Bahamas 1600m relay opportunity
By FRED STURRUP
The Nassau Guardian
17th May 2011
Ten years ago, The Bahamas reigned supreme in the world for the 1600m men’s relay. (The United States was disqualified).
With World Champion Avard Moncur as the mainstay, The Bahamas won the 2001 Edmonton World Championships in 2:58.19, then our fastest time for the event. For the remainder of the last decade, although solidifying its position as the outright second best nation, The Bahamas clearly never seemed capable of beating the United States.
Now though, for the first time in the history of track and field (with no fumbles of the baton and no lane infractions) The Bahamas is poised to beat the great United States one-on-one in the 4x400m men’s relay. Indeed, it would seem that this is the big opportunity for The Bahamas.
As is always the case, the USA is well fortified for the event. Still running very well is the former World and Olympic Champion Jeremy Wariner. Then, there are Miles Smith, David Neville, Gil Roberts, Calvin Smith, Christian Taylor and Bryan Miller, all who have run 45.50 or better this year.
Missing in action of course will be the reigning World and Olympic Champion LaShawn Merritt who is serving a two-year suspension as of last October. Nevertheless, the USA has been known to go into its 400 meters (m) hurdles group to bolster its chances over the years.
There is no doubt about it. The USA will be dangerous once again when the 2011 International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Championships come up in Daegu, South Korea, August 24-September 4.
In previous years however, The Bahamas went into battle with just one really prime quarter-miler, capable of winning an open race against the rest of the world. Firstly, it was Moncur who did just that at the 2001 Worlds and then Chris Brown who won the World Indoor title in 2010.
Presently though, there is Brown, Demetrius Pinder and Michael Mathieu. Yes, we’ve got three quarter-milers at least, who, given the right circumstances, could beat the world. For my money, Ramon Miller rounds out our top four. Presently, Moncur has returned and Andrae Williams is still around.
In fact, none of the four runners who have run the fastest 4x400 relay in Bahamian history are retired. With Nathaniel McKinney going off first, followed by Moncur, Williams and Brown, the national mark of 2:57.32 was set when they won the silver medal at the Helsinki World Championships in 2005.
It’s a quality group that is in waiting, from which will come the team that will represent The Bahamas in the 4x400 in Daegu. The team will be selected after the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) National Championships, scheduled for next month. After the gold medal in 2001, The Bahamas won a Worlds bronze medal in 2003, Worlds silver in 2005 and 2007 and the Olympic silver in 2008.
There could have been more medals on the greatest stages for track and field in the world, but for baton exchange problems. Baton exchange looms as the key element for The Bahamas. The quality speed is there in appreciable quantity. Pinder is the leading Bahamian this year at 45.06 (fifth in the world). Brown’s best is 45.37, Miller is at 45.57 and Michael Mathieu has a season’s best of 45.69.
It would be good if the BAAA could find a way to get the selected quarter-milers into a camp, at least a month prior to August 24, to work on exchanges. For a very long time, a priority was placed more so on the short sprint (4x100) relay members working on their exchanges. There have been so many fumbles during the longer relay however, that nations now have a strong focus on 4x400 exchanges.
I believe that this time around, if The Bahamas is to move up from No. 2 to No. 1 in the world for the 4x400 men’s relay, a camp prior to the Worlds in Daegu is imperative. The opportunity is certainly there for The Bahamas to upstage the United States in an event the Americans have dominated for many decades.