This past weekend the Commonwealth of Virginia, and more specifcally a select few athletes, proved it still was the place for quater milers. With three gold medalists in the 4x400 and another girl who helped the team qualify this was proven but doing. These elite athletes were Michael Cherry, Felecia Majors, Josephus Lyles, and Ricky Morgan.
When you sit down and think of the best states for Track & Field the ones that come to mind are California, Texas, Florida, and of course New York. But what many people overlook is the hotbed for 400m runners that Virginia is. Let's all take a look at just some of the many quarter milers that have come from the Old Dominion.
LaShawn, who is a multiple time gold medalist in the 400 and 4x400 is definitely one of the best 400m runners ever. He has run 43.74 in the quarter which ranks him in the rarified air of Michael Johnson's 43.18 world record. Merritt was also a state champion and still is the state record holder in the 400 at 45.24. LaShawn ran for Woodrow Wilson high school and then later for East Carolina University prior to running professionally. LaShawn is coming off a hiatus from running and looks to be in tip top shape for the coming Olympics.
Francena is not only one of the best quater milers from the state of Virginia but could be one of the best ever. She is a Bethel and Hampton University Alum and needless to say multiple time National (NCAA and HS) Champion. She too has anchored many gold medal winning relays including her part of the London Olympic 4x400 that almost broke the World Record. Individually however she is setting the bar very high as she has run 49.48 already this non-Olympic year. If she continues to hold this form she will enter the 2016 Olympics as the favorite for the gold medal. In high school she showed us a glimpse of that talent when she ran arguably the two most impressive races a Virginian has ever run, sorry Alan Webb. She ran a 36.96 300 at the Virginia Tech Invitational and a 51.93 400 at Nationals on a flat track. Both of these national records stand and bested Sanya Richards-Ross' scholastic records. She is also the American Record holder in the 400m indoors.
David is the perfect example of what it means to progress. He went from being just a runner-up at States (he never was a state champion) all the way to now being a world champion relay leg in the 4x400 this year. David ran for E.C. Glass and only had a high school best of 47.15. He has run much better and when he won the world championships, which he did so in World Record time, he ran a 45.46 split on an indoor track. He is five years younger then LaShawn Merritt so he will definitely be an athlete to watch in the coming Olympic years.
Michael, the oldest of the runners competing in the 4x400 at World Juniors definitely did not dissappoint. He ran a blazing 45.05 split to anchor his teammates to gold. Michael is a freshman at Florida State University where he is already showing just how good he is. He has quite the team too. Michael has run a best of 45.37 in the open 400 which he ran this year. His high school (Oscar Smith) best was 46.02 which is third all-time in Virginia. He was a state and national champion his senior year as well. Needless to say he is going places, fast.
Felecia Majors of course will go down in Va track history as being one of the few athletes truly able to win a state team title by herself. Felecia ran for South County high school and is now a rising sophomore at the University of Tennessee. She has a personal best of 52.65 in the 400 which she actually ran indoors. He high school best was not too far off that when she ran 53.61 to rank in the all-time best of Virginia. Felcia finished in an impressive fourth place at the World Juniors and ran a leg on the preliminary round 4x400.
Ricky Morgan, one of the two high schoolers to represent Virginia at World Juniors also ran a stellar leg on the gold medal winning 4x400m relay. Ricky is a graduate of Forest Park high school and has run 46.71 as a scholastic athlete. Ricky is also a state champion, he won the 500m state title for the 6A Classification this past winter when he ran 1:04.96 this season. Ricky is also a multiple time all-american and will be running for the University of Southern California this upcoming year to look to follow in the foot steps of Cal Poly standout Bryshon Nellum.
We may have saved the best for last on this list. Josephus Lyles, not to be confused with his insanely fast brother Noah, is quickly becoming one of the preiminent sprinters in the world. Josephys ran a blistering 46.23 (#5 All-Time in VA) to win the national title in the 400m at New Balance this year. The impressive thing is he did that out of lane 8. After fighting injuries all indoor season it was good to finally see him back in form and showing everyone what he can really do. Just remember with all of this, he is only a sophomore and will be a junior next year. If he makes any improvement, not a lot, he will go down as one of the most proliffic 400m runners the state has ever seen.
All these runners are very talented but they are just a sample of some of the great talent this state has. Western Branch for example came just a second off winning the 4x400 national title and will likely contend for it for the next two to three years. Our state is packed with great quater milers on both the boys and girls side and some other names to watch are Brandee' Johnson, Lauryn Ghee, Destiny Ward, and Faith Ross who not only have the time but also look poised to drop serious time off their already imrpessive marks.