Relays are an integral part of the “track” culture in the United States. So much so, that in the 2004 indoor world ranking lists for the women’s 4x400 metres coming into these championships, the top 10 performances all stood to American colleges.
Yet the United States national team suffered the indignity of not only losing their semi-final at the 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships here in the Budapest SportArena, they failed to even qualify for tonight’s final.
With the US squad shorn of some key team members because of next weekend’s collegiate championships, the routine process of qualifying from the second semi-final was given to the quartet of Ellannee Richardson, Virginia Miller, Natasha Hastings and Moushaumi Robinson.
With Russia (3:31.25) and Belarus (3:31.27) having cruised through in the two automatic slots from the first semi, in the next race, all seemed to be going according to plan for the Americans, as they followed the Polish team around the first two legs, with the British trying to gamely hang on and Romania, after an indifferent first leg, well back off the pace.
But on the final stage, Ionela Tirlea pulled the Romanians through from fourth to first with a magnificent effort to just pip the Poles on the line both teams setting national records (3:32.44 and 3:32.45), as Robinson failed to keep pace. And worse, down the home straight, Britain’s Jenny Meadows rallied to claim third position.
The two fastest loser positions for the final went to Jamaica and Greece, both from the first semi.