USA, Jamaica trade wins at USA vs. The World

04-26-2008

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Jill Geer
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PHILADELPHIA - In its nine year history, USA vs. The World has featured Americans oftentimes sweeping all six relays featured. Not so on Saturday afternoon, at the 114thth running of the Penn Relays. On an overcast day, Team Jamaica won two of the first three relays - the first time they've crossed the finish line first in two races at this event -before the Americans regrouped to win the final tworaces.

A crowd of 49,831 fans took in the day's action to record the second-highest single-day attendance total in Penn Relays history. The three-day total for 2008 was 113,392, also the second-highest in meet history.

On Saturday afternoon, Jamaica got off to a rousing start by winning the women' s sprint medley relay in impressive style. Kerron Stewart and Aleen Bailey both ran 200m legs, with Bailey taking the lead over Team USA and the Caribbean All-Stars. Sonita Sutherland ran a brisk 400, leading the All-Stars and USA, which trailed by 7 meters. Kenia Sinclair then opened it up on the final, 800m leg, crossing the finish in 3:37.61. The All-Star team of Laverne Jones, Sherry Fletcher, Cydonie Mothercill and Mirian Barnett was second in 3:39.16, with the USA Red team of Ebonie Floyd, Hasani Roseby, Tiffany Ross Williams and Hazel Clark third in 3:41.08.

Team USA returned to form in the women's 4x100m relay, with the powerful team of Lauryn Williams, Miki Barber, Lisa Barber and Allyson Felix coming from behind to win in 42.57 seconds over the USA Blue team of Muna Lee, Torri Edwards, Carmelita Jeter and Sanya Richards, second in 42.64, and Jamaica, third in 43.31. Jamaica took the early lead in the race, with USA Blue had just the slightest of leads over USA Red heading into the final leg. Felix, the two-time world champion at 100m, then turned it on to edge out Richards, the 2006 IAAF year and the world's dominant 400m runner.

The men's 4x100m relay was stunning from start to finish. Leroy Dixon led off well for Team USA Red, nearing his hand-off with Wallace Spearmon. As he approached his teammate, a Canadian runner's right arm struck Dixon's left eye, causing him to come to nearly a stop as he popped up in a manner usually associated with hamstring pulls. Dixon then gathered himself and got the baton to Spearmon, but the damage was done. The Jamaican team of Marvin Anderson, Michael Frater, Nesta Carter and Dwight Thomas stepped in to win in 39.03, with Team USA Blue (John Capel, Xavier Carter, Michael Rodgers, Shawn Crawford) second in 39.14. Trinidad was third in 39.33, with the USA Red team of Dixon, Spearmon, Darvis Patton and Tyson Gay fourth in 39.38.

The 4x400m relays were significantly less dramatic for the U.S. contingents. In the women's 4x400m, 2007 World Outdoor finalist Mary Wineberg gave USA Red a sizeable lead after a 51.3-second leg. Allyson Felix followed with a 50.0 split, Natasha Hastings ran 50.4 and Sanya Richards closed with 50.3 as the team set a Penn Relays record of 3:22.16. Jamaica was second at 3:27.96 and USA Blue was third in 3:27.98.

The USA men were as dominant, going 1-2, with the USA Blue Team of LaShawn Merritt (44.5), Wallace Spearmong (45.6), Darold Williamson (45.5) and Jeremy Wariner (44.0) combining for a win in 2:59.71. The USA Blue team of Xavier Carter (45.4), Bershawn Jackson (45.6), Kerron Clement (45.1) and Angelo Taylor (44.9) was second in 3:01.12. The Jamaican team of Michael Blackwood (45.9), Adrian Findlay (45.6), Sanjay Ayre (45.25) and Dewayne Barrett (45.25) was third in 3:02.00.

In the men's distance medley relay, USA Red built a sizable lead after a 1200m lead-off leg by Nick Symmonds, but it was the Kenyan team of Boaz Cheboiywo (2:54.52), Thomas Musembi (47.67), Jackson Kivuna (1:48.66), and Josephat Kithii (3:58.95) winning in 9:29.79. The USA Blue team of Kevin Hicks (2:53.85), Andrew Rock (46.27), Chris Lukezic (1:48.43)and Sean O'Brien (4:02.13) was second in 9:30.66, with the World All-Stars third in 9:31.57 (Christoph Lohse (2:55.76), Brian Steele (46.97), Ismael Kombich (1:44.66), Boniface Songok (4:04.30).

For complete results from Penn, visit www.thepennrelays.com

Athlete Quotes, USA vs. The World

Women's 4x100m relay

Lauryn Williams: I was really pumped up, getting in the warm-up. The Jamaicans were getting kind of wild. It gets your adrenaline going. We went live on TV at 2 o'clock, so you want to make sure you run fast. We got the stick around. It's an amazing pool. We have great chemistry between all of us, because there are about 12 of us right now and it's anybody's game. This is a good way to build chemistry because you have no idea what the final four will be in Beijing.

Miki Barber: I was just happy Lauryn got it to me and we had safe passes. This is home for me, it's like my 15th year here. ... No one person or no four people are the best. It's going to come down to chemistry [in Beijing]. I knew we were close when we handed off, but you can't tell until the anchor leg, the staggers are so different and the curves are so wide.

Lisa Barber: I was in third leg. I couldn't tell what position we were in, but I wanted to run a great leg. Me and Allyson had a great leg and she brought it home strong. It felt good to be close to home, back near New Jersey. We [she and twin sister Miki] hadn't run a 4x100 [together] since 1999, at the University of South Carolina. This was our second time actually handing off to each other so I had a great time. Allyson finished great, and so did Sanya.

Women's sprint medley relay

Aleen Bailey, JAM: It's always an amazing feeling. A lot of Jamaicans in the U.S. don't get to see us run throughout the year. So we tend to do a little extra to make sure we win for them at this event. I've been running here since high school. It's amazing, when you look into the stands you see a sea of black, green and gold. They give you so much energy, they make you do your best.

Men's 4x100m

Tyson Gay, USA: I think Leron Dixon was smacked in the face. Then he stumbled. By the time that happened, the timing of things weren't right. Wallace had to slow down to get the stick. We were out of the race. I knew we were behind a little bit. By the time I got the stick, it seemed like Jamaica had already crossed the finish line. I was definitely trying to catch them. They had a huge lead. That was my first time running the anchor here, so I wasn't used to how the staggers are. It seemed like once I got the stick, there was only 50 meters and the race was over. I ran anchor because it may be a possibility that I may run anchor at the Olympics. I still used it as speed work to prepare for my race next week in Jamaica.

Leroy Dixon: When I was running, I don't actually know what happened. It was either his hand hit me in his eye, or his fist. It hit me in my pupil. He was starting to run. I just think mostly it was adrenaline. He scratched my pupil and I have an ulcer in my eye. It's infected on my pupil. It's blurry right now. I can't keep it open. We were about to make the exchange.

Dwight Thomas, JAM: On the final leg, I knew I was running with fastest man. Once I saw what happened, I knew nobody had the chance to beat us. We knew we weren't going to mess up the stick because we practiced all day with it yesterday.

Michael Frater, JAM: It's a huge confidence booster for us. We didn't have Asafa Powell with us. We specially wanted to show that even though we didn't have the best sprinter in the world, we could still compete against a very good U.S. team.

Women's 4x400m relay

Mary Wineberg: I just wanted to come out and put the USA team in the lead. I was able to pass it on to Allyson in the lead and she kept it.

Allyson Felix: She [Wineberg] ran a fantastic leg. She made it easy for the rest of us. Running at this meet, it's amazing. It always feels like someone is on your back, so it makes it more exciting running here. ... I was pleased with the way I did today. I felt the 4x100 went well. It was a pleasure for me.

Natasha Hastings: They had me way out in the lead. I heard the crowd go crazy and I thought for a second Jamaica was running me down. For me, it's like a second homecoming. I'm from New York. This was my eighth consecutive year here. It was a great experience.

Sanya Richards: ON THE 4X100 ... The 4x100 is really exciting. I thought it would be two A teams on the track today and I think we proved it. It was a great competition and I'm excited to see who will make the final four at the Olympic Games. This is the early part of the season, when you get a chance to put a lot of work in, see where you are. I've done very very little speed work in practice, so to run well today, I was very, very happy with that. ... It's going to be a huge, huge task (to make the 4x100 relay), but I'm up to the challenge and I'm going to keep working as hard as I can.

ON THE 4X100: Once Allyson got the stick, it was basically over. I don't know what we would do if we were pushed for all four legs. I think 3:22 is a great indicator of how strong we are.

Men's 4x400m relay

LaShawn Merritt: I felt like they matched the relays up pretty well. It came down to who was ready to run and who was in shape. We had a great team, and I wanted to get us out of there, hand off to Wallace and let him do what he does. We ran well enough for a victory. ... I think it's [the world record] been standing around long enough. I've been a pro for three years and this is my fourth year. The Olympic game should be something special. If we get four healthy guys out there, running like we can, we'll break it in Beijing.

Wallace Spearmon: I had great guys running after me, and LaShawn Merritt, Mr. 44.0. I felt like it didn't matter how fast or how slow I ran, they would take care of it. I think today I was the weakest link.

ON THE 4X100: We were the same team that won Worlds. I was proud of him that he grabbed his eye and handed me the stick. We tried to finish it from there. Nobody could control it. I still figured we were top 3 contenders in the race.

Darold Williamson: I knew we had good competition because of our depth in the 400m in the USA. My leg was pretty close, with Kerron Clement. I wanted to make sure I had a strong kick coming come.

Jeremy Wariner: We basically were stacked with the best quarter-milers we could get. I knew our guys would keep me in the mix. I knew I was going to have to run my race like I always. It was my firs time at Penn, and the turns are a little different. I loved the crowd. There was a lot of energy in the stadium. Coming down the last turn, they were getting real loud. In my mind, when the crowd is making noise, somebody is getting caught. I was like, who's coming to get me? In reality I knew I had put some on Angelo coming down the backstretch. [ON THE 400m WORLD RECORD]: I want to be the first to break his [Michael Johnson's] record and run 42 seconds. I'm working hard to get to that point. I know my race has to be perfect to get it. I can't slip up on one thing. In my eyes, we see little things I need to improve on. Every race I go into, one of my goals is to run for the record.