It's not easy to take four outstanding sprinters, tell them they're going to form a relay team, give them one day to practice passing the baton to each other at full speed, and put them on the track at Franklin Field to perform in front of nearly 50,000 screaming spectators.
But the four who represented USA Red in the women's 4x100-meter relay Saturday at the Penn Relays USA vs. the World competition executed as if they had been running together for years, posting a time of 42.28 seconds to set a carnival record for the event.
The quartet of Lauryn Williams, Allyson Felix, Marshavet Myers, and Carmelita Jeter broke the record of 42.33 set by a U.S. team in 2000, the first time USA vs. the World was staged at Penn.
"It doesn't matter how many fast people you have on a relay. If you don't get that stick around, you're not going to break any record," Jeter said. "This is our first time running the 4x100 together and it really showed that we definitely relied on each other well.
"We got that stick around and didn't have any problems. The record was in 2000, but I knew if we could get that stick around that we were going to be able to do some damage today."
Added Felix, "That was a lot of fun. I haven't done much in sprints this year and I loved being part of this team."
Felix, the women's Jesse Owens Award winner in 2010, has had plenty of fun at Penn before. This marked the fifth consecutive year that she has been part of two winning teams, in both the 4x100 and the 4x400. The latter came home first Saturday in 3 minutes, 22.92 seconds.
The two U.S. men's teams in the 4x100 did not have the same success with the baton. They finished second and third to Jamaica, which clocked 38.33 for its second straight win in the event.
"I don't like to lose, but I'm ticked out at myself because my handoff wasn't good," veteran Shawn Crawford said. "I have to take the blame, kind of. If it wasn't for the handoff, we'd be right up there."
The United States, which entered two teams in five of the six events, picked up its third win of the day in the men's 4x400 in 3:02.40. Angelo Taylor, who had tweaked his groin in practice earlier in the week, had just enough to close off the fast-closing Bahamas.
It was Taylor's sixth victory in a USA vs. the World event. At 32, he continues to compete at a high level, particularly at the Penn Relays.
"It's great preparation going into the season," he said. "This is always the opening to my season and I know what the experience is like, how the crowds are, and how you want to put on a good show for the people. My coach and my trainer are really good and they always have me ready when I come here."
Jamaica, which recorded two victories, delighted the green-and-gold-clad sections of Franklin Field with a win in the first event, the women's sprint medley. Melaine Walker gave Jamaica the lead for good with a 51.3-second 400 and Kenia Sinclair brought it home in 1:57.06.
Jamaica exhibited a new running order in the men's 4x100. Asafa Powell, the former 100-meter world record holder, ran the leadoff leg instead of the anchor.
"Over the years, my coach has told me that if I lead off, it will be a totally different race," Powell said. "We'd be so far ahead, nobody would catch us. I've always been on the anchor leg and I just wanted to try something new and see what happens. It went well."
The U.S. team finished a disappointing third in the men's distance medley, a relay won by Morocco.