2015 IAAF World Relays Women’s 4×800: The U.S. Has a Great Chance to Defend Its Crown

By LetsRun.com
April 30, 2015

The United States’ sole victory in a distance race at last year’s inaugural World Relays came in the women’s 4×800, as the team of Chanelle Price, Geena Lara, Ajee Wilson and Brenda Martinez combined to run 8:01.58, outdistancing runner-up Kenya by 2.70 seconds. Of the three, Price is the only one who will run the 4×800 in 2015 (Lara and Martinez aren’t running in the meet; Wilson is entered on the DMR), but the United States is the deepest nation in the world in the women’s 800 and the reinforcements (Alysia Montaño, Molly Beckwith-Ludlow, Maggie Vessey and Gabe Grunewald) mean that the Americans remain the favorites for gold.

Kenya was the only country close to the U.S. the last time around (third-place Russia was over six seconds back of the Americans) and like the U.S., the Kenyan team is markedly different this time around. Fortunately for the U.S., the 2015 edition of the Kenyan team is far weaker than the one that took silver last year as former world champs Eunice Sum and Janeth Jepkosgei, Kenya’s two fastest 800 runners in 2014, won’t be competing. Kenya has entered just one woman who has broken 2:03, Annet Lukhuyi, and she hasn’t done that since 2011. With Cuba, Australia, Poland and Jamaica all entering solid teams, Kenya would be lucky to break into the top four, let alone challenge for the win.

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Below is the key info about this weekend’s World Relays, followed by a breakdown of the women’s 4×800 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.)

Prize money:
1st: $50,000
2nd: $30,000
3rd: $20,000
4th: $12,000
5th: $10,000
6th: $8,000
7th: $6,000
8th: $4,000

World record bonus: $50,000

Schedule * 2014 LRC coverage * 2014 women’s 4×800

Full entries, with top teams listed below. Athletes in italics were part of their country’s 4×800 squad in 2014

USA
Name PB 2014/2015 SB
Molly Beckwith-Ludlow 1:59.12 1:59.30
Gabe Grunewald 2:01.38 2:02.01
Alysia Montaño 1:57.34 2:01.78
Chanelle Price 1:59.75 1:59.75
Maggie Vessey 1:57.84 1:59.96
Top 4 average 1:58.51 (7:54.05 total) 2:00.20 (8:00.79 total)
CUBA
Name PB 2014/2015 SB
Rose Mary Almanza 1:59.4h 1:59.48
Gilda Casanova 2:02.50 2:02.50
Sahily Diago 1:57.74 1:57.74
Adriana Munoz 2:00.10 2:08.60
Arletis Thaureaux 2:06.90 2:06.90
Top 4 average 1:59.94 (7:59.74 total) 2:01.61 (8:06.42 total)
AUSTRALIA
Name PB 2014/2015 SB
Zoe Buckman 2:00.93 2:02.28
Abbey de la Motte 2:03.52 2:03.52
Kelly Hetherington 2:01.22 2:01.53
Selma Kajan 2:01.96 2:01.96
Katherine Katsanevakis 2:01.75 2:01.75
Brittany McGowan 2:01.26 2:01.26
Top 4 average 2:01.29 (8:05.16 total) 2:01.63 (8:06.50 total)
POLAND
Name PB 2014/2015 SB
Katarzyna Broniatowska 2:02.84 2:03.29
Angelika Cichoka 2:00.20 2:00.30
Syntia Ellward 2:02.94 2:02.94
Sofia Ennaoui 2:02.72 2:03.00
Malgorzata Holub 2:06.26 N/A
Top 4 average 2:02.18 (8:08.70 total) 2:02.38 (8:09.53 total)
JAMAICA
Name PB 2014/2015 SB
Simoya Campbell 2:02.43 2:02.43
Christine Day 2:10.9h 2:10.9h
Natoya Goule 1:59.93 2:00.28
Samantha James 2:07.46 2:07.46
Kimarra McDonald 2:02.20 2:02.51
Top 4 average 2:03.01 (8:12.02 total) 2:03.17 (8:12.68 total)
KENYA
Name PB 2014/2015 SB
Sylvia Cherop 2:09.2h 2:09.2h
Sheila Chesang 2:03.62 2:06.6h
Purity Kirui 2:07.6h 2:07.6h
Annet Lukhuyi 2:00.96 2:04.97
Eglay Nalyanya 2:06.8h 2:06.8h
Top 4 average 2:04.75 (8:18.98 total) 2:06.49 (8:25.97 total)

2014/2015 SB is the athlete’s best time over the past two years. We listed that because it offers a better idea of an athlete’s current fitness than PB (we included 2014 times as many athletes haven’t raced much outdoors in 2015).

Women’s 4×800 (Sunday, 7:40 p.m. ET)

The United States should win this race, and barring a dropped baton or some other major problem, it shouldn’t be particularly close. The Americans have three women who broke 2:00 last year (Cuba has two, no other country has even one) and that’s not including Montaño, who ran 1:57.95 to finish 4th at Worlds in 2013 before missing last year on maternity leave (she returned to win the U.S. indoor title at 600 meters in March). Even if you assume every runner on every other team matches her PR, only Cuba could beat the U.S., and that would require Adriana Munoz to run her PR of 2:00.10, which was set 11 years ago (since the start of 2013, her best time is 2:06.35).

Don’t believe us? Well take a look at this stat. Below you will see the 12 fastest women in the world (outdoors) so far in 2015 at 800 according to http://tilastopaja.org/.

2015 Fastest 800 Runners (Outdoors)
Rank Time Runner Country Date
1 02:00.03 Ajee’ Wilson USA 24-Apr
2 02:00.51 Brenda Martinez USA 24-Apr
3 02:00.62 Chanelle Price USA 2-Apr
4 02:01.04 Charlene Lipsey USA 18-Apr
5 02:01.58 Maggie Vessey USA 4-Apr
6 02:01.63 Natoya Goule JAM 2-Apr
7 02:01.65 Phoebe Wright USA 24-Apr
8 02:01.72 Molly Ludlow USA 24-Apr
9 02:01.78 Alysia Montaño USA 24-Apr
10 02:01.86 Tintu Luka IND 13-Feb
11 02:01.92 Shelby Houlihan USA 11-Apr
12 02:01.93 Kendra Chambers USA 11-Apr
The team of (from left) Martinez, Lara, Price and Wilson brought home the gold for Team USA last year

The team of (from left) Martinez, Lara, Price and Wilson brought home the gold for Team USA last year

10 of the 12 are from the US of A.

We expect the U.S. to run Montaño, Price, Vessey and Beckwith-Ludlow in some order. All four ran Drake last week, and while none were at their best (it is still April, after all, and the conditions in Des Moines weren’t ideal), if they repeat their performances from that meet, they should win the gold on Sunday. Here are the results from that race:

1. Ajee Wilson 2:00.03
2. Brenda Martinez 2:00.51
3. Phoebe Wright 2:01.65
4. Molly Beckwith-Ludlow 2:01.72
5. Alysia Montaño 2:01.78
6. Shelby Houlihan 2:02.03
7. Maggie Vessey 2:02.19
8. Sarah Brown 2:02.94
9. Chanelle Price 2:03.15
10. Stephanie Brown 2:03.68
11. LaTavia Thomas 2:03.81
12. Heather Kampf 2:04.07
13. Morgan Uceny 2:05.20

Price was the slowest at 2:03.15 but she happens to have the fastest 2015 time of any of Team USA’s relay legs as she ran 2:00.62 at the Florida Relays on April 3. She also loves running relays and said that her gold at World Relays last year was the most fun she’s ever had at a meet (aside from her world indoor title).

If the U.S. can average 2:02s (Beckwith-Ludlow, Montaño, Vessey and Price averaged 2:02.21 at Drake), that should be enough to deliver the title. The next four best squads are all flawed: Australia and Poland both have four solid legs, but each is a second or two slower than her American counterpart; Cuba and Jamaica have three good legs but are shot at the fourth spot.

Cuba's Diago ran 1:57.74 last year and took silver at World Juniors

Cuba’s Diago ran 1:57.74 last year and took silver at World Juniors

If the U.S. is to lose, we’d expect it to be to either Cuba or Australia. Cuba has two legs that could theoretically open a gap on the Americans (Sahily Diago ran 1:57.74 last year; Rose Mary Almanza ran 1:59.48), though neither of them have raced this in 2015. But to win the race, they’d need two things to happen.

1) Their two studs – Diago and Almanza run fantastic.
2) Their #4 runner — either Adriana Munoz or Arletis Thaureaux – to produce a huge leg. You simply can’t have a 2:05+ if you want to win gold.

One of those scenarios might play out, but it’s hard to envision both happening on the same night. That being said, they can’t be totally discounted as relays normally come down to ‘who has the best anchor’ and that very well may be Cuba. One last thing about Cuba, if you are their coach, do you run your weak leg first? It’s tempting as the first leg is often tactical in a 4 x 800, but risky as you don’t want to totally be out of it. Of course, if the weak leg bombs, you are going to be out of it anwyay and this way you know how much you have to make up.

In Kelly Hetherington, Selma Kajan, Katherine Katsanevakis and Brittany McGowan, Australia has four women who broke 2:02 last year, though McGowan’s 2:03.34 is the fastest any of them has run in 2015. That’s not a great sign for their chances to upset the U.S., as that time is slower than what Price ran at Drake last week — and Price was the ninth American in that race (and fourth-fastest among women who will be running the 4×800 at World Relays). It’s not like the Australians haven’t been racing, either. Remember, Australian summer is during North American winter, so each of its runners has already raced a bunch of times Down Under in 2015 (McGowan won the Australian Championships on March 29 in 2:03.49; Abbey de la Monte, also in the 4×800 relay pool, was second in 2:04.81). If the top Australians can all recapture their peak 2014 form, they have a chance to upset the U.S. Otherwise, a repeat gold seems likely for the Americans.

In our men’s preview, we talked about who would anchor for the U.S. — Duane Solomon or Robby Andrews — because it’s a legitimate tactical decision that may affect the outcome of the race. We’re not worried about who anchors for the U.S. in the women’s race as in all likelihood the race will have been decided by then anyways.

World & American records/Crazy Thought Of The Day

The American record fell in this race last year as the U.S. team of Price, Lara, Wilson and Martinez averaged 2:00.40 per leg to run 8:01.58. That record appears to be safe this year. Without Wilson, this year’s team isn’t quite as strong; the meet is three weeks earlier in the season; ankd it’s expected to by windy. And there’s no way that the Soviet Union’s (questionable) world record of 7:50.17 from 1984 is going down. Given the scarcity of top-level 4x800s and the ridiculous time (1:57.54 per leg), that record could easily stand for another 30 years.

That being said, maybe LetsRun.com should organize a world record attempt for a week after the World Champs. Take a look at the PBs of America’s four fastest 800 runners that are still active.

Montaño – 1:57.34
Wilson – 1:57.67
Vessey – 1:57.84
Martinez – 1:57.91
Total – 7:50.76

But remember, it’s a relay which theoretically would knock off close to .50 of a second for runners 2-3-4. Boom, there you have it, the US runs 7:49!!

Now to get the US runners to all run their PBs in the same race without any competition is a total pipe dream. We went back and looked up just what the seasonal bests were for the Russian women in 1984 when they set the 4 x 800 world’s best. Nadezhda Olizarenko, Lyubov Gurina, Lyudmila Borisova, and Irina Podyalovskay had all individually run seasonal bests that added up to 7:44.81 in 1984. Their lifetime PBs at the time added up to 7:42.15. Their eventual lifetime pbs add up to 7:41.46.

So the world record wouldn’t happen in a women-only race as the US women would have no one to run with. But since the Soviet Union record is HIGHLY likely to have been pharmaceutically-enhanced, who cares about having it in a women-only race. Let’s do it in a mixed-gender race. Get a ton of male pacers and the US could theoretically come close to the WR if everyone knocked it out of the park.

Someone get on Kickstarter and raise $100,000 for the WR with $10,000 for a failed attempt.

More: LRC Men’s 4 X 800: Can The U.S. (Or Poland) Upset Favored Kenya? Can Team USA upset Team Kenya, which nearly coughed up a huge lead last year? If you were the Team USA coach, who would you anchor? Robby Andrews or Duane Solomon?
*Take a trip down memory lane and re-live the 2014 IAAF World Relays Championships.

 

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