April 30, 2015
After a pair of blowout Kenyan victories in the 4×1500 at last year’s World Relays, (the men won by 18 seconds while the women won by 20), the IAAF has scrapped the 15-lap race in favor of the shorter distance medley relay, a change that should keep the race more interesting. It also benefits the Americans, who were a distant second in the 4×1500 this year but enter as heavy favorites in the DMR (it helps that Kenya is sending far weaker teams across the board than in 2014).
With a team of Gabe Grunewald, Treniere Moser, Shannon Rowbury and Ajee Wilson (we’re guessing one of them will be switched out for a 400 runner), the U.S. team would be hard to beat even with a full-strength Kenya. As it stands, they should have no problem taking down the likes of Australia, Poland and Bahrain.
Below is the key info about this weekend’s World Relays, followed by a breakdown of the women’s DMR field.
What: 2015 IAAF World Relays
Where: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, The Bahamas
When: Saturday, May 2 – Sunday, May 3
How to watch: Live on Universal Sports Network or streaming on UniversalSports.com from 7 p.m. ET to 10 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. (Sponsored: If you don’t get Universal Sports and would like to get it and BeINTV (great international soccer) and tons of international news via SlingTV, the new cut the cord service, for $10 a month on your computer, laptop, phone or Roku click here for more info on World Relays on Universal/Sling. You can even get ESPN/CNN and a ton others for $25 a month.)
World record bonus: $50,000
Full entries, with top teams listed below.
|Treniere Moser||1:59/4:02||2:01/2:37 (1k)/4:04|
|Maryam Yusuf Jamal||1:57/3:56||4:04|
Women’s DMR (Saturday, 9:02 p.m. ET)
Just as in the women’s 4×800, the U.S. should win this race handily if all goes according to form. If the Americans run their best lineup (Moser on the 1200, Wilson on the 800, Rowbury on the 1600), they’ll have the best runner at legs #1, #3 and, most importantly, #4.
Rowbury and Wilson were among the very best in the world last year at their respective distances, and none of the women who challenged them last year are entered in this race. Moreover, both have already displayed great form in 2015. Rowbury put together a dominant indoor season, moving to #5 on the all-time indoor mile list (4:22.66 on a flat track, no less) and winning the mile and 2-mile at USAs. Wilson, after running a world-leading 1:57.67 in 2014, has lost just once in 2015 (in the USA 600 final, where she fell) and is coming off a 2:00.03 800 win at Drake last weekend in which she topped a loaded American field. With those two handling the final two legs, it almost doesn’t matter who’s on the first two.
Almost being the operative word. Right now, the U.S. team (according to the provisional start lists) lists four athletes: Grunewald, Moser, Rowbury and Wilson. In case you forgot, the distances in the DMR go 1200-400-800-1600, and none of those three women are 400 runners. We’re guessing the U.S. still has time to sub in a 400 runner for one of those legs (likely Grunewald) as the official start lists don’t come out until after the technical meeting, which takes places at 3 p.m. ET on Friday. The U.S. has six women listed on the 4×400 squad; entering any one of them in the DMR would immediately give the U.S. the best 400 leg in the field by some margin as the US currently has 7 of the top 10 fastest 400 runners in the world. The US very well could have the best runner on all 4 legs.
While the U.S. could likely still win the race by using the four women it has currently entered (Wilson ran 53.63 for 400 last year), it wouldn’t be the slam dunk it is now. The IAAF’s guidelines for the meet aren’t exactly clear on how the substitution process works, as they seem geared more toward the shorter races that have prelims and finals. Here are the passages that could apply to the DMR (taken from the IAAF World Relays Team Manual):
A maximum of one team from any one Member can compete in each relay event and a maximum of six athletes may be entered for each Relay Team. Any four athletes among those entered for the competition, may then be used in the composition of the team for the first round. (Section 8.1.2)
Teams will receive the Final Confirmation Forms upon arrival in Nassau and Team Leaders, or their representatives, must confirm during the accreditation procedure, the teams already entered which will actually take part in the competition. (Section 8.3)
Furthermore, the manual says that final entries were due on April 20. There’s no mention of being able to sub in athletes from other events, but there’s nothing that seems to explicitly prohibit it either. Final declarations, in which teams announce the official running order, are due on Friday for Saturday races and Saturday for Sunday races so we won’t officially have the U.S. lineup for this race until Saturday. We’re assuming that the U.S. is in the clear and can sub in one of its 4×400 runners (it seems unlikely the U.S. would make such a big mistake) but as of now, the U.S. still has no 400 runner listed on either of its DMRs (men’s or women’s).
Assuming the U.S. trots out a team of Moser/Grunewald (1200), 400 stud X, Wilson (800) and Rowbury (1600), it will be close to unbeatable. On paper, the only country that could perhaps challenge the U.S. is Bahrain, whose ideal lineup looks like this: Maryam Yusuf Jamal (two-time world 1500 champ, 1:57/3:56 pbs) on the 1200, Kemi Adekoya (51.11 pb) on the 400, Genzeb Shumi (2:01 pb) on the 800 and Mimi Belete (4:00 1500 pb) on the 1600. If all of those runners were in peak condition on Saturday, it would be a great race between Bahrain and the U.S.. Unfortunately for Bahrain, Jamal is no longer in world-champion form (she hasn’t run better than 4:04 since 2012), Shumi hasn’t run faster than 2:03.83 since 2012 and it’s going to lose time on the 400 leg if the U.S. runs an actual 400 runner. Even if Bahrain (or some other country) can keep it close through three legs, Rowbury is the best anchor in the field (Belete is the only one close to her ability). In the DMR, the winner is usually the team with the best anchor unless a team can gain a big gap over the first three legs (which no one will on the U.S.). No matter how you slice it, the U.S. still comes out on top.
This race may come down to the U.S. versus the clock, and since there’s a hefty incentive for a world record ($50,000 for the win plus $50,000 for the WR, breaking down to $25,000 per leg), expect the U.S. to go after it. The current world/American best outdoors is 10:48.38 by Villanova, run at the 1988 Penn Relays. With an honest effort, that record should go down. The question is, is that the record the U.S. needs to break?
The team manual states that:
For the Distance Medley Relay, being this a new Event, conditions for the award of a World Record Bonus are being defined and will be advised at a later stage. (Section 10.2)
So far, we’ve heard no word about whether there will be a WR bonus or what time the U.S. would have to hit if there is one. But if we had to guess, we bet the IAAF will award the U.S. the world record bonus if it breaks 10:42.57, the indoor WR set by Sarah Brown, Mahagony Jones, Megan Krumpoch and Brenda Martinez in Boston in February. The IAAF preview of the women’s DMR states that mark “will be officially recognized as a world record on the eve of this year’s World Relays” (currently it’s a world best as the IAAF’s official list doesn’t include the DMR). If you’re officially recognizing a mark as the world record and a team breaks that mark at the World Relays, that’s enough for the WR bonus in our minds.
So what would the U.S. have to do to break the record? The current WR splits are as follows:
1200: 3:15.54 (Brown)
400: 53.59 (Jones)
800: 2:05.68 (Krumpoch)
1600: 4:27.77 (Martinez)
All those splits seem attainable, especially the 400 and 800, where the U.S. team in the Bahamas could knock off a couple of seconds apiece. Then all Moser/Grunewald and Rowbury would have to do is equal Brown and Martinez’ splits, which seems feasible (Moser ran only 2:04.96 at the Oregon Relays two weeks ago but any time under 3:20 should still be good enough for the record given the strength on the other legs).
More: W4x800 LRC The U.S. Has A Great Chance To Defend Its Crown
*M 4 x800 Men’s 4 X 800: Can The U.S. (Or Poland) Upset Favored Kenya?
*Take a trip down memory lane and re-live the 2014 IAAF World Relays Championships.