BARCELONA, Spain -- It took two races, but Team USA’s 4x400 women are finally into Sunday night’s final. The quartet of MI prep Kendell Baisden, FL prep Robin Reynolds, VCU’s Kiara Porter, and Texas A&M’s Olivia Ekpone ran 3:34.25 by themselves in a Sunday morning runoff to qualify. The runoff was granted to them after the U.S. won an appeal to overturn an initial disqualification in the 4x400 semifinals Saturday.
This is what happened Saturday: The Americans, with the same lineup of Baisden, Reynolds, Porter and Ekpone, split 55.6, 51.1, 53.3, and 54.2, respectively, and appeared to win the first heat of the semis in 3:34.12. But after an official review, it was announced they had been DQ’d for being outside the exchange zone during the first handoff (IAAF rule 170.7). Romania was DQ’d for the same reason in that heat.
Both countries filed a protest, stating that the track officials placed the second-leg runners in the wrong position, near the end of the exchange zone. But when the batons were passed, video evidence reportedly made it clear that both teams had passed outside the zone, so the protest was denied.
It wasn’t over yet. The U.S. appealed that decision and it went to the IAAF WJC Jury of Appeals. There, the jury reportedly upheld the Team USA stance and decided to offer the American and Romanian squads an opportunity for a rerun. The USATF report said that according to the IAAF, the jury “(took into) consideration the special circumstances – young inexperienced athletes, different judges, different guidance, etc.” in making the decision.
Romania passed on the offer, but the U.S. team decided to go for it. Team USA had to run a time of 3:39.44 or faster to earn the final qualifying spot in the final (which they did by more than five seconds). No other teams would be impacted and achieving the time qualifier would get them in as the third time qualifier and ninth overall team.
It was also decreed that the same four athletes who ran Saturday had to run in the runoff and in the same order. The early scheduling of the runoff would allow for more than eight and half hours rest before the 4x400 finals at the end of Sunday’s program.