Ben Blankenship anchors the USA to victory in the distance medley at the IAAF/BTC World Relays, Bahamas 2015 (© Getty Images)
USA followed in the footsteps of their female counterparts on Saturday and shaved 0.06 off the world record* in the men's distance medley with a time of 9:15.50 on the second day of the IAAF/BTC World Relays, Bahamas 2015.
The team of Kyle Merber (1200m), Brycen Spratling (400m), Brandon Johnson (800m) and Ben Blankenship (1600m) improved on the nine-year-old record of Kenya, the win and the record thanks in no small part to an outstanding last leg by Blankenship in 3:51.24.
Blankenship took over just in front of Kenya and Australia with four laps to go but was almost a second-and-a half outside the world record pace at that point.
He then saw Kenyan's experienced Timothy Cheriuyot got pass him 200 metres into the first lap and quickly establish a 20-metre lead, as the Kenyan sped through his first 400m in 51.96, but the American held his never and started to reel in his rival.
By the bell, Blankenship was on the shoulder of Cheriuyot and then passed him on the final bend before visibly gritting his teeth down the home straight, well-aware that Cheriuyot was going through the pain barrier as well as both men could see what was happening on the big stadium screen in front of them.
Blankenship, racing in his first major international competition, had enough in the tank to complete his last lap in 56.80 though to go into new territory for the event as the flagging Cheriuyot brought Kenya home 20 metres in arrears in second place, clocking 9:17.20.
The American later revealed that he had not been watching the clock over the final metres but had resisted the urge to celebrate before crossing the line, a gesture which could potentially have denied the US team the record and the US$50,000 bonus.
Australia, having been just a stride or so behind the USA and Kenya at the change, took the bronze medals in 9:21.62; their last leg runner Collis Birmingham being better known these days for his feats over longer distances and not having enough speed in his legs to hold onto Blankenship and Cheriuyot from 600 metres out.
Six teams finished, including Papua New Guinea, whose anchor leg runner George Yamak was lapped by all five teams in front of him but who was sportingly cheered all round his solitary last lap by the sporting home crowd.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF
*subject to the usual ratification procedures