Bydgoszcz, Poland -- Baylor’s Marcus Boyd won the 400-meter title on the third day of action at the 12th IAAF World Junior Championships and posted the top junior time in the world this season with a career best of 45.53 seconds.
In addition, Texas A&M’s Jessica Beard mined a silver medal in the women’s 400 while Mississippi State’s O’Neal Wilder earned bronze in the men’s 400. The medal count for the United States crew is now up to six following the gold earned by Marquise Goodwin and Jeneba Tarmoh along with the bronze claimed by Terrell Wilks.
Running in lane 8, Boyd ran a smooth race and struck at his favorite part of the track, the 250-meter mark. In the homestretch Boyd held an edge over teammate Wilder along with James Kirani of Grenada. With a lean at the finish Kirani placed second in 45.70, setting a national junior record for his country, while Wilder finished third in 45.76 to become the first U.S. bronze medalist in the event.
While becoming the third Baylor Bear to win the 400 World Junior title, Boyd (Ft. Worth, Texas) was also the sixth American to do so. Previous Baylor winners include Deon Minor (1992) and Darold Williamson (2002), while other U.S. gold medalists include Chris Nelloms (1990), Obea Moore (45.27) and LaShawn Merritt (45.25).
Beard (Euclid, Ohio) faced a tough challenge in current world junior leader Shade Abugan. The pair held the early advantage while Cuba’s Susana Clement kept within striking distance. Abugan maintained a lead in the homestretch and won in 51.84 while Beard closed well to grab the silver medal with a 52.09 performance. Clement took bronze in 52.36.
Lanie Whittaker (Miami, Florida) produced a solid race and placed seventh in the 400 final with a time of 53.98.
In placing second Beard joined an interesting group of U.S. silver medalist that includes Maicel Malone (1988), Monique Hennagan (1994), Suzianne Reid (1996), Nakiya Johnson (1998) and Sanya Richards (2002).
Finishing eighth with a stellar effort in the 1,500 meters was Wisconsin’s Evan Jager, who clocked 3:49.59 in a tight finish. With 400 meters remaining Jager attempted a move, but was blocked by runners on either side of him trying to make similar quick strike from their fourth place position.
As a result, Jager was knocked off strides for a couple of steps. Then he tried to recover too quickly down the backstretch. When the field opened to a kick in the final stages of the race, Jager didn’t have enough left to answer.
In the rush to the finish Algeria’s Imad Touil outleaned Kenya’s James Kiplagat Magut, 3:47.40 to 3:47.51. Ethiopia’s Demma Daba was in range of the win at 3:47.65 for third. Kenya’s Fredrick Musyoki Ndunge, who led at 400 (62.22) and 1,200 (3:08.21), finished fourth in 3:48.00.
Other finals on the day resulted in three 10th place finishes. Two came in field events with Shanay Briscoe in the high jump and Chinwe Okoro in the shot put. Weston Leutz finished 10th in the decathlon while teammate Chase Dalton placed 11th, just four points behind.
Briscoe tied for 10th by clearing 5-10 (1.78), the same height for a two-way tie with eighth place. A clearance of 5-11.5 (1.82) determined places fifth through seventh. Briscoe was clean on the first two heights and then needed three tries to clear 5-10.
In the shot put Okoro’s best effort of the day measured 49-9.75 (15.18). She also had puts of 46-8.25 (14.23) and 47-5 (14.45) in the following rounds.
A second day filled with personal best marks resulted in a career best score for Leutz, while Dalton kept his competitive edge throughout the five remaining events despite having an off performance in the hurdles when he ran 16.83.
Leutz, who produced a 14.23 in the 110 hurdles and then closed out the 10-eventer with a 4:40.37, compiled 7,178 points. Dalton completed the multi with a PR of 4:41.65 in the 1,500 to score 7,174 points.
Semifinals in the 200 meters and men’s 400 hurdles produced five finalists for the American team.
Johnny Dutch won the first heat in 50.40 with Cuba’s Amaurys Valle taking the second automatic qualifying position in 51.17. Then Jeshua Anderson powered through a 49.90 victory that had Taras Shcherenko well back in second at 51.60.
Qualifying in the 200 meters narrowly claimed one U.S. sprinter and nearly nabbed a second.
Baylor’s Tiffany Townsend cruised to a winning mark of 23.65 to win the second of three heats, but a 23.68 by Ashton Purvis for fifth place in the third heat left her ninth overall with eight making the final.
In the men’s 200 Antonio Sales challenged Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade for most of the race. But as they neared the finish a relaxing Sales was matched at the line by Ramil Guliyev of Azerbaijan as both ran 20.90.
That put Sales, who false started out of the 100 semifinals, in a position of watching the next two heats of the 200 semifinal to see if he was a time qualifier with his personal best mark.
Curtis Mitchell opened up fast and continued to motor through the line in a career best of 20.74 for the win in heat two. With third place sporting a 21.32, Sales was safe for the time being. When the winner of heat three crossed in 21.06 it meant Sales was the top qualifier on time for the final.
Jessica Beard, 400 meters, Silver Medalist
“I’ve had fun and it’s been a great experience. I felt like I did everything I told my coach I was going to do. I probably could have done a bit better on the backstretch, maybe be a little stronger there. I felt like I stayed close enough to her.
“I’m happy with the race and satisfied with the time. I’m just happy I won a medal. On my last world team (2006) I got fifth. So, I’m not too upset with that.
“This trip has been really impressive and different. It’s a different atmosphere, culture and people. This has been one of my favorite national teams to be on over the past three years. I really enjoyed this trip.
“Because of my previous international experiences I wasn’t as nervous, just focused. Now I’m looking forward to the relay and then get back to college experience.”
O’Neal Wilder, 400 meters, Bronze Medalist
“I was pretty tight, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I ran pretty good, so I can’t complain. I could’ve run better, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.
Marcus Boyd, 400 meters, Gold Medalist
“This is really exciting, especially to be competing against the best athletes in the world and to come out with the victory.
“If I got out hard I had a feeling it would be hard for them to catch me. So, I made them try to catch me and they couldn’t.
“At the 250 mark I could feel some of the other runners coming up on me. I was running relaxed at that point, so I knew I had the edge. When I made my move I was able to hold on.
“The conditions were a lot better than yesterday, but I still wish it had been a bit warmer.
(On running the fastest junior time in 2008) “Last year LeGerald Betters had the leading junior time in the world and now I am.
“It feels great to be part of that great tradition in the 400 at Baylor and carry it on like others have in the program. This is a nice way to showcase what I can do. During the college season I led off the national championship 4 x 400 but most of the attention was on Betters since he was so good in the open as well. Now this is my time to shine.
“This meet I had a lot of pressure built up. It was the same at nationals with a lot of pressure built up. So I was able to handle that situation from what I learned during the season at Baylor.
“I’ve never had a season this long. I’ve been running since January. My body is starting to break down a little bit. I’m through with my open races, now I just have to get ready for the relay.”
Johnny Dutch, 400 Hurdles
“I was just trying to control the pace. It was really windy coming out of the first curve. I just tried to hold it, finish strong and then ease up at the end. I’ll go through hard the whole way in the final.
“I’m looking forward to having a good final. Hopefully me and my teammate can finish in the top two so we can take that victory lap.
“Running the rounds at the Olympics Trials has helped me tremendously here. Now I’m a little more relaxed and confident coming into each race. I’m just trying to have fun out here.”
Jeshua Anderson, 400 Hurdles
“I wanted to get out hard and have a smooth race. It was real windy, so I wanted to see how it would feel to run hard and then ease up at the end a bit.
“I just want to go 1-2 in the final. However it plays out it doesn’t matter as long as the USA is the top two. We want to take some medals back home.”
Tiffany Townsend, 200 meters
“I noticed there was a bit of a headwind, so I wanted to get out, just tilt my head and face the wind coming down the homestretch. My start set it all up. I’ve been struggling with it for a while now.”
Ashton Purvis, 200 meters
“It wasn’t my best curve I’ve run. I need to work on my speed more coming off the curve. I hope I made so I can run faster tomorrow.”
Antonio Sales, 200 meters
“My goal was to get into the final. It was a little bit faster than what I wanted to run though. But that’s what we are here for, to make it to the finals. I just ran my race and shut it down a little bit at the end.
“I see they got the me third, so hopefully nobody else runs too fast and I can make it in on time.
“I think I popped up too early, I didn’t drive as long as I should have. I brought it home and I wasn’t straining or anything on the finish.”
Curtis Mitchell, 200 meters
“It isn’t over yet. I felt the same way I felt before I came over here – hungry! I want some more. It’s just started. I just tried to get out quicker in this race. I looked on the internet and my reaction time for the morning session was .285. So I knew if I got out that would make a difference in the race.
(On listening for the starter’s sound) “First thing I hear that doesn’t sound like the crowd or a human, I’m gone.
“My coaches have been telling me to always run through the finish. They want me to run hard and finish strong. You can’t ease up, because this is one of the hardest rounds to get out of and into the final.”
Evan Jager, 1500 meters
“Without the bumping with one lap to go I think I would still have been under control and relaxed. I got tripped up pretty bad and I lost two or three spots. Then I tried to make it all up right away. I sprinted back up into fourth or fifth.
“If I had been able to remain steady with an up tempo I think I would have been able to control myself through the last 150. Maybe I would have finished in the top five.”
Weston Luetz, Decathlon
“My second day started out great with the hurdles. I ran an international record in the hurdles and then set PRs in the discus (by four feet) and javelin (by around six feet).
“Going into the 1,500 Chase was ahead of me by eight points and sitting 11th while I was 13th. Only 74 points separated eighth to 13th place. So, we knew we had to run a good 1,500 in order to get a high place. We pumped each other up the whole race. Both of us PR’ed in the race, Dalton by six seconds and myself by two seconds.
“It was a great second day for me. Hitting those personal bests to start the second day was huge. Particularly running such a great time in the hurdles, which is my best event. That was a pacesetter for the second day.”