“ Haley’s Comet “ Part One
I was incredibly fortunate to be a teammate of the Rocket. I was one year ahead of him and I anchored that fabled DMR World Record at Penn when Roddie ran 43.5. He ran so fast that the baton was so hot when I got it, I still have the burn marks on my hand from that day. I will share my recollections with the legend here.
Roddie showed up in the fall of 84 as a highly touted freshman out of Texarkana. He had had some epic duels with Roy Martin on 4x400m anchor legs in Texas high school. Now Arkansas had just won its first ever National title the previous year, and coach Johny Mac, being Johny Mac, all told us we will win all 3 national titles the next year, Roddie’s first year in Hog land. So we won cross country. Then Roddie helped anchor our indoor 4x400m to second place at nationals and we won that meet. We also started to see how special he was.
Penn Relays Rolled around. Now we had some stud sprinters on our team. Michael Conley at 20.1, Wallace Spearmon ( 87 worlds Team USA) 20.2 and 10.1 and Fred Cleary at 13.5 hurdles. Conley also had won the silver medal the previous year in the Olympics in the TJ. Yes, he won the silver in the big 5 ring circus AND still came back to college. Think about that next time some present day 3:52 miler complains about no contract. Haley ran on our winning 4x100 and 4x200 teams at Penn putting in solid legs for sure. But he really shined on the DMR. I ran lead off that year and we wanted a lead for our anchor, Paul Donovan as George Mason had ( World Champion to be ) Abdi Bili running anchor. I handed off in second after an average 1200m leg and Roddie threw down a 44.2 to take the lead and blow it wide open. He just destroyed everyone. Our 800 guy ( Gary Taylor) kept the lead and Paul Donovan ran a stellar solo 3:56 and didn’t let Abdi catch up to him. It was unheard of to have a 400m guy have so much impact on a DMR, but Roddie single handedly had just changed the game. We distance runners now loved him. And his nick name was now the Rocket.
That spring he won the NCAA 400m beating an incredibly stellar field including World Championship medalists. It also gave us 10 points and helped us win the team title and the triple crown. He then got a ( tired) 3rd at USA nationals, his only loss of the year. He went to Europe and won all 6 races but two Europeans refused to race him as he was on fire again. Those Europeans did beat the two other Americans that had beaten Roddie at USA’s, so Roddie ended up being “ only “ ranked 3rd in the world that year when he should have been first. Not bad for a freshman year. And yes, this #3 ranked in the world athlete came back to college the next year ( putting salt on that 3:52 story….) so the legend continues…