May 25, 2014
Nassau, Bahamas – The USA is the best women’s 4 x 800 country in the world.
Tonight, on the final day of the inaugural IAAF World Relays, the U.S. women’s 4 x 800 denied Kenya a sweep of the middle-distance relays, as the US quartet of Chanelle Price, Geena Lara, Ajee Wilson and Brenda Martinez ran a brilliant race to take gold in an American record of 8:01.58 (old record: 8:04.31). Price took the lead from the gun and the other legs never relinquished it to give the U.S. a wire-to-wire victory, anchored by a 1:58.68 leg from Martinez.
Kenya saved its two strongest runners, world champions Janeth Jepkosgei and Eunice Sum, for its final two legs. However, running from behind, Kenya lost ground on some of the handoffs and Ajee Wilson on the third leg was able to extend the lead over former World champ Jepkosgei to 2.2 seconds when she handed off to Martinez on the anchor. Martinez ran a tremendous final leg, taking it out hard to never let the reigning World Champion Sum in the race. The U.S. team was simply too good for Kenya and deservedly won gold with the two fastest legs on the day and three of the four leg winners. The Kenyans settled for silver in a national record of 8:04.28. Russia came through for bronze in 8:08.19.
Race Video Highlights For USA Visitors:
Front-running world indoor champion Chanelle Price led off for the U.S. and went to the front immediately, leading the field with a 58.8 first 400. Price still had a gap of several meters at 600 while 20-year-old Kenyan leadoff leg Agatha Jeruto Kimaswai was back in sixth place.
Price continued to run well and as she approached the exchange zone about to finish off a 2:01.00 opening leg, she led both France and Russia by just over a second. However, since Price had had the lead the whole race and had gapped everyone else, the U.S. didn’t have to dodge any traffic in the exchange zone as did the others. That allowed her lead to mushroom to 10+ meters without Geena Lara (née Gall) having to do any extra work.
Price handed off in first to Lara with a sizable 1.6 second lead over France and Russia (both 2:02.60). Kenya’s Kimaswai moved up a bit over the final 200 but really lost a lot of ground in trying to find second-leg Sylivia Chesebe in traffic and Chesebe didn’t cross the the 800 mark until the clock read 2:03.8, and then Chesebe had to sprint to make up ground on Lara.
On the second leg, the field gradually came back to Lara and with 200 to go, the US led with Australia, Mexico, Kenya, and Russia all fairly close behind. Lara managed to hold on to the lead over the final 200, but after a 2:02.80 split, the US led by just .20 over Mexico, who surprisingly was in second after a 2:00.8 split from Cristina Guevara. Kenya again got caught in traffic on the exchange and came out of the exchange zone in sixth place, 1.7 seconds behind the US.
Kenya’s third leg, former world champion Janeth Jepkosgei, decided to go out very hard on the first turn to get Kenya into the thick of it. After an unofficial 12.5 first 100, she was right on the heels of Wilson, but once on Wilson’s heels, Jepkosgei didn’t go to the lead. An unofficial 27.2 first 200 for Jepkosgei was plenty fast enough (Wilson was roughly 28.7 for 200). Wilson held the lead for the first 400 of the leg (Wilson split 59.3, Jepkosgei closed the gap with a 57.8) with Kenya and Russia close behind. Australia lurked a few meters back in fourth.
The turning point of the race came with 200 meters to go in the third leg as Jepkosgei attempted to pass Wilson. Wilson had something in reserve and as soon as she felt the Kenyan on her shoulder, the 20-year-old American turned on the jets. She immediately gapped Jepkosgei and handed off to Martinez with a 2.2-second lead after a fantastic 1:59.1 leg (second-fastest of the night). Jepkosgei ran 1:59.6 herself, but couldn’t match Wilson’s extra gear over the final 200.
American anchor and WC bronze medalist Brenda Martinez was matched up against the woman who beat her and everyone else in Moscow last summer, Eunice Sum, on the anchor leg. This time, Martinez had a 2.2-second advantage.
Martinez took it out hard (57.4) and never let Sum mentally have a chance. Showing no ill effects from last night’s 4 x 1,500, Martinez was strong enough to hold on for a 1:58.7 (fastest of the night) to deliver the gold to the U.S. Sum never threatened to close the gap on Martinez (she went in 58.9) and split a 1:59.2 for silver. Russia ran away from Australia for bronze.
Quick takes, post-race reaction, and video interviews below results.
|1||USA||UNITED STATES||United States||USA||8:01.58||CR|
|TTO||TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO||Trinidad and Tobago||TTO||DNF|
Chanelle Price 2:01.0,
Geena Lara 2:02.8
Ajee’ Wilson 1:59.1
Brenda Martinez 1:58.7
Quick Take #1: Great execution by the Americans & a great way to end the middle-distance action for Team USA.
The first three Americans wanted to give Brenda Martinez a lead and they did exactly that. Martinez is one of the top 800m runners in the world right now, but she was facing the World #1 on the anchor, so having a lead was essential. Ajee Wilson’s gapping of Janeth Jepkosgei over the final 200 on leg #3 was critical to Team USA’s victory.
Then Martinez ran a tactically perfect leg for someone who had a 2+ second lead. Brenda took it out hard and never let Eunice Sum mentally have hope that she would be able to catch Brenda.
It couldn’t have gone much better for Team USA. Price got out to an early lead and Price, Wilson and Martinez all had the fastest splits on their legs. Coming in, we said the US would definitely win if they handed off to the anchor with a lead of 2+ seconds. They ended up handing off with a lead of 2.2 and that turned out to be more than enough for Martinez to hold off Sum.
Quick Take #2: America is #1 and Janeth Jepkosgei knows it.
Coming in we felt the Kenyan team was favored over the Americans but if they ran this one over again, we’d take the Americans. They ran like the best team in the race and as we said above had 3 leg winners and the two fastest splits of the day. Afterwards, Chanelle Price said, “We’re trying to become the middle distance powerhouse.”
Janeth Jepkosgei is the elder stateswoman on the Kenyan team and while the Kenyan press was dumbfounded the Americans won, asking, “Maybe because they are closer to Miami they had an advantage?,” Jepkosgei knows the USA is very good. She was gracious in defeat, saying, “We know the top 4 on the US team and they are very tough. Even in the Golden League, I think we will have a very big fight this year. We are proud of them.”
She noted, “It’s a game. There is always a winner” and pointed out that last year at Penn Relays the US ran 8:04 and Kenya 8:07 and both improved here.
Post race presser:
QT #3: Brenda was brilliant.
Brenda Martinez ran a tactically savvy final leg by getting out hard (but not suicidal) and never letting Sum in it. The announcer on the IAAF broadcast said, “It’s gold and glory to the Americans. Martinez was absolutely brilliant. She went out hard on the first lap and had the stamina to hang on.”
Brenda afterwards said, “We all had a plan and everybody executed perfectly. I had the best time in the race. I know what I am capable of and did just that.”
Brenda said she practiced going out hard. “We practiced trying to get out in 57 and holding on. The minute it started to hurt, that’s when I tried to press.” Up next is a possible sub-4:00 1,500 at Pre, she said.
Quick Take #4: Agatha Jeruto Kimaswai was the weak link going in for Kenya and it certainly showed.
The 20-year-old’s PR of 2:03.22 is 2.54 seconds slower than the next-slowest Kenyan and 3.47 slower than Price, the slowest U.S. leg by PR. We thought she’d be the alternate since she was 5th at the Kenyan trials, but instead she ran leadoff and 1:59 woman Cherono Koech was left off the team.
Kimaswai’s 2:03.8 leadoff leg was 2.8 seconds slower than Price’s 2:01.0 for the U.S. Guess how much Kenya ended up losing by? 2.70 seconds. To be fair, Kimaswai was probably a little faster than that since the Kenyans got caught in traffic and lost time on the exchange. But they were also in a disadvantageous position to hand off because Kimaswai was fading heading into the exchange zone.
Quick Take #5: On a related note, Chesebe and Jepkosgei didn’t do themselves any favors by sprinting out of the gate on their carries.
Apparently the Kenyan women didn’t learn anything from the Kenyan men, who almost gave up a big lead in the men’s 4 x 800 after their anchor Alfred Kipketer ran a 49.0 first 400 last night. Chesebe (57.7 first 400) and Jepkosgei (57.8) both ran big positive splits, mostly because they sprinted the first turn after sub-par exchanges left them behind the leaders. The fast starts didn’t end up helping as Chesebe handed off back in sixth and Jepkosgei got her doors blown off by Wilson over the last 200.
In a 4 x 800, if you get the baton behind by more than 10 meters, you need to try to make up the ground gradually.
Quick Take #6: New American record.
Coming in, we thought the record (8:04.31 from 2013) was vulnerable given that the U.S. had four sub-2:00 runners and only had to average 2:01.07 to break it. They were actually behind record pace at halfway (4:03.8) but big legs from Wilson and Martinez meant that the U.S. got under with time to spare. Sub-8:00 will have to wait, but we don’t think the Americans care much about that right now.
More Post Race Reaction:
Ajee Wilson And Geena Lara Talk: