EUGENE, Ore. - Florida State's Michael Cherry provided the topping to one of the most dominant sprint performances by a United States Junior World Championships team, anchoring the 4x400 relay to a gold medal in Sunday's final event at Historic Hayward Field.
The US won in 3:03.31, in large part due to Cherry's brilliance. Though Jamaica anchor Jaheel Hyde received the baton before the US, Cherry never relinquished the lead, pulling teammate and third leg Ricky Morgan through the start-finish line before taking the baton in front of Hyde.
Cherry maintained his lead down the backstretch, came off the final turn in front, then pulled away over the final 50 meters, unofficially bringing the stick around the track in 44.8 seconds. Japan's Nobuya Kato used a hard charge to the finish for silver (3:04.11), while Jamaica was third (3:04.47).
"Michael Cherry decided he wanted to get in on the gold rush," said Florida State coach Bob Braman. "That was a beast leg he ran; one of - if not the fastest - of the entire meet."
The victory gave the United States men not only a sweep of the 4x100 and 4x400 relays, but the 100 and 200 as well, which would not have been possible without the contributions from three Seminoles over the course of the six-day meet. Incoming freshmen Kendal Williams (100) and Trentavis Friday (200) grabbed individual gold medals, then teamed up over the final two legs to lead the US to the 4x100 triumph Saturday.
"Those young men showed that the future is quite bright for Seminole track & field," Braman said.
The United States won the medal count with 21 overall, including a Championships-leading 11 golds.
Sunday was Cherry's turn. After anchoring the US to a heat win with a 45.21 leg on Saturday, the Chesapeake, Va. native had no intention of being left out of the US gold rush.
The United States team of Josephus Lyles, Tyler Brown and Morgan were never worse than second through three legs. That's when Cherry put the pre-planned final exchange with Morgan into practice, just as they discussed before the finals.
"Ricky was my suite mate and I told him I was going to pull him (through the exchange zone), because that was the only way I could get clear, instead of fighting everybody," Cherry said. "All my old teammates in high school and college used to pull me through and I knew if I could pull him I could be clear and get the baton and I would be good."
Jamaica's Hyde, a 400-meter hurdler by trade, was no match for Cherry's open 400 horsepower, which produced the fastest split of his life.
"It was real relaxed," Cherry said. "Coming down the home stretch I was standing up. I didn't feel too bad. I'm just excited to get the gold. I was thinking, `I can't get walked down. I didn't make the open (400), so this is the least I could do for my team.'"
That he could celebrate a dominant sprint performance by the United States with two of his newest teammates made the closing event gold medal even sweeter. "The younger guys were out here winning gold medals for FSU," Cherry said. "It wouldn't have been right if I didn't come home with a gold medal. I just wanted to make my college team proud and my US team proud."
EUGENE, Ore. - In a display of sheer speed and determination, Kendal Williams and Trentavis Friday added to their IAAF World Junior Championships gold medal haul Saturday, carrying the baton over the final two legs as the United States won the 4x100 relay.
Responding to challenges from Japan and Jamaica, Williams and Friday put the finishing touches on a winning time of 38.70 - the third-fastest junior mark in history - to add a third gold medal to their collection at Historic Hayward Field.
"What a fantastic finish for the `Noles," FSU head coach Bob Braman said, after watching his two incoming freshmen seal the deal in the final event of the day. "Kendal Williams puts the US in the lead and Friday opens a gap on the anchor!"
After winning gold in the 100 and 200, respectively, Williams and Friday joined forces with leadoff man Jalen Miller and second leg Trayvon Bromell - both of whom just completed their freshmen collegiate seasons - and very nearly took down the world junior record of 38.66 set 10 years ago by the US.
"We were confident," Friday said. "We had a morning practice with the stick and we knew once we had two back-to-back that were perfect all around we weren't nervous at all."
Williams echoed similar sentiments:
"We all run fast times and we've got the speed, as long as we get the stick moving the time is going to show."
Anchoring the group, Friday took the baton from Williams and pulled away from Japan (39.02) and Jamaica (39.12) over the final 80 meters to deliver the United States their Championships-leading eighth gold medal heading into the final day of competition.
After crossing the finish line, the USA men's team was joined by the gold medal-winning 4x100 women's team, celebrating together in victory before a raucous and supportive crowd.
"It is amazing because we're all blessed to come out here and represent the United States of America," Williams said. "We did that and competed the best we could and came out with the win in medals. We couldn't ask for a greater experience."
"We're doing it for the USA, it's on our turf and we're at Oregon, one of the best tracks in the country, so we thought finishing with them was great," Friday added. "It was an amazing feeling. We're all going to remember this."
Count United States head coach Thomas Johnson, a former Seminole track standout who still holds FSU indoor records in the 500 and 600, among those who could not have been happier with the way things have gone.
"The kids came together when we first got here, they grew together as a team and as sprinters who would normally compete against each other," Johnson said. "They realized the opportunity was bigger than them and it didn't matter what leg they ran on as long as they did it together. ... They accepted their roles and that made it so much easier."
Naturally, Johnson has a special sense of pride for what the Florida State athletes have accomplished already and the opportunities they will have going forward.
"It has been exciting," he added. "To tell you the truth it took me back to when I was a young Seminole - naïve and not knowing or understanding - then to realize, `I am good and I can compete with a whole lot of other people.' It's just rewarding to have been a part of their experience and let them know they're going to a great place and are going do some great things."
To this point, the Seminoles have won or contributed directly to three of the eight gold medals collected by Team USA. And they could still add another to that haul.
"It has been a fantastic week for our young men," Braman said. "Michael Cherry gets to put a bow on things tomorrow in the 4x4."
Cherry made the most of his first competitive trip around the track at the Championships on Saturday, anchoring the United States 4x400 relay team to a world junior leading time of 3:03.97 and a victory in heat 1. A rising sophomore at Florida State, Cherry capped the wire-to-wire win with the fastest split (45.21), leading the team into Sunday's final as the heavy favorite.
"Michael was really motivated after missing NCAA's due to injury," Braman said. "I'd say he made a strong statement with the fastest split of the day."
The men's 4x400 relay final will bring six-day meet to a close, Sunday at 8 p.m. (ET).
Competing in the semifinals of the 100-meter hurdles, FSU rising sophomore Nicole Setterington (Canada), improved on her preliminary round time with 13.55 to place sixth in the third heat. After earning a spot in the semis on Friday with a time of 13.64, she used a late surge out of lane 8 to finish 13th among 24 semifinalists.
"Nicole improved from the first round and ran a really strong race," Braman said. "With a little better start she would have made the final."
In addition to the on-track competition, Friday was also presented his 200-meter gold medal by former NCAA and World Junior champion Ato Boldin. Live streaming of Sunday's final competition can be found at www.UniversalSports.com.