BARCELONA, Spain - Just two days after becoming LSU's first sprint medalist at the IAAF World Junior Championships with his silver-medal winning run in the 100-meter dash on Wednesday, freshman Aaron Ernest completed the sprint silver sweep with his runner-up finish in the 200-meter dash on Friday night in the final event at Barcelona's Olympic Stadium.
After running three rounds in the 100 meters on Tuesday and Wednesday, a weary Ernest made his return to the track Thursday for two qualifying rounds in the 200 meters as he drew lane No. 9 in the final with a run of 21.06 seconds as the sixth-fastest qualifier in the semifinal round.
And as the sprinters fired out of the blocks in Friday's championship final, Ernest certainly seemed out of contention while running last in eighth place of the eighth competitors coming off the turn and making the sprint down the straightaway. Jamaica's Julian Forte in lane No. 7 and USA's Tyreek Hill in lane No. 8 appeared to take control of the race off the turn while running to the inside of Ernest.
But Ernest found another gear while closing strong over the final 50 meters of the race as he climbed back into contention and surged past his competition in the race to the finish line.
Forte held a strong two-meter lead and appeared to be a lock for the gold medal, but pulled up with nearly 30 meters to go with an apparent leg injury. Hill also broke form in the final moments to allow Ernest and Delano Williams of Turks & Caicos to claim the top two spots on the medal podium.
Williams made history as the first World Junior champion for the tiny Caribbean nation as he recorded his national junior record in winning the gold medal in 20.48. Ernest closed with his personal best of 20.53 to capture his second sprint silver medal of the week, while Hill dove across the finish line to capture bronze in 20.54. Poland's Karol Zalewski also ran 20.54 for fourth place in a photo finish with Hill for the bronze medal.
"It's crazy. I feel great because I've been feeling bad and this was my sixth race of the week," Ernest said. "That last 50 meters was all guts. My leg felt bad, my arm felt bad. I just had to run with all heart. I didn't know I was that far behind on the turn. I was kind of running blind tonight. My goal was to not use up too much of my power on the curve because of the wind and save it all for the straight."
With his performance, Ernest eclipsed his previous personal record of 20.54 that he set May 26 during the NCAA quarterfinal at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds in Jacksonville, Fla.
This week has been history in the making for Ernest as the Tiger freshman is now the program's first two-time medalist at the IAAF World Junior Championships as the double silver medalist this year in both the 100 meters and 200 meters. He matched his PR with a time of 10.17 in Wednesday's 100-meter final.
"I'm feeling fine. I've got to give all the credit to the LSU coaching staff," Ernest said. "I've been training hard, and I'm in the best shape of my life. Coming here and getting two silver medals means I still need to work hard and get ready for next year. Hopefully, I have one more race in me tomorrow."
Ernest will now look to make it a perfect 3-for-3 with medals in each of his events on Saturday as he lines up in the men's 4x100-meter relay final at 2:50 p.m. CT as the leader of the gold-medal favorites from the United States. Despite not lining up for Team USA in Friday's qualifying round, both Ernest and Hill will surely join the foursome in the final after the United States ran the fourth-fastest prelim time.
The United States won the second of three qualifying heats in the 4x100-meter relay on Friday evening as the team of Cameron Burrell, Aldrich Bailey, Arman Hall and Arthur Delaney clocked 39.25 ahead of the second-place time of 39.48 by the foursome from The Bahamas in the heat.