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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Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis spoke to a reporter at the Mt. SAC Relays in Torrance, where he coached a team from the University of Houston. Photo by Chris Stone
New Balance hurdler Sydney McLaughlin relaxes after her team won a 4X400 relay. Photo by Chris Stone
World-class hurdler Sydney McLaughlin is interviewed after her team won a 4X400 relay. Photo by Chris Stone
Adidas’ ShaKeela Saunders finished second in the women’s long jump at the Mt. SAC Relays. Photo by Chris Stone
Defending champion Tara Davis came in eighth in the long jump at the Mt. SAC Relays in Torrance. Photo by Chris Stone
Keenon Laine of Georgia bails out of a high jump attempt at Mt. SAC Relays in Torrance. Photo by Chris Stone
New Balance’s Sydney McLaughlin runs a 50-second opening leg of the 4X400 relay at the Mt. SAC Relays. Photo by Chris Stone
World indoor record holder Michael Norman sprints out of the blocks in the 400 dash at Mt. SAC Relays. Photo by Chris Stone
Swedish-born Erika Kinsey sails over the bar at the Mt. SAC Relays in Torrance at El Camino College. Photo by Chris Stone
World record holder Keni Harrison (right) edges past Jasmine Camacho-Quinn in the 100-meter hurdles at Mt. SAC Relays. Photo by Chris Stone
World indoor champion Vashti Cunningham had the highest jump in the world this year — 6 feet 5 1/2 inches — at the Mt. SAC Relays in Torrance. Photo by Chris Stone
Kenan Christon of Madison High School wins a 100-meter race in 10.62 seconds. Photo by Chris Stone
Wearing a visor, unattached high jumper Amina Smith clears a height. Photo by Chris Stone
Michael Norman (left) and Nike teammate Rai Benjamin embrace after they ran the two fastest times in the world this year in the 400-meter dash, stunning a Mt. SAC Relays audience at El Camino College in Torrance. Photo by Chris Stone
Michael Norman (left) and Rai Benjamin mirror each other’s form in the final stretch of the 400-meter dash at the 61st Mt. SAC Relays. Photo by Chris Stone
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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All eyes are on Roderick Townsend-Roberts as he plants for takeoff in the men’s invitational high jump at Mt. SAC Relays. Photo by Chris Stone
Roderick Townsend-Roberts begins approach during men’s invitational high jump at 61st Mt. SAC Relays. Photo by Chris Stone
Roderick Townsend-Roberts focuses eyes on bar during meet in which he breaks his own IPC world record. (Spectator at far left is Olympic high jumper Reynaldo Brown.) Photo by Chris Stone
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.