Years of elite athletes have helped Arkansas win the most Division I men’s track and field championships. With so much success, we created an all-time relay team of Razorback men’s track and field greats.
Three relays are currently held at NCAA championships — the 4x100 meter relay, the 4x400 meter relay and the Distance Medley Relay. But which one fits Arkansas for an all-time team the best?
The choice is difficult using Arkansas’ relay performances alone. While the Razorbacks have won a team championship in every decade since the 1980s, they haven’t had comparative success in the relays. Arkansas has won just two titles each in the DMR, 4x1 and the discontinued 4x800 meter relays. The Razorbacks have won three indoor 4x4 titles, but never an outdoor 4x4 title. With only nine combined relay titles, past relay success alone won’t determine the distance of this all-time relay.
When looking at Arkansas’ individual success, it’s important to note that since Arkansas' last outdoor title in 2005 (later vacated), only six Razorbacks have won individual titles on the track in either the indoor or outdoor seasons. Of those six, Jarrion Lawson, Omar McLeod and Phillip Lemonious make up half (counting Tyson Gay’s vacated title) of the Razorbacks that have won titles in distances 200 meters or less. That scratches off the 4x1 as a potential option.
With only the DMR and 4x4 left as options, the DMR is the clear choice. Any runners that run in the 4x4 could theoretically also run 400 meters on a DMR. Moreover, 19 of Arkansas’ 28 individual champions on the track (68 percent) have come from events with distances of 1000 yards or more, making an all-time DMR a better reflection of Arkansas’ history.
That said, let’s get into the all-time team.
The Arkansas men's track and field all-time relay team
1. Niall Bruton - 1200 meters
Niall Bruton will start things off for this all-time DMR squad, just as he did for Arkansas’ first-ever NCAA DMR championship in 1994. In 1994, Bruton led Arkansas to a 9:30.07 finish to win the event title. The same year, he also won his second NCAA title in as many years in the mile, helping the Razorbacks to their 11th straight men’s indoor team title.
2. Jarrion Lawson - 400 meters
Jarrion Lawson making an all-time DMR team is surely a controversial choice. How does Lawson make the team without ever running a 400-meter race in his college career? How does Lawson make the team over Calvin Davis and Roddie Haley — the only Razorbacks to ever win NCAA 400-meter titles?
The reasoning is that Lawson is an NCAA track and field all-time great, and any way for that greatness to be recognized should be done, even if it means stretching the hypothetical limits of his greatness.
Yes, Lawson never ran a 400-meter race in college, but he did (per his TFRRS) run in 27 4x4 relays (indoors and outdoors) in college. That makes it acceptable to project that if tasked with doing so, Lawson would be perfectly capable of running a 400-meter leg on an all-time DMR team.
Lawson’s inclusion in this all-time relay allows Arkansas’ only Bowerman winner (2016) to have a spot on the list. If Lawson can pull off the “Jesse Owens Triple” in 2016 by winning the 100 meters, 200 meters and long jump in the same year — a feat that only track and field legend Jesse Owens has ever done before — then Lawson undoubtedly has what it takes to run on the 400 on this all-time DMR.
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3. Paul Donovan - 800 meters
Following the second leg, the third leg will also feature a runner running a distance he didn’t specialize in, as Paul Donovan gets the nod here. Donovan gets the nod here over Arkansas’ lone 800-meter NCAA champion Brandon Rock, because Donovan helped win Arkansas’ first-ever NCAA relay title in 1986, running the third leg of the 4x800 relay.
If Donovan can run 800 meters with a title on the line, he can run 800 meters on this all-time team.
Donovan also represents the early formations of Arkansas as a track and field superpower under legendary coach John McDonnell. The Razorbacks won their first outdoor team title during the 1985 season to pull off the indoor-outdoor sweep. That same year Donovan won his first individual NCAA title during the indoor 1500 meters in a championship record 3:43.48 that still stands in 2023 — 38 years later. Donovan would later add an indoor 3000 meter title in 1986.
4. Joe Falcon - 1600 meters
“Don’t do that Joe” is a line that fans of this Arkansas all-time DMR team may hear from announcers yet again, as Joe Falcon is the choice for the anchor leg.
Falcon had a decorated Arkansas career, winning six individual NCAA titles across four different distances. He became and remains the only man in NCAA championship meet history to win national titles in both the 1500 and 10,000 meters during his career.
While Falcon never led Arkansas to an NCAA relay title during his career, he made waves as the anchor leg of a Razorback DMR. At the 1989 Penn Relays, Falcon anchored a world-record setting DMR that finished in 9:20.10. The world record stood from 1989-2006, and Falcon and his relay teammates were inducted into the Penn Relays Wall of Fame in 2003.
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- Calvin Davis
- Alistair Cragg
- Graham Hood
- Seneca Lassiter
- Daniel Lincoln
- Brandon Rock
Calvin Davis, a two-time NCAA 400-meter champion, and Brandon Rock, 1995’s outdoor 800-meter champion, miss out on the all-time DMR team because as mentioned above, Lawson and Donovan are better fits given the latter duo’s historical significance.
Seneca Lassister also missed the all-time relay for a similar reason, as he doesn’t have the NCAA DMR title that Niall Bruton has. Bruton was a member of Arkansas’ first-ever NCAA DMR championship relay, and while he made the all-time team, his anchor leg Graham Hood missed the cut. Hood’s career accomplishments pale in comparison to Joe Falcon’s, leaving him off the list.
Alistair Cragg and Daniel Lincoln are another pair of teammates that missed out on this all-time team. However, this duo didn’t miss out because they weren’t deserving of recognition, but rather they missed out because the DMR caps off at 1600 meters. That’s a distance just below the 3000 meter range of Cragg and Lincoln, who won a combined 11 individual titles from 2001-2004.