The Weekend's Best Matchups: World Relays, College Rivalries, and Cardinal Invitational
Jesse Squire | On 01, May 2015
The biggest races of the weekend are the sprint events at the IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas, but the best will be the men’s 4×400 on Sunday night.
The big action this weekend is in the Bahamas, where the second IAAF World Relays will be run on Saturday and Sunday. Last year’s meet was interesting, competitive and popular, and this year looks to be more of the same. But as always, there’s a whole lot more going on this weekend than just the headline meet.
Still, the #1 matchup of the weekend is track and field’s biggest national rivalry.
USA vs Jamaica
Sprint events, IAAF World Relays
Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau BAH
Saturday and Sunday
Live TV coverage on Universal Sports, 7:00pm ET Saturday and 7:00pm ET Sunday
Jamaica has overtaken the USA as the best men’s sprint relay nation in the world, and it’s a bit of a toss-up in women’s sprint relays. Last week’s USA vs The World races at the Penn Relays were just a warm-up; the score was USA 4, Jamaica 2. But the truly big guns were not there: Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Carmelita Jeter, Tianna Bartoletta, and more.
In terms of pure speed, the Jamaican men have generally held the upper hand on the USA, but that’s only part of the story in relays. The Americans have had an unusual amount of trouble in baton passes lately. That got cleaned up going into the 2012 Olympics, where both the US men’s and women’s 4×100 teams broke the world record (it still wasn’t enough to win on the men’s side). Then national relay coach Jon Drummond had to be removed from his post, and replacement Dennis Mitchell led the team through a shaky 2014–neither the men’s 4×100 or 4×100 completed all of their passes at the World Relays. Mitchell got a lot of flack for being selected as national relay coach due to his sordid past, but I thought he deserved even more criticism for not getting the coaching job done.
One of the great things about the new IAAF World Relays is that you don’t have to know exactly when the highlight events are happening. Each day’s action is confined to a space of three hours, and you know that the biggest races, the sprint relays, are going to be towards the end. So sit back, turn on the TV, and crack open a cold one (Kalik, if you can find it). This will be fun.
The best of the rest, in chronological order…
Arizona vs Arizona State
This is the first of the Pac-12’s three traditional rivalry dual meets this weekend. All are intense competitions in which each team goes all-out for the win. (Example: Arizona’s Lawi Lalang ran a 1500-800-3000 triple in last year’s meet). This one was a triangular with Northern Arizona for several decades, but has now gone back to the dual meet format. One sources I found says this meet dates from 1908 (four years before Arizona became a state), but detailed records on the rivalry are hard to come by.
Washington vs Washington State
Husky Track, Seattle WA
Saturday, 10:00am local time (1:00pm ET)
Live TV coverage on the Pac-12 Network from 4:30pm ET
Paul Merca’s guide and preview
This rivalry is even older, dating from 1901, making it the second-oldest annual rivalry west of the Appalachian Mountains. While Washington State leads the all-time men’s series by a 61-36-1 count, it looks good for the Huskies this year.
USA vs Kenya
Distance events, IAAF World Relays
Saturday and Sunday
Kenya is the world’s dominant nation in middle-distance running, but the USA has made a real resurgence in recent years and, in some events, can go toe-to-toe with the Kenyans. The USA won the women’s 4×800 at last year’s World Relays and was second in both the men’s and women’s 4×1500. Those longer races are replaced with the distance medley this year, which gives fighting chance to other nations such as the USA and Poland. Yes, Poland–they nearly caught the Kenyans from behind last year in the men’s 4×800.
Walker vs Kemboi
The Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational has sprint and field events, but it’s all about the distance races. The top-seeded races are concentrated together, but still occupy an unweildy five-hour window of time. The top section of the men’s 800 meters brings together BYU’s Shaquille Walker, the fastest collegian of the year so far, and Iowa State’s Edward Kemboi, the NCAA indoor champion.
Soratos vs Pros
Men’s 1500 meters section 1, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational
Saturday, 7:46pm local time (10:46pm ET)
Montana State’s Cristian Soratos is the middle-distance find of the year. He has just two losses on the season in the 1500 or mile, the NCAA indoor championships (second, to Oregon’s Edward Cheserek) and the Mt. SAC Relays (to pro Michael Atchoo). He is one of only two collegians in the fast section of the 1500 at the Cardinal Invitational, and will face off against some top talent: Lawi Lalang, Ryan Hill, Evan Jager, Nathan Brannen, Andy Bayer, Craig Miller, and more.
Sisson vs Avery
Women’s 10,000 meters section 1, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational
Saturday, 9:08pm local time (12:08am ET)
This is the most intriguing college race of the weekend. Iona’s Kate Avery is a great long-distance runner; she dominated the NCAA cross country championships last fall, and finished fourth in the 10k at the Commonwealth Games. She didn’t run all that well during the indoor season, but I think she’s picking her spots and saving some gas for the international summer season. She already has a 15:25 5k to her credit during outdoor season, so she’s obviously ready to run. Providence’s Emily Sisson had a great indoor season, including a new collegiate record for the indoor 5000, and will be running just the second 10k of her career. This should be a great race–but it also says something about track and field that these two go to college just 150 miles apart, but have to fly 3000 miles to race each other.
Ahmed vs True
Men’s 10,000 meters section 1, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational
Saturday, 9:45pm local time (12:45am ET)
Ben True is probably the best runner in the entire meet, and Mo Ahmed is fighting for the title of the best runner in Canada. Interestingly enough, their 10k PRs were set in the same race at the 2012 Cardinal Invitational, where Ahmed beat True by seven seconds. Since then, True has made a huge step up in performance, while Ahmed is in his first professional season.
USC vs UCLA
Loker Stadium, Los Angeles CA
Sunday, 2:00pm local time (5:00pm ET)
Live TV coverage on the Pac-12 Network from 7:00pm ET
In terms of intensity, attention, and quality of competition, this is the best dual meet rivalry in the NCAA. USC won the first 33 editions of the men’s competition, but the Trojans’ lead in the all-time series has been narrowed to 42-39. The current streaks are four straight wins by the UCLA men, six straight by the USC women, and it appears that both of these could continue. This meet has bigger implications, too: the Bruin men are #2 in the collegiate dual meet rankings and would likely go to #1 with a win (their last dual meet national championship came in 1988). The Bruin women are #4 in the women’s dual meet rankings and could conceivably move to #1 with a win, but beating #10 USC isn’t going to be easy. The live TV coverage gives track fans the rare problem of two track meets on TV at the same time.
USA vs Bahamas
Men’s 4×400, IAAF World Relays
The USA men’s 4×400 relay is among the most dominant teams in any sport, ever. Just four times has it ever been outrun in an Olympic or World Championship final: 1936, 1954, 1991, and 2012. The defeat three years ago came at the hands of the Bahamas, the home team at the IAAF World Relays. Last year, the Bahamians beat the USA at the Penn Relays, and then held the lead at the World Relays until the last homestretch. If last week’s race at the Penn Relays was any indication, we’re in for another great race.