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Americans Seize the Day at World Junior Championships with Seven Medals

BARCELONA, Spain – Team USA stole the show, winning seven medals with two golds, on the fourth evening of competition at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain. Friday the 13th was not unlucky for the U.S. junior squad at Montjuïc Olympic Stadium as today’s medal haul brought the total to the overall leading count of 13. World Junior titles were claimed on the evening by Eric Futch in the men’s 400 meter hurdles and Ashley Spencer in the women’s 400. Spencer grabbed the gold with a World Junior Championships record time of 50.50.
In addition, Aaron Ernest won his second silver medal of the championships while 17-year-old Kendell Williams broke the national high school record in the heptathlon.
Of the four track finals on the evening, the U.S. claimed at least one medal in each of them.
After four of six days, the U.S. leads all team categories, including overall medals (13), gold medals (4), silver medals (4), bronze medals (5), and total team points (129). In points, Team USA nearly has doubled the field as Great Britain sits in second with 66 points, followed by Kenya (64) and Russia (55). will offer live broadcast coverage of the championships beginning Saturday, July 14 at 12:20 p.m., Eastern. Day five and six evening session coverage can be found on the site for $5.99. DirecTV and Dish Network subscribers can log on to the site and watch the broadcast for free. (Direct link)
Follow the team and send your best wishes via the squad’s Facebook page (
Women’s 400 Meters
Two medals came to the U.S. in the women’s 400. Along with Ashley Spencer’s gold, South Carolina’s Erika Rucker (Lithonia, Ga.) claimed bronze. The dual medals marked the third time in U.S. history that Americans have claimed two medals in the event at a World Junior Championships (2002 and 2004).
Friday night completed a fantastic season of individual 400 meter running for Illinois’ Spencer (Indianapolis, Ind.). With a championships-record run of 50.50 seconds, she claimed the second-fastest time in U.S. junior history and lands sixth on the all-time world junior list. Only Sanya Richards’ 2004 time of 49.89 stands in the way of Spencer being the fastest American ever under the age of 20.
In June, Spencer became the first collegiate freshman to win the NCAA title in the event since Richards (2003). As a result of her victory this evening, she also became the second woman to win an NCAA and World Junior title in the same year and event (Lashinda Demus, South Carolina, 2002, 400 meter hurdles).
 “I feel great,” said Spencer. “I’m ending my season with this and in Spain – it’s been so much fun. It’s amazing – absolutely unbelievable. I worked really, really worked hard (this year to win) and to get to this point and be on the same level as these girls is just phenomenal. I couldn’t be happier.
“I knew I had to go execute the plan just like me and my coach talked about. I never gave up doubt. I trusted in my coaching – I trusted in my training and it all worked out.”
Rucker ran a personal-best time of 51.10 seconds to capture bronze. The time placed her on the all-time top-ten American junior performer’s list.
“God has blessed me with all kinds of things I didn’t know could happen,” said Rucker afterwards. “I tried to get out (fast), but there was a lot of wind on the backstretch, so I didn’t want to be real  aggressive and fight it. Coming down the curve, I felt real good – just had to remember – high knees! I can’t believe I ran a (personal best) – my mind is blown. I can’t wait to get back (on campus) to South Carolina. Thanks to all my coaches, they’ve definitely helped me get to this point.”
Men’s 400 Meter Hurdles
There was a reference earlier in the championships that Eric Futch (Lansdowne, Pa.) was doing his best to be the Bershawn “Batman” Jackson of the U.S. junior team. He completed that saga today with a gold-medal performance in the men’s 400 meter hurdles. Futch had another thrilling come-from-behind push to claim the top of the medal stand. With a clocking of 50.24 seconds, he notched the best time in the world this year by a junior.
It was another instant classic by Futch. Jamaica’s Javarn Gallimore took a big lead on the back stretch (despite an anemic 0.312 reaction time), but Futch didn’t panic. It was again his 200-meter closing speed that provided the epic victory, but this time it was for World Junior gold. The race provided the world’s top four junior times of the year with Japan’s Takahiro Matsumoto taking silver in 50.41 and Saudi Arabia’s Ibrahim Saleh (50.49) for bronze.
“I knew I was going to come out and execute,” said Futch. “I was a little further behind than what I normally am (coming off the first 200), but I had to keep on pushing. I’m really thankful right now. (The wind) was hitting me, but I didn’t let anything distract me. I wanted the gold – I came and got what I wanted and it’s an honor. I feel good.”
Futch emulates and idolizes the three-time World Champion “Batman”, but Jackson only won bronze in these championships back in 2002, not gold.
“I try to look like him – I try to run like him. I admire him a lot,” said Futch on Jackson. “He’s my favorite runner.”
The U.S. has now won the gold in the men’s 400 meter hurdles in four of the last five World Junior Championships (Kerron Clement, 2004; Chris Carter, 2006; Jeshua Anderson, 2008).
Men’s 200 Meters
It had been ten years since Team USA had claimed a medal in the 200 meters at a World Junior meet. At these championships, the U.S. grabbed two. It is the first time the U.S. has won two junior medals in the 200 since 1986 (Stanley Kerr, gold; Derrick Florence, silver).
LSU’s Aaron Ernest (New Orleans, La.) won his second silver medal of the championships, diving across the line in a personal-best 20.53 seconds. Tyreek Hill (Douglas, Ga.) claimed the bronze with a run of 20.54 seconds. Delano Williams of the Turks & Caicos was the surprise winner in 20.48.
Ernest came out of nowhere to grab the second spot. As near as 40 meters to go, Ernest was in seventh place from lane nine, but found another gear to dive at the line for the No. 2 spot. The dive was so intense that Ernest fell to the ground and rolled.
“It’s crazy,” said Ernest. “I feel great (to come out with a second silver) because I’ve been feeling bad and this was my sixth race of the weekend. I threw up twice this week. That last 50 meters was all guts. My leg felt bad, my arm felt bad – I just had to run with all heart. I guess the tumble helped because second to fourth was separated so close – it actually felt kind of fun.”
Ernest has had a long season with collegiate indoor and outdoor seasons in the books. The two World Junior silvers, plus two scoring positions in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 100 and 200 has made the college freshman tired, but hungry for more.
“(Six races in four days) I’m still feeling fine,” said Ernest. “I’ve got to give all the credit to the LSU coaching staff – this is our 45th week. I’ve been training hard and I’m in the best shape of my life. Coming here and getting two silver medals means I still need to work hard and get ready for next year.”
With 40 meters to go, Jamaica’s Julian Forte was the leader, but soon before the line, he grabbed his hamstring an abject pain and would finish eighth. Gold-medalist Williams was in fifth and the U.S.’ Hill was in fourth. Hill too found some remaining fortitude to also dive at the line, fall to the ground, and take third. He would tie in hundredths-of-a-second with Poland’s Karol Zalewski, but Hill had the photo-finish nod for the podium spot.
“When I noticed I had got third place, the fall to the ground didn’t hurt at all,” said Hill. “My first international medal – yeah, I’m pretty happy with it. My race in the curve was terrific, but I still have a lot of work to do at the finish. And, I’m looking forward to the 4x1 – we’re gunning for gold in that for sure.”
Combining the 100, 200, and 400 meters, this men’s team has accumulated five world junior medals – the most in U.S. history for a single championships.
Women’s 200 Meters
For the first time in U.S. history two medals were won in the women’s 200 at a World Junior Championship. Texas A&M freshman Olivia Ekponé (Germantown, Md.) claimed the silver in a personal best 23.15 seconds while Clemson freshman Dezerea Bryant (Milwakuee, Wis.) matched the time for bronze.
 “I’m very happy with my performance,” said Ekponé. “I came out here and did my best. The race was pretty intense from the beginning. I knew that I had to get out. Everyone here is a great starter and I couldn’t underestimate them. Just to be out here running is great. I’m a strong finisher, so I just needed to trust my training and my coaches to get where I am. I’m just really excited. (I’m used to) the wind. It seems like every time I race it is in my face.”
The official wind speed of tailing 0.2 meters-per-second may sound negligible, but a strong wind was on the turn, in the faces of the runners from the start.
Bryant had the fastest reaction time of the field in 0.158 seconds, but she felt her finish wasn’t as strong as it needed to be. At the end of the day, she was happy to medal.
 “I’m happy about placing – that’s all that matters,” said Bryant. “I could have run a lot better –I kind of two-stepped in the end. I felt good coming down the straightaway, but I just tightened up at the end because my legs felt a little burned.”
Bahamian Anthonique Strachan won her second gold medals, running a championships-record time of 22.53. With the 100 meter gold from Wednesday, she’s the first to sweep those events since Jamaica’s Veronica Brown in 2000.
Women’s Heptathlon
It was another performance for the record books in the women’s heptathlon as 17-year-old Kendell Williams (Marietta, Ga./Kell HS) broke the national high school record in placing eighth overall, tallying 5,578 points. The previous record was held by Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High School’s Shana Woods who scored 5,533 points in 2006.
“Oh, really, that’s awesome.” Williams said on hearing that she had bested the prep mark. “That’s what I wanted to do. I came out here – I knew it was going to be hard to get on the podium, but all I wanted to do is PR and I did. So, I’m really happy. I thought I may have fell off the pace after the 200 in day one, but PR-ing in the javelin and 800 made up the points. Really excited.”
Cuba’s Yorgelis Rodriguez won the gold with 5,966 points. Mississippi State freshman Erica Bougard (Byhalia, Miss.) claimed 12th overall.
Men’s 4x100 Relay (semifinals)
The U.S. men’s 4x100 did what they needed to do – qualify and run fast in the semifinals. The quartet of Cameron Burrell, Arman Hall, Aldrich Bailey, and Arthur Delaney, claimed a heat-winning time of 39.09 seconds. Only Japan’s world-junior leading time of 39.01 out of the first heat was better than the American qualifier.
Burrell is the son of Leroy Burrell and Michelle Finn-Burrell. Both of his parents claimed Olympic gold medals in this relay in Barcelona 20 years ago. The men’s relay in 1992 set the then-world record of 37.40 with Burrell, Carl Lewis, Michael Marsh, and Dennis Mitchell. Finn ran in the heats for the gold-medaling women’s relay.
Hall and Bailey ran legs two and three of the relay. The duo won bronze and silver last night in the 400 meters.
At anchor was Oregon’s Arthur Delaney.
“It all went by so fast,” said Delaney shortly after the race. “I heard the gun and it was over.”
The final will be Saturday evening, and will include Japan, Jamaica, and Great Britain with 100 meter champ Adam Gemili as likely anchor.
Women’s 4x100 Relay (semifinals)
It was the best time in the world this year for a junior relay team for the U.S. squad that turned in a 43.95 time in the semifinals of women’s 4x100. The crew included Morgan Snow who won her first-round heat in the 100 meter hurdles earlier in the day. Jennifer Madu was the third leg. She competed in the triple jump and finals of the 100 meters earlier in the championships. The second and anchor legs went to Kali Davis-White and Shayla Sanders.
The previous world-junior leading time of 44.39 was set by the Boyd Anderson (Fla.) High School quartet that included Davis-White and Sanders.
The Bahamian team, drawn in the same heat as the Americans, was expected to be a favorite with 100-200 champion Anthonique Strachan as the anchor, but that squad could not get the baton around the track and will not be in tomorrow’s final.
Women’s 400 Meter Hurdles (semifinals)
The U.S. sprint success continued in the semifinals of the women’s 400 meter hurdles. Kaila Barber (Middleburg Heights, Ohio/Notre Dame) and Shamier Little (Chicago, Ill.) both qualified for tomorrow’s finals. Barber won her heat in a personal-best time of 57.29 – the second-fastest qualifier in the field. Little was second in her heat at 57.46.
Barber ran in lane eight and passed Trinidad & Tobago’s Kernesha Spann very early. In the homestretch, Norway’s Vilde Svortevik and Turkey’s Kubra Sesli caught up the stager and they were three-wide in the final stretch. Barber was able to hold strong for the victory.
Little had a different type of race as she ran on the inside in lane three. Little knew she started slow when France’s Valentine Huze caught up to her by the end of the first turn from lane two. “I’ve never ran that far on the inside before,” said Little. “It was strange. But, I kicked it into another gear when I realized I was fifth with around 150 (meters) to go.”
World-junior leader Janieve Russell of Jamaica won heat three in the top qualifying time, 57.23.
Men’s Triple Jump
In the qualification round of the men’s triple jump, American’s Felix Obi and Jarrion Lawson finished in 18th and 23rd, respectively, and did not advance to the final. Obi’s best of the day was 15.45/50-8¼ while Lawson, the World Junior bronze medalist in the long jump, marked 15.18/49-9¾.
Friday, July 13 – Evening Session
(after 26 of 42 events)
1. UNITED STATES – 4 gold, 4 silver, 5 bronze (13 total)
2. Ethiopia – 2 gold, 3 silver (5 total)
3. Kenya -2 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze (7 total)
4. Russia – 2 gold, 2 silver (4 total)
5. Great Britain – 2 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze (5 total)
(after 26 of 42 events)
2. Great Britain – 66
3. Kenya – 64
4. Russia – 55
5. China -52
(wind: -0.4 m/s)
1. Delano Williams (TKS), 20.48
2. Aaron Ernest (USA), 20.53 PB
3. Tyreek Hill (USA), 20.54
1. Eric Futch (USA), 50.24 WJL
2. Takashiro Matsumoto (JPN), 50.41
3. Ibrahim Salem (KSA), 50.47
1. Andrei Churyla (BLR), 2.24/7-4¼
2. Falk Wendrich (GER), 2.24/7-4¼
3. Ryan Ingraham (BAH), 2.24/7-4¼
1. Keshorn Walcott (TRI), 78.64/258-0
2. Braian Toeldo (ARG), 77.09/252-11
3. Morné Moolman (RSA), 76.29/250-3
(wind: 0.2 m/s)
1. Anthonique Strachan (BAH), 22.53 CR
2. Olivia Ekponé (USA), 23.15
3. Dezerea Bryant (USA), 23.15
1. Ashley Spencer (USA), 50.50 CR
2. Kadecia Baird (GUY), 51.04
3. Erika Rucker (USA), 51.10 PB
1. Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR), 6.81w/ 22-4¼
2. Lena Malkus (GER), 6.80w/22-3¾
3. Jazmin Sawyers (GBR), 6.67/21-10¾   WJL
1. Yorgelis Rodriguez (CUB), 5966 (14.10, 1.81, 11.92, 24.41, 6.10w, 39.90, 2:16.75)
2. Xénia Krizsán (HUN), 5957 (14.25, 1.78, 12.76, 25.83, 5.94, 48.40, 2:16.08)
3. Tamara De Sousa (BRA), 5900 (14.13, 1.75, 13.89, 24.06, 6.06W, 42.51, 2:31.23)
8. Kendell Williams (USA),  5578 HSR, PB (13.74, 1.81, 10.70, 24.94, 6.11w, 30.48, 2:26.60)
12. Erica Bougard (USA), 4155 (13.73, 1.72, 10.22, 24.64, 5.82w)
4x100 RELAY
Q1 (1h1). Japan, 39.01 WJL
Q4 (1h2). United States, 39.09 [Burrell, Hall, Bailey, Delaney]
Q1. Pedro Pichardo (CUB), 16.64/54-7¼
18.  Felix Obi (USA), 15.45/50-8¼
23. Jarrion Lawson (USA), 15.18/49-9¾
[final Sunday]
Q1 (1h3). Janieve Russell (JAM), 57.23
Q2 (1h2). Kaila Barber (USA), 57.29 PB
=Q6 (2h1). Shamier Little (USA), 57.46
 [final Saturday]
4x100 RELAY
Q1 (1h1). United States, 43.95 WJL [Snow, Davis-White, Madu, Sanders]
[final Saturday]

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