COLUMBUS, Ohio – Running in front of a home crowd, Texas A&M freshman Jessica Beard claimed her third consecutive 400-meter title at the USA Junior Championships at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Sunday.
Two other Aggies earned bronze medals on the final day of the 19-and-under competition. Bryan Miller placed third in the 400 while incoming frosh Vashti Thomas finished third in the triple jump.
In making her third straight international team, Beard defeated the field with a time of 52.23 seconds. Lanie Whittaker was runner-up in 53.29. Beard holds the stadium record with a 51.63 she ran as a senior at Euclid (Ohio) High School last season.
“This meant a lot,” Beard noted. “I wanted to run faster, but it was a strong wind on the homestretch. So I focused on keeping my posture and my form to the finish. It means a lot to win here, especially since I had so much support here with my parents and family. That always helps a lot.”
After being on junior national teams that traveled to Beijing, China, in 2006 and Sao Paulo, Brazil, last summer, Beard will be part of the U.S. squad that competes at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, from July 8-13.
“I was talking to another athlete about how we used to be the babies on these international trips, and now were the oldest one’s on the team,” Beard said. “It seems like the time has gone by so fast. We know others are going to look up to us now and we need to set the example.”
In the men’s 400 meters A&M frosh Miller posted a time of 46.32 to place third and qualify for the 4 x 400 relay on the U.S. squad. O’Neal Wilder of Mississippi State won the race in 45.62 with Baylor’s Marcus Boyd in second with a 46.02.
Miller edged out Gil Roberts of Texas Tech (46.43) and Robert Simmons of Wings Track Club in Houston (46.44).
“I’m thankful for everything that happened this year,” Miller said. “I wanted to come out here and do the best that I could. This is my first international trip, so I’m really happy. I’m going to do the best I can in Poland.”
High winds and rains on Saturday came right before the running of the 400 first round for the men. Following a two-hour delay Miller ran his qualifying race and was slotted in lane eight for the nine-person final.
As the inside lanes made up the stagger on the outside lanes through the first 200 meters of the final, Miller maintained his pace and steadily worked his way past some of those same sprinters in the final stages of the race.
“To my advantage I’ve run against a lot of these guys, so I know where they were going to move and if they could hold it or not,” noted Miller. “Since I didn’t get out as hard in the first half of the race, I knew I could catch all of them.
“They were out pretty far ahead, so I just ran my race and didn’t worry about anyone else. I ran well enough to get in. I ran smart in the final and I’m thankful I get a chance to run in Poland this summer.”
Following her runner-up performance in the 100 hurdles on Saturday, Thomas placed third in the triple jump on Sunday. A jump of 41-10.5 (12.76), with a tailwind that measured 5.8 meters per second, had Thomas finishing third ahead of the 41-8.5 (12.71) produced by Oregon’s Jamesha Youngblood.
Alitta Boyd won the event with a leap of 43-1 (13.13) while TiAra Walpool of Kansas State placed second with a 42-7.5 (12.99).
Team rosters for the World Championships will be finalized on Monday and the team will begin their travels to Poland on July 3-4.