US IAAF U20 World Championships team

Hazelwood West junior Justin Robinson (far right) earned a silver medal in the 4x400-meter relay at the IAAF U20 World Championships in Finland. Robinson ran an incredible 44.7 second split on the third leg of the race.

Hazelwood West standout track and field sprinter Justin Robinson got his first taste of competition on the world stage last week and he made it memorable one.

The 16-year-old high school junior to be was in Tampere, Finland last week to compete with the United States at the IAAF World U20 championships. To be just 16 and to be able to qualify for a world championship meet against much older athletes should be a great accomplishment in itself.

However, Robinson did more than just show up and compete. He took home a silver medal as part of the USA’s 4x400-meter relay team. The USA was heavily favored to win the gold medal in the 4x400, but the disappointment of not getting the gold was tempered by Robinson’s heroic act in the race to get his team in position to win the silver medal.

A bad exchange between the first and second runners Elija Godwin and Nicholas Ramey caused the baton to fall to the ground, which put the USA in a big hole behind several other countries. By the time Robinson got the baton for his third leg, the USA was back in seventh place with little hope for a medal.

What Robinson did next was almost unthinkable. He turned in a sizzling 44.7 second third leg to get the USA all the way back into second place. He flew by runners on the backstretch in a frenzied run to get his team back into medal contention.

In the moments after the race, Robinson expressed his gratitude about being able to compete on this world stage.

“I’m happy to be here and I’m happy for the team,” he said to the trackside correspondent. “I’m happy to get this far and get second at the U20 World Championships. I’m happy for everybody.”

Robinson’s coach, Sean Burris of the Gateway City United Athletics Club, called Robinson’s relay performance the “proudest moment of my entire coaching career.”

Said Burris, “After the baton fell, my heart sank to the ground. It’s very difficult to come back from a situation like that in international competition because everyone is more or less on the same level. But as soon as he took one step, I knew he was going for it. I heard people around me yelling out the split, but I wasn’t sure. I knew he had run a phenomenal leg. It just confirmed what we have been working towards all season. Justin handled himself like a pro athlete.”

I got up bright and early on Sunday morning to watch this race live on my computer. My utter shock and horror at watching a USA team drop a baton in yet another big world competition was quickly replaced with sheer excitement and city pride as I watched this teenager literally fly around the track in what was the best relay leg that I’ve ever seen from a St. Louis high school track and field athlete. And I’ve seen some great ones over the years. Young Justin took the cake with this one.

44.7 seconds.

At 16 years old.

My goodness.

Gerald Jones to Lutheran North

Lutheran North has tabbed Gerald Jones as its new head boys’ basketball coach. Jones comes over to North after a very successful run at Northwest Academy. In the past two seasons, Jones guided the Hornets to two consecutive Final Four berths in the Class 3 state tournament. In 2017, Northwest Academy made history by defeating Whitfield to give the school its first state championship in boys’ basketball.

St. Louis American Sports Director

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