August 10, 2012

U.S. relay teams, TCU ex put troubled pasts behind them

Former Frogs' All-American Doc Patton gets “a little redemption” in the men's 4x100 prelim.

LONDON -- It was over in 37.38 seconds, the fastest a U.S. 4x100 relay team has ever run. Doc Patton swears they were not the longest 37.38 seconds of his life.

"I didn't drop the baton; I didn't get disqualified," Patton, 34, said. "What else can happen?"

The Americans qualified for the final in the event on a big night of results for the U.S. relay teams.

The women's 4x100 team of Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, former Texas standout Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter broke a 27-year-old world record in winning the gold medal over the Jamaicans. Their 40.82 shattered the old mark of 41.37 set by East Germany in 1985. Jamaica took silver Friday night in 41.41.

It was the first gold medal for the U.S. in the event since 1996, and it completed Jeter's collection of medals this Games, with silver in the 100 and bronze in the 200.

The injury-plagued U.S. men's 4x400 was without three of the six athletes in its relay pool and still managed silver, though it broke Team USA's long string of dominance in the event. The Americans had won every 4x400 Olympic relay in which they had competed since 1976, but injuries took out Arlington Lamar grad Jeremy Wariner, LaShawn Merritt and Manteo Mitchell in recent days.

Bryshon Nellum, Joshua Mance and Tony McQuay, along with 400 hurdler Angelo Taylor, took silver in 2:57.05. Taylor, 33, was passed in the final 50 meters as a Bahamas foursome that included Texas Tech-ex Michael Mathieu and former Texas A&M sprinter Demetrius Pinder won in 2:56.72.

For Patton, just finishing was accomplishment enough. The national record was a bonus.

"I whispered to him, 'Third time is the charm,'" U.S. teammate Justin Gatlin said. "He's been in a couple of the bobbles in the last couple championships. I said, 'You know what? The next Olympics you go to, something [good] is going to happen.' And now, he's an American record-holder, at the end of his career. He said this might be his last Olympics, and to go out with an American record, that's huge."

Patton has had bad luck, if not been bad luck for the U.S., since the 2008 Games, when he dropped the baton while trying to hand it to Tyson Gay. He also was involved in incidents at the 2009 and 2011 world championships that knocked the U.S. from contention in the 4x100.

This time, though, it was as easy as 1-2-3-4.

"Like taking candy from a baby," said Jeff Demps, who led off and handed the baton to Patton. Patton handed to Trell Kimmons, without incident, and Gatlin finished up in record style.

"It's a little redemption," Patton said. "If we walk away with the gold, that would be complete redemption. I've had some problems in the past, but I put that behind me and came forward and got an American record."

The 37.38 they ran was the fourth-fastest ever and topped the national record of 37.40 that Michael Marsh, Leroy Burrell, Dennis Mitchell and Carl Lewis set at the 1992 Olympics and Jon Drummond, Andre Cason, Mitchell and Burrell tied a year later.

"I mean, now I'm named with those guys, and ahead of those guys, at least for this relay," said Patton, a former All-American at TCU. "It's pretty hard to put in words right now what I'm feeling."

The record might stand for only a day, though, as Team USA runs its A team in the finals. Gay and Ryan Bailey are expected on the relay today and could team up with Michael Rodgers and Gatlin in the final, though the lineup won't be announced until tonight.

"I know we'll put the best four out there," Patton said. "If I'm a part of it, I'll be excited. If not, I'll be the biggest cheerleader, with pompoms and a skirt."

The four runners Friday will receive a medal, assuming the U.S. medals, regardless whether they run the final. The Americans would love to regain the gold, something they haven't accomplished in the 4x100 since 2000. Patton was part of the silver-medal relay in Athens.

But the Jamaicans, who ran a 37.39 without Usain Bolt, are the team to beat.

On Friday night, though, the Americans were just happy to get the chance to try. Four years ago, they didn't even have that.

There was some thought that Drummond, the U.S. relays coach and a former TCU star, might shy away from letting Patton run in qualifying based on Patton's recent history in major meets.

But history Friday made Patton's past failures just that.

Charean Williams


Twitter: @NFLCharean

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