Team USA Has Another Successful Session in Track Qualifying at World Juniors


BARCELONA, Spain – It was another successful morning at Olympic Stadium for Team USA at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona. In three track event qualifying rounds, the U.S. advanced five of six to the next step while Team Co-Captain Gunnar Nixon continued his pursuit of the medal stand in the men’s decathlon.
In the field, Stephen Mozia qualified for the finals in the men’s shot put while Ciarra Brewer did the same in the women’s triple jump.
Men’s Decathlon
The men’s decathlon is shaping up to be an instant classic competition. Team USA co-caption Gunnar Nixon (Edmond, Okla./Arkansas) is an epic battle with Tim Dekker of the Netherlands and reigning World Youth Champ Jake Stein of Australia. Tonight’s final three events, the pole vault, javelin, and 1500 meters will be intense as medal hopes are on the line. Adding to the drama, the U.S. has never medaled in the decathlon in a World Junior Championship.
After seven events, Nixon stands in third with 5,780 points -- 86 off the lead. For comparison sake, he is 100 points ahead of his personal-best pace (7892) that was set at the NCAA Championships in June. He began the morning with the 110-meter hurdles where he clocked a time of 14.54 seconds. In the discus, he added 18 inches to his personal best with the junior implement (1.75kg) with a throw of 42.23/138-6.
Dekker claimed gained seven meters on his personal best, notching a throw of 43.69/143-4. That performance placed him on top of the leaderboard with three events to go at 5,866 points. Australia’s Stein sits second at 5,863, but had a mark in the discus that was 15 feet short of his personal best.
As a result of injury, Garrett Scantling (Jacksonville, Fla./Georgia) sat out of today’s action.
Women’s 400 (heats)
NCAA Champion Ashley Spencer (Indianapolis, Ind./Illinois)  cruised to a heat win of 52.28 seconds, easily defeating the late charging Ekaterina Renzhina of Russia to advance to tomorrow’s semifinals. Spencer nearly was ten meters clear of the field coming off the final turn and was able to ride the wave to the tape.
“I felt pretty good,” said Spencer. “I didn’t get a good night’s rest, but I did pretty good considering. I’m trying to adjust to the time zone still.
“My main goal is to make it through the semis. Just taking it day-by-day.”
Spencer addressed how winning the NCAA title helps her confidence going forward: “I just can’t dwell on the races that I’ve won. So, (winning in the NCAA does help my confidence), but I still have to stay focused on the task at hand.
A malfunction with the starting blocks in the lane next to Spencer caused a five-minute delay, holding Spencer to her position behind the blocks as the late morning sun radiated Olympic Stadium. However, the bump in the program did not deter Spencer: “I just tried to stay focused and control what I can. The delay, is something I can’t control, I just have to roll with the punches.”
For Erica Rucker (Lithonia, Ga./South Carolina), running in the last of six heats, it was another case of an American being cool, calm, and collected in a sprint heat. Rucker claimed the tape first at 53.32 after being challenged beginning at the end of the final turn.
“I felt like this was good race for me,” said Rucker. “I did what my coach told me to do and was happy with the way it turned out. Around the 200, once I caught up to the runner on my outside, I start to relax a little bit. This was a good start, but the semifinals will be difficult – two-plus-two – so, I know I have to bring my best to the next race.”
Men’s 400 Meter Hurdles (heats)
Greg Coleman (San Antonio, Texas/Texas A&M) had the top qualifier from the heats of the men’s 400 meter hurdles in 50.95. The readout topped his previous best of 51.01.
“I felt like I had to push, and I had to PB to get through to the semis,” said Coleman. “Although, I didn’t feel my best – I usually PR when I don’t feel my best. Tomorrow is going to be way better than today – I was a bit shaky on the last two hurdles and I used my weak leg on hurdle ten which I hit. If I came over with my right, I would probably be at 50.5.”
Eric Futch (Lansdowne, Pa.) also won his heat, but in a more comfortable time of 51.82.
‘”I just wanted to come through and get through the prelims,” said Futch. “In my racing, I always relax on the backstretch and pick it up at the 200 mark. Today, I just had an easy race, that’s it. I picked up on it in the last half and eased up at the line – just trying to conserve energy. (In the semifinal), it’s going to be a lot faster and a lot harder, so just going to pick up the race a little bit and make it fast for everybody.
Women’s 800 (semifinal)
Reigning World Youth Champion Ajee Wilson (Neptune, N.J.) ran a tactical race to claim second in her heat at 2:02.43. Wilson was a chess master, holding to fourth at the bell before making her decisive move on the crown of the final turn. Wilson had the potential to win the race, but she eased up before the line after seeing her top-two automatic qualifying position was secure.
“I’m pretty happy with the race,” said Wilson. “I knew as long as I stayed close and kept the top three in my reach, I’d make the finals because I have a strong kick. (On the crown of the turn), I just wanted to secure my space and leave no question that I was going to the next round.”
Wilson ran along with Great Britian’s Emily Dudgeon who was just shy of the top overall qualifier at 2:30.32. Dudgeon and teammate Jessica Judd, who notched the top qualifier at 2:02.30, are among the favorites to gain a medal position, if not gold, in the finals.
“In the final, I’m hoping for a (another) PR,” said Wilson. “The field is strong – it’s not going to be easy in the final. I’m hoping that I can recover and hope to give as good as an effort as today.”
High school senior Danielle Aragon (Billings, Mont.) shaved a second off her personal best time with a 2:04.17 run. Overall she placed 11th, just a second shy of the final time qualifier. For Aragon, her first international-team experience is a springboard to her collegiate career that will begin at Notre Dame in the fall.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be here – this is unreal,” said Aragon.  “I couldn’t believe I made it to the semis and stood at the line next to these girls.”
Men’s Shot Put (qualification)
Cornell’s Stephen Mozia (Hackensack, N.J.) qualified for tonight’s final of the men’s shot put with an automatic qualifying heave of 65-0/19.81 in the second round. The mark was the fourth best among the morning’s field.
Reigning World Youth Champ – Jacko Gill of New Zealand – claimed a new championships record on his first throw of qualifying. He launched the put to 21.50/70-6½ and is by far the favorite to claim his second-straight gold tonight.
Nicholas Scarvelis (Santa Barbara, Calif./UCLA) placed 19th overall with a throw of 18.43/60-5¾.
Women’s Triple Jump (qualification)
Florida’s Ciarra Brewer (Union City, Calif.) qualified for the women’s triple jump final to be held Thursday evening. She posted a best on the day of 13.11/43-¼.
Jennifer Madu (Murphy, Texas) – fresh off of last night’s first round of the 100 meters, placed 16th in the round at 12.74/41-9¾. Madu will be back tonight to run the semifinal – and potentially the final – of the sprint tonight.
Wednesday, July 11 – Morning Session
1. Ekaterina Medvedeva (RUS), 45:41.74
2. Nadezhda Leontyeva (RUS), 45:43.64 PB
3. Sandra Arenas (COL), 45:44.46
(no USA entries)
Q1 (1h7). Gregory Coleman (USA), 50.95, PB
Q11 (1h5). Eric Futch (USA), 51.82
[semifinal Thursday morning]
Q1. Jacko Gill (NZL), 21.50/70-6½, CR
Q4. Stephen Mozia (USA), 19.81/65-0
19. Nicholas Scarvelis (USA),  18.43/60-5¾
[final tonight]
(after 7 events)
1. Tim Dekker (NED), 5866
2. Jake Stein (AUS), 5863
3. Gunnar Nixon (USA), 5780
---. Garrett Scantling (USA), DNF
Q1 (1h1). Ashley Spencer (USA), 52.58
Q8 (1h6). Erika Rucker (USA), 53.32
[final Friday evening]
Q1 (1h3). Jessica Judd (GBR), 2:02.30
Q4 (2h2). Ajee Wilson (USA), 2:02.43 PB
11. Danielle Aragon (USA), 2:04.19 PB
[final Thursday evening]
Q1. Dovilé Dzindzaletaité (LTU), 13.85w/45-5¼
Q9. Ciarra Brewer (USA), 13.11/43-¼
16. Jennifer Madu (USA), 12.74/41-9¾
[final Thursday evening]
Contact: Tom Lewis (