PHILADELPHIA - Two record-setting performances, including a thrilling win for Kenya, huge crowds and drama all around the track marked an exciting USA vs. The World at the Penn Relays presented by AT&T.
Saturday's attendance of 49,771 in near-perfect weather conditions was among the highest single-day total in the 112-year history of the Penn Relays. The three-day attendance for Penn broke the all-time record, with 114,194 fans visiting Franklin Field.
Part of USA Track & Field's Visa Championship Series, USA vs. The World at the Penn Relays will be broadcast on NBC from 5-6 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, April 30.
Crowd-pleaser in men's 4x400
The greatest drama on the track came courtesy of the AT&T Men's 4x400m relay, where Team USA sought to avenge a loss to Jamaica at last year's USA vs. The World. The race was a four-way see-saw battle between USA Blue, USA Red, Jamaica and the World All Stars.
After falling in this race last year, Tyree Washington gave USA Red the lead at the break, narrowly leading of Jamaica's Michael Blackwood. It was USA Blue (Andrew Rock), Jamaica (Sanjay Ayre) and USA Red (Derrick Brew) in a virtual dead heat after the second leg and USA Red (Otis Harris), USA Blue (Kerron Clement), Jamaica (DuWayne Barrett) and the World All-Stars (Sherridan Kirk of Trinidad) running four abreast after three legs.
The world indoor 300m record holder, Wallace Spearmon was not daunted by anchoring his first U.S. 4x400 relay for the Red team. He held off Olympic gold medal anchor Darold Williamson of USA Blue, Mark Fountain of the World All-Stars and Jermaine Gonzales of Jamaica as the quartet of teams finished in 3:00.09, 3:00.13, 3:00.56 and 3:00.83. Team USA Red splits were Washington 45.4, Brew 45.0, Harris 44.7 and Spearmon 45.0; Blue splits were LaShawn Merritt 45.8, Andrew Rock 44.7, Kerron Clement 45.1 and Darold Williamson 44.5.
Team USA Blue left significantly less to chance in the Nike women's 4x400m relay. World outdoor 400m hurdles silver medalist LaShinda Demus (51.5) gave Team USA the lead in the first leg, and Olympic relay gold medalists Monique Hennagan (52.2), Monique Henderson (50.0) and Sanya Richards (49.8) extended that lead significantly, winning in 3:23.51. Jamaica was a distant second in 3:26.85, with USA Red third in 3:28.70.
Kenya wins thrilling DMR
The longest relay of the day, the Nike men's distance medley relay, was a virtual photo-finish. With Kenya competing in USA vs. the World for the first time, Team USA had a tough task ahead.
Elkanah Angwenyi of Kenya split 2:50.8 to lead after the first leg. 2005 USA runner-up Chris Lukezic completed the lead 1,200-meter leg in fourth for USA Blue but was just a stride or two behind. With Milton Campbell toting the baton, USA Red was in the lead after the 400m leg, but U.S. champion Khadevis Robinson put USA Blue back in control after the 800m leg (1:44.5), handing off to Bernard Lagat, the American 1,500m record holder, in the lead.
The two-time Olympic medalist for Kenya, Lagat was competing for the first time in a USA jersey. He maintained a slim lead over Commonwealth Games champion Alex Kipchirchir of Kenya throughout the anchor, 1,600m leg. But in the final meters, Kipchirchir inched toward Lagat, and then passed him, finishing in 9:15.56 to out-lean Lagat (9:15.63). Kipchirchir split 3:52.8 to Lagat's 3:53.8.
Both teams were under the previous world best of 9:20.10 run by the University of Arkansas at the 1989 Penn Relays. Kenya's full lineup featured Angwenyi, Thomas Musembi, Alfred Kirwa Yego and Kipchirchir; World Championships 400m hurdles silver medalist James Carter ran the 400m leg for USA Blue. The World All-Stars team of Julius Achon (UGA), Damion Barry (TRI), Sherridan Kirk (TRI) and Mark Fountain (AUS) was third in 9:21.36.
Another record for Team USA in sprint medley
For the second consecutive year, Team USA set a world best in the Tyson Foods women's sprint medley relay. Running in their second race of the day, World Championships 200m silver medalist Rachelle Boone-Smith and 100m world champion Lauryn Williams proved a potent 1-2 punch for Team USA in the first two 200m legs of the relay. 2004 Georgetown graduate Monica Hargrove came back from a year off from the sport to run a strong 400-meter leg, and Penn Relays veteran Hazel Clark closed with an 800m anchor that led Team USA across the line in 3:37.16, surpassing the record mark of 3:37.42 set by Team USA at the 2005 USA vs. The World. Jamaica (Sherone Simpson, Peta-Gay Dowdie, Nadia Davy, Korene Hinds) finished second in 3:39.85, with USA Red (Kia Davis, Amandi Rhett, Debbi Dunn, Treniere Clement) third in 3:40.34.
The Hershey's men's 4x100m relay was the most dramatic of the day off the track. The USA Blue team of former NCAA champion Tyson Gay, world indoor 60m champion Leonard Scott, Olympic 200m gold medalist Shawn Crawford and Olympic and world champion Justin Gatlin won easily in 38.33 seconds. But officials had ruled that the hand-off between Scott and Crawford went out of the exchange zone. That gave the winner of the previous heat, USA White, the win in 38.72 seconds, with USA Red second in 38.78. Anthony Buchanan, Ernest Wiggins, Jason Smoots and Marcus Brunson celebrated victory, but later video replays showed that Scott and Crawford had committed no infraction. About 30 minutes after the races had concluded, USA Blue was reinstated as the winning team.
What the Visa women's 4x100m relay lacked in drama it made up for in quality. Team USA Blue led from the moment Rachelle Boone-Smith burst from the blocks. Former NCAA champion Muna Lee, 2004 USA champion Latasha Colander and Lauryn Williams finished the job, winning in 42.81. The Americans were well ahead of USA Red (Angela Williams, Angela Daigle, Stephanie Durst, Amandi Rhett, 43.38) and Jamaica (Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Sheri Ann Brooks, Peta-Gay Dowdie, Aleen Bailey, 43.87).
For complete results from the 112th Penn Relays, visit www.thepennrelays.com
Athlete quotes, USA vs. The World at the Penn Relays
Visa Women's 4x100m relay, USA Blue
Rachelle Boone-Smith: We had great unity and my first leg felt pretty good. My goal was to catch the girl in front of me.
Muna Lee: I just tried my best to get out. She [Boone-Smith] got out good, which made it easier. ON THE CROWD: I just like the crowd, period. It's just so exciting.
Latasha Colander: Our camaraderie before we got there was in synch. That made handoffs so much easier.
Lauryn Williams: Me and CoCo [Colander] had good chemistry in past relay camps, so I wasn't concerned about our handoff. It worked out really great. We had good weather today and that gave everybody a good attitude. Our bond is really strong with USA Track & Field and that really helps. ... ON THE CROWD: You get to a meet like Penn and the Stadium is packed ... it reminds you of the World Championships or Olympics. You get out there and perform better than you have the last few weeks. You're nervous and trying to keep your serious face on and you want to smile and wave to the crowd. I think the girls are a little more conservative than the guys. They're out there strutting around, doing cartwheels.
Hershey's Men's 4x100m relay, USA Blue
Note: press conference held after it was announced that the team was disqualified, but before the announcement of their reinstatement.
Leonard Scott: I thought I gave it to him in the zone. I was so surprised. To me, it [the handoff] was a whole lot better than last year. I couldn't understand it. ... Whatever happened, the stick got around, and that's a big plus for us.
Shawn Crawford: I think a lot of variables played in. With all the hype going on out there, I forgot to consider that the wind was blowing in his [Scott's] face. When you mess up the stick, it's the receiving man's responsibility. Those handoffs were great if you don't pay attention to where the triangles [marking the hand-off zone] are.
Justin Gatlin: ON THE CROWD: It's wild and crazy. On my leg, I'll stand in one section and hear cheers and in the next section I hear boos. One moment you're a hero, the next you're a villain. Life is like that. We did a great job and put on a great show. We ran good. It was fun. It feels good that we didn't drop the baton.
Hershey's Men's 4x100, USA White
Note: Press conference held after it was announced that USA Blue was DQ'd and USA White was the winning team
Ernest Wiggins: This is my first Penn Relays. Seeing the crowd, 40-plus thousand, I was really exiting.
Marcus Brunson: The main object of this meet is just to have fun. It kind of reminds me of my college days. The goal is to win. If somebody else doesn't do their job, I'm not too sad. I think it would have been a close race if we had been in the same race as them [USA Blue].
Tyson Foods Women's Sprint Medley Relay - USA Blue
Rachelle Boone-Smith: I didn't know it was a world record. I'm more confident with the 200 because I've run it more. This is awesome. This is my first time to be here and run with a USA team.
Lauryn Williams: I was a little bit under the weather, so I was a little nervous going in. But the adrenaline gets you going. I actually felt great. I felt really good and strong.
Monica Hargrove: This was my first time competing, so I was very happy. I strained my hamstring two weeks ago and I had to make a decision on whether to run. My last 100 meters, it really started to tug. This is amazing. I didn't run at all last year.
Hazel Clark: I've been running at Penn since high school. For me, it's a lot of pressure. Last year was probably the biggest effort I've ever put on in my career. This is the second world record in two years, so I'm really excited to be part of it. To me, world records are not something you top year after year. I knew it would take a lot of effort.
Nike Men's Distance Medley Relay - Kenya Black
Elkanah Angwenyi: I haven't done much speed work. I ran very well and I hope to do this well in coming races.
Alex Kipchirchir: It was a great opportunity to run in this race. It was great to competed against bit-time guys like Bernard Lagat. The last lap was really fast. The last 150 meters, Lagat opened a lead of 2 meters, and I was able to win.
Thomas Musembi: I thought I could not make it in the 400 meters, because the Americans run so fast.
Nike Men's Distance Medley Relay - USA Blue
Chris Lukezic: From the start, I knew I wanted it to be fairly fast. My objective was to hand of fin the lead. I didn't do that, so I can't say I'm thrilled. We still managed 2:51, 2:52.
Khadevis Robinson: I'm fairly pleased with my race because I wanted to run a little bit faster. I gave my all. The Kenyans are tough. They ran with their hearts, and they're not afraid.
Bernard Lagat: ON COMPETING IN A TEAM USA JERSEY FOR THE FIRST TIME: It feels good. I wore it for the first time today in the hotel, and I looked in the mirror and I said, 'this looks good. It feels different. I like it.' I wanted to win today. Being here in this uniform, I wanted to win. You want to do your best. In some way I felt I let my team down, but I ran with a lot of determination ... It was really great to run today with my teammates. I wanted us to win. My coach told me to be careful the first 800 meters, so that's what I did. The last 100, 200, I decided in order to get away from Alex Kipchirchir, I was going to have to run hard the last 200. He was on my back the whole way, so I was kind of his pacemaker and that worked to his advantage. The last 100, I thought I had it. He kicked passed me. He just caught me at the end.
Nike women's 4x400m relay - USA Blue
LaShinda Demus: This is my first time running out of the hole [lead-off], so I wanted to prove I can run any leg they put me on.
Monique Hennagan: At the Penn Relays, whether you're ready or not, the momentum of the crown and the hypeness really gets you going. I just went out there and held on as much as I could.
Monique Henderson: This is my first time coming to the Penn Relays, so it was a little overwhelming. Having that split (50.0) is very surprising. I knew I had to push hard off the last turn, because I could hear the Jamaicans.
Sanya Richards: I really wanted to go out and put on a show. I wanted us to win and win big. We surge at 250 meters. That was my race plan to go out and kick it home.
AT&T Men's 4x400m relay - USA Red
Tyree Washington: My approach was, I'm gonna start the fire. Last year was very difficult because I tripped and fell. For me, it was a matter of redemption and a matter of revenge. I gave us the lead and we were able to hold it.
Derrick Brew: I went out today to run a good leg. Last year, I had an injury and had to watch from the infield. Today when Tyree came in, I knew I get to get around the turn and take the lead at the break.
Otis Harris: I wanted to be able to come out and give a good performance. I think I split 46 seconds last year. Personally, I had a lot to prove on that end. We were shooting for first.
Wallace Spearmon: My teammates put me in great position. They told me just go out there and do what you do. I was more afraid of what my teammates would do if I didn't hold on.
Athlete Quotes and Highlights04/30/06
Courtesy By: Courtesy of USATF