May 24, 2014
Unlike the men’s 4×800, where the Kenyans got out to a big lead and almost gave it back, there was no drama in the women’s 4×1500 at the inaugural IAAF World Relays on Saturday night. The Kenyan women pulled away early and destroyed the world-record by running 16:33.58 for victory, taking more than 31 seconds off the previous mark (17:05.72) set at the Kenyan trials last month.
The world record was destined to fall in this one as the average PB of the Kenyan team (4:00.12) was 17 seconds per leg faster than what they needed to split for a world record. With the win and WR, the Kenyan women will take home $100,000 ($50,000 for the win and $50,000 for the WR) and Kenya is halfway home to a sweep of the four mid-distance gold medals available here.
Race video highlights for USA Visitors: (photo gallery here)
The race featured just four teams — Kenya, the U.S., Australia and Romania. Three would get a medal.
It looked like it might be interesting in the beginning when the Kenyan leadoff leg and last year’s world silver medalist at 5k, Mercy Cherono, chose not to go to the front. Instead, it was the U.S.’s Heather Kampf who handled the early pacing duties, taking the field through 800 in a modest 2:15. Cherono couldn’t wait much longer, however, taking the lead on the backstretch of lap three. Australian WC finalist Zoe Buckman responded to the move and sat on Cherono’s shoulder while a gap formed on Kampf in third. Cherono handed off in first in 4:07.4 with Buckman less than a second behind.
Kampf handed to Katie Mackey, 1.1 seconds behind Buckman, but then there was a violent collision between Mackey and Buckman. After handing off on the turn Buckman slowly started exiting the track to the outside in lane 2. Problem was, that was exactly where Mackey was. Mackey was looking back grabbing the baton and she slammed into Buckman (gif here, discussion here). Mackey would quickly get up, but run the slowest leg for the Americans.
Australia’s second leg, Bridey Delaney, tried to hang with Kenya’s second, Faith Kipyegon, and the two pushed the gap to 30-40 meters on Mackey. Kipyegon then began to push as she came past the finish line with 600 meters to go in the leg, and from there, the race for gold was over for all intents and purposes. Delaney, whose PB is 4:10, was never going to be able to hang with the 3:56 performer Kipyegon, and by the time Kipyegon handed off to Irene Jelagat for the third leg, Kenya had a lead of eight seconds over Australia and 13 over the U.S.
The final two laps were more of a procession than a race. Jelagat and Kenyan anchor Hellen Obiri built a huge lead of nearly 200 meters as Kenya pulled away for a dominant win. Even with no competition, Obiri ran the fastest leg of the day in 4:06.9 after bolting from the handoff zone for opening splits of 60 (400) and 2:04 (800). The only question on the final lap was whether Kenya would lap Romania, which was answered when Obiri passed the Romanian anchor entering the home straight
The only change in order came on the third leg when the U.S.’s Kate Grace came from well behind and pulled ahead of Australia’s Brittany McGowan to take over second. Grace and anchor Brenda Martinez gave the U.S. a comfortable cushion over Australia in third, which they would hold until the finish line. The U.S. took silver in a new American record of 16:55.33 (old record: 17:08.34), while Australia took the bronze in 17:08.65.
Quick Take #1: The Kenyans Dominated As Expected We thought that this race would turn into a blowout if the Kenyans tried to run away from everybody and that’s exactly what happened. They clearly had the strongest team on paper and it should come as no surprise that they were able to post a commanding victory.
The world record was very soft and was always destined to go down barring an act of God. The U.S. record was also very weak, and even though Team USA only averaged 4:13.83 per leg in this race, they still beat it by over 13 seconds.
Quick Take #2: We Need More Teams Next Year or Scratch This Race: As much as we’d like everyone to appreciate the Kenyans’ greatness, it’s hard to be very excited about this race. There were massive gaps between all four teams for almost half the race and the outcome was never in doubt once Kipyegon made her move.
Part of this is the distance — it’s easy for teams to get strung out in a 15-lap race. But the bigger problem is that only four teams were entered. The prize money for spots 5 through 8 adds up to $18,000 left on the table because no one else wanted to field a team. If four more teams entered, we’d have a more competitive race AND all four of those countries would have walked away with a check from the IAAF. Canada, Great Britain and Russia have no excuse for not entering a team in this event.
This was far from the USA “A” team as Mary Cain and Jenny Simpson weren’t here. They US “A” team could challenge the Kenyans and would make for better tv. Instead we had this race which could jeopardize the 4×1500 being included next year.
Quick Take #3: Brenda Martinez Doubles The U.S. chose to run Brenda Martinez here and they ended up really not needing her services for silver after Kate Grace put the US in the silver position. (It also meant Morgan Uceny who was at the IAAF press conference yesterday won’t run here). Martinez is doubling back in the 4×800 Sunday night. It may not make a huge difference (as the anchor, Martinez was all alone for her leg and didn’t have to push anymore than she wanted to), but Martinez won’t be 100% fresh. Afterwards, Brenda said she was just looking for a good rhythm on the final leg instead of trying to hit any time.
Quick Take #4: The Australians Show What Sport is About
Think the Australians were bummed to get bronze by only beating one team? Think again.They were super excited. It probably wasn’t a coincidence that the wave started when the Aussies were getting on the medal stand. They were waving to the crowd. They said anyone else could have shown up to try to get bronze, so they were glad to take it home.
QT #5: The American Women Talk About Silver and Their Love of the Bahamas
Just like the 4×800 men, the American women are loving their time in the Bahamas. The friendly people, the first class track, and most importantly the crowd have made this a must return event for the US team. Kate Grace has been staring at a beautiful beach for the last three days, and now she’ll get to hang out on it.
The Americans said they were inspired during the race by not only the music and loud crowd (check out the picture of the band) but also chants of USA.
Splits for the Kenyan women: Cherono 4:07.4;
Obiri 4:06.9 (from the boards)
Splits for the U.S. women:
Grace 4:16.3 (the official split for 4500 is clearly off.)
All the Medallists at the Press Conference, Praise the Bahamian People:
|2||USA||UNITED STATES||United States||USA||16:55.33||AR||7|
Previous WR: Kenya 17:05.72 (2014) (4:16.43 per leg) Mercy Cherono, Irene Jelagat, Ann Karindi, Perin Nenkampi. Already broken twice in this year, most recently at Kenyan trials in April.
Previous AR: University of Tennessee 17:08.34 (2009) (4:17.08 per leg) Chanelle Price, Phoebe Wright, Rolanda Bell, Sarah Bowman. Set at Penn Relays.