Sanya Richards-Ross takes "victory lap" at Penn Relays
PHILADELPHIA -- Sanya Richards-Ross called her final race at the Penn Relays her "victory lap." Anchoring the U.S. women's 1600 relay, the three-time Olympian and three-time gold medalist had a huge lead going into her leg, making her trot around Franklin Field in front of nearly 45,000 spectators giving her a standing ovation all the more special.
"I'm just a runner, but to see the impact my career has had on a lot of young people, it meant a lot to me," said Richards-Ross, fighting back tears. "A lot of young girls came up to me and asked me not to retire (after the Olympics). It means a lot. It's hard to put into words what today meant. It was special. I have been coming here for a long time and today was overwhelming."
Richards-Ross and teammates Natasha Hastings, Deedee Trotter and Phyllis Francis won in 3 minutes, 26.83 seconds, more than two seconds ahead of second-place Jamaica.
It was the fifth win by the American team in the six races in the U.S. versus the World events.
The only loss for the Americans came in the men's 400 relay as the U.S. team bobbled their victory away on a bad baton handoff for the final leg between Tyson Gay and Isiah Young that led to a disqualification.
Mike Rodgers and Justin Gatlin gave the Americans an early lead in the race and things were moving along well during Gay's third leg. But the muffed handoff for the final leg cost the Americans, as both the winning Jamaican squad and the second American team surpassed them.
Young finished third, but the team was disqualified for the handoff occurring outside the pass zone. The second U.S. team of Sean McLean, Wallace Spearman, Calesio Newman and Remontay McLain, finished in 39.02.
The mistake led to some inflammatory comments from U.S. great Leroy Burrell about continued problems with handoffs by U.S. relay teams.
"Well, I think we've got to put our team together a little earlier, possibly," Burrell said in a television interview. "I think, we've had the same coaches working with these guys for many years, and we've had failure after failure. So it's possible that, you know, it might be time for a bit of a regime change with the leadership.
"I think the athletes have to be the catalysts that make that happen. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to get the stick around. I saw thousands of relay teams yesterday -- maybe not thousands, but hundreds of relay teams get it around. But the professionals can't. That's just not good for our sport."
Rodgers didn't take it kindly to those remarks.
"People keep pointing their fingers and downing us, but nobody has ever tried to come out there and help us," he said. Nobody from the past. Not Carl (Lewis) or Leroy. They haven't been out there. I can't really respect their opinions because they're supposed to be leaders in our sport and in the USA and they're not coming out there to drop some knowledge on us, so I don't care what they have to say.
Gatlin was equally critical of Burrell.
"I'm tired of people who have been part of Team USA take shots at Team USA," Gatlin said. "To put us in the same boat as high schoolers is insulting."
In the women's 400 relay, Carmelita Jeter held off a furious push by Jamaican anchor Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to secure a win for the U.S. women.
They finished in 42.61, defeating Jamaica by less than three-tenths of a second. Olympic hopeful Candyce McGrone gave the Americans the lead with a blistering second leg of the race, passing Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson, allowing the 36-year-old Jeter to race from ahead over the final 100.
The men's 800 relay wasn't even a contest for the Americans after Jamaican leadoff runner Jason Livermore crumbled to the ground in pain halfway through the opening leg. After the race, he was carted off the track to applause from the crowd, but was emotional and held his head in his hands the entire time.
The Americans also won the men's 1,600 relay, but by their Blue, or secondary team. That group, made up of youngsters Chris Geisting, Brycen Spratling, Je'Von Huchison and James Harris finished in 3:02.32.
The U.S. Red team, came in second on a photo finish at the line with anchor Mike Berry leaning his head over the line just in time to nip Brazil's Hugo Souza by two-hundredths of a second.
It was a fine finish though by Berry, who had started his leg in fifth place after Gil Roberts hobbled over the final 100 meters with a muscle cramp.
The U.S. women won the women's 800 relay in 1:31.17, topping Jamaica by a little more than a tenth of a second. Trotter was pushed hard on the second leg by Jamaican Tiffany James, but held her off long enough to allow Francis and Richards-Ross to maintain the slim lead over the final 400 meters.
Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press
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