The USA ended its successful five-day stay in Cali with an impressive victory in the championship finale, the inaugural and innovative mixed 4x400m relay which delivered both entertainment and down-to-the-wire drama at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 on Sunday (19).
The quartets were made up of two boys and two girls with teams allowed to decide the running order.
Only the USA and Canada opted for the boy-girl-boy-girl option and they wound up taking gold and bronze.
Perhaps, whether by luck or design, they have found the optimal combination but there was more to the event than just that aspect of how to best spread your resources.
Keshun Reed, the individual 400m bronze medallist, had a marginal lead for the USA after his opening leg and Lynna Irby, the girls’ 400m silver medallist, managed to extend it even further.
Norman Grimes, the 400m hurdles champion, took his turn with the baton, all but putting the race out of reach when he handed off a hefty lead to anchor Samantha Watson, who just 76 minutes earlier dropped to the track with exhaustion after prevailing in a fierce head-to-head duel to win the 800m.
However, that earlier all-out effort barely showed as she made her way down the home straight to a 3:19.54 victory.
“I felt the pain,” Watson admitted, “but I really wanted to bring another gold medal for my team.”
Behind her, a different sort of drama was rapidly developing.
South African anchor Kyle Appel, who earlier in the afternoon raced to a silver medal in the 200m, worked hard to eat up a sizeable gap as he chased Canada’s anchor Kyra Constantine, the fourth-place finisher in the girls’ 400m.
He got on her shoulder some 30 metres from the finish and a desperate stride-for-stride battle ensued.
With the crowd on its feet and cheering wildly, Constantine held him off until the final metre when Appel just caught her with his lunge for the line.
Both teams were credited with 3:23.60 but a photo-finish reading gave the verdict to South Africa.
In the aftermath, the leg took its toll on Appel who missed the medal ceremony after being carried off on a stretcher.
Germany, who were level with South Africa at the final change, were a distant fourth in 3:24.50 but the leading European team home and just ahead of Poland in fifth with 3:24.64.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF