Saturday, April 25, 2009

Penn Relays - US vs The World

It's April. Teams for this year's World Championships won't be chosen until June. The World championships themselves won't be held until the end of August in Berlin Germany. But this year's Penn Relays was billed as a series of rematches between the US and Jamaica!

There has been much hype about Jamaica taking over as the world's sprint power since they won the Men's 100, 200 and 4x1 and the Women's 100 and 200 in Beijing. So much so that USATF CEO Doug Logan has had talks with Jamaica's federation about having a dual meet between the US and Jamaica. But if today's Penn Relays was any indication, talk of the demise of US sprint supremacy may be just a bit premature as US squads dominated the "US vs The World" section of the Penn Relays and sent word that Beijing was merely that occasional hiccup that occurs occasionally on the world stage.

US sprinters, still in the early stages of their preparation for the meets that really matter later in the season, showed up and through their performances said "don't make the mistake of counting us out". It started with the opening gun of the men's 4x1 as Walter Dix gave notice that his negative wind 10.00 a couple of weeks ago was no fluke as he blazed the turn on the leadoff leg to give the US a lead it would never relinquish. After Shawn Crawford's third leg proved that age is just a number, Doc Patton had clear sailing to the finish line. Jamaican anchor, Asafa Powell, attempted to give chase, but that lasted only a few strides then quickly slowed succumbing to the ankle injury that was reported earlier. Patton, meanwhile, crossed the line in 37.92 taking over the world lead from Jamaica who had run 38.10 in an earlier meet. A second US squad of Terrance Trammell, Mark Jelks, Ivory Williams and Mike Rogers took second in 38.36 just edging out the Olympic silver medal team from Trinidad (38.37 here) anchored by Olympic 100 silver medalist Richard Thompson.

The women continued the theme of "redemption" as leadoff Lauryn Williams repeated Dix's performance by blazing the turn and giving the women a lead they would never relinquish. Allyson Felix held form before Jamaican Kerron Stewart tried to bring her team back on the third leg. Games gold medalist Shelly Ann Fraser attempted to do the same on anchor, but current world leader, Carmelita Jeter, turned on the jets and ran away from Fraser on her way to leading the US squad to a 42.40 victory and world lead over Jamaica's 42.77.

Jamaica notched a win of their own, however, as their women set a world best in the Sprint Medley Relay (3:34.56 ) as Kenia Sinclair (1:57.43) outran Hazel Clark (1:58.03) on the anchor leg. But hopes of any further victories were put to rest with two convincing victories by US 4x4 squads. The women started off with Monica Hargrove (51.9) handing a lead over to Natasha Hastings (51.0) who held it in spite of running with only one shoe for the majority of the race. That effectively ended the race as Allyson Felix (49.64) and Sanya Richards (50.52) finished the race without challenge. The winning time of 3:23.08 being another world leading performance.

The men finished the day off with another world leading victory (2:59.78) as Kerron Clement (45.7), Angelo Taylor (44.6), David Neville (45.27) and Lashawn Merritt (44.26) stayed ahead of a tenacious Behamian squad of Andrea Williams (46.4), Michael Mathieu (45.3), Nathaniel McKinney (44.24), and Chris Brown (44.35) who were second in 3:00.29 gamely holding off the USA Blue team of Torrence (46.0), Everhart (44.8), Spearmon (45.50) and Williamson (44.25). Their 3:00.58 showing just how deep the US is in the quarter mile.

As I said at the start of this post, it is only April and there is much track and field left to be run. But today did prove two things. 1) That having one great meet does not make for domination. 2) As I said in a previous post, there's no need to panic over US sprinting!

More on Penn and Drake coming up.

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