The first command echoes through the stadium, “Runners to your marks.”With a silent swagger, he adjusts the starting blocks and takes a deep breath.
The second command rings out, “Set.”
Tensed in the afternoon sun, he knows a fraction of a second is all that it takes for the race to begin, and in a sprint, a fraction of a second is all it takes for the race to be lost.
The gun fires, and the runners begin a mad dash for the finish line. In a quarter-mile race, 49 seconds is an eternity, but 45 seconds is a blur.
Freshman sprinter Dell Guy has emerged as a dominant force in the 400-meter races for the Flyin’ Frogs. After last season’s All-American sprinter Che Chavez was sidelined with a medical red-shirt through part of the season, Guy had to fill in as the anchor runner for the 1,600-meter- (4×400-meter-) relay team.
During the first annual Horned Frogs Invitational in March, Guy posted a time of 47.04 seconds in the 400 race en route to an NCAA Regional-qualifying mark. During the final event of that afternoon, Guy anchored the relay team that came from behind to beat the New Era Track Club by two seconds.
“He has been a great asset to the team in both the 400-meters and the leader 4×400 relay with the injuries to Che, who is our returning All-American,” said fellow teammate and sprinter Delwayne Delaney.
Guy is a stark contrast to Chavez at first glance. After all, Che stands at 6 feet 3 inches tall with galloping strides, and Dell is a 5-foot-7-inch spark plug with nothing more than heart and passion pushing him around the auburn oval. But the times on the clock show the freshman is able to live up to his junior counterpart.
Delaney, a senior, has been watching Guy develop this season.
“I am really impressed and did not expect this much out of him so early,” Delaney said. “I know I could seed the potential, but being this good so early has been a real plus and has surprised me.”
During training, head coach Darryl Anderson has worked to transform Guy from a 100- and 200-meter sprinter to a quarter-miler.
“He had always trained like a short sprinter, and now we started training him as a quarter-miler, and he has made the adjustment and is starting to get comfortable,” Anderson said. “I think it’s going to come together here in the next three to four weeks.”
Though Guy holds the Nevada state record in the 400 with a time of 47.52 seconds and a personal record of 46.6 seconds, he said there has been room for improvement since he came onto the college scene.
“I have had to make total adjustments, and everything had to change,” Guy said. “I had to change my technique first, them my racing style and now I’m learning how to win.”
With the TCU Invitational and Penn Relays due in the next two weeks, Anderson’s projection of Guy’s performance “coming together” will be put to the test.
“I don’t think he’s gotten close to hitting his stride and competing yet,” Anderson said. “He’s still figuring out how this thing works.”
After changing his training style, Guy is now working at setting a new personal best in the 400.
“I want to run a 45 (seconds),” Guy said.
So far in the outdoor season, he has run a time of 45.8 seconds in a leg of a relay, but he has yet to be clocked in an official open race.
MOUTH OF THE TEAMSTER
During the races, Guy’s focus is on catching the man in front of him, passing him and then leaving him behind. After the races, however, he has become quite the talker off the track. As one of the top runners, leadership responsibilities have not bothered the rookie sprinter.
“I don’t like to burden a freshman with that” Anderson said. “He’s natural with trying to help people and lead, and he talks 100 miles per hour, (so) getting him to be quiet some days is interesting.”
Guy sees his motormouth ways as just part of his personality and a method of motivation for the Flyin’ Frogs.
“I like to talk,” Guy said. “I love to talk; it’s a motivator. It gets the rest of the team pumped up, makes us want to race and makes us want to win.”
While motivating the team, his antics also can reduce some of the tension that comes during the season.
“He’s a real funny guy and a good entertainer,” Delaney said, “You always get laughs when you are around him, and he is a great teammate.”
ON WINGS OF ANGELS
Painting Guy’s rib-cage like a canvas is a tattoo of angel wings.
“I got them to remind myself that I can do it, and it means something,” Guy said. “It means I’m going to be something.”
The Mountain West Conference Championships and the hallowed Penn Relays are on the horizon, and Guy has a chance to prove to that he is somebody before a national audience.