|Arianna Washington, IAAF World Junior Championships
Eugene – What if there was a world championship meet and both the U.S. men’s and women’s 4 x 100 meter relay teams not only got the baton around the track but won both races?
It happened on Saturday afternoon at the IAAF World Junior Championships before a sun-drenched crowd of 10,832. The U.S. women’s team, with UO incoming freshman Arianna Washington on the second leg, survived a poor baton exchange between Washington and Jada Martin, and pulled away from Jamaica in the second half of the race to win in 43.46, just .17 off the American junior record of 43.29. Jamaica was second in 43.97, and Germany well back in third in 44.65.
The U.S. men were on the track minutes later, positioned between Japan and Jamaica, which had both run faster times this season than the Americans. But, with superior talent – the American quartet boasted three medalists in the 100 and 200 at this meet – it was clear the gold would go to the U.S. if they had clean exchanges.
Just as the American women did, the U.S. men utilized safe handoffs throughout. 100 meter gold and silver medalists, Kendal Williams and Trayvon Bromell, gave the U.S. a slight lead going into the anchor leg. Once 200 meter champion Trentavis Friday got the baton, it put the hammer down and pulled away to the victory in 38.70, just .04 seconds off the world junior record of 38.66, set by the U.S. in 2004. Japan was a surprise runner-up in 39.02, and Jamaica third in 39.12.
After years of struggling with dropped batons, botched passes and zone disqualifications in championship meets, maybe the U.S. elite sprint relay teams should look to the juniors to learn how to get it done. Both teams were less than perfect on their exchanges, but were never in danger of dropping the stick or running out of the zone, as they finished off a 4 x 100 sweep.
Future Duck Arianna Washington said they had a mindset of going into battle in the relay.
“We’re kind of soldiers out there,” Washing ton said. “This is war and everyone else can win the battles but at the end of the day the U.S. is going to win the war and that’s all that matters.
“I wasn’t nervous because of how I was when we go to Penn Relays and run against the Jamaicans we just focus on our lane, focus on U.S.A., focus on getting our baton around and don’t worry about anyone else in the race.”
Washington added that winning the gold at Hayward in front of her future fans made it even more special.
“This is my new home,” Washington said, “and a gold medal at my new home is the most amazing feeling. I can’t wait to be an Oregon Duck.”
Floridian Kaylin Whitney, who ran the anchor leg for the U.S. team, said winning the gold in the relay meant more to her than winning her individual gold on Friday in the 200 meters.
“Today was ten times better,” Whitney said. “Crossing the line knowing we’re the best in the world as a team, it’s the greatest feeling ever.”
The Run Track Town High Performance Meet, which followed the World Juniors on Saturday evening, was highlighted by a couple of competitive 4 x 800 meter relay races and several outstanding individual performances.
Laura Roesler, NCAA 800 meter champion for Oregon in June, ran a leg on the winning women’s 4 x 800 team, which was anchored by 800 world leader Ajee Wilson. Roesler, who has run nearly 30 races this spring and summer, said she was worn down by the long season but wouldn’t have wanted to miss this meet.
“I’m pretty tired today,” Roesler said. “But getting the opportunity to race on a relay and run at home is really fun. It was definitely special and 8:07 is not a bad time, especially this late in the season.”
Wearing his USC singlet, Aleec Harris triumphed over a star-studded 110 hurdles field, which included world record holder Aries Merritt. Harris ran 13.15, the sixth-fastest time in the world this season. Merritt, working his way back into competitive shape after tearing both hamstrings, was second in 13.27.
Another former UO runner, Jordan McNamara, unleashed a massive sprint over the last 100 meters to move from sixth to first, just edging Kyle Merber at the line to win the 1500 meters in 3:39.03. After interviews and a cool-down run, McNamara came back to the track to help young long jumpers at the youth all-comers meet, held following the High Performance Meet.
If he was watching an animated McNamara coaching youngsters in the long jump, Vin Lananna, chief orchestrator of this track and field extravaganza layered around the World Junior Championships, had to be smiling.
Notes . . . The U.S. continued to build its lead in the medal count, adding four more medals on Saturday for an overall total of 17, including eight gold medals. The most medals the U.S. has ever won at a World Junior Championships is 21, and should equal or surpass that total on Sunday. Kenya remains in second place with a total of 11 medals . . . Total attendance for the meet is now over 40,000, going into the final day on Sunday . . . The final day’s program is just over two hours long but features nine finals.