Jamaicans win big over USA at Penn Relays

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Jamaica's Elaine Thompson at a Diamond League Athletics meeting on September 1, 2016 in Zurich (AFP Photo/FABRICE COFFRINI)
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Washington (AFP) - Reigning Olympic 100- and 200-meter champion Elaine Thompson and 4x400 relay runners Fitzroy Dunkley and Janieve Russell anchored impressive Jamaican victories on Saturday at the 123rd Penn Relays.

Jamaican and US squads split six races in the USA Versus the World events at the meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

But the visitors were most impressive in the feature showdowns ahead of the World Championships at London in August.

"It's always competitive with the USA and us. It's great to see that we were able to win and show our heart," Russell said.

"The World Championship is going to be a good one. I know the US is coming but Jamaica has got its gear on again."

Thompson, who last weekend helped Jamaica to the 4x200 title at the IAAF World Relays in Bahamas, outraced US Red anchor Morolake Akinosun down the final stretch to win in 42.25 seconds with the Americans .17 of a second behind and USA Blue third in 42.90.

Christania Williams, Kerron Stewart, Gayon Evans and Thompson restored the Caribbean women to meet supremacy in the event, avenging a 2016 defeat for Jamaica's fourth victory in five years with the second-best time in the world this year.

"I saw my teammate come, we passed the baton safely and I knew I could make the run from there," Thompson said.

"It feels good. I want to carry over from 2016 to 2017. It's going good so far."

Akinosun and USA Red third leg English Gardner were on the US Rio Olympic 4x100 gold medal-winning relay.

Dunkley chased down Calvin Smith Jnr over the final 100 meters to give Jamaica a comeback victory over the Americans in the men's 4x400 relay.

Dunkley made up a 10-meter gap on Smith from the start of the final turn and surged ahead three strides from the finish line to win in 3:03.14 with the hosts .11 behind.

Former Louisiana State University runner Dunkley, who took Rio Olympic silver in the 4x400, was cheered by hundreds of noisy Jamaican supporters as he ran a 45.13-second last leg while Smith, a three-time world indoor 4x400 relay champion, closed in 46.22.

"You've got to be patient," Dunkley said. "At LSU, I learned how to run good 4x4s and I just came out here and did it. I heard the crowd and I could feel the energy and I just used it."

Russell held off Natasha Hastings in the last lap to give the Jamaicans -- also including Stephanie-Ann McPherson, Shericka Jackson and Dawnalee Loney -- a 4x400 women's victory in 3:28.32, .98 ahead of the Americans.

Given an 8-meter lead at the last exchange, Russell fought off Hastings on her shoulder at the start of the backstretch and never let her that near again, her last leg of 51.02 just off the 50.96 of Hastings, who took her second Olympic 4x400 relay gold in Rio.

- US men win 4x100 relay -

LeShon Collins, who ran the US opening leg in a men's 4x100 World Relays win, led off a triumph with Wallace Spearmon, Beejay Lee and John Teeters in 38.87, edging Jamaica by .14 with Dominican Republic third in 40.32.

A second US relay botched a baton handoff and didn't finish, a stark reminder of US men's 4x100 exchange issues that have doomed American efforts in major meets for nearly a decade, including last year at Rio and the 2015 worlds.

"I was just focused on getting the handoff to Beejay," said Spearmon, a member of the 2007 world champion US 4x100 relay.

US squads swept the sprint medley relays, raced in a 100-100-200-400 format for women and distances twice as long for men.

A women's lineup led by Akinosun and Gardner and anchored by 36-year-old Miki Barber won in 1:35.59 while a men's lineup took the title in 3:11.45.