Friday, August 19, 2011

World Championships Preview – 4x4 Relay

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.



Women’s 4x4

World Record 3:15.18 Soviet Union URS
Meet Record 3:16.71 United States USA
2009 Gold 3:17.83 United States USA


2011 Best

  3:22.92 United States – Red USA
  2:23.17 United States – Blue USA
  3:23.82 Jamaica JAM
  3:26.31 Texas A&M University USA
  3:26.46 Auburn University USA
  3:26.68 BM&F Bovespa BRA

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.

Gold United States USA 3:17.80
Silver Jamaica JAM 3:19.25
Bronze Russia RUS 3:19.75
Just Missed Ukraine UKR 3:21.90



Men’s 4x4

World Record 2:54.29 United States USA
Meet Record 2:54.29 United States USA
2009 Gold 2:57.86 United States USA


2011 Best

  3:00.45 Texas A&M University USA
  3:00.80 GW Express USA
  3:01.07 Louisiana State University USA
  3:01.33 Bahamas BAH
  3:01.56 Mississippi State Univ USA
  3:01.59 Belgium BEL

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:

Gold United States USA 2:57.30
Silver Bahamas BAH 2:58.90
Bronze Belgium BEL 2:59.50
Just Missed Grenada GRN 3:00.40



  1. Almost certain that the US wont run Demus on the relay. With the depth of flat runners right now, the women should be good with McCrory Beard Felix and Ross. Especially since the 400h is much closer to the 4x4 and all the girls except Felix, will have many days off from the flat.

  2. I believe Beard will have Demus' spot on the 4x4 because of her 49.04 at the NCAA Championships. Demus will probably be used in the preliminaries and then Felix in the finals.

  3. You both could be right .. My thinking is that Demus is proven there and is lightly raced this summer .. Her coming back to run a 49 is no different than Beard going through NC's and coming back to split 49 ...

    Remember that Felix will have an even tougher schedule before coming back for relay duty ..

    My preference is the veteran savvy that Demus brings to the table ... This will not be Berlin .. Jamaica is going to bring it this time around, and I believe so will the Russians ... This is going to be a real battle and for my money I want proven warriors on the track ...

    That said I don't get to pick the relay so others may have a different preference ... What I call a quality problem, which is better than not having enough talent to go around ...

  4. I don't believe Demus has been raced enough this season. She has been in only a couple of races this season and I believe she is not battle tested. Beard who has had a successful indoor and outdoor season has had non-stop competition making up for her lack of global experience in my opinion.

  5. Fair enough ... Though I don't think Beard has raced since Trials .. That's a long layoff for an athlete used to racing regularly ..

    Like I said a quality problem .. Six of one, half a dozen of the other .. Don't get me wrong I'm a Beard fan ... If she gets the nod, she will perform, that's what she does ... I have faith in her, I also have faith in Demus ..

    A lot will be determined by Daegu itself ... Fatigue could take out someone like Felix .. And a bad leg in the semi could lead to a replacement in the final .. Luckily we do have the depth to recover either way ..

  6. Beard actually ran a 100m and I think a 200 during the summer in Europe and she also ran the 400 at London in which she ran 51.2 from lane 1.

    I think Beard will run the prelims and depending on her performance there, she will most likely run the finals.

    Demus really doesn't have relay experience, except for the fact that she ran in Berlin, other than that she has never been on the 4x4.

    I think the combination of Felix 2nd and Richards-Ross anchor is the best in the business, the other 2 spots can be filled in with solid legs and there wont be a problem. McCrory will almost certainly be running, then it is between Demus and Beard, and I would give the nod to Beard. But yea we just have to wait and see.

  7. I believe someone commented that Demus has no experience outside of her relay run in Berlin .. But for some reason it is not showing here .. I'm very sorry if that is the case .. I'm almost certain that I got an email showing the comment, but do not see it posted ..

    In any case, one of the reasons I'm a big fan of Demus on the relay is because she actually has a lot of relay experience .. Before Berlin she ran on the World Cup team in '06, as well as the U.S. B squad in the pre Olympic Munich meet in '04 that upset the A team and eventual gold medalists .. She also ran on the U.S. Junior squad that won in Kingston in '02 .. She's been a fixture on USA squads at Penn running in '05, '05, '08 and '10 .. She ran on South Carolina's squad including teams that ran a then record 3:26.46, 3:26.98 and 3:27.19 - 8 squads that ran under 3:30 .. She split 49.38 on that World Cup squad in '06 and would have been a relay member in '07 but that was the year she missed to pregnancy .. Then '08 she missed making the team altogether … Back to normal in '09 she was on the Berlin squad …

    And while I'm talking about potential relay members, one that is probably not on anyone's radar is Carmelita Jeter … But quiet as it's kept she split an auto clocked 49.9 running the second leg for the USA Blue squad at the Texas Relays in '08 !!