Arms pumping furiously and eyes locked into the finish line, Shayla Sanders’ electric anchor leg rallied the United States women’s 400-meter relay team to victory at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Spain on Saturday night.
Backed by thunderous applause inside the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium, Sanders got the baton in third place following exchanges by Texas’ Morgan Snow, Clemson’s Dezerea Bryant and Texas A&M signee Jennifer Madu before rallying the Americans to gold in a World-Junior leading time of 43.89.
“Once I crossed the finish line I was like, “thank God,’’ Sanders said. “I knew the whole team was depending on me to bring it home. Even though somebody was in front of me, I knew I couldn’t panic. I just had to run. When I saw that we had won, I said “thank God I was on that relay team.”
The United States’ bid for a fifth consecutive World Junior crown was in jeopardy when Sanders, a prized University of Florida recruit, got the baton trailing front-runner Great Britain and Germany.
But the University of Florida-bound Sanders flashed the turnover speed that made her the nation’s top prep sprinter at Boyd Anderson High School and winner at the Adidas Dream 100, to surge past Great Britain and Germany’s Jessie Maduka with a scintillating 10.3 split.
Sanders said the World Junior Championships experience has stoked a fire to make the world stage a regular occurence.
“It was a whole lot different than I expected,’’ Sanders said. “I actually ran on the world Olympic track. It made me feel like an Olympian. I pictured myself running against professionals.”
Sanders’ former high school teammate Kali Davis-White, a highly coveted senior-to-be, also earned a relay gold medal relay by helping the United States qualify out of prelims in a then World Junior leading 43.95.