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LONDON (Aug. 15, 2012) – Former Rend Lake College runner Ryan Bailey became the first Warrior to win an Olympic medal when he anchored the USA 4x100 relay team to silver, Saturday in London.
Bailey and relay teammates Trell Kimmons, Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin had to tie the world record to get silver. The team from Jamaica took gold with a new record of 36.84. Watch the relay race HERE.
The race aired in prime time Saturday night on NBC – hours after 80,000 afternoon spectators watched the finish from their seats at sold-out Olympic Stadium in London. A good start by Kimmons and quick split from Gatlin put team USA in the lead. In the third leg, Jamaica’s 100m silver medalist Yohan Blake gained ground on Gay.
Bailey grabbed the baton a split-second behind the Jamaican exchange from Blake to 100m world record holder Usain Bolt. And Bolt did what Bolt does best – break records and win gold medals.
It was day 15 of the London 2012 Olympic Games in England. Bailey had taken fifth place in the 100m dash just a week before. Watch the 100m race HERE. He tied his personal best of 9.88, finishing just behind Gay in fourth and bronze medalist Gatlin. Bolt’s gold-medal time of 9.63 in the 100m broke his 2008 Olympic record of 9.69. He holds the 100m world record of 9.58, which he set in 2009.
Bailey lobbied for the anchor position on the relay team, reports stated. After the race, he told Register Guard (Oreg.) reporter Curtis Anderson, “I was ready for the stick to get to me, and when it finally did, I was running for my life, trying to hold on as best I could.”
Running changed Kennith Ryan Bailey’s life long before London. He grew up in Salem, Oreg., and attended McKay High. He played football there and got a late start in track and field after catching the eye of the team’s coach. While at McKay; Bailey was repeatedly stabbed by a rival gang member, suspended from school, and battled stints of homelessness with his sick, single mother. Reports state they lived in her car from time to time, while his step-father served a prison sentence.
After winning Oregon state titles in the 100m and 200m, Bailey placed third in the 100m at the U.S. junior championships in 2008. He was unqualified for the NCAA and Oregon did not have a strong community college program for sprinters. Rend Lake was fresh off winning the indoor national title when former RLC Track and Field Coach Brent McLain was first introduced to the stout sprinter from Salem.
“I was at the Oregon Twilight with Boaz [Lalang],” said McLain. Lalang, who ran the 800m for Kenya in Beijing four years ago, is RLC’s only other Olympian. “Boaz ran the fastest collegiate time in the country and afterward Ryan’s coaches came up and introduced themselves. They wanted to know if we were interested in him.”
Bailey didn’t come to RLC right away. McLain said Bailey’s son was due to be born.
“I got a call from him around Christmas of 2008. He said it was time he started going to college. It was exciting. I mean, we were pretty blessed. The first track meet we took him to was in Indiana and Michigan’s defending Big 10 champ in the indoor 50 and outdoor 100 was there. Ryan beat him pretty bad. From then on, he beat everyone pretty bad.”
Bailey won national titles for Rend Lake in the indoor 55m and the outdoor 100m in 2009. He won the outdoor 100m in 10.07 seconds. Nike scouts were in the stands that day in Hutchinson, Kan., McLain said. They were there to check out the guy Bailey beat.
“They came up and asked us where we were going to eat after the meet,” McLain said.
Before the coffee cooled, Bailey had committed. He officially signed with Nike later that summer and by 2010 he had lowered his personal best in the 100m to 9.88 seconds. This past June, the 23-year-old secured his spot on the U.S. Olympic sprint team by finishing third behind Gatlin and Gay in the 100m at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“He came to us quickly and left pretty quickly,” McLain said. “That’s just the way it is.”
McLain said Gay’s coach sent a spread of workouts for Bailey and other RLC runners to try each week.
“Ryan trained hard,” said McLain. “He was very disciplined. You know, everybody’s talking about Gay and Gatlin now. But Ryan is young. He’ll be a headliner in ‘16 in Rio. He is going to be flirting with the record. He is going to be very good.”
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Bailey told Anderson. “I just have to learn how to run relaxed, worry about myself, and not focus on other people. Once I do that, I think things will be good.”