Relay team takes aim at world record

Updated: August 12, 2004, 11:02 PM ET
Associated Press

GEORGIOUPOLIS, Greece -- Marion Jones is firmly on the 400-meter relay team and, if all goes as planned, she will run all three rounds of the event at the Athens Olympics, the U.S. women's coach said Thursday.

Coach Sue Humphrey said Jones and three other sprinters had separated themselves from the others.

The women's relay squad would be, in order, Angela Williams, Jones, Lauryn Williams and LaTasha Colander.

It's the same team that ran 41.37 seconds in Munich on Sunday.

"That's three-tenths of a second off the world record,'' Humphrey said before she and a group of athletes left for Athens Thursday evening to participate in Friday night's Opening Ceremony.

Jones only has qualified for the long jump after winning an unprecedented five medals in Sydney four years ago.

Lauryn Williams, just 20 years old, said it has been a bit intimidating to take the baton from Jones.

"It's been a little overwhelming in practice,'' Williams said. "The first time she ran me down and said, 'Lauryn, it's time to get it together.''

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is investigating Jones but has not charged her with any offense. Humphrey has said that she has talked about Jones' situation with USA Track & Field officials and has heard nothing that would prevent her from being a part of the relay squad.

Jones ate lunch quietly with the others at the seaside resort in Crete where the U.S. track and field team is headquartered. She has sent word that she will not do interviews before the Olympics but did acknowledge her daily conversations by phone with her 13-month-old son.

"He's learning to say 'bye, bye,''' she said.

Lauryn Williams said she had not met Jones before the relay camp last week in Munich.

"She's been great. She's nothing like what I thought she would be, nothing like what the media has said,'' Williams said.

Williams, who ran the anchor leg in the first round of the relay at last year's world championships, predicted a world record in the women's relay.

"I think that's what we're going to do,'' she said. "You can quote me on that.''

Humphrey said she would prefer to use the same team through all three rounds. That would mean Jones would compete in the long jump finals and the relay semifinals Aug. 27. Lauryn Williams and LaTasha Colander are entered only in the 100 meters, with finals Aug. 21. Angela Williams is in the relay pool, meaning she's not entered in any individual events. Humphrey said she has not decided on who the fifth and sixth members of the relay squad will be.

Meanwhile, men's coach George Williams said he will go with the quartet of Shawn Crawford, Justin Gatlin, Coby Miller and Maurice Greene.

"They ran 37.92 in Munich and Maurice Greene slowed down the final 50 meters because he said his legs were kind of tired,'' Williams said. "He had run the night before in Zurich.''

The run came in Greene's first day with the relay squad. Greene has been working out with the relay squad in Crete this week.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press