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TrackLife International

Another Year of Keen Rivalries at The Penn Relays


The absence of a number of elite stars from the 2014 Penn Relays in Philadelphia April 24 to 26 did not detract from the usual excitement the event brings. And at the end of the three-day relay carnival, the battle over supremacy on the track was played out once more between the US and Jamaica, with the US getting the better of Jamaica 4 to 1 in the thrilling ‘USA vs. The World’ segment, as they did at the 2013 edition.

Though Usain Bolt has not raced at the Penn Relays since 2010, when he pulled a record crowd, Jamaica has constantly showcased top-ranking athletes such as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Kaliese Spencer, while the US has had Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix. This time though, there was no Fraser-Pryce, Spencer, Jeter or Felix. Added to that list of the missing were Americans Natasha Hastings, Sanya Richards-Ross, veteran Angelo Taylor and Ryan Bailey as well as Jamaicans Kenya Sinclair, Sherone Simpson, Asafa Powell and Nesta Carter, who usually turn up yearly or just about. However, the competition was no less fever-pitched as several ‘lesser-knowns’ got the opportunity to shine and put themselves on the radar.

The Jamaica women drew first blood in the early afternoon by defeating their archrivals in the Nike-sponsored 4x100m relay. Left without the services of their biggest female star Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica ran two members of last year’s squad that won at Penn and two members of the team that won gold in Moscow: Carrie Russell (Moscow) to Kerron Stewart (Moscow) to Anneisha McLaughin gave Trisha-Ann Hawthorne – the virtually unknown addition to the squad – much with which to work. She anchored the team to victory over the US quartet of Stacey-Ann Smith, Alexandria Anderson (Moscow), Muna Lee, and LaKeisha Lawson.

In the men’s equivalent, Americans Charles Silmon, Justin Gatlin (Moscow), Rakieem Salaam (Moscow), Walter Dix defeated Jamaicans Jason Livermore (Moscow), Michael Frater, Rasheed Dwyer, and Oshane Bailey by the narrowest of margin: 38.57secs to 38.58,respectively.

In a post-race interview, Gatlin noted that it really felt good to win. “We knew from the beginning that when we came here we wanted to make a statement. What we did today was special and the beginning of something great for the upcoming Olympics,” he said.

Dix put the competition between the two countries in perspective: “for a race to come down to the wire the way this did is what you live for as an athlete. You prepare for moments like this. A win like this is huge for us. It brought us closer together as a team, as well as showed what we are capable of doing.”

While Jamaica was no threat in the men’s 1600m relay, the rivalry between Bahamas and the US was evident from the sound of the gun. The London Olympic gold medal team of Michael Mathieu (45.7), Demetrius Pinder (44.7), Chris Brown (45.09), and Ramon Miller (45.32) repeated their London achievement by capitalizing on a US error to register 3:00.78 and defeat the US’s Kyle Clemons (45.8), Kind Butler (45.1), David Verburg (44.50), and Manteo Mitchell (47.88) who clocked 3:03.3.


USA takes the wrong baton, but the Bahamas grabs it back.

USA takes the wrong baton, but the Bahamas grabs it back.

Baton Mix-up

This race had its moment of drama as confusion over the baton at the third exchange resulted in American anchor Mitchell mistakenly grabbing Bahamas’s baton from Brown without looking, instead of from his incoming runner, Verburg. In a flash, the quick-thinking Miller realized what had happened and immediately snatched it back from Mitchell and took off, leaving Mitchell to turn back to collect the US baton from Verburg. Running without their leading man LaShawn Merritt and other experienced quarter-milers, the US was too far back to catch the flying Bahamians but managed to edge out Brazil for second place by one-hundredth of a second.

Marking 50 years competing at the Penn Relays, Jamaican high school continued their dominance – from the hurdles to the 4×100, 4×400 and 4×800 Championship of America races. In this category, it was a US school that struck first, when Columbia of New Jersey’s anchor Olivia Baker (2:02.55) repeated her stunning feat of last year by taking her school from a massive deficit of some 60 meters in fifth place to win over Jamaica’s Edwin Allen, who before Baker seemed unbeatable.

Having lost that race, Jamaica was victorious in all other Championship races it entered. All six Jamaican schools competing in the High School Boys sprint relay commandeered the top six places and in another: first, second, third, fifth and sixth places. The Jamaicans also won several other individual events, grabbing the top two spots in some cases.

Devaughn Baker of Jamaica College was awarded the High School Boys Athlete of the Meet for Relay Events. Baker anchored his team to a Penn Relays record of 39.72, shaving .06 off the mark set by Wolmer’s Boys in 2010. Earlier in the meet Baker ran a 46.81 split in the heats of the 4x400m.

Texas A&M women continued their supreme form as they copped victory in both the 4×1 and 4×2 Championship races, while Jamaica’s UTech ran away with wins in the men’s versions, clocking 38.71, the second fastest time ever for the College Men’s 4x100m Championship of America title. Andrew Fisher, Julian Forte, Adolphus Nevers, and Tyquendo Tracey ran on the latter. UTech women also cashed in as winners from outside the US; Natasha Morrison, Elaine Thompson, Janvieve Russell (52.2), and Simoya Campbell (2:07.78) won the sprint medley relay in 3:47.14.

The University of Pittsburg turned the final race of the evening into something special for them. Micah Murray (46.9), Carvin Nkanata (44.9), Desmond Palmer (47.20), Brycen Spratling (44.45) snatched victory with 3:03.44 over the Texas Longhorns (3:05.13) in the College Men’s 4×400 Championship of America, the first time tasting victory in the 1600m relay since winning the event 75 years ago in 1939.

“It’s amazing,” remarked lead-off man Murray. “… It was a historical moment and I’m just glad to be a part of it. I love it. God has blessed us with many opportunities and great meets, but this is one of the best.”

Spratling said, “I think the crowd brought me through it. It feels great.”

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