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Merritt, Team USA dominate at Penn Relays

LaShawn Merritt, with the USA Red team, reacts after crossing the finish line in the USA vs. the world men 4 x 400 during the Penn Relays athletics meet Saturday, April 28, 2012 in Philadelphia. USA Red team won with a time of 3:00.15. Behind him is Bahama's Chris Brown. (Alex Brandon | The Associated Press)
LaShawn Merritt, with the USA Red team, reacts after crossing the finish line in the USA vs. the world men 4 x 400 during the Penn Relays athletics meet Saturday, April 28, 2012 in Philadelphia. USA Red team won with a time of 3:00.15. Behind him is Bahama's Chris Brown. (Alex Brandon | The Associated Press)

LaShawn Merritt, who has been training at IMG Academy, was a few strides behind Chris Brown of the Bahamas when he grabbed the baton for the final leg of the 4x400 relay Saturday in the Penn Relays.

He paced himself before grabbing the lead for good on the straightaway.

"I was thinking just going ahead and blowing by him," Merritt said. "But I wanted to work on the kick and see what I had. Me being a sprinter, the worst part of my race is coming home."

When the Portsmouth native made his winning pass, one fan yelled, "There's nothing more beautiful than that!"

He came home this time in a familiar spot for the Americans - first place.

Team USA hopes its romp is a sneak preview for London.

Allyson Felix ran on a pair of relay teams that set Penn Relays records, and the United States was flawless in all six relays in the "U.S.A. vs. the World" races at Franklin Field.

USA Track and Field set the lofty goal of 30 medals in the Olympics. Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross, Walter Dix, Justin Gatlin, and Merritt showed they're coming to get their share.

On a chilly and windy day at Franklin Field, the men and women simply did what they wanted on the track against teams from Belgium and the Bahamas to Venezuela and Kenya, keeping the thrilling finishes to a minimum and giving a decisive glimpse into what they expect in the Olympics.

The women won the sprint medley relay, the 400-meter relay and the 1,600-meter relay. The men won the 400-meter relay, the distance medley relay and the 1,600-meter relay in the 118th running of the famed track and field meet.

"We're in the right direction heading to London," 2008 Olympics bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson said. "Just for America to come out on top 6-0, that says that America is coming this year."

The relays belonged to Felix, a three-time Olympic medalist, who flashed the speed that's long made her a fan favorite at the Penn Relays.

Felix teamed with Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter to set a Penn Relays record in the 400 with a time of 42.19 seconds.

She also was on a relay with Francena McCorory, Natasha Hastings and Sanya Richards-Ross that set the mark in the 1,600 with a time of 3 minutes, 21.18 seconds.

"It just really makes me look forward to London 2012," Jeter said.

The final day of the Penn Relays is traditionally the biggest - in both crowds and marquee names. The public address announcer told the crowd the United States had swept the All-Star event 6-0 at the end of the 1,600 to a roaring pro-USA crowd.

"It was exciting for us to cross the line and kind of finish it off for Team USA. It was amazing," Richards-Ross said. "Usually the Jamaicans give us some trouble in one of the relays."

Jamaican stars Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, sure to be forces in London, did not compete.

The U.S. runners sure didn't miss them on Saturday.

"London, here we come," Merritt said.

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