Report26 Apr 2015

USA men show off slick baton passing at the Penn Relays


Ryan Bailey at the 2015 Penn Relays (© Kirby Lee)

The USA got a morale-boosting 4x100m win over arch-rivals Jamaica just one week ahead of the IAAF/BTC World Relays, Bahamas 2015, at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia on Saturday (25).

The USA quartet of Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Isiah Young and Ryan Bailey took the win in the blue riband event in 38.68 as Jamaica’s squad of Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Jason Livermore and Asafa Powell finished a close second in 38.88.

In the men’s 4x400m it was, as is so often the case, The Bahamas who put up the strongest challenge to the USA, but an outstanding 44.84 anchor leg from Patrick Feeney ensured that victory went to the home team.

Feeney took the baton narrowly ahead of Ramon Miller, of The Bahamas after a 45.11 leg by his US teammate Clayton Parris, and Notre Dame graduate Feeney – who has a personal best of just 45.56 – quickly began to increase a lead.

With a thunderous atmosphere ringing out around Franklin Field, Feeney brought his team home to victory in 3:00.86 ahead of The Bahamas in 3:01.63, with Jamaica third in 3:03.02.

“I got out ahead and tried to hold him off,” said Feeney.  “I felt him right on me the entire way but luckily I was able to keep going all the way and lead my team to victory.”

On the final day of this year’s Penn Relays, 48,920 were in attendance, bringing the three-day total to 110,587 for what is America’s oldest track meeting.

A sizeable Jamaican contingent of athletes, coaches and fans often brought a carnival atmosphere to the grandstands, and they created one of the loudest cheers of the day for a thrilling USA versus the World women’s 4x100m relay, which saw the Jamaican quartet of Kerron Stewart, Sherone Simpson, Schillonie Calvert and Natasha Morrison take a narrow win over the USA, 43.70 to 43.79.

Morrison had to draw on all her reserves to hold off the charge of the prodigious 17-year-old American Kaylin Whitney, the 2014 world junior 200m champion who chose to run at the Penn Relays instead of attending her high school prom on Saturday.

“I’d rather wear this uniform any day,” said Whitney. “I felt like I was at the World (Championships) finals.”

The United States took a narrow win, a very narrow win, in the women’s 4x200m, with anchor runner Porscha Lucas getting the photo-finish verdict ahead of Jamaica’s Natasha Morrison, both teams recording 1:31.98.

“I didn’t even know who won,” said Lucas. “We had an iffy hand off so once I got the baton I was like ‘we gotta go’ and I kept running past the finish line. I was overwhelmed.”

The US were also best in the men’s 4x200m relay, the quartet of Joe Morris, Maurice Mitchell, Ameer Webb and Wallace Spearmon taking victory in 1:20.64.

For Spearmon, returning to the Penn Relays proved a nostalgic experience. “I’ve been coming here since I went to school in Arkansas in 2004 and this is my first time since 2012,” he said. “I forgot how exciting it was.”

Jamaica were convincing winners of the 4x400m, their quartet of Christine Day (52.2), Patricia Hall (52.4), Anastasia Leroy (51.55) and Stephanie-Ann McPherson (50.47) winning in 3:26.58, with the USA second in 3:28.42.

Dee Dee Trotter, who anchored the US team with a 50.95 split, said: “I wish I had been able to make up the gap, but I think our team ran a really solid race. We can definitely walk away proud.”

In the college 4 x one mile relay, Jordan Willamsz and Villanova got revenge on Edward Cheserek and the University of Oregon for Friday’s defeat in the distance medley relay.

Taking the baton together for the final leg, the pair played a waiting game until the final 200 metres, at which point Williamsz launched his kick for home, a turn of speed that was simply too much for Cheserek to match, and Williamsz brought Villanova home to win in 16:18.07 to Oregon’s 16:18.93.

“With 200 to go, I thought I had messed it up,” said Williamsz. “But last night I said to the boys ‘I think I can get him if the race goes right.’ You don’t beat (Cheserek) easily. I’m going to get a lot of credit for this, but it’s mostly these guys.”

In the college men’s 4x100m, UTech took a convincing win in 39.27 with Texas A&M second in 39.56.

Rising star Michael O’Hara, who won the 200m at the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships, brought the Jamaican fans to their feet when anchoring Calamar to victory in the high school boys’ 4x400m, the 18-year-old running the final leg in 46.68 to bring his team home to victory in 3:09.97.

Proceedings were closed in the usual tradition with the college 4x400m events.

The women’s race was won by the University of Texas in 3:29.46 and the men’s went to LSU, who routed the opposition to win in 3:02.61.      

Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF