Another Positive Campaign for the U.S. in Day Three Qualifying at World Juniors


BARCELONA, Spain – Nine from the U.S. National Team at the IAAF World Junior Championships advanced from their rounds of competition to the next level on Thursday morning at Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium. The men’s and women’s 200 meters were a great success for the Americans as the squad went four-for-four in the event’s first round, winning in each heat entered. Eric Futch (Lansdowne, Pa.) cashed a ticket to the finals in the men’s 400 meter hurdles, the U.S. women gained three qualifying spots in the field, and 17-year-old Kendell Williams (Marietta, Ga.) leads the heptathlon after the two primo events – the 100 hurdles and high jump.
Men’s 200 Meters (heats)
The U.S. sprint duo of Aaron Ernest (New Orleans, La./LSU) and Tyreek Hill (Douglas, Ga.) survived a 12-hour turnaround between the 100 meter final last night and this morning’s 200 meter first-round race. All told, it is four races in the bag for the teammates over three days with another to come this evening.
Ernest, who captured the silver medal in last night’s 100 meter final, won his first-round heat of the 200 in 21.01. After a fast start, catching up to the outside lane stagger, Ernest went into cruise control and had no problems catching the tape first.
Ernest talks about the recovery from last night and having to approach the semifinals that are in a few hours: “I got about four hours of sleep last night. I just had to wake up and start a whole new day. I came out in the first 20 meters hard, but I didn’t want to run the whole race that way. I probably was around 90 percent today. I felt good though. With semifinals tonight, I’m going to go and take a nap and hope my legs get back under me and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Tyreek Hill (Douglas, Ga.) also came back from the 100 meters and his fourth-place showing last night to win his semifinal heat in a cruising altitude of 21.29 seconds. The World Junior Leader in the event, Hill blasted out of the blocks and caught the runner to his outside almost immediately. In the stretch, Hill turned to cruise control before going into full shutdown mode before the tape.
“I was trying to pace myself on the outside runner (Ireland’s Marcus Lawler), because that’s my mark – the first guy on the curve. After that, I just stride it out on the straightaway, so it was good. So, it was a fun race overall. The turnaround from last night was rough though, but I wanted to win this round so bad that it didn’t matter. I plan to get some rest and jump in the cold tank to get ready for tonight’s semifinal.”
Men’s 400 Meter Hurdles (semifinal)
Eric Futch (Lansdowne, Pa.) is making his case to be the Bershawn “Batman” Jackson of the U.S. Junior team. Sporting a headband – worn backwards – during competition; he looks the part. On the track, he’s of similar sorts. In today’s semifinal of the men’s 400 meter hurdles, Futch to the unknowing observer was in trouble. With 200 meters to go he was well behind the leaders and a trip to the finals would seem in jeopardy.
But, leave it to Futch to channel his inner Batman. He hit the curve and started to strike, flying over each hurdle effortlessly. He hit the rocket boosters and blazed passed the field to take the tape in 50.77, the fourth-fastest overall qualifier of the day.
“In the first 200, I ran with the guy to my outside (Barbados’ Kion Joseph) and then poured it on in the last 200,” explained Futch. “I don’t think anyone here can match my foot speed. So, I knew once I hit my top speed, I would makeup on everyone else. Once I did it, coming off the last hurdle, I started to shut it down. That’s normally what I do because everyone else gets tired. I just save, and then I go. I felt way better today than yesterday. Tomorrow, if I get my proper warmup, get my proper stretches, I’ll be ready to go.”
The finals are set for Friday evening. All but one of the finalists clocked 51 seconds or better, including overall top qualifier Javarn Gallimore who notched a new world-junior leading time of 50.45.
Greg Coleman (San Antonio, Texas/Texas A&M) had the misfortune to be the first guy not to make the finals. He clocked 51.12 in the second heat, that included Gallimore and Russia’s Timofey Chalyy with a third-place finish. It took 51.11 to advance to the next round.
“I took the race out like I wanted, but when I hit the eighth hurdle, things started to slowly start messing up,” said Coleman. “I tried to take 13 steps all the way up to that seventh hurdle and tried to get to the eighth in the same way, but I forced the wrong leg and that’s why I hit it today. And, so, I couldn’t close because I messed up my whole rhythm. I learned a lot from this experience, but the pressure is kind of the same as it is in the NCAA. Obviously, I picked up a big international experience from the whole atmosphere, so it was great.”
Women’s 200 Meters (heats)
Clemson’s Dezerea Bryant (Milwaukee, Wis) and Texas A&M’s Olivia Ekponé (Germantown, Md.) won their heats and advanced easily to tonight’s semifinals of the women’s 200.
Bryant notched the third-best qualifier of the day in the women’s 200 meters with a 23.54, despite a 3.3 m/s headwind. The Tiger ran in the 100 meter semifinals last night.
“For me, this was a good race, I felt great,” said Bryant. “I started to ease up a bit past the turn and felt good all the way. Even with running last night, my legs were in great shape and I’m looking forward to tonight’s semifinal.”
Ekponé managed a 23.74 clocking to win her heat doing so into a 2.0 m/s headwind.
“It was my first time on the track this entire time while we’ve been in Spain,” said Bryant. “It was good to run, and get a feel for it. (Having been) on some world teams, this experience has its similarities and differences. In Singapore with the Youth Olympic Games, it was a little more interactive. The World Juniors are starting to feel a little more like an Olympic event, and I’m having a great time out here. I was kind of nervous coming in (to this morning’s race). You can’t underestimate your competitors in the event. You just have to go out there and do what you do. I’m taking things as they come, round-by-round.”
Women’s 400 Meter Hurdles (heats)
Kaila Barber (Middleburg Heights, Ohio/Notre Dame) and Shamier Little (Chicago, Ill.) advanced to Friday’s semifinals of the 400 meter hurdles. Both finished fourth in their respective heats to gain automatic qualification. Barber clocked 1:00.02 while Little went 1:00.14.
For Barber, it was a bit of a jarring morning. Barber was the first American to compete on day three and she made it a memorable qualifying heat. Looking comfortable and in control through the first six hurdles, the race was going great for Barber, but at hurdle seven, her steps were out of sync, and she fell. She was able to recover and found herself in the fourth and final automatic qualifying position.
“I don’t know what just happened,” said Barber. “But, I fell. I’ve never fallen before, and I don’t like losing, so I gave it all can at the finish.”
Both Barber and Little admitted to being a bit nervous for the early morning races which were their firsts on an international stage.
“It wasn’t that bad getting up early this morning, but last night I was really nervous,” said Barber. “This morning I woke up and got a text message from my friends saying that everyone else is nervous too – that they are on the same page as us. That helped me get through this round.”
“I was very, very, very nervous,” said Little. “I was shaking, even to the point of getting into the blocks. It’s a scary experience. In the semifinals, I hope to do much better.”
Women’s Pole Vault (qualification)
Emily Grove (Pontiac, Ill./South Dakota) cleared the automatic qualifying mark of 4.10/13-5¼ in the women’s pole vault to advance to Saturday’s final of the event. Grove cleared four bars, all without misses to move on to the next round.
“I was feeling really good today,” said Grove. “I was running really well today and had to scoot back, which is a good sign. The wind was swirly, but was mainly a tail, so you just had to watch the ribbon. I had comfortable clearances. I’m hoping the final goes as smooth as today. I hope to jump a pretty decent bar and maybe place fairly high – I’m not really sure. I’ve never been out of the country before.
Grove has relished her first international experience, but also had some truthful insight. “It was a little intimating sitting in the call room before and to my right was a girl from Sweden, for example,” said Grove. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this is awesome’. It was a little difficult too because many of them couldn’t speak English very well, so it was hard to get used to that. The feet-to-metric conversions were a little tricky too, but I worked on that back at the hotel last night.”
Sydney White (Kernersville, N.C.) claimed 20th in the qualifying stage with a clearance of 3.85/12-7½. It took at least a make at 4.05/13-3½ to advance.
Women’s Hammer Throw (qualification)
Shelby Ashe (Stone Mountain, Ga.) claimed a ticket to Saturday’s final of the women’s hammer throw with her best throw of the day, 60.19/197-5.
Deanna Price (Moscom Mills, Mo./Southern Illinois) placed 18th in the competition at 57.82/189-8. In order to advance to the final, a mark of 59.32/194-7 or better was needed.
Women’s Heptathlon
After two events, high school junior Kendell Williams (Marietta, Ga.) leads the women’s heptathlon with 2,006 points, 51 ahead of Cuba’s Yorgelis Rodríguez (1,955). Mississippi State frosh Erica Bougard (Byhalia, Miss.) is in fourth place at 1,896.
Bougard and Williams went 1-2 in their heat and finished that same way overall in the 100 hurdles to take the early front positions in the overall standings. The duo fought for the tape, but Bougard got the nod with a clocking of 13.73 to Williams’ 13.74.
In the high jump, Williams cleared 1.81/5-11¼, just an inch-and-a-half under her personal best (1.85/6-¾). Bougard managed a height of 1.72/5-7¾.
Men’s Javelin (qualification)
Devin Bogert (Tomball, Texas/Texas A&M) finished 21st in javelin qualifying while Sean Keller (Vancouver, Wash.) placed 25th. A mark of 68.90/226-0 or better was needed for qualification to the next round.
Women’s Long Jump (qualification)
Robin Reynolds (Miami, Fla.) finished 17th in the women’s long jump with a day’s best of 6.12/20-1. Texas Tech’s Le’Tristan Pledger (Kansas City, Kan.) was 20th, 6.08/19-11½. It took a leap of 6.20/20-4¼ to make to the next round.
Thursday, July 12 – Morning Session
Q1 (1h6). Delano Williams (TKS), 20.66
Q (1h2). Aaron Ernest (USA), 21.01
Q (1h7). Tyreek Hill (USA), 21.29
 [semifinals tonight]
Q1 (1h2). Javarn Gallimore (JAM), 50.45 WJL
Q4 (1h3). Eric Futch (USA), 50.77
9 (3h5). Greg Coleman (USA), 51.12
 [final Friday evening]
Q1. Luke Cann (AUS), 74.54/244-7
21. Devin Bogert (USA), 67.27/220-8
25. Sean Keller (USA), 66.33/217-7
[final Friday evening]
Q1 (1h7). Shericka Jackson (JAM), 23.35 SB  (-1.5 m/s)
Q3 (1h4). Dezerea Bryant (USA), 23.54 (-3.3 m/s)
Q6 (1h5). Olivia Ekponé (USA), 23.74
[semifinals tonight]
Q1 (1h1). Kübra Sesli (TUR), 58.01
Q (4h2). Kaila Barber (USA), 1:00.02
Q (4h5). Shamier Little (USA), 1:00.14
[semifinals Friday evening]
Q. Emily Grove (Pontiac, Ill./South Dakota), 4.10/13-5¼ Q
20. Sydney White (Kernersville, N.C.), 3.85/12-7½
[final Saturday]
Q1. Alina Rotaru (ROU), 6.58/21-7¼
17. Robin Reynolds (USA), 6.12/20-1
20. Le’Tristan Pledger (USA), 6.08/19-11½
[final Friday evening]
Q1. Alexandra Tavernier (FRA), 66.22/217-3
Q9. Shelby Ashe (USA), 60.19/197-5
18. Deanna Price (USA), 57.82/189-8
[final Saturday]
(after 2 events)
1. Kendell Williams (USA), 2006 (13.74, 1.81)
2. Yorgelis Rodriguez (CUB), 1955 (14.10, 1.81)
3. Nafissatou Thiam (BEL), 1908 (14.44, 1 .81)
4. Erica Bougard (USA), 1896, (13.73, 1.72)
Contact: Tom Lewis (