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Athletics: Americans sweep top titles at Penn Relays

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – Reigning 100-meter world champion Carmelita Jeter and last year’s 100 and 200 world runner-up, Walter Dix, anchored US 4×100 relay routs of Jamaica on Saturday at the Penn Relays.

With an eye toward showdowns at the London Olympics, the Americans swept all six “USA Versus the World” events, although Jamaican men’s superstars Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell were not at the meet.

The US men’s 4×400 relay, anchored by reigning Olympic 400m champion Lashawn Merritt, also set a 2012 world best by winning the two-heat final in 3:00.15 and the US 4×400 women won in 3:21.18 to beat Jamaica by 5.37 seconds.

“If today is a preview of what we’re going to see in the Olympic Games, we’re in great shape,” said Max Siegel, who becomes USA Track and Field’s new chief executive on Tuesday.

In cool conditions with a slight breeze, the American women’s foursome of Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Jeter won in 42.19 seconds, this year’s world-fastest time.

“The US is definitely ready for London,” Jeter said. “We’re prepared. Now all we have to do is stay healthy.”

Jamaica was a distant second in 43.31 with a lineup that featured Sherone Simpson, Kerron Stewart and anchor Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the 2008 Olympic 100 chmpion, from last year’s world runners-up plus Aleen Bailey as third leg.

Felix pulled away in the second leg and Knight handed Jeter a huge edge and watched the world champion pull away from Fraser-Pryce to the finish line.

“We wanted to come out and run a great race,” Jeter said. “We have great chemistry. We had great handoffs. I’m glad we got it around.”

In the men’s 4×100, American Mike Rodgers and Jamaica’s Nesta Carter were even after the first leg but US star Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic and 2005 world 100 champion who was disgraced by a four-year doping ban in 2006, pulled away in the second leg, Darvis Patton kept the edge and Dix stretched the gap even more at the finish to win in 38.40.

“This is definitely what they may see in London,” Dix said. “I can’t wait to get there.”

A second US squad with Ivory Williams, Shawn Crawford, Trell Kimmons and Ryan Bailey was second in 38.47 with Jamaica third in 38.98.

Merritt, who served a 21-month doping ban after winning the world 400 crown in 2009, anchored the US 4×400 relay victory at last year’s world championships in South Korea and did the same at Franklin Field at the 118th Penn meet.

Calvin Smith, Angelo Taylor and Bershawn Jackson began for the Americans but trailed Bahamas as Merritt took the baton a couple of strides behind Chris Brown of the Bahamas.

Merritt ran the final leg in 44.8 to 45.6 for Brown as the USA Red squad beat Bahamas by .41 of a second with USA Blue third in 3:03.13 and Jamaica fourth in 3:03.28.

“Cal to Angelo to Bat (Jackson) did their job, so it was up to me to do what I was going to do,” Merritt said. “I knew I was going to make a move as soon as we got the stick. I just took it from there.”

In the women’s 4×400 relay, Natasha Hastings pulled away with a 50.32-second third leg and Sanya Richards-Ross raced to a 49.47 final leg to lead a US rout.

Leo Manzano overtook Bernard Lagat on the final lap of the closing 1,600m leg to give USA Blue a victory over USA Red in the men’s distance medley relay in 9:18.31, beating their compatriots by .57 of a second with Ethiopia third in 9:21.42.

American Maggie Vessey held off Britain’s Marilyn Okoro after Jamaica’s Korene Hinds faltered in the closing 800m leg to give the US women a victory in the Sprint Medley Relay in 3:42.85. Britain was second in 3:43.72 with Jamaica third in 3:45.79. The Jamaicans had won the event each of the past four years.

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Tags: Athletics , Penn Relays , Sports

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