Amid the hype surrounding the 2014 Ohio State football Spring Game, the fastest student race stole the show at Ohio Stadium.
Wrapping up a competition that started March 26 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, five students got a chance to showcase their talent against members of the Buckeye football team in front of the 61,058 fans in attendance to see Urban Meyer’s squad in action for the first time since last fall.
Student participants Malcolm Branson, Jacob Gifford, Collin Foltz, Mesiah Smith and Ben Hittner took their places against senior cornerback Doran Grant, redshirt-freshman wide receiver James Clark, sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson, sophomore punter Cameron Johnston and freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger.
Branson, a fourth-year in criminology, said he and the other student contestants had a chance to get to know each other before competing.
“We all hung out together before the race,” Branson said. “We had a good time.”
After the first heat, it appeared as though Branson pulled away from the pack of students and players and was victorious, however the race was declared a tie between Branson and Grant. An ensuing “run-off” was announced.
Grant was victorious in the “run-off,” and celebrated by performing a backflip near midfield after the race.
“Me and James Clark were talking trash beforehand so I had to make sure I beat him. And then the student, he said he got me on the first one so we had the run-off to seal the deal,” Grant said after the Spring Game. “It was very fun, the whole team was around, the whole stadium was watching to see who is the fastest man on campus.”
Meyer mentioned time and again during spring practice how he wants the OSU student body to “have ownership” of his program and get involved, attempting to do so with the fastest student competition and Student Appreciation Day April 5.
“Well, I get a little upset … sometimes. Take away the students and I don’t have a job … our president doesn’t have a job,” Meyer said in an interview with The Lantern March 24. “All our focus around boosters and whomever, and I get that. But I’m never gonna, I want students on our side.”
Meyer went on to joke that if a player did line up and beat speedsters in Wilson and others, the player would lose their scholarship. But even though it appeared that did happen Saturday, Branson, a graduate of Perry High School in Massillon, Ohio, and a former track runner, said after he wasn’t sure if he won the first race or not.
“Initially, I didn’t know,” Branson said. “The video looked like I had it, but they said it was a tie.”
Grant said Branson might have been the winner in the first heat.
“He probably did, because I eased up (at the end),” Grant said.
No matter the outcome, Branson said the event was worth it.
“I enjoyed the experience, it was very fun,” Branson said. “I’m a little bit upset that I didn’t come up with the second win but it is what it is.”
Branson said some of the OSU football players congratulated him after the race.
“They told me, ‘I had the burners,’” Branson said.
The race was aired live on the Big Ten Network as well as the game in which the Gray defeated the Scarlet, 17-7.