South African Wayde van Niekerk (43.03 at the 2016 Rio Games) and Americans Michael Johnson (43.18) and Butch Reynolds (43.29).
Calling himself “pretty surprised,” Norman equalled a time by American Jeremy Wariner in 2007 and pushed his coach, Quincy Watts, down to No. 6 on the all-time list. And Watts was the 1992 Olympic champion.
“That was pretty fun,” said Rai Benjamin, his Nike and USC teammate, who was second in 44.31 — the No. 2 time in the world this year. “We’ve been going at it all week in practice.”
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A smiling Benjamin — who shares the American record in the 400-meter hurdles — said he told Norman in practice he’d “stomp his face in.”
But despite being even with 100 meters to go, Benjamin faded in the stretch.
“It was a great opener,” he told trackside reporters. “I’m excited to run the 400 hurdles.”
The Orange County Register’s Scott Reid asked the duo: “You know that [the IAAF world championships] aren’t until the end of September? I mean, this is really fast really early.”
Unworried about peaking prematurely, Norman said his coaches, Watts and Caryl Smith Gilbert, “have a specific plan for us to execute the rest of the season.”
In fact, Benjamin said they were “training through” the Torrance meet. (Next year, the Relays return to Walnut, where Hilmer Lodge Stadium is being rebuilt).
The 21-year-old Norman — who starred at Vista Murrieta High School — said Watts had been working with them on “executing things perfectly.”
He added with apparent seriousness: “I hope he’s happy with our performance today.”
The Northern Arizona University coach took eighth in the men’s invitational event at 2.14 meters — 7 feet and 1/4 inch — well behind Canadian winner Django Lovett’s 2.30 (7-6 1/2).
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But his third-try clearance was a world record in the T47 category of the International Paralympic Committee. (At birth, Townsend-Roberts suffered permanent nerve damage to his right shoulder, neck and arm.)
The 2016 Rio Paralympic Games champion in the high jump and long jump beat his old record — set at Mt. SAC Relays in 2017 — of 2.13 meters (6-11 3/4).
Townsend-Roberts wasn’t the only Paralympian to star at Mt. SAC.
San Diego’s David Brown, a blind sprinter who won gold at the 2016 Paralympics, took the visually impaired 100 meters in 11.42 seconds, with Jerome Avery, his usual guide, at his side.
Brown, coached by Brazilian Olympic champ Joaquim Cruz, was the first blind sprinter to go under 11 seconds — clocking 10.92 in April 2014.