USA celebrate their 4x800m victory at the IAAF/BTC World Relays, Bahamas 2015 (© Getty Images)
While their team may be lacking some of the established star power that propelled them to the title in each of the two previous editions of the IAAF World Relays, USA will nonetheless start as the team to beat in the women's 4x800m, this year's first final
After producing a minor upset victory over favourites Kenya in 2014, the USA dominated the event the following year, clocking 8:00.62 to beat runner-up Poland by nearly 11 seconds. Chanelle Price, Maggie Vessey, Molly Ludlow and Alysia Montano teamed to produce the fastest time in the event in more than 20 years.
Price, the 2014 world indoor champion, was the sole actor to play a role on both squads – as the lead-off in both contests no less – and returns this year to lead a less experienced but well-prepared squad. The 26-year-old clocked 2:00.38 last weekend so is clearly arriving in shape to produce another sub-two-minute split.
Laura Roesler is the only other runner on the team with some big meet experience under her belt; that, coupled with her strong early-season form, makes her the squad's most potent. The 25-year-old, who was fourth at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016, warmed up for Nassau with a solid 1:59.54 run at the Mt SAC Relays last weekend, the second fastest in the world this outdoor season.
For company, they'll choose from Charlene Lipsey, who clocked her 1:58.64 lifetime best indoors in New York in February, and Chrishuna Williams and Kendra Chambers, who were fourth and fifth in the Mt SAC race, clocking 2:00.41 and 2:01:10 respectively.
Poland, who clocked an 8:11.36 national record two years ago, return with one member of that quartet, 2014 world indoor silver medallist Angelika Cichocka. The 29-year-old hasn't run on the track yet this year, but in 2016 improved her lifetime best to 1:58.97 in the 800m, claimed the European title in the 1500m, and contested both events in Rio.
The Australian squad, who finished third on both previous occasions, is led by national champion Lora Storey, Abbey de la Motte (2:02.19) and Heidi See (2:03:51). The latter two improved their lifetime bests this season.
Belarus comes armed with the biggest name in the field, world champion Maryna Arzamasova. The 29-year-old hasn't run outdoors yet this season but did dip under 2:02 indoors. She'll team with Ilona Usovich, a stronger 400m runner, who was two world indoor silvers to her credit in the 4x400m.
Kenya, who was second in 2014 but last in 2015, brings 2012 African 1500m silver medallist Mary Wangari Kuria and Silvia Chesebe, a member of the 2014 runner-up quartet that clocked an African record.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF