With less than 100 days until the Olympic Games, a record number of athletes and countries will compete at the 13th edition of USA vs. the World at the Penn Relays on Saturday, April 28. With teams around the globe eager to ready their squads for the Olympic Games, no fewer than 21 countries will be represented at the premier relays event in the world.
Team USA will battle against teams from Jamaica, Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, Germany, Kenya and Morocco. This year’s relays include the men’s distance medley, women’s sprint medley, men’s 4x100 meter relay, women’s 4x100 meter relay, men’s 4x400 meter relay and women’s 4x400 meter relay.
Penn Relays veterans Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross and Carmelita Jeter will once again headline the U.S. women’s squads as the trio has its sights on London gold in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. Richards-Ross is fresh off her world indoor victory in the 400, while Felix is a two-time Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion in the 200. Both women are still weighing a possible 200/400 double in 2012, and Felix could even drop down to the 100. The duo will also be joined by their teammates from the gold medal winning World Championships 4x400 meter relay squad, Francena McCoroy and Jessica Beard.
Jeter was named the 2011 Jesse Owens Female Athlete of the Year after winning gold at the World Championships in the 100 meters and doubling up with silver in the 200 meters. With a personal best of 10.64 in the 100 meters, Jeter is the second-fastest women in history. Three members of the 2011 World Outdoor champion 4x100 meter relay also will be in the pool for Philadelphia with Jeter, Felix and Bianca Knight.
Middle distance training partners Phoebe Wright and Erica Moore are great assets for the sprint medley relay lineup. Wright was a six-time Penn Relays champion during her career at the University of Tennessee, and Moore won her first international medal with a bronze at the World Indoor Championships.
The women of Team USA will face stiff competition from the best of the world. Three of the four women from Jamaica’s silver 4x100 meter relay team, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson, are also set to compete, and Shericka Williams and Novlene Williams-Mills both ran on Jamaica’s second place World Outdoor 4x400 meter relay team. Pryce enters 2012 as the defending Olympic champion in the 100. Jamaica will once again be bringing their 800 meter heavy hitter Kenia Sinclair, who split 1:57.06 for 800 meters in last year’s sprint medley relay.
While the USA vs. Jamaica rivalry is a crowd favorite, the U.S. women will also have to watch out for Great Britain. All four of the members from the winning World Indoor 4x400 meter relay team are scheduled to compete, including former American Shana Cox, now running under the Union Jack.
On the men’s sprint side, Team USA is lead by veterans Walter Dix, Angelo Taylor, Justin Gatlin and Lashawn Merritt. Dix is the current world silver medalist in both the 100 and 200 meters and has already run a windy time of 9.85 in the 100 meters this year. Brining more 100 meter talent to the team is Gatlin, who in 2003 and 2012 World Indoor 60 meters champion. Olympic champion Lashawn Merritt ran to silver in Daegu in the 400 meters and also anchored the winning 4x400 meter relay team. In the 4x400, he will be joined by his world championship relay teammates Taylor and Bershawn Jackson.
Bernard Lagat will lead the men’s distance medley team with an impressive line-up assembled from a group that includes Jeshua Anderson, Khadevis Robinson, Nick Symmonds, Russell Brown and Leo Manzano. Lagat is fresh off of his third World Indoor title in the 3,000 meter and set an indoor American record in the 5,000 in February.
The biggest international star will undoubtedly be 400 meter world champion Kirani James of Grenada. James will be joined by countryman Rondell Bartholomew, who took sixth at the World Outdoor Championships. However, the two men will have to make up a lot of ground for their teammates as they were the only sprinters from Grenada to run under 46 seconds in 2011.
The Jamaicans are the defending world and Olympic champions in the 4x100 meter relay. Gold medal Nesta Carter will lead the 4x100 crew while Jermaine Gonzales and Allodin Fothergill competed on Jamaica’s third place World Outdoor 4x400 meter relay and will be on the track at Penn.
Other nations to watch include the Bahamas in the 4x100 meters as well as Kenya and defending USA vs. the World champions Morocco in the distance medley relay.