EUGENE, Ore. – It all came together for Texas A&M freshman Shamier Little at the IAAF World Junior Championships on Saturday.
Before a crowd of 10,382 at sun-baked Hayward Field, she completed the TrackTown trifecta with a victory in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 55.66 seconds.
Earlier this season, the distinctive Little, who sports braces, black-rimmed glasses and a tidy red-white-and-blue bow in her hair, also captured NCAA and USA Junior titles on the University of Oregon track.
“To go 55 seconds at this stage of the season, it’s great,” said Little, who hails from Chicago. “Most hurdlers get out really fast. I do, too, but it’s a different kind of fast. I don’t like to run off anybody else in the race, but if I know someone is coming up on the inside of me I’m not going to back down.”
Team USA also claimed bronze in the 400m hurdles as Harvard freshman Jade Miller crossed the finish line in 56.22. Great Britain’s Shona Richards took silver at 56.16.
“Coming here, I wanted to represent the USA as best as I could,” Miller said. “I also had a secret goal to PR, which I did. I’m so happy, joyful, elated and blessed.”
For Little, the victory was also served with a bit of redemption.
Two years ago, at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, she fell after clipping the 10th hurdle with her trail leg, and did not finish the race. This time, she left no doubts.
“By the time I got to 150 meters, I felt I had it,” Little said. “Coming into the home straight I could hear my coach yelling ‘you’ve got to move.’ At the ninth and 10th hurdles I was just focusing on getting my feet down and getting my trail leg over to finish the race.”
Elsewhere, it was a grand day for Team USA in the 4x100m relays.
The women’s foursome of Teahna Daniels, UO signee Ariana Washington, Jada Martin and Kaylin Whitney blazed to victory by more than a half-second over Jamaica, 43.46 to 43.97.
Washington built a commanding lead with her carry on the backstretch, and the 16-year-old Whitney closed the deal as she collected her third medal at the World Junior meet.
After watching the women get the stick around with no problems, the U.S. men’s squad took care of business with a gold-medal performance of 38.70, a mere four-hundredths of a second off the World Junior record of 38.66 set by America in 2004.
“This is our turf,” said Trentavis Friday, who ran the anchor leg. “We needed to defend it.”
It was also a day of celebration for France.
Rouguy Diallo earned a gold medal in the women’s triple jump with a wind-aided mark of 47 feet, 4 ½ inches on her third attempt, and countryman Axel Chapelle won a chess match in the men’s pole vault with a personal best clearance of 18-2 ½.
Those two victories, added to the earlier triumph by hurdler Wilhem Belocian, gives France three gold medals at these championships, tied with Russia for second place in the medal standings. The U.S. is first with eight gold medals.
“It’s awesome for France,” Chapelle said. “That’s amazing.”
The other two winners on Saturday were Croatia’s Martin Markovic in the discus (219-7) and Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet in the 3,000m steeplechase (9:36.74).
Team USA posted the world’s fastest junior times of the year in Saturday’s qualifying: 3:03.97 for men and 3:32.73 for women; both nearly two seconds ahead of their closest competitors.
Team USA prep sensations Alexa Efraimson and Elise Cranny have been targeting this race all year. Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum is the lone entrant with a personal best under 4:00 at 3:59.53.
Two Kenyans – Alfred Kipketer and Joshua Masikonde – are expected to battle for the gold, with a mad scramble for the bronze. Team USA’s Tre’tez Kinnaird was a wire-to-wire winner in his semifinal heat.
Heptathlon bronze medalist Nadine Visser of the Netherlands will attempt to break up the powerful 1-2 combo of Team USA’s Kendell Williams and Dior Hall.
Cuba’s Lázaro Martinez is the reigning World Youth champion and his PR of 17.24m/56-6 ¾ would have won Saturday night’s High Performance meet.