Team USA sweeps World in Penn Relays
Team USA used a Penn Relays romp as a hopeful sneak preview for London.
Allyson Felix ran on a pair of relay teams that set Penn Relays records on Saturday, and the United States was flawless in all six relays in the "U.S.A. vs. the World'' races at Franklin Field on Saturday.
USA Track and Field set the lofty goal of 30 medals in the Olympics.
Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross, Walter Dix, Justin Gatlin, and Lashawn Merritt showed they're coming to get their share.
"London, here we come,'' Merritt said.
On a chilly and windy day at Franklin Field, the men and women simply did what they wanted on the track against teams from Belgium and the Bahamas to Venezuela and Kenya, keeping the thrilling finishes to a minimum and giving a decisive glimpse into what they expect in the Olympics.
The women won the sprint medley relay, the 400-meter relay and the 1,600-meter relay. The men won the 400-meter relay, the distance medley relay and the 1,600-meter relay in the 118th running of the famed track and field meet.
"We're in the right direction heading to London,'' 2008 Olympics bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson said. "Just for America to come out on top 6-0, that says that America is coming this year.''
The relays belonged to Felix, a three-time Olympic medalist, who flashed the speed that's long made her a fan favorite at the Penn Relays.
Felix teamed with Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter to set a Penn Relays record in the 400 with a time of 42.19 seconds.
She also was on a relay with Francena McCorory, Natasha Hastings and Sanya Richards-Ross that set the mark in the 1,600 with a time of 3 minutes, 21.18 seconds.
"It just really makes me look forward to London 2012,'' Jeter said.
The final day of the Penn Relays is traditionally the biggest - in both crowds and marquee names. The public address announcer told the crowd the United States had swept the All-Star event 6-0 at the end of the 1,600 to a roaring pro-USA crowd.
"It was exciting for us to cross the line and kind of finish it off for Team USA. It was amazing,'' Richards-Ross said. "Usually the Jamaicans give us some trouble in one of the relays.''
Jamaican stars Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell did not compete in the relays.
They'll be a force in London.
The U.S. runners sure didn't miss them on Saturday.
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller watched several "U.S.A. vs. the World'' relays from the stands and blew kisses to the crowd.
The U.S. women opened the series with a win in the sprint medley relay. Porscha Lucas, Barbara Pierre, Phoebe Wright and Maggie Vessey took the relay in 3:42.85. The American women trailed until Vessey made a perfectly timed pass to get by Great Britain on the anchor leg to the delight of the fans chanting "U-S-A!'' down the final 200 meters.
"I tried to be patient and sit and wait and wait and wait,'' Vessey said. "Thankfully, it came together for a fun finish.''
From there, the home country rolled.
Led by Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Doc Patton and Walter Dix, the men won the 400 relay in 38.40.
Suspended for four years in 2006 after testing positive for excessive testosterone, Gatlin's second chance has the 2004 gold medal winner in the mix for another spot in the Olympics.
"I wouldn't call it so much redemption. I guess that's the word everyone has titled my journey back to track and field,'' Gatlin said. "It just feels like I'm back at home among some good teammates that I definitely believe in.''
Tyler Mulder, David Neville, Khadevis Robinson and Leo Manzano won the DMR in 9:19.31. Manzano, a former college male athlete of the meet for Texas, stayed focused and caught world champion Bernard Lagat on the closing lap for the upset win.
"Any time you get a guy like Bernard,'' Manzano said, "there is a little bit of satisfaction.''
Lagat regained the American record in the indoor 5,000 meters earlier this year. The veteran runner was disappointed with his finish.
"I felt that my legs were a bit heavy,'' he said. "This week has been hard in training, but I always like to win. I just wish I could have performed better for the guys who ran. I feel like my time was not good enough.''
Jackson, Merritt, Angelo Taylor and Calvin Smith won the 1,600 in 3:00.15. Merritt was a few strides behind Chris Brown of the Bahamas when he grabbed the baton for the final leg. He paced himself before grabbing the lead for good on the straightaway.
When Merritt made his winning pass, one fan yelled, "There's nothing more beautiful than that!''
"I was thinking just going ahead and blowing by him,'' Merritt said. "But I wanted to work on the kick and see what I had. Me being a sprinter, the worst part of my race is coming home.''
He came home this time in a familiar spot for the Americans - first place.
In other events on the final day of the Penn Relays: The Princeton men's team of Michael Williams, Joe Stilin, Trevor Van Ackeren and Donn Cabral won the mile-relay in 16:16.79; the Oregon women's team of Claudia Francis, Laura Roesler, Becca Friday and Anne Kesselring won the 3,200 relay in 8:24.16; the Penn State men's team of Owen Dawson, Ryan Brennan, Casimir Loxsom, Robby Creese Penn State the 3,200 relay in 7:19.76.