Team USA Claims Golden Baton at IAAF World Relays
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Team USA was awarded the Golden Baton after winning four of six relays -- and five overall -- at the IAAF World Relays.
The USA's total of 60 points included five victories, including the men's 4x400m and the women's 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m and 4x800m. USA picked up additional points in the men's 4x800m and 4x1500m and the women's 4x1500m. Both 4x1500m finishes were second places and national records.
The Golden Baton is awarded to the best overall team across all ten finals, with eight points scored for first, seven for second, and so on down to one point for eighth.
In tonight’s competition, Team USA captured gold in the both 4x400s, the women’s 4x800 and the women’s 4x200 which saw a group of newcomers tow the line for the red, white and blue. American records were set in the men’s 4x1500 and the women’s 4x800 indicative of Team USA’s broadening strength in the middle distances.
Team USA continued its dominance in the women’s 4x400 meter relays as they ran a world-leading 3:21.69 capturing gold. Dee Dee Trotter’s (Knoxville, Tennessee) solid opening leg to give Team USA a 5-meter lead at the exchange (50.7) which saw Sanya Richards-Ross (Austin, Texas) run a solid 50.4 in a battle with Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills, who split 49.7. Richards-Ross and Mills were even at the handoff to Hastings. Natasha Hastings (Round Rock, Texas) re-established the lead rounding the track in 50.0 before World Indoor 4x400 gold medalist Joanna Atkins (Clermont, Florida) blasted out to take a 20-meter lead and finished with a 50.7 carry to give Team USA their second gold of the Relays in a world-leading 3:21.69.
Team USA’s 4x1500 meter men’s relay broke an American record that was set before any of this team’s runners were born, crossing the line in 14.40.80 to knock almost six seconds off the previous record from 1979.
Pat Casey (Eugene, Oregon) stayed with the lead pack through the first 1500, surging at the exchange to David Torrence (Oakland, California) to give the USA a slight edge with his 3:38.2 split. Torrence ran strategically, tucking behind Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat, and he maintained his position until the final 100 meters, where sub-3:30 man Kiplagat strided away to split 3:32.4.
Torrence had the fastest split of the day for Team USA at 3:36.6, handing off to team captain Will Leer (Torrence, California) with a five-second gap behind the leader. Leer stayed steadily in position to run 3:39.3 as the Kenyans continued to attack the World Record, handing over to Leo Manzano (Austin, Texas) with a deficit of just under five seconds. On the final leg, Kenya’s reigning World 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop assured a World Record with his 3:32.4, but Manzano ran a gutty anchor to hold off a fast-closing Ethiopian squad and secure silver for Team USA with his 3:46.7 split.
Upsetting the heavily favored Kenyan quartet, Team USA set an American Record in the women’s 4x800 final with a stunning 8:01.58 that gave the team gold. Running from the front as usual, World Indoor 800 meter champion Chanelle Price (Knoxville, Tennessee) handed off to Geena Lara (Corvallis, Oregon) with a solid margin over the pack as she split 2:01.0.
Lara clocked 2:02.7 and kept a lead, but at the exchange with Ajee’ Wilson (Neptune, New Jersey) the gap was very small. Wilson ran a masterful leg of 1:59.1 and pulled away over the final 100 meters to give Team USA a two-second lead as she gave the baton to World outdoor bronze medalist Brenda Martinez (Rancho Cucamonga, California). Martinez was never challenged as she raced to a 1:58.7 to win by almost three seconds and take down the previous AR of 8:04.31, set last year at the Penn Relays by a team that included Wilson and Martinez.
David Verburg (Gainesville, Florida), a gold medalist in the 4x400 at the World Outdoor and World Indoor championships, opened with a confident first leg in 44.7, just off his open personal best, and handed off in second behind Trinidad’s Olympic bronze medalist, Lalonde Gordon.
World Outdoor 400-meter silver medalist Tony McQuay (Gainesville, Florida) kept the squad in the hunt with a 44.1 second leg before handing off to Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor (Loughborough, England), who split 44.7.
Taking the baton in third place, World 400-meter champion LaShawn Merritt (Bradenton, Fla.) patiently waited to make his move in the final 150, passing Michael Mathieu of the Bahamas over the last 50 to split 43.8 and stop the clock at 2:57.25, the fastest time in the world this year.
Team USA won gold with the fifth-fastest time ever in the womens 4x200 at 1:29.45, beating a surprising British team that set a national record of 1:29.61 for silver. Shalonda Solomon (Inglewood, California) and Tawanna Meadows (Dallas, Texas) ran well on the first two legs to keep the foursome in contention, and then Bianca Knight showed some of the form that helped set the 4x100 World Record in 2012, with a storming third carry that set up Kimberlyn Duncan (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) with an almost insurmountable lead. Duncan, a 2013 World Outdoor 200 semifinalist and three-time NCAA 200m champion for LSU, was steady at the front to hold off the British anchor.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good a night in the men’s 4x100 for Team USA as it didn’t make it out of the rounds after the second exchange between Trell Kimmons (Jackson, Mississippi) and Mookie Salaam (Tuscaloosa, Alabama) went awry.
Many of the stars competing at the inaugural IAAF World Relays can be seen next weekend at the Nike Prefontaine Classic, May 30-31 at Hayward Field. USATF.tv will air Friday evening’s events live beginning at 11:15 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Network will air Saturday’s events from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET before NBC picks up the telecast from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.
Glen McMicken contributed to this story