NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The U.S. women’s 4x100-meter relay, consisting of Olympians Tianna Bartoletta (Tampa, Florida), Alexandra Anderson (Clermont, Florida) and Jeneba Tarmoh (Los Angeles, California), and anchored by relative newcomer Lekeisha Lawson (West Covina, California), took home relay gold on the first day of the inaugural IAAF World Relays Saturday at Thomas A. Robinson Stadium.
In the last final of the evening, Bartoletta overcame a slower start to put the U.S. in good position, handing off to Anderson to stay neck-and-neck with the Jamaicans. Anderson and Tarmoh, who have handed off to each other before as members of the U.S. junior team in Beijing, executed a perfect baton exchange, widening the lead for the Americans. Tarmoh and Lawson had a textbook handoff as well, as Lawson was able to secure the victory for Team USA in 41.88, a new world-leading time.
The women’s 4x100m was equally impressive in the preliminary round, easily winning their heat in 42.29 to advance to the final. Jamaica ran the same time in their preliminary round, setting up an exciting final.
While Bartoletta, Anderson and Tarmoh have a wealth of experience on international teams, this was only Lawson’s second time wearing USA across her chest. Just 10 weeks ago, she joined Bartoletta in the women’s 60m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Poland. Lawson’s anchor performance in both the preliminaries and the finals in Nassau proved her position as a rising star for Team USA.
In the first final of the evening, Michael Rutt (Plainsboro, New Jersey) took the leadoff leg in the men’s 4x800-meter relay, handing off to Robby Andrews (Princeton, New Jersey) who made a move at the 1400m mark and made up ground against the Kenyans. The race was on for second with Kenya extending its lead in first and quickly widening the gap between second and third. Brandon Johnson’s (Big Bear, California) quick start caught up with him at the end of his second lap as he fell back to the middle of the second pack then handed off to veteran Duane Solomon (Los Angeles, California). Solomon bolted his way to second place much of the final lap. But with 200 meters to go, Poland’s Adam Kszczot went into a top gear and held him off at the line. Team USA finished third in 7:09.06 behind Kenya (7:08.40) and Poland (7:08.69)
Kenya’s women’s 4x1500-meter relay world record run of 16:33.58 was quite the display of dominance, but Team USA crushed the previous American record of 17:08.17 set by the University of Tennessee in 2000. Team USA’s Katie Mackey (Seattle, Washington) took a fall on the handoff from lead leg Heather Kampf (Minneapolis, Minnesota) and lost a few seconds for Team USA, but Kate Grace (Bend, Oregon) caught up to Australia’s Britney McGowan and extended the gap to 100 meters. Despite Brenda Martinez’s (Rancho Cucamonga, California) strong anchor leg for Team USA, Kenya’s lead extended to nearly 250 meters. In the end, Martinez held on for silver, crossing in 16:55.33.
In the women’s 4x400-meter relay, Team USA began with two Olympic gold medalists. Dee Dee Trotter (Los Angeles, California) led off and ran a solid 51 seconds to set up Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards Ross (Austin, Texas), competing in her first 4x400m relay since the Olympic Games, who closed the gap with a 49.6 split and extended US’s lead over Jamaica to 70 meters. Monica Hargrove (Marietta, Georgia) held on to the lead, running 51.90, to set up Jessica Beard (College Station, Texas) as anchor. Beard’s lead was never threatened as Team USA’s quartet won in a world-leading 3:23.84. Jamaica finished second in 3:24.95 and Great Britain was third in 3:27.30, all advancing to Sunday’s final.
In the men’s 4x400-meter relay first round, 4x4 world champion and indoor 4x4 world record-holder David Verburg (Gainesville, Florida) led off. USA and France exchanged at virtually the same time and were even at the break. Clayton Parros (Clermont, Florida) ran stride for stride with France’s Patrice Maurice. At 300 meters in lap 3, Jamaica’s Dane Hyatt caught up to Torrin Lawrence (Gainesville, Florida) who grabbed the stick and gave Christian Taylor (Loughborough, UK) a step’s lead in the final circumference. Taylor’s explosiveness as a triple jumper translated well to the track as he extended the difference. Jamaica’s Rusheen McDonald looked like he would catch Taylor, but he outleaned his Jamaican counterpart at the tape to win in 3:01.09 and set up tomorrow’s 4x400m final.
The men’s 4x200 meter final ended in a disqualification despite the solid effort of Team USA’s foursome. Jamaica broke a world record that had stood 20 years, blazing across the line in 1:18.63. Team USA’s Maurice Mitchell (Overland Park, Kansas) took the first leg running stride for stride with Jamaica, but the handoff from second leg Curtis Mitchell (Clermont, Florida) put third leg Ameer Webb (College Station, Texas) out of the exchange zone and Team USA was disqualified.
Television coverage continues in the U.S. as Universal Sports Network will present exclusive television and online coverage of the event, live again on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET on TV, and at 6:15 p.m. ET online at universalsports.com.
The official hashtag for the event is #WorldRelays. Be sure to follow along in Nassau with USATF on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.