Eilidh Child, Shana Cox, Christine Ohuruogu and Perri Shakes-Drayton form part of GB & NI’s team for the Penn Relays on Saturday
Following their success at the European Indoor Championships in March, Great Britain’s gold medal-winning women’s 4x400m team will be back in action on Saturday, having been named as part of GB & NI’s team for the Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
Eilidh Child, Shana Cox, Christine Ohuruogu and Perri Shakes-Drayton will be on the hunt for Great Britain’s first ever podium finish at the event, as GB enters teams for the first time.
GB became the first nation to have won both titles at the same championships with victory in both the men’s and women’s 4x400m relays in Gothenburg and UKA endurance coach Terrence Mahon believes that the team being sent to the Penn Relays proves how seriously they consider their opposition, which will include formidable line-ups from Jamaica, Russia and USA.
“The Penn Relays will give us the chance to see where we are as we approach the outdoor season,” commented Mahon. “We’ve seen some encouraging displays already at the European Indoors and also some strong performances last weekend,” he continued, with Shakes-Drayton having run a personal best of 23.27 over 200m recently.
“I have no doubt that the team assembled have every chance of winning the first medal for GB & NI at the event, but as with every year, the relays attract some strong opposition, so we’ll have to be at our very best,” he added.
The men’s 4x400m squad includes three of the four gold medallists from Gothenburg, with Michael Bingham, Richard Buck and Nigel Levine joined by Olympic 400m semi-finalist Conrad Williams and European Indoor finalist Richard Strachan.
The men’s 4x100m relay team will be made up of two London 2012 Olympians – James Ellington and Danny Talbot – and they will be joined by Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Andrew Robertson as the team looks to improve on the time of 38.91 set by the GB & NI team in Gainesville last week.
There will be no women’s 4x100m team for GB & NI, however, a fact that Jeanette Kwakye was quick to comment on via twitter.
“Oh.. What’s that I see?” she tweeted. “GB teams for 4×400 men and women and 4×100 men entered for Penn Relays but no 4×100 Women. *slow clap*”
On announcing in March that Great Britain would be entering teams into the Penn Relays for the first time, UKA’s performance director, Neil Black commented: “Historically we’ve competed at the Penn Relays in an unofficial capacity, athletes have come together as individuals and/or made teams to go along and compete.
“This year is the first year we are attending as a GB team. We’ve got a combination of young developing athletes along with the more experienced athletes.”
Following the team announcement on Wednesday, UKA advised AW that they would have liked to have entered a women’s 4x100m team, but that Penn Relays did not invite Great Britain to enter one.
Although not able to include any of GB’s young developing athletes in a women’s 4x100m team, 18-year old Matt McLaughlin is set to make his senior international debut in America, as he forms part of a distance medley team which also includes Chris Warburton, Martyn Rooney and Joe Thomas.
Warburton will run the first 1200m leg, before passing on to Rooney and then Thomas who will run their 400m and 800m legs respectively. McLaughlin will finish with the 1600m.
“It gives us a good opportunity to get international competition for a lot of these athletes,” Mahon said of the Penn Relays. “It puts them in a position where they’re going to run against the best athletes in the US, Kenya, Jamaica, etc in an environment in which they are safe and free to take some risks and try some different things.
“They’re estimating 40,000 people in the stadium so it gives them good championship-style competition and there’s a learning curve to that. Giving them these types of experiences, I think, is important for their long-term development.”
For the first time in its 118-year history, the Penn Relays will also put on a women’s 4x800m relay in 2013. Marilyn Okoro, who ran 2:01.95 in at the Mount SAC Relays last weekend, and Olympic semi-finalist Lynsey Sharp, who finished behind Okoro in the race clocking a time of 2:02.63, will be joined by 2008 Olympian Jemma Simpson and senior debutant Tara Bird, the daughter of two-time Olympian Gladys Bird, as they attempt to break the GB record of 8:19.9 set in 1992.
Great Britain & Northern Ireland team for the Penn Relays:
4x100m: Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Andrew Robertson, James Ellington, Danny Talbot
4x400m: Michael Bingham, Richard Buck, Nigel Levine, Conrad Williams, Richard Strachan
DMR: Chris Warburton, Martyn Rooney, Joe Thomas, Matt McLaughlin
4x400m: Eilidh Child, Shana Cox, Christine Ohurougu, Perri Shakes-Drayton
4x800m: Tara Bird, Marilyn Okoro, Lynsey Sharp, Jemma Simpson