Team USA rises to the occasion at USA vs. The World

04-25-2009

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Jill Geer
Director of Communications
USA Track & Field
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PHILADELPHIA - In a clash of the sprinting titans, Team USA avenged relay mistakes of the past to emerge victorious, in impressive fashion, in the men's and women's 4x100m relays Saturday at USA vs. the World at the Penn Relays.

With a Penn Relays crowd of 47,904 fans screaming in 88-degree weather, the United States and Jamaica faced each other for the first time in a year in the sprint relays. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Jamaican men won the 4x100 in world-record time, but the U.S. men and women were DQ'd in the semifinals and Jamaican endured the same fate in their final. With pride on the line Saturday afternoon, the Americans more than rose the challenge to win both races.

Team USA also swept the 4x400 relays, while Jamaica set a world best in winning the women's sprint medley relay, and Kenya won the men's distance medley.

Team USA men set Penn Relays record

The men's 4x100 was to be a heavyweight duel between Jamaica, whose lineup included three of their four Beijing relay members (Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell, along with Dwight Thomas), and Team USA Blue. With double Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix leading off, it was Team USA's race from the gun. Dix ran a blazing leg before handing off, clearly in the lead, to collegiate record holder Travis Padgett, who broke the race open on the second leg. 2004 Olympic 200m gold medalist Shawn Crawford ran third leg, with Darvis Patton bringing it home for the U.S. in 37.92 to break the previous Penn Relays record of 38.03, set by the Team USA lineup of Jon Drummond, Bernard Williams, Curtis Johnson and Maurice Greene in 2001.

The Jamaicans were in second after legs by Thomas, Frater and Carter, but Powell eased up 80m from the finish with a tender left leg he has been nursing this spring. The USA Red team of Terrence Trammell, Mark Jelks, Ivory Williams and Mike Rodgers ended second in 38.36, with Trinidad and Tobago, the Olympic silver-medal relay country, third in 38.37. Jamaica was ninth in 41.24.

Team USA women on top

The American women also seized the lead from the gun in the 4x100, but there was a bit more drama as the race unfolded. Lauryn Williams, the 2005 world champion at 100 meters, led off for Team USA Red in stunning style, handing off to Allyson Felix well in the lead, even if the handoff was a bit tentative. Felix extended the lead over Jamaica in the second leg and handed off to Mechelle Lewis. Lewis passed the baton to 2007 World Outdoor bronze medalist Carmelita Jeter even with Jamaica, setting up a duel between Jeter and Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser over the final 100 meters.

Jeter clearly had more speed on this day, winning in 42.40 seconds with the Jamaican team of Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Sheri-Ann Brooks, Olympic 100 and 200 bronze medalist Kerron Stewart and Fraser second in 42.77. The Bahamas was third in 43.64.

4x400 sweep

With exceptionally strong lineups, Team USA was expected to win the 4x400m relays, and they delivered.

In the women's 4x400, Monica Hargrove gave USA Red a slight lead over the Bahamas, World All-Stars, USA Blue and Jamaica. As she took the baton from Hargrove, USA Red's second leg Natasha Hastings popped up in the air as the back of her shoe was stepped on. Running with one shoe, Hastings kept USA Red in the lead by a whisker, practically even with USA Blue. Fellow Olympic relay gold medalist Allyson Felix opened the lead to approximately 1.5 meters on the third leg, running the fastest split of the day, 49.56, and Olympic anchor leg Sanya Richards brought it home for a big win, splitting 50.52 to cross the line in 3:23.08. The Jamaican team of Nickiesha Wilson, Rosemarie Whyte, Novlene Williams-Mills and Shericka Williams was second in 3:24.57, with the USA Blue team of Dominique Darden, Shana Cox, Sheena Tosta, Monique Hennagan third in 3:26.50.

The men's 4x400m was fairly closely contested, despite a very strong Team USA red lineup. Indoor world record holder Kerron Clement put Red in the lead over Jamaica and USA Blue, and after Olympic 400m hurdles gold medalist Angelo Taylor's second leg, it was USA Red, USA Blue, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Olympic bronze medalist David Neville opened up a 1-2 meter lead after three legs, with Bahamas close behind. The Bahamas' Chris Brown ran up on USA Red's Lashawn Merritt on the final leg, but the Olympic champion sprinted away for a USA Red win in 2:59.78. The Bahamas (Andrea Williams, Michael Mathieu, Nathaniel McKinney, Christopher Brown) was second in 3:00.29, with USA Blue (Jamaal Torrance, Craig Everhart , Wallace Spearmon, Darold Williamson) third in 3:00.58.

Jamaica shatters SMR world best

Jamaica won its first event of the day in record-setting style, taking the women's sprint medley relay in a world-best time of 3:34.56. Sheri-Ann Brooks, Rosemarie Whyte, Moya Thompson and Kenia Sinclair combined in the 200m-200m-400m-800m race to obliterate the previous mark of 3:37.16, set by the United States at USA vs. the World in 2006.

After the first two 200m legs, Jamaica led, with the world All-Stars second and USA Blue third, but Debbie Dunn put the Americans in the lead heading into the 800m anchor leg, with Jamaica in second.

As has been the case for many years in this relay, it came down to a duel between Sinclair and three-time Olympian Hazel Clark in the final, 800m leg. In 2009, it was Sinclair who owned the race, splitting 1:57.43 to power away for the win. Russia's Maria Savinova brought her country into second in 3:37.37 with a split of 1:58.03, while Clark faded in the final 300m, splitting 2:01.78 and finishing third in 3:38.36.

Thrilling men's DMR

The opening event of USA vs. the World, the men's distance medley relay, set the tone for the international flavor of this edition of the event. Canada, Kenya and USA White and USA Blue dueled from the gun.

Canada's Matthew Lincoln gave his team the early lead, completing the opening 1200m leg just 1 meter ahead of USA Blue's Leonel Manzano. Several strides back were Kenya's Frederick Ndunge and USA White's Christian Smith. After the 400m leg, run by Tyler Christopher for Canada, Xavier Carter for USA Blue, Thomas Musembi for Kenya and Kelly Willie for USA White, the order of the top two remained the same, but USA White was now in third and Kenya fourth.

It wasn't until the 800m leg that things began to really take shape. Two-time Olympian Khadevis Robinson gave USA Blue its first true lead at the end of his leg, three meters up on Gary Reed of Canada. Running with an injured ankle, Jackson Kivuna of Kenya was third and Matt Scherer of USA White fourth.

When the milers took their batons for the final leg, they made a four-man kicker's race of it. By the second turn of the first lap, Josephat Kithii of Kenya, Nate Brannen of Canada, Lopez Lomong of USA White and Evan Jager of USA Blue were running as a group. At the bell, the order was Lomong, Brannen, Jager and Kithii, but it was anyone's race. Brannen made his move on the backstretch, and Kithii and Lomong followed as Jager of USA Blue fell slightly off the pace.

Coming off the curve, it was a Canada-Kenya duel. Brannen ultimately paid the price for his backstretch surge as Kithii (3:52.79 split) caught him at the tape, finishing in 9:22.04 to Brannen's 9:22.05 (3:54.34 split). Lomong was third for USA White in 9:23.65 (3:54.51 split), and Jager was fourth for USA Blue in 9:24.43 (3:58.08 split).

For complete athlete quotes and results, visit www.usatf.org or www.visachampionshipseries.com; also www.thepennrelays.com