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Philadelphia, USA - Allyson Felix has yet to make her season debut in an individual race but the three-time World 200m champion who lost that title last summer in Daegu was in peak form for baton duty in the 118th Penn Relays at Franklin Field on Saturday (28).
Felix ran on meet-record setting 4x100m and 4x400m Relays to help the United States to a sweep of all six races in the USA vs the World competition.
Felix ran the second leg of the USA Red women’s 4x100m Relay of Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter that ran a world-leading 42.19. That time broke the mark of 42.28 set last year on team that Felix and Jeter were members of.
In the 4x400m Relay, Felix ran a 50.1 second leg on the USA Red team of Francena McCorory (51.3), Natasha Hastings (50.3) and Sanya Richards-Ross, winning in 3:21.18, another world-leading time. Richards-Ross closed with a 49.5 anchor leg to eclipse the mark of 3:22.16 by a US team that included Felix, Hastings and Richards-Ross at the 2008 Penn Relays.
"I definitely felt very strong on the 4x100m and I feel that my 400m will come around," said Felix, who will run in her first open race in the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Doha on 11 May.
"I don’t think my splits said that much about where I am at. I know it’s the beginning of the year and I have a lot of work to do but it’s good to get my legs going and get the chemistry with the girls."
A crowd of 49,810 attended Saturday’s competition on a windy and mostly overcast afternoon and 112,416 for the three-day meeting. Felix’s performances helped dampen the enthusiasm of a throng of yellow, green and black-clad supporters that included Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
"The crowd is amazing and it just pumps you up," Felix said. "You want to perform well. You want to give everyone a hug for cheering for you."
The US men also won both the 4x100m and 4x400m Relays. The American men were anchored in the short relay by Walter Dix, running 38.40. Hurdles specialist Bershawn Jackson turned in a 44.2 leg for the US men in a 3:00.19 win in the 4x400m Relay.
The US women also won the sprint medley relay in 3:42.85 to break a four-year Jamaican win streak. The American men won the distance medley relay in 9:19.31 as part of a 1-2 US sweep to win the event for the first time.
Fast debut for US women 4x100m Relay
It was the first race together for Madison, Felix, Knight and Jeter in the 4x100m Relay after practicing briefly on Friday, where Jeter and Knight only did two handoff exchanges. The Americans finished more than a second ahead of a Jamaican squad of Sherone Simpson, Kerron Stewart, Aleen Bailey and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce that ran 43.31.
"We had great chemistry," Jeter said. "I believe everybody trusted each one to run their leg and I think that’s all you can do when you’re running a relay – just do your job and hope that the next athlete definitely does theirs."
The women’s 4x400m Relay turned into a time trial with the US winning ahead of a Jamaican squad of Shericka Williams, Novlene Williams-Mills, Sophia Smellie and Kaliese Spencer, who finished more than five seconds back in 3:26.55.
Richards-Ross, though, cautioned about overconfidence in the London Olympics.
"I definitely don’t think Jamaica’s defeated," Richards-Ross said. "To be honest, I don’t think Jamaica brought their best teams today. I think they came out and worked on what they wanted to work on, and they’ll definitely come strong in London."
An American team of Dee Dee Trotter, Jessica Beard, Moushami Robinson and Monica Hargrove was third in 3:27.08. Great Britain’s World Indoor Championship line-up of Nicola Sanders, Christine Ohuruogu, Shana Cox and Perri-Shakes Drayton placed fourth in 3:28.71.
Depth for US in 4x100m Relay
The US had the two fastest times in the 4x100m Relays of 38.40 and 38.47 in separate heats.
With Asafa Powell watching on the infield in street clothes, a team of Michael Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Darvis Patton and Walter Dix defeated a Jamaican squad of Nesta Carter, Marvin Anderson, Lerone Clarke and Oshane Bailey, 38.40 to 38.98. The US pulled away on a strong second leg by 2012 World Indoor 60m gold medallist Gatlin.
In the first heat, a US squad of Ivory Williams, Shawn Crawford, Trell Kimmons and Ryan Bailey ran to an unchallenged win in 38.47. Dix was unfazed by the depth of the US squads.
"You have to understand with team USA we have about 10 guys that can run under 10 seconds so when you’re dealing with that you can throw the A or B team in there and still win the race," Dix said.
The US had more of a challenge in the 4x400m Relay with LaShawn Merritt overtaking Chris Brown of the Bahamas with a 44.7 anchor for a 3:00.15 to 3:00.56 victory, setting a world-leading time. The American team comprised of Calvin Smith, Angelo Taylor, Jackson and Merritt. The Bahamas finished comfortably ahead of third-place finishers Jamaica (3:03.28).
Breakthrough wins in distance medley and women’s sprint medley relays
The US ended a winless drought in the Distance Medley Relay with a 1-2 finish. Leonel Manzano overtook Bernard Lagat on the 1600m anchor leg with a 3:54.9 split to give the Blue team a 9:19.31 to 9:19.88 victory over the Red.
The Blue team included Tyler Mulder (1200m), David Neville (400m), Khadevis Robinson (800m) and Manzano. The Red line-up was Russell Brown, Michael Tinsley, Nick Symmonds and Lagat.
"You know Bernard is very notorious for being the best in the world," Manzano said. "Having that in my mind, I knew I was really going to have to bring my A game. I really didn’t know what to expect running against (Lagat). He’s a beast."
In the women’s Sprint Medley Relay, the Americans ended a four-year Jamaican reign with a team of Porscha Lucas (200m), Barbara Pierre (200m), Phoebe Wright (400m) and Maggie Vessey (800m).
Jamaica led heading into the 800m anchor, but a 56-second first lap by Korene Hinds caught up with the steeplechaser on the final backstretch as she was passed by Vessey and Briton Marilyn Okoro.
Vessey outdueled Okoro on the homestretch for a 3:42.85 to 3:43.72 win. The British line-up was Cox, Ohuruogu, Shakes-Drayton and Okoro.
Kesselring and Cabral named college relay athletes of the meet
University of Oregon student Anne Kesselring (GER) and Princeton’s Donn Cabral were selected as the college relay athletes of the meet after helping their teams to two Championship of America victories each.
Kesselring ran the third leg on Oregon’s 4x1500m Relay and anchored the Oregon Ducks’ 4x800m Relay. Cabral anchored Princeton’s Distance Medley and 4xMile Relays.
Pole Vault winners Marvin Reitz of South Carolina and Tina Sutej (SLO) of Arkansas (SLO) were named the college athletes of the meet for individual events. Reitz, a last year student, cleared a championship record 5.51m. Sutej won her third consecutive Penn Relays title with a clearance of 4.35m.
Edward Cheserek (KEN) – who ran a 4:02 1600m anchor on the St Benedict’s Prep (NJ) Distance Medley Relay team victory – was chosen as the high school boys athlete of the meet for relay events.
Long Beach Poly (Calif.) high schooler Ariana Washington was the girls relay athlete of the meet. Washington anchored the Poly 4x100m Relay team to a victory to help Poly become the first US school to repeat as champion. Washington also placed third in the Long Jump as the top American finisher.
Sam Mattis of East Brunswick, New Jersey, who won the Discus with a nation-leading mark of 64.60m – the No. 2 mark in meet history – was named the high school athlete of the meet for individual events.
Mary Cain of Bronxville (NY) earned the girls award after winning the Mile in a meet and national sophomore record 4:39.28 with a 62.5 final 400m.