 3:05.37
8 Texas A&M 3:07.64

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The rules

A dropped baton means a review from the judges/referees of the 4x400 meter relay. They would have to determine the fate of Texas A&M's relay and its title hopes. 

Let's look at the rules from 2012-13.

First, Section 8 Article 3 Point C of the 2012-13 rule book states that for a "4x400 Meter Relay or Mile Relay, a three-turn stagger shall be used outdoors." That means after the first handoff, runners must still stay in their lanes.

Did Texas A&M's second leg remain in his lane during the entirety of the dropped baton fiasco?

Yes.

Secondly, Section 8 Article 5 says the following:

"In all relays around the track, the baton must be passed between teammates within a 20 meter zone. The baton must be passed, not thrown, by each runner to the succeeding runner. The passing of the baton commences when the baton is first touched by the outgoing runner and is completed when the baton is solely in the possession of the outgoing runner." 

Did Texas A&M's second leg touch the baton before it was dropped?

No.

Section 8 Article 5 continues to say:

"If, in a genuine attempt to pass the baton, it is dropped within the passing zone, either runner may retrieve it. A baton dropped outside the passing zone must be recovered by the person who dropped it. The runner recovering the baton may leave the assigned lane or track provided no other runner is impeded and the distance to be covered is not lessened."

Did Texas A&M's lead-off leg who dropped the baton pick it up as it rolled into lane one while not interfering with any other team?

Yes.

Lastly, Section 8 Article 5 says:

"A member of a relay team may not run outside the passing zone for the purpose of taking the baton from a faltering or fallen teammate."

Did Texas A&M's second leg remain in the passing zone for the entirety of the dropped baton fiasco?

Yes.

At first glance, Texas A&M's 4x400 meter relay team checked all the boxes needed to avoid disqualification.

Below are the rules that allow a referee to disqualify a relay team:

K was a rule change instituted in 2012-13.

As you can see from the above rules and the final results, Texas A&M did not get disqualified for dropping the baton, which then rolled out of its designated lane, thanks to its savvy running and heads-up decision-making. The Aggies remained tied for the team title.

NCAA T&F: Here's how the outdoor track and field championships work

Breaking down the performance

Texas A&M and Florida tied for the team title, marking the first co-champions since UTEP and UCLA in 1978. The Gators repeated as champions after the Aggies won three straight before that.

Here is a final breakdown of team scores:

Place Team Score
1 Florida 53
1 Texas A&M 53
3 Arkansas 46.5
4 Oregon 44
5 Southern California 42

🏆: Here are the DI track and field teams with most NCAA championships

What did they say

Texas A&M 4x400 meter relay lead-off runner Ricky Babineaux on his thought process after dropping the baton: "I didn't even think twice about it, I just went over to pick it up so we could still run. It was nerve-racking and emotionally I still don't how to feel. Ending in a tie for the championship is a blessing."

Florida head coach Mike Holloway on Texas A&M dropping the baton: "We don't see it as Texas A&M dropping the baton, we see it as we didn't drop it."

Holloway on winning as an underdog: "No one gave us a chance. I watched the replays of ESPN this weekend and they didn't even mention the Gators. I told the guys to just keep fighting, be who we are and do what we do."

Holloway on Florida's goals entering the day: "Going into the day, the goal was to try to put up another 30 or 35 points," Holloway noted. "We won three events and we were second in another."

Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry on dropping the baton: "Our team was on a roll and doing some things really well. It's just tough that we don't look the baton in and something happens on the first exchange of the 4x400. That's the way it is with track and field. You have to do everything right and it certainly has to be right when it comes to that relay."

Henry on his team winning the championship: "You look at what we did today, across the board with men and women, with the events we won and how competitive we were I can't be anything but pleased with our team today."

Florida 4x400 meter relay anchor leg Arman Hall on winning the relay and championship: "I knew Najee, Hugh and Dedric were going to put me out there in front and all I would have to do is hold the lead and extend it, if I had to. I knew people would doubt (the 4x4) because we're so young and it's such a big stage, but our coaches had faith in us, our teammates had faith in us and we had faith in ourselves. That's all that matters. I knew when I watched the guys win the title last year that I wanted to come to Florida and help the Gators win again. After winning the 4x4, placing in the 400 and winning the team title…I want more. This is an amazing feeling and I want to feel it again."

Florida 4x400 meter relay third leg Hugh Graham Jr. on winning the team title: "Winning the team title is great. When I came here to Florida, my goal was to win national championships. It's what everyone comes here for. This is my third team title and it's great to win again. The best decision I've made in my life was coming to Florida."

Florida triple jumper Omar Craddock on adding points down the stretch for the Gators: "I wanted to get 10 points for my team and I did that. I wanted my first jump to motivate Eddie and the relays, and I think I helped."

Watch the race again

Below, you can watch the 4x400 meter relay one more time.

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