Jamaica beat the U.S. in sprints on the final night of the IAAF World Relays, without Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in Nassau, Bahamas, on Sunday night.
Bolt, who anchored the Jamaican 4x100m team that was beaten by the U.S. on Saturday, sat out the 4x200m but was seen at the stadium wearing headphones and talking into a phone. Bolt reportedly sat out as a precaution due to a minor hamstring injury.
No matter, Jamaica still outsprinted the U.S. in the 4x200m, winning in 1:20.97. The Americans dropped the baton on the second exchange between Isiah Young and Curtis Mitchell. Anchor Justin Gatlin received the baton in seventh or eighth place and recovered to cross the finish line third before the U.S. was disqualified due to that failed exchange.
“I didn’t even know we dropped the baton,” said Gatlin, the world’s fastest man in the 100m and 200m last season. “I saw the deficit we had. I just wanted to make up as much ground as we possibly can and still get on the medal stand.”
The U.S. women didn’t drop the baton in the 4x100m, but anchor Carmelita Jeter finished .18 shy of Jamaican veteran Veronica Campbell-Brown. Allyson Felix ran the second leg for the U.S. and was passed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye before Kimberlyn Duncan and Jeter took the stick.
“I was doing my best to try and hold it and do some work, but I just didn’t feel as sharp as I normally am,” said Felix, who collided with Jeneba Tarmoh in the 4x200m relay Saturday.
The U.S. also swept the men’s and women’s 4x400m, the women’s 4x800m and broke the world record in the men’s distance medley relay.
Olympic 400m champions Jeremy Wariner (2004) and LaShawn Merritt (2008) ran the final two legs for the U.S. men in the 4x400m. The Americans prevailed in 2:58.43, edging the Bahamas by .48.
“I said yesterday it was a great step in the right direction,” said Wariner, 31, who also ran in the 4x400m heats Saturday and is looking to rebound from finishing sixth in the 400m at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and last in his heat at the 2013 U.S. Championships. “Today is an even bigger step.”
In the women’s 4x400m, Phyllis Francis, Natasha Hastings, Sanya Richards-Ross and Francena McCorory clocked 3:19.39 to win by 3.1 seconds over Jamaica. Notably, the Olympic 400m champion Richards-Ross split 48.79 seconds. McCorory, the only woman to run faster than Richards-Ross in 2014, split 49.27 on anchor, albeit with a comfortable lead built from the first three legs.
Richards-Ross, who was born in Jamaica and moved to the U.S. before high school, took pleasure in competing in a Caribbean nation.
“When I first started running for the U.S., sometimes I thought the Jamaicans were really upset, but now they’ve really started to embrace me again,” the 30-year-old said. “I kind of feel like I’m enjoying my twilight years in track and field.”
In the women’s 4x800m, Chanelle Price, Maggie Vessey, Molly Beckwith and Alysia Montano won in 8:00.62, a 10.74-second margin over second-place Poland. The U.S. breezed in the non-Olympic relay without its three fastest 800m runners from 2014 — Ajee’ Wilson, Brenda Martinez and Laura Roesler.
The U.S. men’s distance medley relay team of Kyle Merber (1200m leg), Brycen Spratling (400m), Brandon Johnson (800m) and Ben Blankenship (1600m) broke the world record by .06 by clocking 9:15.50. Of that quartet, only Johnson has competed at a World Championships or Olympics. They beat Kenya, the previous world-record holder, by 1.7 seconds.
The track and field season continues with the start of the Diamond League on May 15 in Doha, Qatar.