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ASU relay team shines at Alice Coachman meet

ASU sprinter Untayous Benson ran the first leg of the winning 4x100 relay team Saturday that provisionally qualified for nationals at the 20th annual Alice Coachman Track & Field Invitational. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

ASU sprinter Untayous Benson ran the first leg of the winning 4x100 relay team Saturday that provisionally qualified for nationals at the 20th annual Alice Coachman Track & Field Invitational. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

ALBANY — Untayous Benson can fly on the track.

If the Albany State sophomore wasn’t the fastest sprinter at Saturday’s 20th annual Alice Coachman Invitational at ASU, he was darn close.

However, for three hours before he ran the first leg of the 4x100-meter relay, he couldn’t go anywhere.

“Honestly, I think I warmed up like five times,” Benson said.

Benson, like everyone else Saturday, had to wait through three hours of rain delays and technical difficulties before he could step on the track for the first men’s race of the day.

When he finally took off, no one could catch him.

Benson and his relay team ran their fastest race of the season and provisionally qualified for the NCAA Division II nationals on a day that saw several ASU athletes overcame the delays to capture first place.

Albany State and Stillman were the only women’s teams competing in a meet that was largely made up of unattached runners from Division I and Division II schools. The Lady Rams easily beat Stillman, 280-115, while the Albany State men had 133 points and finished third behind Morehouse (186) and Stillman (156).

ASU hurdler Jordan Thompson wasn’t one of the team’s runners who won an event, but he did provisionally qualify for nationals with a second-place time of 53.7 in the 400 hurdles.

But none of ASU’s victors shined brighter than the men’s 4x100 relay team, which secured one of ASU’s two provisionally qualifying times of the day. Their time of 40.70 seconds was more than a second faster than the rest of the field and was a half of a second away from the 40.19 mark they need to automatically qualify for the national meet.

“We are trying to get 39 (seconds),” Benson said. “We are already at the threshold of nationals and we are knocking, and we are trying to get 39 so we can step on through. That’s what we are really looking for.”

Benson was joined by Isaiah Leggette, Terrio Leverett and Garrett Reynolds on the relay team, which jumped out to an early lead thanks to Benson’s start.

“Benson is a pretty strong runner,” said Reynolds, who runs the third leg of the relay. “He runs a low 21 (seconds) in the 200. He got us off good (Saturday), and then Leggette kind of opened it out.”

The only stumbling blocks during the race for the Rams were the handoffs — and the exchange between Leggette, who recently replaced Thompson in the second leg — and Reynolds was especially rocky. Because of the trouble passing the baton, all four of the ASU runners didn’t think their time was fast enough to provisionally qualify.

“We were all complaining about how slow we felt,” Benson said. “We thought we ran something slower, because we were disappointed with our running. I think everyone ran a strong leg, but we need to clean up our exchanges a whole lot more.”

The runners weren’t even sure they would get a chance to run with the rain that moved through the area and cancelled many outdoor sporting events Friday and Saturday. When the rain finally let up Saturday morning, technical difficulties with the timing system kept the runners waiting even longer.

“We would warm up, sit back down, warm back up and sit back down,” Reynolds said. “When they started making the calls, that’s when we started warming up serious as a team.”

Benson intermittently warmed up as well, but he said he also had a “secret” that helped him stay loose.

“My secret is Tiger Balm,” said Benson, referring to a heat rub manufactured in China. “I rub Tiger Balm on my body every day. It’s like an extreme version of Icy Hot. You rub it on your legs, and it keeps you hot and keeps you moving and everything. It’s a good way to warm up before a meet.”

Other Albany State winners were Brittany Carter in the 1,500, Jasmine Grovenor in the 100, Olivia Traylor in the 800, Lateria Staton in the 400 hurdles, the women’s 4x400 relay team, Chelsea Johnson in the long jump, Leggette in the long jump and triple jump, Irrion Conaler in the high jump, Thompson in the javelin and CreeAnn Perkins in the shot put and discus.

Perkins is the school record holder in the discus and just feet away from the school record in the shot put. She has already provisionally qualified for nationals, but she said the delays kept her from improving on either of her distances.

“(The delays) take you out of your zone a little bit,” Perkins said. “I didn’t have my best day. It wasn’t bad, but you aren’t always worried about firsts. You are more worried about beating yourself.”