World Champs Women’s 4×4 — Finding A Foursome

Sydney McLaughlin finished off a patchwork Team USA with a brilliant 47.91 split. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

TO CALL THE MEET’S final race “eagerly awaited” might be an understatement. For many months the sport’s message boards had been humming with speculation on the make-up of the U.S. squad. The coaches had been faced with the historically unusual predicament of a pool in which the top prospects were not classic quartermilers. In the end, they came up golden with a squad of one 400 specialist, one 100/200 sprinter and two 400 hurdlers.

Ironically, Team USA had to scramble to find a fourth leg for the heats. A quick phone call to the very recently retired Allyson Felix solved the problem. The veteran put down the hot wing she was eating and started packing her bags for Eugene again.

Competing in heat I, NCAA/USATF champ Talitha Diggs led off at 51.01, followed by Felix (50.81), Kaylin Whitney (51.01), and Jaide Stepter Baines (50.75). That was good for a win in 3:23.38, with Britain (3:23.92) and France (3:28.89) getting the other 2 auto spots. Netherlands, a strong podium possibility with 2 sub-50 legs, ran 3:28.58 but was DQed after dropping the baton and improperly advancing it.

Heat II put Jamaica (3:24.23), Belgium (3:28.02) and Canada (3:28.49) in the final, and decided the time qualifiers, Italy and Switzerland.

Speculation on the U.S. lineup for the next night’s final ramped up furiously after the U.S. women went 1-2-4-5 in the long hurdles.

When the sequence finally became public, coaches had placed three hurdlers on the squad: Britton Wilson, Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin, in addition to Diggs. But at the last minute a hand-written note from the U.S. coaches made a switch: the injured Muhammad out, Abby Steiner in. That set the stage for one of history’s fastest performances ever.

Leadoff Leg:
Diggs got out well in lane 5, running the fastest opener at 50.50. She handed off just ahead of Britain (Victoria Ohuruogu 50.59) and Jamaica (Candice McLeod 50.76).

Second Leg:
Steiner, in her 57th race of the season, battled Jamaican Janieve Russell down the backstretch before squeezing ahead of her on the turn. The two stayed close all the way to the exchange, Steiner (49.99) giving the U.S. an 0.17 lead over the islanders (Russell 49.90), with Britain another 0.12 back.

Third Leg:
At the handoff, British hurdler Jessie Knight jumped ahead of Jamaica, but Wilson gave the U.S. its first daylight, building an 8-meter margin on the backstretch. Her 49.39 easily led the 49.95 that Stephenie Ann McPherson used to bring Jamaica back into silver position. Knight faded with a 51.26, but Britain still held the bronze spot securely.

Anchor Leg:
The stadium roared when McLaughlin took the baton, knowing — just as well as her competitors — that with the hurdles WR holder wrapping things up the race for gold was essentially over. With no hurdles in the way, McLaughlin unleashed her full stride, stretching the U.S. lead even more. Even with victory in hand, she didn’t let up till after the line. Her split, 47.91, ranks only behind Felix’s 47.72 from ’15 and Czech Jarmila Kratochvílová’s 47.75 from ’83 in WC history.

The U.S. win was No. 10 at the Worlds, and the 3:17.79 clocking was the No. 8 in history, far ahead of Jamaica’s 3:20.74 and Great Britain’s 3:22.64, with Canada (3:25.18) 4th. It also yielded medal No. 20 — a record — for Felix.

Said McLaughlin, “It was unreal. We had such a young team. It was put together at the last minute and to see them all come together after such a long collegiate season, I am so grateful to be part of it. I am the oldest on the team. I am so proud. This is the next generation of Team USA stepping up to the plate.”


FINAL (July 24)

(temperature 88F/31C; humidity 41%)

1. United States 3:17.79 (WL, AL) (8 W, 5 A)

(Talitha Diggs 50.50, Abby Steiner 49.99, Britton Wilson 49.39, Sydney McLaughlin 47.91);

2. Jamaica 3:20.74

(Candice McLeod 50.76, Janieve Russell 49.90, Stephenie Ann McPherson 49.95, Charokee Young 50.13);

3. Great Britain 3:22.64

(Victoria Ohuruogu 50.59, Nicole Yeargin 50.19, Jessie Knight 51.26, Laviai Nielsen 50.60);

4. Canada 3:25.18

(Natassha McDonald 50.92, Aiyanna Stiverne 50.71, Zoe Sherar 52.98, Kyra Constantine 50.57);

5. France 3:25.81

(Sokhna Lacoste 52.30, Shana Grebo 50.91, Sounkamba Sylla 52.11, Amandine Brossier 50.49);

6. Belgium 3:26.29

(Helena Ponette 52.50, Imke Vervaet 51.02, Paulien Couckuyt 52.06, Camille Laus 50.71);

7. Italy 3:26.45

(Anna Polinari 52.46, Ayomide Folorunso 50.77, Virginia Troiani 52.37, Alice Mangione 50.85);

8. Switzerland 3:27.81

(Silke Lemmens 52.60, Julia Niederberger 51.29, Annina Fahr 51.73, Yasmin Giger 52.19).

(lanes: 1. Switzerland; 2. Italy; 3. Belgium; 4. Jamaica; 5. United States; 6. Great Britain; 7. Canada; 8. France)

(reaction times: 0.140 Italy, 0.141 United States, 0.157 Jamaica, 0.169 Switzerland, 0.171 Canada, 0.178 Belgium, 0.244 France, 0.247 Great Britain)

Times & Places At Handoffs

Leg 1: 1. USA 50.50; 2. Great Britain 50.59; 3. Jamaica 50.76; 4. Canada 50.92; 5. France 52.30; 6. Italy 52.46; 7. Belgium 52.50; 8. Switzerland 52.60

Leg 2: 1. USA 1:40.49; 2. Jamaica 1:40.66; 3. Great Britain 1:40.78; 4. Canada 1:41.63; 5. France 1:43.21; 6. Italy 1:43.23; 7. Belgium 1:43.52; 8. Switzerland 1:43.89

Leg 3: 1. USA 2:29.88; 2. Jamaica 2:30.61; 3. Great Britain 2:32.04; 4. Canada 2:34.61; 5. France 2:35.32; 6. Belgium 2:35.58; 7. Italy 2:35.60; 8. Switzerland 2:35.62

HEATS (July 23)

I–1. United States 3:23.38 (Diggs 51.01, Allyson Felix 50.61, Kaylin Whitney 51.01, Jaide Stepter Baynes 50.75); 2. Great Britain 3:23.92 (Ama Pipi 52.00, Nielsen 50.73, Ohuruogu 50.67, Yeargin 50.52); 3. France 3:28.89 (Lacoste, Grebo, Sylla, Brossier); 4. Switzerland 3:29.11;

5. Ukraine 3:29.25 (Kateryna Karpiuk, Anastasiya Bryzhina, Viktoriya Tkachuk, Anna Ryzhykova); 6. Germany 3:30.48 (Corinna Schwab, Elisa Lechleitner, Judith Franzen, Alica Schmidt); 7. South Africa 3:34.68 (Miranda Coetzee, Marlie Viljoen, Gontse Morake, Zeney Van Der Walt);… dq[illegal advancement of dropped baton]—[3]Netherlands 3:28.58 (Hanneke Oosterwegel 53.34, Lieke Klaver 49.63, Cathelijn Peeters 56.23, Femke Bol 49.38).

II–1. Jamaica 3:24.23 (Stacey-Ann Williams 52.13, Junelle Bromfield 50.94, Tiffany James 50.94, Young 50.22); 2. Belgium 3:28.02 (Naomi van den Broeck, Vervaet, Ponette, Laus 50.93); 3. Canada 3:28.49 (Micha Powell, Stiverne, Constantine, McDonald); 4. Italy 3:28.72;

5. Poland 3:29.34 (Justyna Święty-Ersetic, Iga Baumgart-Witan, Kinga Gacka, Małgorzata Hołub-Kowalik); 6. Norway 3:32.00 (Astri Lakeri Ertzgaard, Elisabeth Slettum, Linn Oppegaard, Amalie Hammild Iuel); 7. Spain 3:32.87 (Eva Santidrian, Aauri Lorena Bokesa, Laura Hernandez, Carmen Avilés).

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