Birmingham's thrilling duel in showdown with USA

COLLIS Birmingham fought a thrilling duel with Olympic silver medallist Leonel Manzano to almost claim victory for Australia in a USA versus The World showdown.

Birmingham powered home in the mile leg of the distance medley to snatch the lead from the Americans with 500 metres to go in the Penn Relay event in Philadelphia in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Manzano, who won Olympic silver for the 1500m in London, surged past Birmingham 200m from the finish to deliver the United States victory.

The Americans posted a collective time of nine minutes, 28.27seconds for the event, which is anchored by a 1200m leg, includes a 400m sprint, then 800m leg before the final 1600m.

Birmingham teamed with Ballarat Project teammate Ryan Gregson (1200m), decorated Australian 400m specialist John Steffensen (400m) and young gun Josh Ralph (800m), who won the Australian 800m title in Melbourne last month.

The Australians clocked a collective time of 9:28.27 with Birmingham’s mile time (3:55.61) faster than Manzano’s 3:57.18.

“Great atmosphere once again @pennrelays,” Birmingham wrote on social networking site Twitter.

“Aussies ran hard for each other, second place, but we’ll be back...”

Birmingham and Gregson have spent most of the past month based in a training camp in Mt Laguna, California.

Steffensen arrived in the US after contesting the 550m in the Stawell Gift carnival last weekend.

Irish training partner Paul Robinson, who was based in Ballarat this summer, raced in the Irish team that finished third in the distance medley.

Mexico was fourth.

Team USA won four of its six relay events “against the World” at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field.

Birmingham and Gregson will both represent Australia in the inaugural IAAF world track relay championships in the  Bahamas next month.

Meanwhile, Ballarat Project stablemate Nathan Hartigan finished runner-up in yesterday's Geelong Cross Country Club half-marathon.

Hartigan clocked a time of 1:08.05 about the Barwon River course, edged out by Englishman Thomas Payn, who finished in 1:06.16.

Hartigan tweeted "things going along nicely" for a Christchurch marathon bid in five weeks' time.

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