Jessica Beard and Shericka Williams in action at the 2014 Penn Relays (© Kirby Lee)
With less than a month to go until the inaugural IAAF World Relays, the historic Penn Relays provided a testing ground for a number of countries making their way there with the host of the event, The Bahamas, establishing its credentials with a good 4x400m victory over the USA in 3:00.78 on Saturday (26).
In front of a crowd of almost 50,000 at Franklin Field, the country brought to Philadelphia all four members of the London 2012 Olympic Games winning team: Michael Mathieu, Demetrius Pinder, Chris Brown and Ramon Miller, with the main action unfolding on the third leg.
The world indoor silver medallist Brown received the baton in pole position, but USA’s David Verburg quickly gained ground on him and tried to go wide. However, Brown wasn’t going to let the US sprinter take the lead, and forced Verburg to run the whole lap in the second lane.
By the last 100m, the US runner had edged slightly ahead, as the pair raced towards their team-mates Manteo Mitchell and Ramon Miller.
As they jostled for position, Mitchell grabbed at The Bahamas’ baton and then had to step back to pick up his own one. After this incident, the USA were far behind The Bahamians and couldn’t make up the lost ground.
“We are looking for faster relay times, but it’s the first time we got together in a long while," said Brown. "We’re looking to great things in The Bahamas. And without baffling with the baton and all that hoopla, we definitely can go faster. We have a work to do, our rivals will be coming to our home, so we’ve got to be ready."
The US team, which also included Sopot 2014 relay gold medallists Kyle Clemons and Kind Butler, who set a world indoor record in the Polish city last month, placed second 3:03.31.
Brazil’s Hugo De Sousa ran the fastest leg of the race, 44.14 as his squad’s anchor, and almost caught Mitchell on the line, with Brazil finishing third in 3:03.32.
In the women’s 4x400m, the main battle unfolded between Jamaica and USA. Once again, much of the main drama was on the third leg.
Jamaica’s Natoya Goule, who ran 2:01.36 for the 800m anchor leg in the sprint medley relay just about an hour before the 4x400m, was able to hold off experienced DeeDee Trotter into the changeover.
However, USA’s Jessica Beard clocked 50.46 on the last leg, flying past and then away from Shericka Williams. Beard brought her team, which also included Keshia Kirtz and Monica Hargrove on first two legs, the victory in a world leading time of 3:25.62 while Jamaica (Christine Day, Patricia Hall, Anastasia LeRoy, Goule) finished second in 3:27.16.
Nigeria’s Regina George clocked a solid 50.49 on the anchor leg and helped her teammates, Folashade Abugan, Omolara Omotosho and Bukola Abugunkolo, to third place in 3:27.32.
USA and Jamaica take one each in the 4x100m
In the women’s 4x100m relay, Carrie Russell put Jamaica into the lead immediately. Kerron Stewart, Anneisha McLaughlin and a new addition to the team Trisha-Ann Hawthorne maintained their place at the front and brought the baton home in first place, in a world leading time of 42.81.
The US quartet of Stacey-Ann Smith, Alexandria Anderson, Muna Lee and Lekeisha Lawson finished second in 43.15. Trinidad and Tobago was represented by a young team, with Sopot 2014 60m finalist Michelle-Lee Ahye on the second leg, and placed third in 43.53.
“It felt good to prove that Jamaica has the depth in the event. It’s just a matter of putting the right order and executing the race,” said Stewart.
“We came here as top dogs, we knew we had a point to prove, so we came out here and did our best," added Hawthorne. "Running the anchor leg was exciting, I knew I had to finish strong, even though I was in the lead. We all believed in ourselves and in each other, and everything came together."
In the men’s 4x100m, the USA gained revenge with two-time Olympic medallist Walter Dix out-dipping on the line Jamaica’s Michael Frater, who is returning after an injury-plagued year.
The USA, who included three athletes from the Moscow 2013 silver medal winning team, Charles Silmon, Justin Gatin and Rakieem Salaam, clocked 38.57 while Jamaica (Jason Livermore, Rahseed Dwyer, Oshane Bailey, Frater) was just 0.01 slower. Third place went to Brazil (Bruno Barros, Jefferson Liverato, Aledmir Junior, Jorge Wides) in 38.94.
The competition program of the 120th Penn Relays, the oldest athletics meeting in the States, also saw 1020 high schools and 252 colleges from eight countries taking part.
Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF