Jon Drummond - aiming to repair the USA relay problems.
USA Track and Field: Can Jon Drummond Fix the Broken Relay Teams?
By Red Shannon(Track and Field Featured Columnist)
July 5, 2011
One of the most compelling and entertaining events in track and field is the 400-meter relay (4x100).
When executed perfectly, the combination of speed and seamless baton exchanges can be a thing of beauty.
Once upon a time, in days less complicated with superstars, showmanship and instant global notoriety, America owned that event.
But in the quest for sheer speed—which may work well in the open 100m sprint—someone forgot about such team concepts as chemistry, the meshing of individual strengths...and practice.
Perhaps also an aire of complacency crept in, fostered by a longtime American dominance in the sprints. Somewhere along the line, the relays became almost an afterthought: "we'll just throw our best sprinters out there and let them do what they do".
The fallacy of that thinking quickly manifested itself on the track. Dropped batons and exchange-zone violations left no room for error—and even less room on the podium.
The most recent manifestation—for both the men's and women's teams—came on the world's biggest stage, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and then again at the 2009 World Championships. The US relay teams came home empty-handed while the Jamaicans ascended the throne.
For Americans, the snakebite of those epic failures still stings.
Now, along with the Jamaicans, the French and Eastern Europeans are on the rise in the sprints, and America has no more room for handicaps of the self-inflicted variety.
And so, the recent news of the hiring of sprinting great and relay maestro, Jon Drummond, as Team USA relay coach comes as a welcome sign. Someone upstairs in American track and field must be both concerned and serious about reclaiming former glory.
Immediately after the USA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon last week, a relay pool of up to 10 men and 10 women for each relay (4x100 and 4x400) was selected. Unfortunately, for the curious at heart, those names were not released publicly.
Several sources are saying an announcement is imminent.
However, a schedule of relay events that lead up to the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Korea was released by the USATF (US track and field's governing body). For the 4x100 relay teams, it includes 11 days of training camp with two big meets (Lignano, Italy and London) prior to Daegu beginning August 27.
The less critical 4x400 relays will have a six-day training camp in Daegu prior to the Worlds.
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley competed in the days of US relay dominance. Drummond and USATF Chief of Sport Performance Benita Fitzgerald Mosley will select the teams and alternates on August 8. A preferred relay order with substitutions for each relay leg will be pre-established.
This has got to come as good news for relay fans frustrated with the last-minute mix-and-match teams of the recent past.
Drummond is an Olympic gold medalist in the 4x100 and three-time world champion in that event. He is recognized as one of the best ever coming out of the blocks. And if experience is the best teacher, Drummond—who had a famous muffed exchange of his own at the 1995 Worlds— should be able to impart the wisdom that comes from having been at the top...and the bottom of this event.
Mosley was the 1984 Olympic gold medalist in the 100m hurdles.
Stay tuned for the release of the USA relay pools. This article will be updated as news comes in.
Update - July 5, 2011 3pm: Jill Geer of the USATF has just released the preliminary relay pools. Interesting first-glance items: no Tyson Gay (4x100) or LaShawn Merritt (4x400). Gay has been bothered by a hip injury and Merritt is a provisional entry in the open 400m.