Marion Jones, the world's fastest woman sprinter, showed why on Saturday.
She was so overpowering that she overshadowed a strong performance by Michael Johnson, the world's No. 1 men's long sprinter.Both ran on relays in the Penn Relays, and Jones' team set an American record, while Johnson's team just missed.
Jones' anchor leg for Nike's 800-meter relay team was brilliant. She took the baton from Nicole Green six meters behind Adidas' LaTarsha Stroman and blazed past her easily to win by six meters before a wildly cheering crowd of 44,309, bringing the three-day attendance to a meet-record 90,982.
The time of 1 minute, 29.64 seconds by the Nike team of Tameka Roberts, Inger Miler, Green and Jones, the world 100-meter champion and 1997 Woman Athlete of the Year, smashed the American record of 1:30.20 set by a Nike team here last year. Miller and Green also were a part of that team, along with Celena Mondie-Milner and Chryste Gaines.
This time, the Nike team came close to being disqualified on the exchange between Green and Jones. With Jones taking off quickly, the pass from Green was nearly out of the zone.
"I took off a little too early, and I ran away from her (Green)" Jones said. "But we salvaged it. It is very difficult because you only have an hour to practice."
The world record is 1:28.15 by an East German team in 1980.
Jones also ran on Nike's 400-meter relay team, which was disqualified for passing out of the zone on the first handoff between Passion Richardson and Jones.
It wouldn't have mattered because Nike finished second to the Adidas team of Michelle Freeman, Gaines, Beverly McDonald and Sevatheda Fynes, which clocked 42.51, breaking Franklin Field and Penn Relays records.
Along with Richardson and Jones, the Nike team included Miller and two-time Olympic 100-meter gold medalist Gail Devers.
Johnson, running for Nike's 800-meter relay team, anchored the foursome to victory in 1:19.85, just off the world record of 1:18.68 held by the 1994 Santa Monica Track Club, anchored by Carl Lewis.
"As long as we got a win, that's all that matters," Johnson said after taking the baton with a one-meter lead and winning by nine.
"The handoffs were OK, considering we don't train together very often."
This was Johnson's first competitive race since last August.
Preceding Johnson on the relay were world 100-meter champion Maurice Greene, 1996 Olympic 110-meter hurdles gold medalist and two-time world champion Allen Johnson and Olympic 400-meter runner Alvin Harrison.
Allen Johnson also ran in the 400 relay and helped the Palmetto Flyers beat a Nike team anchored by Maurice Greene in 38.75. Nike was second in 39.28, with a poor handoff between No. 2 Kareem Streete-Thompson and No. 3 Travis Grant possibly costing the victory.
In the day's big collegiate relay, Arkansas avenged its loss to Michigan in Friday's distance medley relay by winning the four-mile event, the first time that distance was contested in the Penn Relays since 1975.
Despite running into a strong headwind, the Razorbacks team of Phil Price, Matt Kerr, Mike Power and Seneca Lassiter won by 60 meters in 16:11.65, just off the meet record of 16:10.6 by Villanova in 1975.
The four-mile relay replaced the 6,000-meter relay.
"It was definitely a sweet victory because we would have had to go home with our heads down," Lassiter said.
Lassiter stepped on the inside of the track just before crossing the finish line and could have been disqualified if he had impeded anyone's progress.
DRAKE RELAYS: Paul McMullen gave the Drake Relays a great race and a sub-4-minute mile to boot.
Continuing his comeback after losing parts of two toes in a lawnmower accident last summer, McMullen outran Terrance Herrington to win the mile in 3:59.12 on a blustery Saturday that also featured victories by Suzy Hamilton, Amy Skieresz and local favorites Joey Woody and Natasha-Kaiser Brown.