Texas A&M’s Infinite Tucker and Robert Grant have spent the last week discovering firsthand the good and bad of what it’s like being the stars of a video that goes viral.
Tucker edged Grant with a “Superman” dive at the finish line of the 400-meter hurdles to put the junior from Huntington, New York, on the winner’s stand at the Southeastern Conference outdoor track and field meet last week in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Winning the title after placing second last year would have been more than enough for Tucker. But video of the finish has been played over and over worldwide this week — more than 15 million times from Korea to Turkey to Great Britain, according to the A&M track & field department.
“It’s been overwhelming, definitely very shocking,” Tucker said. “I’ve seen a bunch of memes, and they are honestly very funny, and I’m happy to say I’m part of the few that get turned into a meme. We got a couple of celebrities to retweet the full video, but of course they didn’t tag any of us — some celebrities like Johnny Knoxville, Wale a famous rapper. There were other celebrities, but their names aren’t the same as their tag names on Instagram.”
Grant also took a tumble after the finish line. He went back to see how his teammate was doing not knowing who had won. Tucker flew across the line at 49.38 seconds, a top 10 time in the world this season, and Grant placed second at 49.47.
Grant knew the race’s ending was unordinary but had no idea of its entertainment value.
“I walked back into the tent after the race, because I had to get ready for the 4x400, and Grant Holliday, who is a Florida hurdler, and if anyone has ever heard of him he’s a generational guy in the sport, comes up to me and he goes that is going to go crazy,” Grant said. “I was laughing and said, yeah, maybe FloTrack will pick it up or something like that for a funny video. When we get done with the 4x4 and I turned my phone on, I felt like a super model who had just posted a picture or something because it was everywhere.”
Since the initial reaction, the two Aggies also have experienced the less glamorous side of social media and have had to learn how to handle it.
“It’s frustrating to read some of the comments, especially from people that don’t know you, things like I didn’t want it as much, comments that said that because I didn’t dive I didn’t want to win,” said Grant, who has run less than handful of 400 hurdle races this year because of a foot injury. “Everyone took a side that Infinite is a cheater and some people said, and this made me mad too, was it was almost like a bad teammate thing that he did and that we were both going to get 1-2 and why did he do that to his teammate.”
With the NCAA Outdoor Championships less than a month away, some also have wondered if Tucker injured himself with the finish-line dive.
“Everyone thought I scraped my face or I got a track burn, but I got none of that,” Tucker said. “The only thing that got bruised were my kneecaps landing.”
Tucker isn’t likely to dive again. His coaches have explained to him the logistics of running through the finish line in comparison to diving, and though he has had an impulse to dive in the past, he says he understands it actually slows him down a fraction of a second.
“They have done lots of studies on it,” said assistant track coach Vince Anderson, who has trained hurdlers and women sprinters for 13 years at A&M. “I like to use the word propulsion. When you are running, with each ground contact you are propelling yourself forward, so obviously there is an initial propulsion when you jump [dive], but that very quickly starts to degrade, and you go slower and slower and slower because you are not repropelling. When you jump or slide or something like that, you are literally dying out compared to continuing to run.”
Tucker said he once finished a hurdle race in high school by diving at the line and thought back to that with Grant so close at his side. But after watching video of the finish, Tucker believes he didn’t have to dive to win.
“I actually thought in looking at it live he was tipped over already, past the point of correcting himself, and he just went with it, which is fine because he got it done, and in sports that’s all that matters is to get it done,” Anderson said. “It was preservation at that point. He didn’t advance his cause. He was able to just barely hang on because of that.”
Grant, a senior, was involved in another incident during the SEC meet that arguably was more amazing than Tucker’s dive. In the 4x400 relay, an Arkansas runner knocked the baton out of a Kentucky runner’s hand. The baton bounced off the track, and Grant caught it, then threw it to the side immediately. The Aggies went on to win the race.
“I think Tucker was kind of losing his balance a little bit, and that added to that, but boy, he stretched out and looked like a swimmer,” said A&M track and field coach Pat Henry, who has led the Aggies to nine national championships. “There were really some other things in the meet that were a little different that if they had the opportunity to look at it, then people would go I can’t believe that happened. For some reason or another that dive made a good picture.”
NOTES — The race for third behind Tucker and Grant in the 400 hurdles proved tighter than the Aggies’ battle for first. Mississippi State’s Rasheed Tatham beat out Florida’s Cory Poole by 0.02 seconds. ... A&M had four runners finish in the top seven of the 400 hurdles. Senior Ilolo Izu placed sixth and junior DeWitt Thomas seventh.