May 2, 2015
Nassau, Bahamas – In the first final of the 2015 IAAF World Relay Championships, the US men came through with a golden performance in the men’s 4 x 800. Coming in we were expecting a tough battle between Kenya and the United States, but Erik Sowinski blew things open for the US on leg #2 with a great 1:44.75 split and the US never looked back and won in 7:04.84.
After a heroic attempt by Kenyan anchor Jeremiah Mutai for 600 meters to steal the gold for the US, Kenya faded in the end and had to momentarily settle for in 7:09 mid, before their night became nightmarish as they were DQd for an exchange zone violation. In the end, Poland (7:09.98) and Austrlia ended up with the silver and bronze (7:16.30).
On leg 1, Kenya’s World Junior champ Alfred Kipketer, who almost blew the race for Kenya last year by running 1:48.8 on the anchor leg after going out in 49.0, took the lead from the gun and immediately opened up a gap of around eight meters on U.S. leadoff leg Duane Solomon by 200 meters. By 400, those two had a gap on the field even though the split was a relatively sane 51.45 for Kipketer (52.02 for Solomon). Solomon slowly closed the gap on Kipketer over the next 200 meters, but as he pulled up on his shoulder with 200 to go, Kipketer responded and launched into his kick. Both he and Solomon tied up somewhat in the homestretch as Kenya handed off slightly in front in 147.52 with the U.S. in second in 1:47.60.
Erik Sowinski took over the baton behind Kenyan second leg Nicholas Kipkoech and let Kipkoech do the work for the first 650 meters as the two guys opened a big gap on third-place Poland as Kipkoech and Sowinski were rolling (49.62 1st lap for Sowinski). Then, with 150 to go, Sowinski went to the lead as Kipkoech began to tie up. Kipkoech faded badly over the final 100 while Sowinski kept powering home, opening up nearly a three second lead after his 1:44.75 split – by far the best split of the night. Kipkoech tied up to a 1:47.80 and Kenya handed off in second, 2.97 seconds behind the US but 1.13 ahead of Poland.
Sowinski was powering away so much from Kipkoech that Kenya’s third leg, Olympic medallist, Timothy Kitum, took the baton from Kipkoech before the official exchange zone started which would lead to Kenya being disqualified after the race.
Cas Loxsom would only grow the lead on the third leg. He went out in a super fast 49.09 but held on very well coming home as he split a 1:45.59, giving U.S. anchor Robby Andrews a huge 4.72 seconds to work with on the anchor leg. While it looked as if Andrews ran relaxed for the first lap, he actually went out in 50.40, which is quite fast for him. Kenya’s anchor Jeremiah Mutai was going out even harder and making up a lot of the deficit. Mutai’s first 400 was in hindsight an unreal 48.07.
At the bell, Mutai had cut the U.S. lead in half. The crowd in the Bahamas began to roar with excitement as Mutai closed on Andrews. With 200 to go, Mutai was still gaining on Andrews and he was just 10 meters behind. Was Andrews really going to throw away such a massive lead?
No. Mutai wasn’t going to ‘pull a Rudisha’ and Andrews had saved something for the final 200. Andrews, who is at his best kicking down foes from the back of the pack, took off with 100 to go, the race was over within a few strides.
In hindsight, it’s clear Andrews backed off from 400 to 600 (an unofficial 29.2?) before powering him in 27.3 to give the US a resounding victory. As he crossed the line, he pointed the baton toward his countrymen on the side of the track, who quickly mobbed Andrews before grabbing American flags and embarking on a victory lap.
Mutai slowed over the final 100, paying for his aggressive tactics early in the leg, and, in a callback to last year’s 4×800, just managed to hold off hard-charging Polish anchor Adam Kszczot (only this time it was for silver, not gold). However, Kenya would later be disqualified for handing off too early on the second exchange (when third leg Timothy Kitum saw Kipkoech tying up, he came down the track to get the baton earlier, but he came too far down and the exchange took place before the zone).
Results, splits, post-race interviews and quick take analysis appear below.
Solomon – 1:47.60- 52.021st lap.
Sowinski – 1:44.75 – 49.62 1st lap
Loxsom – .1:45.59 – 49.09 first lap
Andrews – 1:46.90 – 50.40 first lap
Kenya #1 – 147.52
Kenya #2 – 1:47.80
Kenya #3 – 1:47.34
Kenya #4 – Finishing time isn’t listed. If we put them .50 ahead of Kenya (which we don’t think it was that much), then he only split 1:48.75
Poland #1 – 1:48.28
Poland #2 – 1:48.27
Poland #3 – 1:46.80
Poland #4 – 1:46.73
Quick Take #1: Take That Kenya, Gold For The US of A
This was fun way to start off the 2015 IAAF World Relays. The US was not too far off the US record of 7:02.82.
We caught up with the US stars after this one was over.
Robby Andrews in Depth: See: “A More Mature ‘Cool and Calm’ Robby Andrews Anchors US to 4×800 Gold Andrews purposely went out hard and ran like a pro on the anchor leg saying, “”I heard Kenya (getting close) on the backstretch and it was music to my ears. I knew how big a lead I had and he must have gone out in 47 or 48 and he was going to be toast the last 100.” Andrews added, “then I tried to gather myself the third 200 and just pop it open the last 100.” Andrews also talks about his plans for the year and why he’s running well under coach Vig. Watch below or read the more indepth article.
Cas Loxsom: “I’m confident in my fitness. I’m in a really good spot”
Cas continued a fine 2015 (American record at 600 indoors) with a strong leg here. He likes the direction his training has been going and he’s coming off a stint of altitude training with Nick Symmonds and Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski. Cas said of his leg, “I wasn’t planning on blowing up. There was too much on the line…. Easy job.” We strongly disagree keeping a big lead is easy. Cas likes where he is at, “I’m confident in my fitness. I’m in a really good spot.”
Erik Sowinski and Duane Solomon:
Quick Take #2: Every U.S. runner played to his strength and ran a smart race
Solomon likes to go out quickly but he knew that’s what Kipketer likes to do too so he played it a little safe and sat on him through the first 400. It was smart as Solomon said he battled a stomach virus last month before Mt. SAC. In the end, he did more than enough to keep the U.S. in contention. From there, Sowinski, Loxsom and Andrews all ran tactically-perfect legs. Sowinski sat on Kipkoech for 650 meters before blowing him away over the final 150. He was certainly the ‘Man of the Match’ for the Relay. Loxsom, who likes to run from the front, was the perfect guy to have on leg 3 as took it out hard and grew the lead, soloing a nice leg. Andrews took it out harder than he normally does to try to take Mutai out of it, but made sure that he was in a position to win with 150 to go. Even though it got close at 600, it was clear he had a ton left in the end and that the outcome was never in doubt.
Quick Take #3: Why aren’t more countries entering teams?
The IAAF has poured $1.4 million into this meet — $140,000 per event. Yet there were just five teams on the start line for the men’s 4×800 and six in the women’s DMR. That’s $28,000 in prize money (combined unawarded payouts between each event) — that could be awarded to any nation willing to field a team — going to waste. The World Relays is an exciting meet and teams like Great Britain or Canada shouldn’t need convincing to send full strong teams. What British or Canadian middle-distance runner is going to say no to a free trip to the Bahamas in which they’re guaranteed prize money?
Video highlights below:
Some screenshots from the Universal Sports broadcast appear below. More screenshots here.
Discuss this great race in our world famous fan forum: Official 2015 IAAF World Relays Live Discussion Thread.
*Biggest stud of the night? Jeremiah Mutai who went out in 48.07 in 800 or Erik Sowinski who split 1:44?