Michael Norman leads Rai Benjamin toward the finish line during the Men's 400 meter dash at the 61st Mt. SAC Relays held at El Camino College. Norman ran one of the fastest times in history. (Jeffrey Parenti photo)
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TORRANCE, Calif. -- Michael Norman remembers the first time he ran at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays. It was the spring of 2013, his freshman year at Vista Murrieta High School, and his 4x400-meter relay team didn't do so well.
Norman, undoubtedly, will also remember Saturday's performance at the 61st edition of the venerable meet, for much different reasons.
Running his first 400 as a professional, alongside Rai Benjamin -- his roommate, training partner and former teammate at USC -- Norman ran the one-lap race in 43.45 seconds, the fastest ever run in the month of April. That time is also the fastest in the world at the dawn of the 2019 track season, and equals the No. 6 mark all-time and equals the No. 4 performer.
"Honestly, I'm pretty shocked and surprised about the race as a whole," Norman said. "These past couple weeks we've been focusing on executing, running specific components of the race to the dime, so just being able to go out here and hopefully execute the race the way Coach (Quincy) Watts wants me to is great.
"I'm really happy about the opener. You can never complain about a PR as an opener."
The meet was held for a second year at El Camino College because of stadium reconstruction on the Mt. SAC campus in Walnut. A mostly overcast and cool day warmed into the afternoon as the sun broke through the coastal clouds and made for ideal conditions when the gun went off in the late afternoon for the Men's Elite/College 400 meter race.
Benjamin, running on Norman's inside in Lane 4, ran 44.31.
"That was pretty fun," Benjamin said immediately after exiting the track when swarmed by reporters and photographers. "We've been going at it all week in practice. The past two weeks I've kinda been talking mess to this guy, telling him I'm going to stomp his face in. But I got beat today again."
The two were also scheduled to run a 4x400 relay later on Saturday but scratched following their impressive performance in the open 400.
Although the record-setting duo from USC turned pro after an amazing 2018 season that saw Norman win the Bowerman Award as the nation's best collegiate male track and field athlete, they remain roommates and continue to train together at USC.
Norman said he has one more week of school before completing his degree in communications -- a year early.
"I'm looking forward to going back to practice on Monday and just really perfecting my craft," Norman said.
Norman led Vista Murrieta to consecutive CIF State boys team titles, winning individual state titles in both the 200 and 400 during the 2015 and 2016 season. Last year at USC, among his accomplishments, Norman set the Indoor 400 world record, and won both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor 400 and 4x400 titles, with Benjamin on those relays.
When asked for his memories of Mt. SAC, Norman immediately rewinds to the beginning.
"We got last in the 4x4 my freshman year," he said. "I remember that vividly."
Michael Norman signed autographs, posed for pictures and visited with fans long after his race at the Mt. SAC Relays on Saturday at El Camino College. (Jeffrey Parenti photo)