2014 Penn Relays, by Elliott Denman

Penn Relays, photo by PhotoRun.net

The Penn Relays are in their 120th year. Elliott Denman, along with Dave Hunter are providing us with their views of the iconic relay event. 

 PHILADELPHIA -  Ajee' Wilson learned her lesson in Poland.
 She vows that she'll never concede a thing, any race, any distance, to any opponent, anywhere.
 Back in early March, she started slowly in her trial of the women's 800-meter race at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, lost the ground she never could regain, and so wound up a spectator as the World Championship final went off two days later.
 The soon-to-be 20-year-old Neptune, N.J. athlete promises to be on her best, always-alert behavior from here on out.
 The admonishment from her coach, Kermit Foster, "don't ever fall asleep like that," will continue to resonate, again and again.
Maybe seeing USA teammate Chanelle Price run off with the 800-meter gold medal in Sopot - as she watched - will prove to be a blessing in disguise.
  It sure looked that way at Saturday's concluding session of the 120th edition of the University of Pennsylvania Relay Carnival - before 49,103 sun-soaked witnesses - as Wilson got the baton from teammate
Moushaumi Robinson at least 15 meters down on front-running Natalya Goule of Jamaica on the anchor carry of the women's sprint medley.
   And the gap remained until the final 200 meters of the race that provided a top thrill of the six-raceUSA Vs. The World Series at Penn.
  "I could see she (Goule) was slowing some, but not all that much," said Wilson. "So I just worked even harder.
I didn't know if I could catch her but I sure was going to try."
  As the crowd got onto its feet - and the yelling and screaming went in dual directions with many Jamaica fans in the stands - Wilson found a new gear and surged ahead in the final strides.
  So it went into the books as an American triumph, 3:37.94 to 3:38.41, with a Caribbean all-stars team a distant third at 3:46.95.
   Alexandria Anderson and Charonda Williams handled the USA 200-meter legs, Robinson ran a 51.8 400..and Wilson did the rest. Goule's 2:01.36 just couldn't cut it.
 "I've been coming to Penn Relays since freshman year at (Neptune) high school, and it was always the biggest deal," said the Temple University student who runs professionally for adidas. "Now, just to be able to come here as a part of Team USA is amazing and  a great honor.
  "We used to come on Saturdays and sit in the nosebleed seats (of Franklin Field's upper deck.) So you know this event is really special to me."
  The Jamaica foursome of Carrie Russell, Kerron Stewart, Anneisha McLaughlin and Trisha-Ann Hawthorne sprinted off with the women's 4x100 title in 42.81, a decisive win over LaKeisha Lawson-anchored USA (43.15), Trinidad and Tobago(43.53) and Brazil (43.77).
  But the USA rallied to win the 4x400 to make it two out of three on the women's side of the series.
 Keshia Kirtz (52.7), Monica Hargrove (51.7), veteran DeeDee Trotter (50.78) and Jessica Beard (50.46) did it in 3:25.62 to outrun Nigeria (3:27.16), Jamaica (3:27.32) and Brazil (3:33.24.)
    The Americans went two-for-three in men's action to make it four-of-six over-all.
   Best racing of the global series on the men's side came in the 4x100.
 It boiled down to centimeters, as USA's home team of Charles Simon, Justin Gatlin, Rakieem Salaam and Walter Dix nosed out Team Jamaica, 38.57 to 38.58, with Brazil (38.94), China (39.12), Qatar (39.38) and Nigeria (39.89) in hot pursuit.
 Gatlin's storming second leg was vital to the American win.
 "Don't put me out to pasture yet," said the 2004 Olympic champion. "I've still got a little energy in my legs. I am 32 but I feel like I'm 26."
  Australia (anchored by Collis Birmingham's 3:55.61 1600 meters) had the best of much of the men's distance medley but there was no way Birmingham could fight off  American Leonel Manzano.
 The Texan's 3:53.8 four laps brought USA home in 9:28.27 to the the Aussies' 9:30.74, with David Torrence (2:59.43 1200), Quentin Iglehart-Summers (46.12 400) and Brandon Johnson (1:45.55) setting the table for Manzano
  A lot of sentiment rode on third-place Ireland (9:42.83) with John Coghlan running anchor.
  Of course, his dad, now-Irish senator Eamonn Coghlan is one of the most-gloried runners in Penn Relays annals  for his dazzling deeds as a Villanova Wildcat.
  John Coghlan, whose career is very much on the rise, clocked a 4:05.95 anchor in third place.  A distant trailer was fourth-place Mexico (10:00.41.)
  Team USA - which saw its long Olympic men's 4x400 winning streak ended as Team Bahamas took the 2012 Olympic golds - once again couldn't handle the Bahamians.
  With Michael Mathieu, Demetrius Pinder, super-vet Chris Brown (45.09) and Ramon Miller (45.32) doing the stickwork, the home team hadn't a chance and Bahamas breezed across the line in 3:00.78.
  Americans Kyle Clemons, Kind Butler, David Verburg (44.50) and Manteo Mitchell (47.88) ran 3:03.31, and barely held off third-place Brazil (3:03.32), with Jamaica at 3:04.99 and Nigeria at 3:05.05.
  Manteo Mitchell will forever be recognized as his sport's profile in courage for his London 2012 semifinal relay stint on a broken leg. His gutsy performance gave his nation the chance to run the 4x400 final - which nevertheless proved Bahamian property.
  "Life is a little different after running on a broken leg," conceded Mitchell, now a known figure in his sport.
  "Post-injury, I struggled coming back to where I was."
  His revised target: "Just to get back to where I was and proceed further past that."
  Women's World Indoor 800 champion Chanelle Price wasn't given an assignment for Team USA at Penn. Instead, she turned to the women's Olympic Development Division one-mile run and won it in 4:31.68.
  Undoubtedly, both Wilson and Price will be named to the USA team for the first edition of the World Relay Championships, coming up four weeks hence in Nassau, Bahamas.
   Stay tuned for those roster announcements, coming in a matter of days.

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