By GARY KINGSTON
BURNABY -- The baton exchange execution was near flawless and the speed was sparkling.
Canada’s top male sprinters put an exclamation point on the country’s decisive win over China on Wednesday in the Team Sprint Challenge at the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic by winning the 4x100-metre relay in a time of 38.42 seconds to beat a 25-year-old meet record.
With a crowd of 3,650 in full roar in the Swangard Stadium grandstand, anchor Andre De Grasse, the triple medalist from the 2016 Rio Olympics, delivered on the final leg as Canada put up the 11th fastest time in the world this year. It’s a mark beaten by only five other national teams -- England (three times), the U.S. and Jamaica (twice each), Japan and South Africa.
“It’s the first time we came together all year,” said De Grasse, who missed the Commonwealth Games in April where Canada’s squad was disqualified in an opening heat. “I’m happy to be back with these guys. These guys are running fast and we got a meet record.”
The old mark of 38.59 was set in 1993 by a Santa Monica (Calif.) Track Club foursome that featured nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis. The 4x100 had been run about a half a dozen times at the Jerome since then.
Gavin Smellie, who won the 200 metres in 20.72 only a half-hour earlier Wednesday, ran the lead leg in the cool evening conditions. A blistering second leg by Aaron Brown moved Canada ahead of China before he handed off to Bolande Ajomale.
“Coming from the Commonwealth Games where we didn’t finish, to have Andre back, to have Gavin and Aaron running as well as he’s running, with Bolande from school, everyone’s come together for a good run here,” said Canadian head coach Glenroy Gilbert.
“You know what, these guys are really good. They’re really special and I think that was just a taste of what they can do.”
China finished second in 39.62, just ahead of the Coquitlam Cheetahs, who ran 39.84.
Earlier, China won the women’s 4x100 in a meet record time of 43.75 to Canada’s 44.30, but Canada had already clinched the two-country Sprint Challenge by finishing first, second and third in the women’s 400 metres and first, second and fourth in the men’s 400.
Canada tallied 139 points to China’s 100 over the two nights to take the Pacific World Cup, which consisted of eight events, the men’s and women’s 100 and 400 metres and the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. Canada collected $30,000 for the win, with China taking home $10,000.
Philip Osei won the men’s 400 for Canada in 46.81, with Daniel Harper and China’s Wu Yuang both clocked at 47.15 and Austin Cole crossing the line in 47.23.
The Canadian sweep of the podium in the women’s 400 was accomplished by Aiyanna Stiverne (53.03), Madeline Price (53.46) and Alicia Brown (53.53).
Stiverne lives and trains in Miami, where she ran collegiately.
“Oh yeah, it was quite different here tonight. The temperature was 95 degrees Fahrenheit the other day in Miami.”
Still, she was happy with her race.
“I’ve been working on technique, making sure I finish strong, running smooth, running relaxed, and not panicking throughout the race,” said the 23-year-old. “It’s been a bit of a transition from school to running professionally.”
Meantime, in the regular Jerome meet, 28-year-old Farah Jacques of Montreal won the women’s 100-metre hurdles in 13.72 seconds. A member of the 4x100-metre sprint team, Jacques recently turned her attention to the hurdles at the suggestion of her coach.
“It’s my first year doing hurdles since I was in high school,” said Jacques, who ran 13.36 in Guelph, Ont., two weeks ago. “I’m trying to see if I can keep going and make the world championships in hurdles. I’m just so excited about it.”
Lindsey Butterworth of North Vancouver won the women’s 800 metres in 2:02.47, with Michael Arop of Edmonton taking the men’s 800 in 1:47.09.