Former Wharton High track and field standout Teona Rodgers, who recently completed her freshman season at Florida State University, captured the gold medal in the women's 100-meter hurdles Saturday at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Running out of Lane 6, Rodgers was not the top seed in the final and was facing an all-star international field of women's hurdlers ages 19 and under. Rodgers and the seven other finalists were also dealing with a strong headwind of 2.4 meters per second during the race.
But Rodgers managed to overcome both the elements and the competition to post a winning time of 13.40 seconds, .08 ahead of silver medalist Shermaine Williams of Jamaica and .09 faster than Cuba's Beliks Milanes, who earned the bronze medal.
The stiff headwind likely prevented Rodgers from bettering her lifetime best of 13.33. By using a formula to calculate the effect of that headwind, Rodgers' 13.40 equates to an approximate time of 13.20.
Either way, Rodgers' former Wharton coach, Wes Newton, said Rodgers took a "huge leap" with her victory Saturday.
"For her career, that's a milestone and sets her at an entirely new level, maybe one that will set her on a path to an Olympic medal," Newton said. "You think about that. Teona just ran the equivalent of about 13.20 today and U.S. Olympic hurdler and Leto/USF product Damu Cherry never ran that fast in her entire college career."
Rodgers is the third American female to win an individual gold medal at the world junior meet, which ends today. After finishing seventh at the NCAA East Region meet, Rodgers was an at-large selection to the NCAA Championships. Once there, she reached the semifinals, where she ran 13.53. Although she didn't advance to the final, Rodgers was still among the top eight American competitors and earned All-America honors.
Reporter Bill Ward can be reached at (813) 259-7456