McCullough, relays golden on final day of IAAF World Junior Championships

MONCTON, CANADA -- Conor McCullough of Princeton crushed the meet record and his own American Junior record in the hammer, and Team USA swept the 4x400 relays Sunday on the final day of the 13th IAAF World Junior Championships. The team ended up tied with Kenya atop the medal table with 15 -- six gold, five silver and four bronze -- and dominated the placings table to score 183 points to 119 for Kenya and 104 for Germany.

McCullough, who was the silver medalist at this meet in 2008, had a massive personal best of 80.79-meters on his second attempt to add more than eight feet to his previous AJR. He followed up with two more 80m+ throws as he dominated the competition and defeated top-ranked Akos Hudi of Hungary. Ohio high schooler Justin Welch was 10th at 67.20.

The atmosphere here today was great, McCullough said. I was well-rested, and I wanted to put the pressure on right away. The Hungarian was pushing me, so it was good to get a big one on my second throw. This ring is great and my technique was good. His father injured himself in a fall earlier this week in Moncton, and had surgery back home in California and according to McCullough is doing well.

After a relatively sub-par qualifying run, the women's 4x400 relay put together a superb final to beat favored Jamaica convincingly. The team of Texas prep Diamond Dixon (54.3), Stacey-Ann Smith (52.1) of Texas, North Dakota high schooler Laura Roesler (52.3) and Regina George (52.5) of Arkansas zipped to a 3:31.20, the fastest junior time in the world this year.

George said, When I got the stick in the lead, I just didn't want to let anyone catch me. I wanted to show respect for my teammates and for all the hard work they had done to get me the lead. Smith added, This is the best feeling ever to run around on a victory lap with the American flag. We came together as a team, we kept the faith, and we came to win. Regina and I were motivated a lot by not being able to medal in the open 400.

Roesler, who narrowly missed making the 800 final, said, I knew I could afford to let the leader gap me a bit because I felt so good and I have that 800 strength. I also wanted to show everyone I am a sprinter.

In the meet's final event, the U.S. men's 4x400 were clearly the class of the field and completed a sweep of the four relays, winning in 3:04.76, the fastest junior time in the world this year. California high schooler Joshua Mance ran the opening leg in 46.5 before Houston's Errol Nolan rolled to a lead that the team would not relinquish, splitting 45.5. George Mason's David Verburg maintained the lead with a 46.8 third circuit, and Washington high schooler Michael Berry anchored in 46.0.

We wanted to get the record, Nolan said. We fell a little short, but we won and that is the most important thing. Verburg added, Seeing the women win right before us put the pressure on and was a big motivation to win.

Knowing that Team USA had never won a medal in the event before, men's 800 finalists Casimir Loxsom of Penn State and Robby Andrews of Virginia set out to make history. The pair ran in or near the lead from wire to wire, hitting 200 in 24.8, 400 in 52.2 and 600 in 1:19.0. A mad dash down the final stretch saw Loxsom overtaken for the gold with about 30 to go by Kenya's David Mutua, while Andrews held off Britain's Niall Brooks to capture the bronze in 1:47.00.

I had the same race plan as yesterday, said Loxsom, who set a PR with his 1:46.57. The Kenyan was really strong at the end, and I think I may have used up too much energy in my semi. Missing the two NCAA finals was a terrible feeling, but this makes up for it. I am really happy with the silver and a PR.

Andrews said, There was definitely a change in my strategy. I know at this level everyone can close as fast as I can, so I wanted to be in it and not have to come from behind. I do think I may have gone out a little too fast early, but it is great to win the first medals for the U.S. It has been a cool experience being a teammate with Casimir, and we both hope that continues to the next level at the Worlds and Olympics.

Team USA's 15th medal came from Florida triple jumper Omar Craddock, who overcame a 3.6 mps headwind to leap 16.23. All six of Craddock's jumps were over 16 meters. Maryland high schooler Marquis Dendy ended up eighth with a best of 15.53.

From the beginning I felt like I had a PR in me, Craddock said. The headwinds were tough, though, and that made it hard to jump far. The medal is what I was after, and I have come through a lot over the past few years. I am happy to do so well for my country. Dendy said, If it was stiller and hotter, the way I felt today I think I could have jumped 16.50. It was my first experience like this and it was very, very good. Top eight in the world isnt bad but I know I can do better.

Oregon's Jordan Hasay had a bold strategy to hang with the leaders in the women's 1500, and it almost paid off with a medal as she finished fourth in 4:13.95, just off her personal best. The lead runners came through the first 400 in just over 60 seconds, with Hasay fifth at that point in 62. She moved up over the next two laps and was fourth with a lap to go, but could not make up more ground on the top three.

My plan was to stay with the leaders, and they went out really hard, Hasay said. With a lap to go I felt really good, but when they made a move at 300 to go I just couldn't respond. I guess I am pretty happy I was close to my PR, I just wish I had gone a little quicker. Now I wish I had gone out slower like the Irish girl (Ciara Mageean, who set a national record for the silver). In 2008 the race was very tactical, this time was completely different. I just didn't think anyone would go out that fast. This shows how strong the Africans really are.

A pair of solid fifth-place efforts came from Iowa high schooler Hannah Willms in the women's high jump and Caleb Cross of Arkansas in the men's 110 hurdles. Willms cleared 1.82 to improve on her pre-meet ranking, while Cross had the gold in his hands before clipping the ninth hurdle and finishing in 13.86.

Willms, a volleyball star who had never previously jumped outside the state of Iowa, said, It was windy out there. Its the first time Ive missed that many attempts.Im happy with it, though. This experience makes me look at the sport differently.

Cross said, I wasn't really pressing, I just couldn't keep my balance when I hit that hurdle with my lead leg. I am disappointed of course, but I will use this as motivation for next year.

In the day's first final, Virginia Tech's Jared Berman almost notched a second personal best of the Championships, placing 10th at 8:57.53. I felt great out there the whole time until I stepped on the rail (coming down from a barrier at the start of the fifth lap). It felt like I was in great shape, and I know I can race with these guys now, but that messed me up mentally more than physically.

For more information on the IAAF World Junior Championships, visit www.usatf.org.