Freshman Mike Berry brings home gold; Centrowitz earns bronze in 1,500

Though he didn't run in the final, Oregon's Mike Berry became the first Duck ever to win a gold medal at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships <--break->when the United States took the crown in the men's 4x400 meter relay Friday in Daegu, South Korea.

The American team of Greg Nixon, Bershawn Jackson, Angelo Taylor and LaShawn Merritt won in 2:59.31, holding off South Africa (2:59.86) and Jamaica (3:00.10).

Meanwhile, UO junior Matthew Centrowitz became the youngest American ever to medal in the 1,500 meters by running to the bronze in 3:36.08 Saturday.

Centrowitz, the U.S. champion, ran through the bell lap in the middle of the pack but never let the leaders completely break away. As the men rounded the final curve, Centrowitz unleashed a kick on the outside and moved into third place.

Berry received a gold medal because he ran the semifinals for Team USA on Thursday. In that race, the freshman from Seattle, Wash., timed an incredible 43.83 third leg, as the team of Nixon, Jamaal Torrance, Berry and Merritt ran a world-leading 2:58.82 to advance to the final.

Prior to Berry's gold, the best IAAF World performance by a current or former Duck man was Ashton Eaton's silver medal in the decathlon earlier in these championships. In 1995, UO sprinter Camara Jones was part of the women's 4X400 team that won the gold medal at the World Championships in Goteborg, Sweden.

Aside from those to medals, the last Duck male to stand on the podium was Joaquim Cruz, who won the bronze medal in the 800 meters for Brazil in 1983. Add in Galen Rupp's seventh place finish in the 10,000 meters last weekend, and three of Oregon's top four World Championships performances have come during the 2011 games.

Also Friday, former Duck Keshia Baker anchored the women's 4x400 meter relay team, which won its semifinal race in 3:23.57 to advance to Saturday's final.

"It was great, I was able to go out there stress free," Baker told USA Track & Field. "Just go out there and run my heart out and make sure I kept that lead and nothing happened. It was wonderful. It was a blessing."

Oregon alum Keshia Baker claimed a gold medal when the American 4x400 meter relay team won the world title in 3:18.09. Baker did not run in the final, but anchored Team USA's semifinal win on Friday.

Greg Walker