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Team USA’s Junior Squad Closes Book on A Highly Successful World Championship

BARCELONA, Spain – The 1992 U.S. Olympic Team was heralded as one of the best American squads of all-time with 32 medals in tow from a memorable time in Barcelona. The 2012 U.S. team that competed in Barcelona at the IAAF World Junior Championships will go into the history books as one of the best American squads under the age of 20. With 20 medals, and an all-time record 188 points, the junior team captured some magic that was left from the Olympic team of 20 years ago.
On the championships’ final day, Team USA notched four more medals and swept the 4x400 relays in world-junior leading time. Texas freshman Morgan Snow (Decatur, Ga.) claimed gold in the women’s 100 meter hurdles, and Shelbi Vaughn (Mansfield, Texas) took the bronze in the women’s discus. In addition, 16-year-old Mary Cain toppled the high-school record by three seconds in the women’s 1500 meters with a 4:11.01 run for sixth place.
The sweeps of both 4x100 and 4x400 relays is the U.S. junior team’s third in a row in the world championships. Last night, both men’s and women’s 4x100 relays won gold with world-junior leading times. The women’s 4x400 relay had to endure a trying 24 hours that included getting disqualified from the semifinal last night before winning an appeal that allowed for a qualifying rerun this morning.
All told, Team USA came out of the championships with the most overall medals (20), most golds (9), equaled for most silvers (4), most bronzes (7) and most team points (188). The point total of 188 points is the most for any U.S. junior squad, beating out the 187½ points amassed in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2002. Only that 2002 squad tallied more medals (21) than this 2012 squad.
The U.S. also took the overall all-time lead in points. Entering this year’s championships, Germany was ahead of the U.S., 1,723.4 to 1,689. The U.S. finished 93 points ahead of the Germans who finished third in the point tally (95 points) and closed the all-time gap, leading now 1,877 to 1,818.4.
 “It was a great experience,” said Head U.S. Men’s Coach Steve Fritz. “We had great kids, and I think we had a heckuva meet. They handled the expectations very well in representing Team USA. I was really happy by the way we competed and represented ourselves. We asked a lot of some of the individuals in terms of rounds and relays, but they all came through and did a fantastic job. The team came together and supported each other well. I think at first they didn’t know what to expect, but in a short time they came through and it was good to see them experience the atmosphere.”
Women’s 4x400 Relay
The U.S. women’s 4x400 relay claimed their sixth-straight world junior gold with the best time of the year by a under-20 squad with a time of 3:30.01. In the past 24 hours, the relay has competed three times and twice in one day set a world-junior leading time. The final relay order of Erika Rucker, Olivia Ekponé, Kendall Baisden, and Ashley Spencer had no problems in their pursuit for gold and defeated Jamaica by nearly three seconds.
For Spencer (Indianapolis, Ind./Illinois) at anchor, it was her second gold of the championships. She won the 400 meters earlier in a championships-record time of 50.50.
“It feels great to win two gold medals,” said Spencer. “I can’t really describe it. I closed out my season the best way I could. To come out with two golds overseas is just incredible. I’m very happy. I felt good going into the anchor leg, but then my leg decided to anchor me. My leg started to cramp up a little bit, but that’s nothing I can control.
“Just coming overseas and my first time out of the country, on top of winning gold medals is just such a blessing. I’ve had the best time of my life, and hopefully I can (be a part of Team USA) at World (senior) Championships next year. It’s been a really long season. I think my decision on skipping the U.S. Trials was a good decision because my body is starting to shut down – I can already feel it. I am tired, and I’m looking forward to relaxing, recollecting myself, and see what I can do in 2013.”
For South Carolina’s Erika Rucker (Lithonia, Ga.) the leadoff leg produced her second medal of the championships. She won the bronze in the women’s 400 in a personal-best time of 51.10 seconds.
Because of the circumstances surrounding the rerunning of the semifinal, Team USA qualified for the final as time qualifier and, as a result, drew the far outside lane – lane nine.
“I actually like lane nine,” Rucker said of her leadoff leg. “I just like to be alone running. It hurt to run, but I had to run for the team, so it was worth it.”
Texas A&M freshman Olivia Ekponé and high-school junior Kendall Baisden (Marietta, Ga.) had three 4x400 relay races in a period of 24 hours. Ekponé was also Team USA’s silver medalist in the 200 meters (23.15) earlier in the championships.
“The last 24 hours were really, really crazy with everything going on,” said Ekponé. “I tried not to let that bother me. We came out here this morning to do what we had to do (in qualifying) and we carried that through to the final tonight. The ladies did a wonderful job and I ran my leg as best as I could. I was really excited to have a silver and gold right now. I’m really happy to be part of this 4x4 with these ladies. The whole team experience has been very exciting. It’s a different experience than what I’m used to, but it’s great – I love it.”
Seventeen-year-old Baisden had a mature look on the situation: “(The occurrences in these last 24 hours) were really unexpected. I just stayed focused. We are a team and we came out and did it together. People came out to support us for our race this morning, and I wanted to get out and do my part for this gold. I was really nervous this morning. It was just me and starter out there, but I knew what times I needed to hit and did the best I could to get there.  Last year, I came away with a silver (in the World Youth Championships), so I’m just happy to get a medal here too.”
The U.S. squad ran a then-world-junior-leading time of3:34.25 in the semifinal rerun earlier in the morning. The rerun was allowed to be conducted because the IAAF Jury of Appeals upheld a U.S. appeal that was brought as a result of a disqualification in last night’s semifinal heat.
Men’s 4x400 Relay
For the men’s 4x400 relay, it was also a sixth-straight World Junior gold. The U.S. has won every 4x400 relay at the championships with the exception of 1998 and 2000.
The lineup of Quincy Downing, Aldrich Bailey, Chidi Okezie, and Arman Hall ran a world-junior-leading time of 3:03.99. The U.S. held the lead from the beginning, topping silver-medalist Poland by over a second.
LSU’s Downing (Dayton, Ohio) led off the American relay with a 46.0-split. “The leadoff felt great. All the hard work I’ve been through as a kid finally paid off. Training with the LSU staff has been great and it’s great being part of this USA team.”
Texas A&M-bound Bailey (Arlington, Texas) won his second medal of the meet. He claimed bronze in the 400 and was a member of the gold-winning 4x100 relay last night. Bailey clocked 45.8 as the relay’s second leg.
 “This was great – kinda sad that it is over,” Bailey said of the experience. “Now, when I get back home, I’m going to miss the team. This was fun, it was worth it. I’ll do it all over again. We did well (as a team). We just wanted to come out and represent the United States. I came out of here with three medals, so I can’t be mad.”
Hampton’s Chidi Okezie (Brooklyn, N.Y.) was the third leg of the relay and went 46.3 in his leg.
“It felt pretty good to get the baton with the lead, said Okezie. “I just had to keep it strong. The goal was to get the (world) record – that was in my eyes. This was an awesome week. You don’t get this type of an experience daily.”
Anchorman Arman Hall (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), who will attend Florida in the fall, clinched the World title for the U.S. with a final split of 45.8. He won silver in the 400 and gold as a semifinalist participant in the 4x100 relay.
 “It’s great to finally get on the medal stand with a gold medal,” said Hall. “It’s a great feeling being around all of these talented guys. It was a lot of fun. I wish I could do this again soon. It was a great experience to come overseas again. Great environment, great experience, and great people – I loved it.”
Women’s 100 Meter Hurdles
Fighting through a headwind of 2.4 meters-per-second, Texas freshman Morgan Snow (Decatur, Ga.) won gold in the women’s 100 meter hurdles with a final readout of 13.38 seconds. The U.S. had won the event in three of the last five championships.
Snow was the first to first four hurdles, but lost ground in the subsequent four barriers. Snow caught a rocket before the final hurdle and surged from the near the back of field to take the race.
“I feel real good,” said Snow. “I just came out with the mentality that I was going to win. It’s for my country, so it’s a start. I had tunnel vision during the race. I couldn’t worry about no one around me. I wasn’t focused on the headwind – I was focused on winning.”
Dior Hall (Denver, Colo.) had a shot at a medal, but tripped and fell in the final three hurdles and was later disqualified for going around of the hurdles.
Women’s Discus
Shelbi Vaughn (Mansfield, Texas) won the bronze in the women’s discus. Her fourth-round throw  of 60.07/197-1 initially placed her in the lead, but the German pair of Anna Ruh (62.38/204-8) and Shanice Craft (60.42/198-3) passed Vaughn in later rounds and Vaughn was unable to respond with a better mark.
 “I wish I could have gotten a further throw out there, and I was looking to place higher than third because that’s where I finished last year in the World Youth Championship,” said Vaugh. “But, third in the world – can’t complain. I was excited to hit 60 (meters) because it is close to my PB. I was really hoping to get another PB, but it didn’t happen today. I’m still the youngest of these girls that made the finals, so I’m pleased.”
It is America’s fourth junior medal in the women’s discus. Erin Pendleton claimed silver in 2010.
Women’s 1500 Meters
In the women’s 1500 meters, 16-year-old, and youngest squad member, Mary Cain (West Chester, N.Y./Bronxville HS) slashed the national high-school record with a time of 4:11.01, topping the previous standard of 4:14.50 set by Jordan Hasay. Cain’s time that placed her sixth in the world’s final, is the third-best time ever among American juniors and is the best since 1987.
 “Oh, wow, new high school record by three seconds, whooo!” exclaimed Cain after the final. “Coming into the race, I knew the best Team USA had done was fourth, but those were at 4:19 and 4:13. A sixth-place finish and scoring a couple of points for the team is great thing. And, this is the fastest an American has ever run here, so I’ll go with that. Pretty early on, I had an aggressive start, and was actually spiked in the leg. That last 600 meters, I was like (dang) – these girls are fast. This has been a great experience (in racing) – I’ve never had the chance to actually chase people.”
“When I was on the line, all I was thinking was that in five minutes, you’ll be done, and in five minutes, hopefully you’ll have a national record if you run well. I think it was the least nervous I have ever been going into a race because I knew they would pull me to a fast time. I went in and fought for it.”
Men’s Steeplechase
Princeton’s Eddie Owens (Brooklyn, N.Y.) claimed a new personal best of 8:51.44 in the final of the steeplechase in which he finished 11th.
“It feels good to PR,” said Owens. “This (race) was ridiculous. I could not have foreseen the competition that was going to be here. It took 8:36 to score points (finish in the top eight), that’s unheard of. This is far and away the most stacked final in meet history. I ran about as well I could for right now. These guys went out in 64, and I went out in 67 – that’s about Olympic ‘A’ standard pace – I’m not running that. For me to go out and hold my composure, I really left it out on the track.”
On to Eugene ... 2014 ...
Eugene, Ore., and Historic Hayward Field will be the next host of the IAAF World Junior Championships, beginning July 22, 2014. It will be the first IAAF track & field event since the World Indoor Championships were held in Indianapolis in 1987.
Sunday, July 15
1. UNITED STATES – 9 gold, 4 silver, 7 bronze (20 total)
MEN – 4 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze (10 total)
WOMEN – 5 gold, 1 silver, 4 bronze (10 total)
2. Kenya – 4 gold, 4 silver, 5 bronze (13 total)
3. Ethopia – 3 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze (7 total)
4. Cuba – 3 gold, 1 bronze (4 total)
5. Germany – 2 gold, 4 silver (6 total)
1. UNITED STATES – 188 (American junior record)
2. Kenya – 112
3. Germany – 95
4. Russia – 85
5. Great Britain – 71
1. Nijel Amos (BOT), 1:43.79 CR
2. Timothy Kitum (KEN), 1:44.56
3. Edwin Kiplagat Melly (KEN), 1:44.79
1. Conseslus Kipruto (KEN), 8:06.10 CR
2. Gilbert Kiplangat Kirui (KEN), 8:19.94
3. Hicham Sigueni (MAR), 8:30.14
11. Eddie Owens (USA), 8:51.44
1. UNITED STATES, 3:03.99 WJL (Q. Downing, A. Bailey, C. Okezie, A. Hall)
2. Poland, 3:05.05 (K. Zalewski, R. Smolen, P. Kusniersz, P. Dobek)
3. Trinidad and Tobago, 3:06.32 (A. Guevara, J. Richards, B. Benjamin, M. Cedenio)
1. Pedro Pichardo (CUB), 16.79/55-1
2. Artem Primak (RUS), 16.60/54-5½
3. Latario Collie-Minns (BAH), 16.37/53-8½
1. Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon (KEN), 4:04.96 CR
2. Amela Terzic (SRB), 4:07.59
3. Senbere Teferia (ETH), 4:08.28
6. Mary Cain (USA), 4:11.01 HSR, PB
(wind: -2.4 m/s)
1. Morgan Snow (USA), 13.38
2. Noemi Zbaren (SUI), 13.42
3. Ekaterina Bleskina (RUS), 13.43
--. Dior Hall (USA), DQ
1. UNITED STATES, 3:30.01 WJL (E. Rucker, O. Ekpone, K. Baisden, A. Spencer)
2. Jamaica, 3:32.97 (S. Farquharson, O. James, S. Jackson, J. Russell)
3. Russia, 3:36.42 (Y. Glotova, A. Galitskaya, Y. Koltachikhina, E. Renzhina)
1. Alessia Trost (ITA), 1.91/6-3¼
2. Lissa Labiche (SEY), 1.88/6-2
3. Mariya Kuchina (RUS), 1.88/6-2
1. Anna Ruh (GER), 62.38/204-8
2. Shanice Craft (GER), 60.42/198-3
3. Shelbi Vaughn (USA), 60.07/197-1
(second-most in U.S. history – most: 21, Kingston, JAM, 2002)
GOLD (9)
Eric Futch, men’s 400 meter hurdles, 50.24 WJL
Gunnar Nixon, men’s decathlon, 8018 AmJR, WJL, PB (11.23, 7.12, 14.54, 2.10, 49.13 [4164] / 14.54, 42.23, 4.50, 56.25, 4:22.36 [3777])
Men’s 4x100 relay, 38.67 WJL:
                Tyreek Hill, Aldrich Bailey, Arthur Delany, Aaron Ernest
                Cameron Burrell*, Arman Hall* (* semifinalist participants)
Men’s 4x400 relay, 3:03.99 WJL:
                Quincy Downing, Aldrich Bailey, Chidi Okezie, Arman Hall
                Eric Futch*  (* semifinalist participants)
Ashley Spencer, women’s 400 meters, 50.50 CR
Ajee Wilson, women’s 800 meters, 2:00.91 PB
Morgan Snow, women’s 100 meter hurdles, 13.38
Women’s 4x100 relay, 43.89 WJL
Morgan Snow, Dezerea Bryant, Jennifer Madu, Shayla Sanders
Kali Davis-White* (*semifinalist participants)
Women’s 4x400 relay, 3:30.01 WJL
                Erika Rucker, Olivia Ekponé, Kendell Baisden, Ashley Spencer
                Robin Reynolds*, Kiara Porter* (*semifinalist participants)
Aaron Ernest, men’s 100 meters, 10.17
Aaron Ernest, men’s 200 meters, 20.53 PB
Arman Hall, men’s 400 meters, 45.39 PB
Olivia Ekponé, women’s 200 meters, 23.15
Tyreek Hill, men’s 200 meters, 20.54
Aldrich Bailey, men’s 400 meters, 45.
Jarrion Lawson, men’s long jump, 7.64/25-¾
Dezerea Bryant, women’s 200 meters, 23.15
Erika Rucker, women’s 400 meters, 51.10 PB
Kaila Barber, women’s 400 meter hurdles, 57.63
Shelbi Vaughn, women’s discus, 60.07/197-1
World Junior Championship Records
Ashley Spencer, women’s 400 meters, 50.50
American Junior Records
Gunnar Nixon, men’s decathlon, 8018 WJL, PB (11.23, 7.12, 14.54, 2.10, 49.13 [4164] / 14.54, 42.23, 4.50, 56.25, 4:22.36 [3777])
Brianna Nerud, women’s steeplechase, 10:00.72 HSR, PB
High School Records
Mary Cain, women’s 1500 meters, 4:11.01
Brianna Nerud, women’s steeplechase, 10:00.72 AJR,
Brianna Nerud, women’s steeplechase [semifinal], 10:08.15
Kendell Williams, women’s heptathlon,  5578 (13.74, 1.81, 10.70, 24.94, 6.11w, 30.48, 2:26.60)
World-Junior Leading Marks
Gunnar Nixon, men’s decathlon, 8018 AmJR, PB (11.23, 7.12, 14.54, 2.10, 49.13 [4164] / 14.54, 42.23, 4.50, 56.25, 4:22.36 [3777])
Men’s 4x100 relay, 38.67 [T. Hill, A. Bailey, A. Delaney, A. Ernest]
Men’s 4x400 relay, 3:03.99 [Q. Downing, A. Bailey, C. Okezie, A. Hall]
Women’s 4x100 relay, 43.89 [M. Snow, D. Bryant, J. Madu, S. Sanders]
Women’s 4x100 relay (semifinal), 43.95 [Snow, Davis-White, Madu, Sanders]
Women’s 4x400 relay, 3:30.01 [E. Rucker, O. Ekpone, K. Baisden, A. Spencer]
Women’s 4x400 relay (semifinal), 3:34.25 [Baisden, Reynolds, Porter, Ekponé]

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