TORRANCE, CA-Michael Norman highlighted the three-day Mt. Sac Relays by leaving the crowd stunned with his performance in the 400 meters. The former USC star gave the Murdock Stadium crowd at El Camino College in Torrance, California, a show in the quarter-mile race.
Ranked as the No. 3 sprinter in the United States in the 400 meters in 2018, Norman served notice to the rest of the field competing against him at the 61st Mt. Sac Relays, and the rest of the world that he is ready to take on all comers. That includes American and world No. 1 Fred Kerley.
Following the lead of his buddy, Rai Benjamin, Norman proceeded to burn up the track with a world-leading time of 43. 45 seconds in the 400 meters. Benjamin, who finished second in the race with a time of 44.31, rooms with Norman and work under the same coach (Olympic gold medal winner Quincy Watts) as his friend.
“I’m with one of the best 400 runners in the world,” Benjamin said. “I feel like we both need each other because we’re that balanced. He keeps me honest and I keep him honest. We’re teammates, we’re going to be living together, so he’s my homie through and through. He’s my brother.”
Norman’s performance caused a big stir-on and off the track. Cameramen and reporters immediately surrounded Norman as he and Benjamin walked off the track.
For his part, Norman said his concentration going into the race was all about executing his race strategy.
“This whole week or leading up to this week, we’ve been concentrating on race patterns execution, so we’ve been guarding practices towards certain areas of the race, hopefully to the dime,” Norman said. “I’m just coming out here to execute my race…[I] just have to go back and look at our film and see how well I executed the race. My feelings…I feel like I executed pretty well, and I’m really happy with my opener.”
Norman’s time in the 400 is the sixth-fastest time ever recorded for that event. The world record, set in 2016, is 43.03. Michal Johnson, who owns the No. 2, No. 4, and No. 5 all-time marks in the 400, is currently the American record-holder at 43.18. Norman believes he can become the first runner to hit the 42-second mark.
“I really want to go 42. I want to be the first person to ever run 42 (seconds),” Norman said. “I came into my season shooting for the stars, but also going for the win. I think that’s the most important thing.”
Norman got off to a good start at the beginning of the 400 and then hit the faster button down the backstretch of the race to cruise home and hit the tape with the fastest mark in the world this year. It’s a safe bet that Norman is gunning for Kerley and his No. 1 world ranking in the 400. If his 2019 season debut is any indication, Kerley and the rest of the world’s leading 400 runners just might be in trouble.
Norman, though, said he was not expecting to run as fast as he did.
“Not this fast,” Norman said. “Today, I was really focused on zone 1 and 3 of my race. I had a pretty good two weeks of practice, but Iw as having some mental issues running down the backstretch, so I was focused on those areas today. I think I executed pretty well, so I’m pretty happy with my time.”
Norman’s success on the track should not come as a shock considering his dominance in the race since he was running at Vista Murrieta High School where he hit the 45.51-second mark at the famed Arcadia Invitational. And just last year, Norman was running people down as a member of the USC Trojans men’s track and field team.
Last June, Norman cracked the 44-second code, going 43.6 at the NCAA Divison 1 Outdoor Track and Field Championships. As great a runner Norman is now, he’ll get better. So breaking that sacred 43-second barrier is not out of reach for him, Benjamin said.
“This kid is just freaking phenomenal,” said Benjamin. “He does everything right all the time. If you come out here and you’re going up against him you’d better be on your A-game that day because he’s such a machine and such a perfectionist, he would have you beat on technique every single time.”