One of the most exciting events at any track and field championships is the 4x4 relay. Traditionally the 4x4 closes out a meet, but this time around that duty is transferred to the 4x1. It will seem odd not watching the give and take that often occurs in the long relay. Because this year’s races promise to be quite exciting.
|World Record||3:15.18||Soviet Union||URS|
|Meet Record||3:16.71||United States||USA|
|2009 Gold||3:17.83||United States||USA|
|3:22.92||United States – Red||USA|
|2:23.17||United States – Blue||USA|
|3:26.31||Texas A&M University||USA|
The annual list means little when talking about this event because it is almost never run outside collegiate meets or championship settings. About all one can do is look at the 400 list, and at historical performances. Because often teams employ non quarter milers to fill out their squads – long hurdlers, 200 meter sprinters, and sometimes 800 meter runners.
That said, there are three countries with depth in these areas. First is defending champion Unites States. The U.S. returns three women from the Berlin Championship squad – Allyson Felix, Lashinda Demus, and Sanya Richards. All three are once again among the best in the world in their respective events. Felix is near her 400 PR this year with an SB of 49.81. Richards, who struggled for most of the season, turned in a 49.66 in London prior to the break. And Lashinda Demus is once again at 53-low in the hurdles. The fourth member of the ‘09 squad, Debbie Dunn, just pulled out of Worlds due to injury, but should be replaced by Francena McCorory who has run 50.29 this year and is well seasoned in relay work.
The ‘09 runner up, Jamaica, also has three returnees from their squad – Rosemarie Whyte, Novlene Williams Mills and Shericka Williams. Whyte (49.84) has broken the 50 second barrier this year in setting a new PR. In contrast, both Williams Mills (50.05) & Williams (50.64) are well off their PRs of 49.63 & 49.32 respectively. A key for Jamaica, however, is that they will be able to upgrade that fourth position from last year with Kaliese Spencer who has shown marked improved in the 400 hurdles, dropping down to 52.79 in the event.
The final major contender should be ‘09 bronze medalist Russia, who could return their entire squad – Ana Kapachinskaya, Tatyana Firova, Lyudmila Litvinova, and Antonina Krivoshapka. I say could because Russia seems to have a new crop of quarter milers every major. Kapachinskaya (49.35) and Krovoshapka (49.92) are almost certain to be on the squad as the sit at #1 and #5 on the yearly list. Depending on current fitness, they could go with the exact same squad as last year, or move someone up from their Trials like Ksenia Vdovina (50.67).
Two other squads that never seem to have the depth, but find athletes that compete well are the Ukraine and Great Britain. While neither is a gold medal threat, both are usually sitting around and in range should any of the top squads make a mistake. Both are certainly in the hunt for a top four finish and potential bronze.
So, who gets what? Russia is always the “X” factor in this race. They either show up sizzling, or leave you wondering which athletes came to the meet. The question with Jamaica will be how they place their personnel. Whyte lead off in the past but is their fastest so far this year. Does she get anchor duty over the vets? And if Spencer is on the podium in the hurdles will she want anchor duty? Chemistry can often make or break a 4x4. And will the U.S. simply stand pat and just insert the replacement for Dunn into the same spot and go with what’s worked in the past. Because, for my money, the flow of Felix to Demus to Richards works to well to fiddle with regardless of how they do in individual events.
This race goes to the squad that has repeatedly gone sub 3:20.
|World Record||2:54.29||United States||USA|
|Meet Record||2:54.29||United States||USA|
|2009 Gold||2:57.86||United States||USA|
|3:00.45||Texas A&M University||USA|
|3:01.07||Louisiana State University||USA|
|3:01.56||Mississippi State Univ||USA|
As I said above, the annual list means little when talking about this event because it is almost never run outside collegiate meets or championship settings. So we must look at the 400 lists, and at history as a guide. The one big difference is that unlike the women, the men aren’t returning wholesale squads from Berlin.
Take the defending champion U.S. for example. The U.S. squad returns three fourths of it’s Berlin squad of Angelo Taylor, Jeremy Wariner, Kerron Clement, and LaShawn Merritt – losing Wariner to injury earlier this summer. Clement, however, isn’t close to the sprinter he was in ‘09 so most likely won’t be on this year’s squad. Merritt got started late, but opened at 44.73 so is ready to rumble. Taylor has been in solid form all season, and always performs well on the relay. The rest of the squad will be new. Trials winner Tony McQuay would be an easy choice, it’s the fourth spot that will be more difficult to figure. For my money I would go with Michael Berry, who’s run 44.91 in the open and ran very strong relay legs for Oregon.
That’s the sort of dilemma facing most men’s squads this year – everyone seems to have a couple of strong legs that they need to build around. Grenada has the two fastest men in the 400 entering Daegu in Kirani James (44.61) and Rondell Bartholomew (44.65). The question will be what kind of talent can they put around them – and can Bartholomew get back to his earlier form?
Belgium has the Borlee twins, Kevin (44.74) and Jonathan (44.97). The pair lead Belgium to a 5th place finish in Beijing at 2:59.37. Can they get that kind of support from their countrymen this time around? In Berlin they were only able to run 3:01.88, though that was good enough to move them up to 4th. a sub 3:00 could get to the podium.
The Bahamas has Chris Brown (44.79) who has lead their squads in the past. Non finalists in Berlin, they were silver in Beijing (2:58.03) and Osaka (2:59.18). Brown will have newcomer Demetrius Pinder (44.78) to help out this time around to go with returnee Michael Mathieu (45.54). Can they once again get in podium range?
Britain doesn’t have much on the flat 400 this year, but they have a trio of long hurdlers that they could build around in David Greene (48.20), Nathan Woodward (48.71) and Jack Green (48.98). And Jamaica has Jermaine Gonzalez (44.69) to lead them, but there’s a big drop off to Ryker Hylton’s 45.30. They may be able to use long hurdler Leford Green (49.03) who actually placed 2nd in the open 400 at their Trials.
So, what to do with this kaleidoscope of talent? In spite of the loss of Wariner, it would seem that the U.S. can still put together a squad capable of running under 2:58. The question then becomes, can anyone else? Or for that matter can anyone else get under 3:00 – something that didn’t happen in Berlin. Let’s go with: