The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

World Relays Review

May 7th, 2024
6:44 pm PDT

Let me begin by saying that World Athletics needs to find a spot on the schedule for this meet every year. It’s always a fun exciting meet. Because relays are fun and exciting. It’s also an opportunity for to athletes to run without worrying about their times, won loss records, or anything related to their individual events. In short, I would call it a safe space to compete for the sports stars. So they show up and fans get a treat. One of the few things during the season that seems to be a win win for everyone! Something that doesn’t happen very often. Now, because it’s used to allow teams to qualify for the Olympics, there were several relays that didn’t happen this year – 4×2, DMR, Shuttle hurdles, to name a few. The multiple rounds that we did get were top notch. And overall it was just a fun meet to watch. The sport needs more events like this one. So, after two days of outstanding competition, what are my takeaways?

I’m going to throw out a couple of negatives and get them out of the way. One is the term “specialist”. As in 200m specialist. A specialist is someone that only does, or focuses on one thing. That’s the last thing that track athletes do. Sprinters sprint. They might be better at one event than others, but sprinters run varied distances. And many are very good at multiple distances. The second issue I have is with commentators referring to the longer first leg in the 4×4. Or the longer leg down the backstretch on the second leg of the 4×1. ALL the legs in the 4x? relays are the same distance! There are no longer legs. That’s why they’re called 4x distance.

Something I did like was that when there was a false start in the women’s 4×1, the official gave the young lady a warning! There was no need to throw her and her teammates out. No one was harmed. No time was lost. And we were still treated to another exciting heat. That’s the way it should be WA! Adjust the rule. That should be the standard. Or give me a legitimate reason why anyone should be thrown out of the race because of a single infraction!

Now on to the competition. I’ll start with Poland’s Ewa Swoboda. She’s best known for her indoor 60m racing. Outdoors you would think she would lead off the 4×1, but she doesn’t. She anchors, and shows great closing speed. Yes, she’s got a strong finish. If she can somehow translate that to the 100m, she could become a real viable threat. I felt the same way watching Marie Josee TaLou. Her closing speed in the 4×1 seemed much better than in her open races. That often happens in relays. Some athletes (often called relay “beasts”) are just better in relays than open races.

A few others. Andre DeGrasse looked like himself anchoring Canada’s 4×1. Defending Olympic 100m champion Lamont Jacobs looked healthy on Italy’s 4×1. Both men look ready to compete in Paris. Liberia’s Joseph Faunbulleh out the team on his shoulders, took the baton around sixth place and ran his 4×1 to a spot in Paris with a scary looking anchor. Botswana is a going to b very competitive in the men’s 4×4. Nigeria did well in my opinion, given that several of their top sprinters are competing at US universities.

So, how did Americans do? We did just fine. With the exception of the men’s 4×4 that got disqualified in the opening round for changing positions without permission. However they did come back on day two and won their second race. Each of the other teams took care of business, and won on both days. Leading many to ask, should these teams be the ones to run in Paris? My answer is, no. For a few reasons. First, we have a selection process for our Olympic squads. It does not involve the World Relays teams. You must make the Olympic team in order to be in the relay pool. More importantly, the competition in Paris is going to be tougher than that faced in the Bahamas. Everyone didn’t send their “A” teams to this meet. Frankly, neither did we. For example.

I know everyone was excited that the men did not drop the stick in the 4×1! That’s no reason to send this team to Paris. We should “expect” our men to get the stick around the track AND run in the mid 37’s. We have several combinations of men that should be able to do that. IF the goal is simply to win, that squad would be fine. If the goal is to send the best team possible, win AND break the WR, then we need a couple of tweaks. In my opinion, that should be the goal of any national team that we send to either the Olympics and World Championships. Looking at the team in the Bahamas, Bednarek proved to be capable of moving the stick on the backstretch, and should make Team USA. Noah of course has shown the he is our anchor at present. With all due respect to Courtney Lindsey, Christian Coleman is a better lead off. Christian is the world’s best starter and closes the stagger on first leg every time. And Kyrie King is no match for Erriyon Knighton around a turn. Kyrie held his position. Erriyon will increase it, because he literally flattens out the turn. Those tweaks will win and have a shot at the record.

Similar thoughts on the women’s squad. Jamaica is going to show up with an entirely different group than the one that went to the Bahamas. Barring injury they will send Elaine Thompson, Shericka Jackson and Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce. THAT is who we must be ready for in Paris. The only person in the Bahamas that I would run in the same position in Paris is Tamari Davis in leadoff. From there I would move Gabby Thomas to third, and insert Abby Steiner on second. And place Sha’Carri Richardson on anchor. Basically a new team. Each of those individuals has shown to run their legs in winning fashion AGAINST Jamaican squads!

As for the 4×4’s, neither represented the best that we have. With handoffs not being as critical here, we can afford to see who is running best at the end of June before selecting those squads. I suspect however, we’ll see names like, Benjamin, Norman, Steiner, and McLaughlin begin to emerge at the Trials. That’s really the difference. The teams we send to Paris will and should reflect the best available athletes. We are still relatively early in the peaking process for Paris. The athletes that we sent to the Bahamas competed well. IF any of them outrun the athletes I mentioned above, I’ll be willing to reconsider. Eugene in June will decide. As it should.

Which takes us to what’s up next! Collegiate conferences this week. The SEC, Big 10, and the rest of the larger conferences go at it this week. Which reminds me that several potential relay runners, American and foreign will be on display during the next month of college qualifying meets and Nationals. Also, the meet that traditionally signals the start of the Diamond League, Doha, will be run on Friday. The World Relays was nice, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. There’s a lot of running to be done, before anyone is guaranteed tickets to Paris. As they say in the south, it’s about to get Crunk!

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