One of the highlights of the Penn Relays is the “USA vs. The World” segment of relays – 4×1, 4×4, Sprint Medley, Distance Medley. While all the relay teams have yet to be identified, the pools for the US and Jamaica have been released.
While the names of those that are in the pools represent some of the world’s best athletes, I am a bit disappointed that the sport’s two marquee sprinters – Usain Bolt (JAM) and Tyson Gay (USA) are not among them. In addition to the fact that we are still awaiting the seasonal debuts of both athletes, it takes a bit of the luster off the USA v JAM matchup in the men’s 4×1. It also means that unless some meet promoter pulls off a huge coup, we probably won’t see the two athletes compete against each other in any capacity until Daegu. That really needs to change.
Having said that, let’s look at what some of the possibilities are based on the athletes that will be available in Philly. I know that those who assemble the U.S. squads for this meet like to try and put together “balanced” squads, but I would really like to start seeing us make every attempt to put our best feet forward. Especially given that we have so few opportunities to run our people together.
To that end I think on the women’s side I would like to see a squad of Lauryn Williams to Allyson Felix to Marshavet Myers to Carmelita Jeter in the 4×1. Whereas the men’s squad will be incomplete without Tyson, I think this could be our best squad for Daegu. I would then run a squad of Miki Barber to Alex Anderson to Lisa Barber to Bianca Knight as my “B” team.
On the men’s side it’s a bit harder with Tyson out as he should be the third leg – and smack dab in the middle of the mix. Without Tyson I think I go Walter Dix to Wallace Spearmon to Darvis Patton to Justin Gatlin for the “A” squad against Trell Kimmons to Ivory Williams to Shawn Crawford to Mike Rodgers for the “B” squad. Given that we aren’t running close to our best squad with Tyson “on the bench” let’s let a couple of people have some good “auditions”.
I’d like to see Kimmons against Dix on leadoff. I like the idea of Dix leading off in Daegu, but if we can’t find a suitable anchor perhaps Kimmons on leadoff and Dix anchoring could work – and what better way to audition Kimmons than to run him head to head against Dix. Kimmons looked pretty good in Zurich, let’s see what he does here. Same story on the second leg. I like what Wallace has done there time and time again over the years. I’d like to see what Williams can do against him head to head, because Williams will have a better 100 time (Spearmon being a 200 man) and should be in the final at Nationals. There will be an argument for placing him on the squad for Daegu. I want to see how he does against the man I feel should hold the spot.
Then there is the all important anchor leg. Rodgers anchored last year’s 37.45 squad in Zurich. Let’s see how he and Gatlin do against each other and what will probably be Asafa Powell anchoring for Jamaica. Ironically if we get this matchup it will be the first time Powell and Gatlin (once the world’s two best) have faced each other since the 2005 Prefontaine Classic. While their status in the sport has changed for both, they could still end up facing off at anchor in Daegu – depending on health and just how well Gatlin shows come Nationals. Similarly for Jamaica, without Bolt and Blake, this relay could be audition time for a couple of individuals.
The other relays are not as critical in terms of the personnel that will be involved as having the right foursome together and developing rhythm and handoffs is not as critical because everyone outside of the 4×1’s will be using “visual” and not “blind” handoffs. That said, I am happy to see that both Richards Ross and Allyson Felix will be on the 4×4 – as they should be the heart and soul of that squad. I’m a bit disappointed that neither Jeremy Wariner nor Lashawn Merritt (still suspended) will be on the men’s squad, but am happy to see that Xavier Carter is in the pool. My gut tells me that he could end up playing an important role here – and I still think he would be an awesome quartermiler.
I’m also excited to see Leo Manzano, Phoebe Wright and Morgan Uceny listed in the medley relays, because I think all three are going to be factors at Nationals and possibly in Daegu. The growth of our middle distance corps over the past couple of seasons is very exciting, and these three are right in the mix and I think ready for the big time.
As usual Penn is shaping up as a very exciting meet. And while there have been lots of meets on the relay circuit already, Penn is the one where the season seems to turn the corner and the stars truly begin to come out!