At the Big 12 track meet, football crossovers Kolby Listenbee and Cameron Echols-Luper were scheduled to run in the finals of the 200-meter dash.
But they had some nagging injuries and the desire to rest for more important events, such as the 4x100 relay, so coach Darryl Anderson told them they should jog the event.
After the gun sounded, Listenbee decided to make the event more of a spectacle of comedy, starting a conversation with Echols-Luper while running. He then sprinted the last 50 meters, holding a No. 1 in the air after taking seventh place ahead of Echols-Luper.
With a more laid-back atmosphere surrounding the 4x100 team members thanks to Listenbee’s goofy personality, they’ve excelled, taking the Big 12 championship and advancing to the NCAA West Preliminary Championship, scheduled Thursday through Sunday in Austin.
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“I’d say when we get to meets some of us are more serious than others,” junior sprinter Ronnie Baker said, “but when it comes down to it, we’re not always so tight and tense in practice, so I think that having Kolby come in just lightens the mood. He is always just dancing and singing and doing all kinds of crazy stuff, and that helps us relax a little bit, and it helps us run faster, too.”
While Baker was answering this question, Listenbee was singing to him from across the track.
A loose approach, however, only goes so far in college track. This TCU 4x100 team has excelled through the fierce competition of six sprinters vying for the four positions.
One combination — Echols-Luper, Ramone Bailey, Baker and Listenbee — ran 39.18 seconds at the Horned Frog Invitational on May 2.
At the Big 12 Championship, Sam Watts substituted for Echols-Luper and the group won in 39.28.
Interestingly enough, the team’s best time of the season came before the football players were released from spring ball, with Raymond Bozmans, Watts, Baker and Bailey running the event in 39.15 seconds.
TCU enters the West Preliminary with the fourth-best qualifying time.
“They’ve been very open and cheering for each other but also feeling like they should be the guy, and that’s what I want,” Anderson said. “For me, in as many years as I’ve coached, this is as much depth as I’ve ever had in putting that relay together.”
Everyone agreed that the fluidity of the lineup has created an elevated level of competition, which has forced the best out of everyone.
Baker and Listenbee are locks for the third leg and anchor positions at the West Preliminary, but Anderson said he was still working on the participants in the first two legs. The event is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Saturday.
Twelve teams will advance from Austin to the NCAA Finals — the top three finishes in the three heats plus the teams with the next fastest three times.
Baker expects to be one of those 12 relays to advance to the NCAA Finals.
Baker believes this is TCU’s year to do something special in the 4x100.
“I feel like this year we’ve actually put it together,” he said. “I think that we’re going to get better from here on out. We have two more meets and I think that this team is definitely different, and we’ve known that we can put something special together.”
NCAA West Preliminary
Thursday-Sunday, Mike A. Myers Stadium, University of Texas
The top 48 in individual events and top 24 in relays compete in prelims to decide the top 12 in each to advance to the NCAA Finals in Eugene, Ore., June 10-13.
TCU individual qualifiers
Ronnie Baker (100), Kolby Listenbee (100), Sam Watts (200), Joshua Washington (400), Lavon Collins (400 hurdles), Ramone Bailey (long jump), Cameron Echols-Luper (long jump), Scotty Newton (triple jump)
Iphona-Clemence Paiement (100), Tiffany Terry (400), Brianna McGhee (100), Anna Robinson (long jump), Paola Miranda (hammer throw)
4x100 (Echols-Luper, Bailey, Ronnie Baker, Listenbee, Watts)
4x400 (Collins, Washington, Kevin McClanahan, Baker)