Mixed fortunes for mile relay teams

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 13, 2017

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LONDON, England — There were mixed fortunes for Jamaica's mile relay teams as the defending 4x400-metre women's team safely booked their spot in the final, while the men crashed out after questionable team selection.

The Jamaican disappointment in London continued as the coaching staff experimented with the male starting team and decided to rest 400m finalists Nathan Alllen and Demish Gaye. But it sensationally backfired.

Peter Matthews, Steven Gayle, Jamari Rose and national record holder Rusheen McDonald clocked a season's best 3:01.98 minutes, but finished a disappointing fourth. Spain won in 3:01.72 ahead of Poland in 3:01.78. Cuba sneaked past Jamaica and snatched the final automatic qualifying spot in 3:01.88.

With the United States of America capturing the other heat in 2:59.23, and Trinidad and Tobago and Belgium grabbing the automatic spots in 2:59.35 and 2:59.47, respectively, the Jamaicans were left to wait anxiously for one of two fastest losers spots.

But those places went to Great Britain and France who clocked 3:00.10 and 3:00.93, respectively. Jamaica ended as the ninth best team.

“If it had worked then it would have been the path to the success that we felt that we could have created,” a disappointed Head Coach Maurice Wilson told the Jamaica Observer.

“We felt that the two young men, who ran a series of PR (personal records) under extreme conditions, were having problems really getting back their legs and we felt that the four guys who were there were in the shape to qualify the team. Unfortunately, it did not go the way we wanted,”added Wilson.

Matthews (44.78 seconds) gave Jamaica the lead with a wonderful start and Gayle's 46-second split gave Rose a lead, but he was passed by Spain's third-leg runner Darwin Echeverry.

McDonald settled into second, but was relegated to fourth in the straight. And despite a late fightback from McDonald, Jamaica were eliminated.

They became only the second Jamaican quartet to fail to make the final in the history of the 4x400m at the World Championships that started 34 years ago. The last team not to qualify were Leford Green, Ricardo Chambers, Isa Phillips and Jermaine Gonzales in 2009.

The women's makeshift 4x400m team made no such mistake and easily qualified for the final, winning heat two in 3:23.64 minutes. Nigeria were second in 3:25.40 and Germany third with 3:26.24. Poland were fourth in 3:26.47 to sneak into the final.

This time the coaching staff rested veteran Novlene Williams-Mills and Shericka Jackson, and started with Anastasia LeRoy, Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby, Chrisann Gordon and Stephenie-Ann McPherson.

LeRoy, with a splendid 50.68 split, gave Jamaica a slight lead, but Glory Nathaniel hurriedly gave Nigeria a slender lead before McLaughlin went into overdrive. Her 51.35s leg restored Jamaica's lead which they never relinquished again. Gordon and McPherson had strong third and anchor legs of 50.90 and 50.71, respectively, for Jamaica's season best.

McLaughlin, who was bursting at the seams for some action, said they got the job done as defending champions.

“We wanted to get into the final first and foremost, and we did that and I am happy,” she said.

But with Jackson and Williams-Mills to replace her and LeRoy, McLaughlin had already played her part.

“I am always a team person and I really love relays, so it is always good with the vibes that we have and I will always look forward to running relays,” she explained.

“That was pretty comfortable today. We just wanted to do enough to qualify safely, so we are happy to have done that. We know we will have to go quick in the final to challenge the American team, but we know we are capable of it,” said McLaughlin-Whilby.

Gordon was also pleased with their display en route to defending their title.

“The girls ran well this morning. It is early, so we just wanted to make sure we didn't put ourselves in any danger. We led it the whole way, so we are a strong challenger for the gold medal. We can go even harder. We work well together and never give up,” said Gordon

But if Jamaica is to win gold they will have to once again deal with a powerful USA team.

The Americans won heat one convincingly in a world-leading 3:21.66 on the back of a 49.97 opening leg from Quanera Hayes and 49.20 third leg from Shakima Wimbley. Great Britain were second with 3:24.74. The final is set for 2:55 pm today Jamaican time.

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