July 21, 2002
Kingston, Jamaica – A Gamecock fan couldn’t have written a better ending to what will go down in the history books as one of the best meets ever. In the final two events of the World Junior Track Championships Sunday night, three Gamecocks and two Gamecock signees each won gold medals with their respective 4x400m relays.
The crowd of over 34,000 (and many in standing room only) cheered their hearts out.
USC brought home six medals (9 total with relay golds included) – the best showing ever for USC at an international competition. In fact, if USC was competing as a country, they would have finished sixth in the team medal standing. All told, USC came home with a world junior record, an American junior record, a world best in 2002 and a suitcase full of great memories.
The USA gold medal winning women’s 4x400m relay was paced by USC’s Tiffany Ross (Miami, Fla.) and Lashinda Demus (Palmdale, Calif.), who ran the third and fourth legs respectively. The team’s time of 3:29.95 was an American junior record.
“For it to be the last race, it felt good. I could have gone faster but I got boxed in. I can’t ask for more than a gold medal with this relay though,” said Demus, who earlier in the competition set a world junior record in winning the 400m hurdles. On getting the baton from USC teammate Ross: “When I looked at her face coming in, I knew I had to run good. She worked hard. The crowd was so exciting. They were going crazy. I couldn’t have written it better – this week was perfect.”
“I was happy I got to contribute to the team tonight. I wanted to get the stick around to Lashinda. We all wanted it,” said Ross. “I was going on what Coach Frye told me – not to bust my tail too hard (because of her injured hamstring) but to get the stick in in good position so Lashinda could go for the win. I ran the best I could. It was exciting to get the hand-off to Lashinda. It was a great moment for all of us. I thank God for that. I had a good freshman year – I improved tremendously and I thank Coach Frye. I am a world champion and I thank God for that.”
The USA gold medal winning men’s 4x400m relay team was paced by USC’s Jon Fortenberry (Marietta, Ga.), who ran the anchor leg. Signee Kenneth Ferguson (Detroit, Mich.) ran the lead-off leg and another signee, Bershawn Jackson (Miami, Fla.), ran the third leg in the semi-finals. The USA’s time was 3:03.71.
“I was soooo excited to see Jon run,” said Ross, who was waiting the awards ceremony for her own relay gold. “He held off the Jamaican and he did good. I am so proud of him, Kenneth and Bershawn. Wow.”
“I saw Lashinda anchor her team to win a win so I knew I had to win too,” said Fortenberry. “All the gold medals the Gamecocks won tonight – it show’s you how good the school really is. Coach Frye has done a wonderful job with both team’s this year and with us at this meet. It’s really incredible. I got the stick in first place and I knew I had to finish first. I am thrilled.”
Ferguson was asked, did you think would go back to Detroit with a gold and silver? “I am so proud to represent the USA in such a manner,” said Ferguson. “With Bershawn’s great run, he came over and prayed with us before the race and it was good. I am thrilled I was able to get up on the victory stand and hear the national anthem be placed. I can’t wait to be a Gamecock.”
Earlier in the night, Gamecock signee Kenneth Ferguson was fifth in the men’s 110m hurdles with a time of 13.91.