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Gay, Spearmon show speed at Penn Relays

29 April 2007

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Tyson Gay passes the baton to Wallace Spearmon in the first 400-meter relay exchange (Dave Ungrady) Tyson Gay passes the baton to Wallace Spearmon in the first 400-meter relay exchange (Dave Ungrady)
By Dave Ungrady

While teammates at the University of Arkansas, sprinters Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon never lost a 400-meter relay race. That included an NCAA Division I title in 2005 during Gay's last year at Arkansas while Spearmon was a sophomore.

In 2006, they ran together on relay teams that clocked two of the three fastest times in the world, including a world best as part of a U.S. team that ran 37.59 seconds at the IAAF World Cup in Athens last September.

Saturday, the two teamed up for the first time as part of a U.S. men's 400-meter relay team in the USA vs. the World competition at the Penn Relays and continued their winning ways.

Gay ran the first leg and Spearmon the second as the Americans ran 38.35 to stay unbeaten in the event since it was first run in 2000. Jamaica finished second in 38.89, and the USA Blue team finished third in 38.97.

The United States again dominated the competition, winning five of the six contended relay races for the second consecutive year. Overall, Team USA has won 41 of 46 events in the eight-year history of the USA vs. the World competition.

The U.S men's 400-meter relay team won despite a troubled first baton pass between Gay, who ran the lead leg, and Spearmon.

"I don't think Wallace got out, and I was afraid of running into Jamaica's lane," said Gay. "Dwight Thomas of Jamaica looked like he was close to my lane."

The U.S. maintained a slight advantage through Darvis Patton's third leg, and 200-meter world champion Shawn Crawford anchored the team to a comfortable victory.

"I've been known to mess up a baton, and I've had past history of messing up in the Penn Relays," Crawford said. "I get anxious, so I just wanted to maintain. When you're in the front, you don't know what you're doing to the people in the back."

Crawford, running in his third consecutive USA vs. the World 400-meter relay at Penn, appeared relieved that his Penn Relays experience was over.

When asked why he ran at the meet this year, he said, "I could be a team player and say yes, it's very important. But to me, I don't look at it as important. I ran for my sponsor Nike because it's a requirement for me. They're probably going to kill me for saying that, but it's honest and I try to be honest with everybody.

"The main thing, especially in an Olympic year and a world championship year is that we want to get training in so that whenever we get to the USA Trials, or the world championships and the Olympic games, we want to be able to make it through three rounds," he said. "I'm thankful for it and I'm happy to be with my guys, but I would love to be at home training, preparing myself for [the world championships in] Osaka this year and catapult into Beijing next year."

While talking with a group of reporters immediately following the team press conference, Crawford responded with a profanity to a reporter's question about his coaching situation. Crawford was coached by Trevor Graham, the former coach of Justin Gatlin who was indicted last year for making false statements to a government agency regarding the BALCO laboratory drug scandal and is now coached by Stephen Hayes.

All the members of the U.S. women's 400-meter relay team appeared pleased to be at the Penn Relays. The USA Red and Blue teams ran even entering the anchor leg, but a faulty pass between Carmelita Jeter and anchor leg Rachelle Smith left USA Red anchor Lauryn Williams with a runaway victory in 42.87. Lisa Barber ran the first leg, and Allyson Felix ran the second for USA Red. Jamaica finished second in 43.55.

Muna Lee ran the third leg of a 400-meter relay for the first time and called her run "interesting." Williams felt she and Lee pulled off a "great" handoff.

"I saw Muna coming in and got a little overexcited," she said. "You can never tell, the stadium is so loud and rowdy. It's a good rivalry with Jamaica. It's a great thing to hear people going 'USA, USA.'"

Chants of "USA" echoed through Franklin Field again during the men's 1,600-meter relay. The USA Red team, anchored by Olympic relay gold medalist Darold Williamson, won in 2:59.18, ahead of the Blue team in 3:00.04 and Jamaica in 3:00.44. The winning U.S. team also included 2006 U.S. outdoor 400-meter champion Andrew Rock, Derrick Brew and 2006 U.S. outdoor 400-meter runner-up LaShawn Merritt.

"I just knew that if I got a lead or if I was in striking distance, I had confidence that I could win," said Williamson.

Felix, the outdoor world champion in the 200 meters, ran a critical second leg for the Red team in its women's 400-meter relay win. She ran her leg in under 50 seconds, leading the team of Mary Wineberg, Moushaumi Robinson and Debbi Dunn to a 3:24.70. Jamaica was second at more than two seconds behind.

"I haven't run that many 1,600-meter relays, so I was happy to come out and run a good leg," she said. "The 400-meter relay is a good warm-up for this, so I didn't have to do too much to get ready."

The U.S. women's team, anchored by three-time U.S. outdoor 800-meter champion Hazel Clarke, won the sprint medley relay in 3:38.89. A race against a Jamaican team did not materialize following a botched pass from 200-meter runners Nadine Palmer and Sharone Simpson.

"I was really looking forward to racing Jamaica," said Clarke, who took the baton in second place. "I thought they were the ones to beat."

The World All-Star team won the men's distance medley relay with a late rally by its 1,600-meter anchor leg, Bernard Kiptum of Kenya. Kiptum passed U.S. indoor 1,500-meter champion Chris Lukesic in the final meters and won in 9:29.44. The world team also included Solomon Birir of Kenya in the 1,200 meters, Gary Kikaya of Congo in the 800 meters and Courtney Jaworski of the United States.

World teams from Jamaica, Kenya, Russia, Great Britain, China, Canada, Zimbabwe and the Bahamas were among those that competed against U.S. teams.

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