Michael Bryan reached back in anticipation.
His Texas A&M teammate, Aldrich Bailey Jr., was less than half a step behind Florida’s Hugh Graham Jr.
The small fraction separating them would have been more than most relay teams can allow and still win.
But most teams don’t have Bryan running the curve.
The former Ellison star took off in perfect stride with Bailey, sprinted around the curve like only he can, grabbed the baton and exploded down the curve of the track. He caught the Gators’ Leonardo Seymour and passed him.
He gave his former Ellison teammate and current Aggie teammate Prezel Hardy Jr. what he likes to have most — the lead.
Hardy ran the last leg of the 400-meter relay nearly untouched and Texas A&M finished three-tenths of a second ahead of Florida and the Aggies won the premier sprint relay at the 86th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in spectacular fashion.
Earlier Saturday, the Aggies were even more impressive, winning the 800-meter relay by nearly three seconds. Bryan ran the lead-off leg.
Not surprisingly, the Aggies never trailed.
“I can’t speak for everybody else, but what I’ve come to expect from Mike is if he’s not breaking that stagger wherever he is, he’s bending the heck out of it,” Hardy said after the Aggies’ latest pair of relay wins. “Because by the time I get (the stick), as we’ve come to see over the years, there’s not really a lot to do. Mike is going to give a heck of a leg wherever he is.”
A&M would not be what they are today — a perennial national title contender — without Bryan. But four years ago, they nearly missed out on it all. Bryan has almost always been overshadowed by his Texas A&M teammates — even at Ellison High.
Hardy was the top recruit for the Aggies. He is the one who switched a commitment from the Texas Longhorns to A&M and even caused a stir on the football boards when he did it.
Meanwhile, Bryan had to wait his time.
He had an offer from Stephen F. Austin when he was a senior. He was going to take other visits. An injury which was overshadowed by Hardy’s injury that same day at the Texas Relays did not help matters.
So he was left waiting and waiting. And then Texas A&M came through with an offer. But he had to earn his scholarship.
Now, the Aggies are reaping the benefits of Bryan’s hard work.
Few sprinters can turn the corner like Bryan, which is what makes him dangerous in the 200-meter dash.
It is what gives A&M an edge in every relay. They have a sprinter who can take the curve just as fast as he can run down the straightaway.
I doubt few other teams in the NCAA can claim that with any sense of truth.
And at any given meet, he can even beat Hardy down the straightaway. This weekend he did just that.
Hardy struggled, running a 10.45 in his preliminary heat of the 100-meter dash on Friday. Bryan, meanwhile, excelled, running a 10.34 and qualifying sixth. On Saturday, he ran the same time and placed fourth.
He was overshadowed again in his spectacular day — his teammate, senior Ameer Webb, won the 100 with a blistering time of 10.14.
It was the junior’s first time placing in the top four of track’s feature individual event.
But it won’t be the last.
The junior is a force for Texas A&M.
While Webb, still might have had the better day, it was Bryan who really made his mark.
Bryan won’t be forgotten or overlooked anymore.
Now, everyone knows what his teammates and those around him already knew — anticipate great things from Michael Bryan.
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569