When Arman Hall, Najee Glass and Aldrich Bailey meet up this week at the New Balance Nationals Indoor, they will greet each other as old friends and then race for the 400-meter title as arch-rivals.
The seniors share history as part of a gold medal winning medley relay team (along with Ronald Darby) while representing the U.S. at the World Youth Championships last year in Lille, France.
Although none of them has cracked the 46-second barrier yet, all three of them have been on the cusp of crashing through in the past two weeks.
“I’m looking forward to (New Balance) Nationals Indoor,” Glass said. “It’s going to be me and Arman and (Aldrich), so there’s no telling what kind of time that’s going to be. … I’m pretty sure we might come out with something nice.”
Glass said those words moments after running 46.06 at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle on Feb. 26. His lean beat Bailey, who finished right next to him, running 46.07. Although the race was run on an oversized 307-meter track, only Elzie Coleman’s 2004 national record of 45.92 is faster indoors. (Coleman set his mark at altitude, at the Simplot Games).
Meanwhile, Hall of St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), ran 46.41 for an early US#1 outdoors on Saturday at the Sam Burley Invitational in Miami. He ran 47.66 the same weekend last year.
"I'm so anxious (about NBNI)," Hall said. "I feel stronger than ever and more determined than I've ever been."
Hall and Bailey will also toe the line in the 200 at NBNI.
Bailey, of Timberview (Arlington, Texas), hadn’t raced in six weeks prior to the Brooks meet – that effort at Arkansas including the previous 400 US#1 of 47.05 and the still current 200 #1 of 20.99. He is focused on the upcoming outdoor season and has not been shy about saying he wants to shoot for sub-45 in 2012.
Glass, of Saint Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) may have a couple of advantages this week. He’s close to home, familiar with the Armory oval, and running well. Until the Brooks meet, he’d had a bit of a bridesmaid tag against the top dogs the past year, finishing second in the indoor national meet last year, plus New Balance Nationals Outdoor, the World Youth Trials, and during longer indoor races against record-setting Strymar Livingston this winter.
Bailey and Hall stand to benefit from their warm-weather climes and the opportunities to begin running fast times outdoors in March. The last time the three of them met was at the World Youth Trials last June in South Carolina. Bailey won it, followed by Glass and Hall. Just 11 days earlier, at New Balance Nationals Outdoor in North Carolina, Hall won it, followed by Glass and Bailey.
“It’s (basically) who’s better on that day,” Bailey said. “In my mind, I’m better than them. And in their minds, I’m sure they think they’re the best.”
Rivals have past, recent connections
Although they are separated by thousands of miles, there are personal connections.
Bailey and Glass have known each other through age-group track since they first started racing at national meets when they were nine years old.
Bailey and Hall got to know one another at the Caribbean Scholastic Invite last June in Puerto Rico. Then, they were roommates in France.
As a side note, Hall may have Bailey to thank for his gold medal in the 400 meters at the World Youth Championships. After placing third in the trials – behind Bailey and Glass – Hall was crushed. Since Bailey had already earned a spot in the 200 he gave up his spot in the 400, primarily because he saw how much it meant to Hall. (Hall stepped up big in France, running 46.01 for the gold medal).
"I surprised me a lot and I was very appreciative that he would do that for me," Hall said. "Then I made it count."
If there wasn’t a friendship in place, would Bailey have given that slot to Hall?
“Probably not,” Bailey said. “I did it because he’s a good guy.”
Glass and Hall will become training partners next fall. They have both signed with the University of Florida. Bailey’s headed to Texas A&M.
Poised to join all-time greats
Individually and collectively, these three could be on the verge of an historical season. The years that produced the best trio of senior “quarter milers” were 1985 and 2002.
In 1985, Henry Thomas (Hawthorne, Calif.) ran US#3 all-time 45.09, Tony Allen (Jasper, Texas) ran US#23 all-time 45.74 (converted) and Danny Everett (Los Angeles) ran US#28 all-time 45.76.
In 2002, Kelly Willie of Houston, Texas) ran US#15 all-time 45.52, Jeremy Wariner (Arlington, Texas) ran US#17 all-time 45.57 and Ashton Collins (New Orleans) ran US#21 all-time 45.72.
Keep in mind, out of that group Everett (relay) and Wariner are Olympic gold medalists.
Can the class of 2012 join those groups?
As is stands right now, Hall has a PR of 46.01, followed by Glass (46.06) and Bailey (46.07).
"I feel like Najee has the most strength," Hall said. "(Bailey) is more of a finesse runner with a lot of speed. I think I'm sort of in between."
Another senior to keep an eye on his Kavahra Holmes of Breaux Bridge, La. Holmes is an LSU football signee with 2011 best of 46.07.
This week, the finishing order is anyone’s guess.
"I'm sure I'll be friendly and still talking and hanging out (with them) until the gun goes off," said Hall, who is making his first trip to New York. "Then it's all business."