Lightning Bolt

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Jamaican runner Usain Bolt runs the anchor leg to secure his team's win in the 4x400 race at the Penn Relays on Saturday. (Laurence Kesterson / Staff Photographer)

When historians celebrating the next Penn Relays milestone for longevity start compiling highlights of the previous 100-plus years, the anchor leg run Saturday by Usain Bolt at Franklin Field will be at or near the top of the list.

Bolt, the world's fastest man, thrilled the chanting and cheering crowd of 54,310 that packed every corner of the ancient stadium with a magnificent performance that carried the Jamaica Gold team to victory in the "USA vs. the World" 4x100-meter relay.

"Well, the crowd always has been wonderful," Bolt said after his first race at Penn since 2005. "I haven't been here in a while, so I was really looking forward to it.

"It was just awesome. It was a wonderful feeling. There's nothing like a home crowd for me. So the experience was wonderful. I love running here."

The three-time Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder in the 100 and 200 meters took the baton maybe a stride behind Team USA Blue, but immediately powered into the final straightaway, his long strides gobbling up huge sections of the track.

Bolt won going away, getting his team the win in a carnival-record time of 37.9 seconds, only the second win in 11 tries for Jamaica in the USA vs. the World 4x100. While there are no official splits in a 4x100 race, some watches had Bolt running 8.8 seconds or better for his leg.

Certainly, he gave the people what they came to see. He followed it with an extended victory lap, waving to the crowd and even performing his trademark lightning bolt pose in the southeast corner.

Bolt credited his teammates - Mario Forsythe, Yohan Blake, and Marvin Anderson - for making his job easy.

"I got the baton pretty much in front, so I wasn't really worried about anything else," he said.

Bolt praised his team's work in getting the baton around the track safely and securely.

Conversely, the USA Blue team, which took second in 38.33 seconds, left the track in a sour mood because of poor baton passes.

"We didn't have perfect sticks," veteran Shawn Crawford said. "I wish we had perfect sticks so we could show what we could do."

Ivory Williams, the USA Blue anchor, said he used cheers from the crowd to spur him on.

"They were cheering for Usain Bolt, but I'm thinking they're cheering for me," he said. "I knew I wasn't going to be able to pass him, but I was trying. I think we can beat them. If I get in front of Usain Bolt, I don't think he's going to go by me."

Bolt, who has run record times of 9.58 for the 100 and 19.19 for the 200, knew it was his show from the outset. More than one hour before his race, he emerged from the infield and jogged about 40 yards, attracting screams and applause from thousands.

As the noise increased, officials stopped the start of a high school race until things settled down.

"Over the past two years, I've been surprised by the amount of people that know me, the welcome I get when I go to track meets," Bolt said. "For me, I'm still trying to get used to it, and it's getting bigger. I'm really enjoying it. I just come to work and stay focused."

The noise accompanying Bolt was special even to athletes accustomed to noisy crowds at Olympic Games and world championships.

"I think everyone was excited to see Bolt run, and they got to see us run, too," said Allyson Felix, who ran on two victorious U.S. relay teams. Whether it happens again is anyone's guess.

Early in his news conference, Bolt said he was "looking forward to next season" and a return to the carnival. But when asked later if he was definitely coming back, he responded, "Ask my coach."


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.