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

It’s Prediction Time – US Trials Relays…

May 30th, 2021
6:06 pm PDT

This season has been moving along so quickly, that it’s been too fast to keep up with – pun intended. Literally every few days something extraordinary has occurred. Athing Mu, Trayvon Bromell, Allyson Felix, Kenny Bednarek, Gabby Thomas, Terrance Laird, and this is just the tip of the iceberg! It’s now mere weeks from the NCAA Championships and the Olympic Trials – and time to start to spec out who’s going to be taking that trip to Tokyo.

So that’s what I’m going to start doing – give my predictions of who I think us young to represent the US at the Games. I’m going to begin a bit differently than normal however. Instead of starting with individual events, the 100, 200, etc, I’m going to start with the relays this time around. Why? Because I want to think ahead a bit at more than one single event at a time. After all, one has to make the team to be a part of the relay pool, andI wan tot think about the team as a whole. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the potential US relays!

Let me say that I’m very excited about this Olympic team. If it shakes out the way I think it will, this could be the best team since 1968! Young, talented, and very deep. A changing of the guard type of year and team. Don’t get me wrong, Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix have given us a great ride. Eventually however, it’s time for the next phase – and I see that train coming. No different than when Bob Hayes gave way to Jim Hines, or Michael Johnson to Jeremy Wariner.

There’s going to be a lot of that this time around. We’ve been blessed to have many of history’s best at our disposal over the last decade plus. It’s time to see what the kids have to offer. That’s going to make it difficult this time around to make the team – and to predict it. I will tell you that I’ve already made few adjustments to previous relay predictions based on what I’ve seen recently. We’re deeper than we’ve been in a while, and in races that are as close as the sprints, volatility is a given. Partly why I’m trying to get as close to the Trials as I can before climbing out on that limb. But here goes.


Men’s 4×1 – I want the WR back. Simple as that.

It’s been gone before for brief periods of time, but it’s time to return home. Losing Christian Coleman hurts a bit in that regard, but I believe that we still have the horses to do so.

Leadoff – Yes, Coleman is not available, but Trayvon Bromell is. Technically Bromell is a better starter than Coleman, and any microseconds lost in foot speed should be more than replaced by execution. We should be as solid here as we were in ’19 when we set the NR.

Second leg – If you’ve watched any track this season you’ve watched Terrance Laird’s acceleration! The only leg that uses blocks is leadoff, so his start is irrelevant, his acceleration at a premium. I know there is much sentiment for Gatlin, but this is business, and Laird has been the best collegian in the business.

Third leg – I was tempted to put this man on second leg, but I realized that he’s run the best bends in the world all year – Kenny Bednarek. He get’s out well; runs a fantastic turn; and is strong enough to run the anchor through the zone!

Anchor – Noah Lyles, duh. Best closing speed on the planet right now! Will bail us out if anything goes wrong, and run way from the field in the best case scenario! That scenario being a 36.50 victory!


Men’s 4×4 – No shot at a WR here, but we can run faster than any other nation has ever run.

Leadoff – Noah Williams has been the most solid and consistent quartermiler all year. He doesn’t rattle, and his race pattern is solid. He’s just what we need to get things started in Tokyo.

Second leg – You need someone that will get out and go for it and maintain once out in front alone. That’s Rai Benjamin. He’s experienced, fast, and the right man for the job at this spot right here.

Third leg – Probably the most difficult spot to fill. IF things go as they should, he’ll be running alone. So, we need someone with speed and discipline. After MUCH thought, I’m going with Trevor Stewart. Another very solid collegiate athlete that’s done an awesome job this spring.

Anchor – Michael Norman. Period. The best quartermiler on the planet right now. Fast, strong, great race pattern. And I’ve personally watched him run a 43.05 anchor. Nuff said! Norman brings it home in 2:55.75.

Now I know I’m going to get some heat for leaving Fred Kerley off my squad. So be it. Like I said regarding the 4×1, this is business. Everyone gets their shot at individual gold. The relay however, is about team and fit. I’m looking at putting together the best group of athletes to achieve a goal. And I truly believe that this four is the best ‘team“ to put on the track in Tokyo. For me to want to replace Kerley with someone, he would have to significantly improve the squad. Williams is going to open up around 44.2/3. I don’t see that improving. Rai is going to run 43.5/6. I don’t see Kerley running faster than that. I’ve watched Stewart run 43.7 in the relay. Again, I don’t see an improvement with Kerley. And, well only MJ has split faster than Norman – once. The truth is that Kerley is inconsistent and in spite of running 43.64 in the open event, typically splits mid 44 in relays. Good, but not what I would want in the Olympics. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Women’s 4×1 – First job, beat Jamaica! Then worry about how fast.

Leadoff – We’ve been the best out of the hole for a while now, and Bartoletta will be hard to replace. After watching all the collegians I’m going with Mikiah Brisco. She’s a great starter and runs a solid turn. And frankly I don’t thin anyone a tad faster will be a better “relay” asset.

Second leg – I’m going to take another PR hit here. So, I’ll give the caveat, “depending on Trials results”. But my gut says Gabby Thomas. She has everything needed here. The US version of Daphne Schippers if you will. Tall, fast, strong and fearless. She’ll take it to the Jamaicans. I know, this is “Allyson’s spot”. No sentiment here, just business.

Third leg – If there’s some wiggle room on this squad, it’s here. What I really want, is for Hannah Cunliffe to run 10.90; make the team ; and run the kind of third leg she used to run for Oregon! Like Calvin Smith, and Tyson Gay. Barring that, I’ll go with Javianne Oliver. Not sure how good a turn runner she is, but she’s been solid this year, and sub11. In the absence of a great turn runner, I want to hold position.

Anchor – They’re calling her, the Ferrari – Ms Sha’Carri Richardson! Blazing closing speed and just as much attitude! Like Lyles for the men, she can handle whatever she’s faced with. It’s a wrap. I don’t think we’re record ready, but we’re certainly capable of Tokyo gold! Sha’Carri will cross the line in 41.10.


Women’s 4×4 – The most solid gold medal in Tokyo!

Leadoff – Shamier Little. She’s been getting it done since indoors. Solid and can’t be rattled. We will lead from the gun and never look back.

Second & Third legs – Let’s make this simple and repeat the success of 2019. That means Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad. I mean, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! These women will run away from the field and put third away early.

Anchor – Athing Mu. Young, gifted, and everyone’s favorite new athlete. This squad was the easiest to construct frankly. These women have proven to be the best that we have. Anyone that argues any of these positions, will simply be biased. My only hesitation, is that Delilah has yet to run. And that scares me a tad. So we will see. For now, I see Athing finishing in 3:17.00.

After the above, we finish the Games with a sweep of the relays. Something only done once – at the Eastern bloc boycotted Games of 1984. Technically we, the US, swept the relays in 1968. However, there was no 4×4 for women then, only the 4×1. So, 2021 could be the first true sweep of the relays in Olympic history. That is the goal. To sweep the relays in a fully participated Games!

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