Philadelphia, USAAt least for one afternoon, the United States is once again the global sprint power.
USA teams swept the men’s and women’s 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m Relays in the featured USA vs. The World competition in the 115th Penn Relays before a crowd of 47,904 at Franklin Field on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday (25 April).
The six race session was highlighted by a women’s Sprint Medley Relay world best of 3:34.54 by Jamaican team of Sheri-Ann Brooks (200m), Rosemarie Whyte (200m), Moya Thompson (400m) and Kenia Sinclair (1:57.43).
Redemption for Beijing failures in the 4 x 100m Relay
The victories in the men’s and women’s 4 x 100m Relays on a warm afternoon went a long ways toward erasing the U.S. disappointment of the Beijing Olympics where both teams dropped the baton in the preliminaries.
In the men’s 4 x 100m, the USA notched a 1-2 finish with a Blue team of Walter Dix, Travis Padgett, Shawn Crawford and Darvis Patton beating a Red team of Terrence Trammell, Mark Jelks, Ivory Williams and Mike Rodgers, 37.92 to 38.36 sec; Patton gestured to the USA letters across the chest with his right hand after crossing the line.
It was the first sub-38 clocking in the 4 x 100m at the Penn Relays and Franklin Field. Patton said he was optimistic about the possibility of a meet record after a productive handoff practice on Friday.
“I think it was a confidence booster going into today,” Patton said. “We knew if we duplicated what we did yesterday, we would have a pretty good time.”
Dix believes the USA can go much faster by the World Championships in Berlin in August. “For meeting up one day before coming out and practicing, the chemistry is as good as it’s going to get,” Dix said. “Regarding the (meet) record, with those guys, nobody’s in peak performance yet and that says something.”
Trinidad & Tobago, anchored by 2008 Olympic silver 100m medallist Richard Thompson, was third at 38.37.
Powell runs injured
A Jamaica team featuring three of its four runners from its World record setting quartet from Beijing finished ninth in 41.24 after former 100m World record holder Asafa Powell slowed midway down the homestretch running gingerly on his left leg. Powell is carrying an ankle injury.
“We’re the U.S. We’re on U.S. turf so I felt like its war,” Crawford said. “We can’t let anybody else come in here and take this victory from us. Nothing against anybody else but this is our land and we’ve got to defend it.”
USA women top Jamaicans in 4 x 100m
The USA women’s squad held its ground against Jamaica in the 4 x 100m Relay. A Red team of Lauryn Williams, Allyson Felix, Mechelle Lewis and Carmelita Jeter won in 42.40.
Jeter, the current world yearly leader in the 100m and 200m powered away from Jamaica’s 2008 Olympic 100m champion Shelly Ann-Fraser on the anchor leg and clenched her right fist as she crossed the finish line and continued around the bend in celebration.
Jamaica finished second in 42.77 with a team of Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Sheri-Ann Brooks, Kerron Stewart and Fraser.
For Williams, the triumph provided comfort from the U.S. women’s miscue in Beijing. Williams said that she had received a barrage of bitter and obscenity-filled emails following the Olympics via the contact link on her personal web site.
“I came out here to accomplish a mission… I love my home turf on American soil,” Williams said. “There was definitely a chip on my shoulder that said we got to come out here and we got to represent…. It was a different, sort of anxiety or pressure or something that I was adding to myself today.”
Jamaica’s Fraser wasn’t disappointed about Saturday’s setback against the Americans. Fraser ran the anchor in place of her normal position on the first leg, and said the squad’s run was not a representation of her country’s talent.
“You win some and you lose some,” said Fraser, who indicated that she has been slowed because of “medical issues” for the past three to four weeks. “USA was the best on the day. I’m used to coming in second, third and also winning, so it just shows me I need to go back to the drawing board.”
USA victories in the 4 x 400m
Not even a lost spike by Natasha Hastings in the women’s 4 x 400m could stop the U.S. women. A Red team of Monica Hargrove, Hastings, Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards powered to victory in 3:23.08 with Hastings running the entire second leg with one shoe.
On the first exchange, Hargrove stepped on the toe of Hasting’s left foot. Hastings reacted by leaping as her spike was ripped off her foot. She continued running with her foot bleeding and maintained the USA’s lead before handing off to Felix, who put the race away with a 49.64 split.
“I was so caught up with not having my shoe. Everything happened so fast,” Hastings said. “In this atmosphere when it came off, I didn’t think about stopping.”
A Jamaica team of Nickiesha Wilson, Whyte, Novelene Williams-Mills and Sherika Williams was second in 3:24.57. A USA Blue team of Dominique Darden, Shana Cox, Sheena Tosta and Monique Hennagan was third in 3:26.50.
In the men’s 4 x 400m, a U.S. Red team of Kerron Clement, Angelo Taylor, David Neville and LaShawn Merritt coasted to 2:59.78 to 3:00.29 win over a team from the Bahamas team of Andrea Williams, Michael Mathieur, Nathaniel McKinney and Christopher Brown.
Merritt ran 44.26 on the anchor, pulling away around the final curve after Brown of the Bahamas made a brief challenge. The Beijing Olympic 400m champion said he wanted to test his fitness to run conservatively for the first 300m and then finish as strongly as he could.
“I knew Chris was right behind me so I played it smart and made him run out of gas,” Merritt said. “I went through and made him get right up on me and then I had a kick so I played it smart.’’
World best for Jamaica in the Women’s Sprint Medley Relay
Jamaica claimed a World best from the U.S. in the women’s Sprint Medley Relay, timing 3:34.54 to crush the mark of 3:37.16 set in the 2006 Penn Relays.
Kenia Sinclair out-duelled Hazel Clark of the U.S. on the 800m anchor, pulling away with a 1:57.43 split. Russia finished second in 3:37.37 with a Maria Savinova (1:58.03) on the final leg.
A USA team of Rachelle Smith, Ebonie Floyd, Debbie Dunn and Clark was third in 3:38.36.
Smith and Clark were members of the U.S. Sprint Medley Relay record-setting team at Penn in 2006. Sinclair said Jamaica’s sprint success in the 2008 Olympics only intensified Saturday’s race.
“The Penn Relays was more like a rival Jamaica vs. USA rather than USA vs. the World,” Sinclair said.
Close finish in the Distance Medley Relay
In the Distance Medley Relay in the opening event of the USA vs. The World, Kenya’s Josephat Kithii caught Canada’s Nate Brannen at the line for a 9:22.04 to 9:22.05 win with a 3:52.79 split on the 1,600m anchor.
The Kenya team featured Frederick Ndunge, Thomas Musembi, Jackson Kivuna and Kithii. The Canada quartet was comprised of Matthew Lincoln, Christopher, Gary Reed and Brannen.
Brannen, who timed 3:54.34 on his leg, was injured for the indoor season and had only six weeks of training coming into Penn. A USA team of Christian Smith, Kelly Willie, Matte Scherer and Lopez Lomong was third at 9:23.65.
American record for Tennessee in Women’s 4 x 800m Relay
The University of Tennessee set an American and collegiate women’s 4 x 800m Relay record of 8:17.91 with a team of Kimarra McDonald (2:0.14), Chanelle Price (2:02.45), Sarah Bowman (2:03.70) and Phoebe Wright (2:02.62). The time eclipsed the previous college and American standard of 8:18.78 set by Michigan in the 2007 Penn Relays.
It was the third relay victory for Tennessee, which also set a World best to win the 4 x 1,500m Relay on Friday (24) and the Distance Medley Relay on Thursday (23). Tennessee is the first school to win all three races in the same year since North Carolina in 2003.
Bowman was chosen as the College Women’s Athlete of the Meet for Relays. She ran on all three of the Volunteers relays, including a 4:10.2 split in the 4 x 1500m for the No. 2 time in meet history.
Rachel Laurent and Jeremy Hicks were named the College Women’s and Men’s Athletes of the Meet for Individual Events. Laurent won the Women’s Pole Vault in a meet-record 4.23m. Hicks won the men’s Long Jump at 8.00m in the sixth round to move into No. 7 on the all-time Penn Relays list.
Australian Matthew Gibney of Villanova was named the College Men’s Athlete of the Meet for Relays after anchoring the Wildcats’ Distance Medley Relay to victory with a 1,600m anchor split of 3:58.4.
National High School 4 x 800m record
The Albemarle (Va.) 4 x 800m Relay team of Garrett Bradley, Zach Vrhovac, Luke Noble and Anthony Kostelac set a national U.S. and Penn Relays record of 7:30.67.
The time was more than two seconds faster than the 2002 U.S. standard of 7:32.80 held by Auburn (Wa.) and five seconds faster than the 1990 meet record of 7:35.89 by St. Jago (JAM). It was the first national USA record in the 4 x 800m Relay at Penn since 1921.
Kostelac was named the High School Boys’ Athlete of the Meet for Relay Events after running 1:49.3 on the anchor for the No. 3 time in meet history.
Sisters Ristananna and Nikita Tracey of Edwin Allen were named the High School Girls’ Athletes of the Meet in Relay Events and Individual Events, respectively.
Ristanannna ran times of 54.1 and 2:07.9 to anchor Edwin Allen’s victorious 4 x 400m and 4 x 800m Relays. Nikita won the 400m Hurdles in 57.44 -- No. 2 mark in meet history and faster than the collegiate champion.
Sophomore Nick Vena of Morristown (NJ) was the High School Boys’ Athlete of the Meet for Field Events. Vena defended his title in the Shot Put with a meet record 22.01m to surpass the 1985 mark by 1.51m and become the first 10th grader to throw over 70 feet.
Kirby Lee for the IAAF
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