Two years ago, six North Carolina Central track and field performers, dubbed the "Super Six-Pack," tore up the collegiate track scene. The tiny contingent, led by 1972 Olympians Larry Black, Julius Sang and Robert Ouko, almost pulled off the impossible before finishing fourth overall in the 1975 NCAA championships.
Howard University doesn't have quite the strength to create the waves in the world of track that NCC did. But junior sprinter Richard Massey, one of the fastest quarter-milers in the nation, has the Bison revved up enough to make more than ripples.
Massey, from DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City, along with senior Gosnell White from Charlotte, N.C., sophomore Reggie Sojourner and junior Michael Archie, both out of McKinley, recorded an area-best mile-relay time of 3:07.8 earlier this year in the Texas Relays. That fine effort earned them a fourth behind, Texas, Texas Southern and Arizona State.
Arizona State, led off by former Ballou star Clifton McKenzie and anchored by Olympian Herman Frazier, chalked up a sizzling 3:02.8, just fourtenths of a second off the U.S. mark.
We're shooting for a 3:02 by June 4 (date of the NCAA nationals) said Howard track coach Bill Moultrie. "We are a specialty team just like NCC was. We just go with our strengths. That's the mile relay."
After posting a 3:05.8 last year in the NCAA outdoor finals, Moultrie, with his three fastest quarter-milers returning, couldn't wait until this year.
"We ran 3:05 and finished eighth," laughed Moultrie. "But that's what its all about. That is the world series of track.
This season, the Bison added freshmen Haywood Johnson from Bladensburg, and the foursome coasted to a 3:15.5, fifth best in the nation. But just when everything seemed to be jilling, Johnson suddenly joined the Air Force.
"Last week, his parents called and told me they had bad news," recalled Moultrie, who was assistant track and football coach at Stanford for five years before joining the Howard staff. "It was like a funeral. Fortunately, I knew we had Archie and several outstanding sprinters. Carl Butler, Herman Belcher and Zach Jones.
Friday, Moultrie will take his world-class mile-relay and sprint-medley (first in the Florida relay in 3:19.6) team, along with the 440 and 880 units to the annual top track earnival - the Penn relays.
"After the indoor season, we prepour teams for the Penn relays," continued Moultrie. "After that, we keep maybe six or seven guys in training camp for the nationals."
With Archie anchoring the sprint-medley team, Moultrie will insert Butler, a freshman, on the mile unit.
The replacements have not seemed to hurt Bison performances but both White and Sojourner would be happier if their quartet was set.
"It has to be a unit, a togetherness like Arizona State has," said Sojourner, who had offers from Arizona State while in high school. "That new man feels mare pressure than we do. It's hard to judge just how his going to perform.
"We just have to adjust," said White, who is elated to run in four races at Penn. "But if everybody, no matter who it is, runs of his potential "we'll do all right."
The one runner who has been consistent is the versatile Massey.
During the past indoor season, Massey recorded a 56.6 in the 500, fourth best in the nation. Outdoors, he has run 10.3 in the 100 meters, 20.8 in the 200 and 46.4 in the 400. His best split time in the mile relay was a 44.8 in the Texas Relays.
"I don't worry much about times, just good performances," said the soft-spoken communications major. "Right now, I'm aiming to break 45 flat in the 400. We'd like to win at Penn, but we're not just gearing up for Arizona State," he continued."They've already gone, what, 3:02.7 this year? We might have to go 3:02 to win."
Massey qualified for the 1976 Olympic trials but did not go because of other commitments. But the 6-foot-3 sprinter will definitely take a shot at the 1980 Olympics.
"I'm not interested in running in any professional track after college," said the confident Massey. "The last race I'll run will be in the 400-meter final eight in the 1980 Olympics."