DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA – Jesse Williams of the Oregon Track Club Elite struck gold on Thursday evening at the World Track & Field Championships in Daegu, capping a dominant performance in the men’s high jump, and a near-perfect day for the United States team, which added three gold medals to its total.
Williams, who lives and trains in Eugene, was near-perfect, as well, clearing five heights without a miss to take the win over Aleksey Dmitrik of Russia.
Williams and Dmitrik were the only jumpers to clear 7-8½, but it took Dmitrik two tries to get over the bar at that height. Williams cleared 7-8½ on his first attempt to claim the win. Neither jumper could clear the next height, 7-9¼.
Williams’ medal was the first in the high jump for the United States since Charles Austin won gold and Hollis Conway took bronze in Tokyo in 1991.
The 27-year-old North Carolina native said he was excited to bring the gold home to Oregon.
“It has been a long road, going from Raleigh (North Carolina) to North Carolina State to USC to Eugene, Oregon . . . To bring back the gold medal, Eugene is really going to embrace it. It’s really exciting to go back home.”
Williams lauded the OTC Elite program for its support, saying the gold medal “shows that it is the best elite (track) club in the world.”
Earlier in the evening session, UO senior Matthew Centrowitz made a masterful move with one lap to go to in his 1500 meters semifinal. That move helped him win the race and advance to the 1500 final on Saturday evening.
With just over 400 meters left, Centrowitz, who had led the tactical race early, found himself trapped on the rail. Leader Mekonnen Gebremedhin of Ethiopia moved slightly toward the outside of lane one, and Centrowitz surged through the tiny gap into the lead.
Once he was into the lead, Centrowitz matched the pace of each challenger and held on to win in 3:46.66.
After the race, Centrowitz explained his strategy.
“I looked outside to see if I could get out, but there was a pile of guys all the way to lane three. So I found a little opening . . . That was probably the only opening I would have found the rest of the race.”
The final of the 1500 meters will be Saturday evening at 8:15 pm (4:15 am in Oregon).