Olympic Trials Men’s 400 — Michael Norman Leads New Faces

Olympic rookies Michael Norman, Michael Cherry & Randolph Ross are off to Tokyo. (KEVIN MORRIS)

THE EVENT HAD A NEW, younger look this year, with no repeat finalists from ’16. In a closely contested final, Michael Norman pulled away from Michael Cherry in the closing strides to take the win in 44.07. Cherry improved his PR from May by 0.02 to take 2nd in 44.35, while NCAA champ Randolph Ross grabbed the final spot on the team with a 44.74.

In the opening round, LaShawn Merritt, Olympic gold medalist back in ’08 and twice a world champion, was the 16th and final qualifier to the semifinals a little more than a week before his 35th birthday. He couldn’t replicate that form in the following day’s semifinals, however, finishing a non-advancing 7th at 46.27.

Cherry led the way in the semis, taking the first section by 0.60 in 44.50 over Georgia soph Elija Godwin, who had missed making the NCAA final a week earlier. In the second, 23-year-old USC alum Norman previewed his tactics for the final, casually moving to the front with 50m to go to win in 44.73 over Ross (44.85).

The final found Norman charging out well over the opening 150, quickly breaking the stagger on Ross a lane to his outside. Cherry was lurking close behind and blazed the final turn to take a slight lead coming into the homestretch. Norman gradually moved in front and extended his lead over the final 40m for what turned out to be a comfortable margin of victory.

“There was no tomorrow; today was the day we just had to put it together,” said Norman, who failed to advance to the final of the ’19 WC after setting a PR 43.45 earlier that year. “Half the work is done now so now it’s just to move on up to the Olympics and seal the deal.”

Cherry, 26, had served WC relay duty in ’17 and ’19, but finally earned an individual berth. Being a lane inside of Norman gave him a target. “I feel like I’m always chasing him,” he said. “Just having him in front of me today was big. I knew that if I was somewhere in contention coming off the turn I could put myself in it and get on the podium.”

With limited time to recover from his NCAA win, North Carolina A&T soph Ross admitted that he didn’t feel as sharp as he’d hoped. He was far off the pace of his world-leading PR 43.86 from the previous week, but rallied impressively down the stretch. A distant 4th coming off the curve, he eventually overhauled Godwin in the final 50 to grab the final spot.

Ross, still just 20, follows in the Olympic footsteps of his dad, Duane. The elder Ross, head coach at NCA&T, ran the 110H at the ’04 Games and won the bronze at the ’99 Worlds. “To make the team on Father’s Day was a great experience and something we will cherish for the rest of our lives,” said the younger Ross, who still plans to finish his collegiate eligibility next year.

MEN’S 400 RESULTS

(June 20)

1. Michael Norman (Nik) 44.07;

2. Michael Cherry (Nik) 44.35 PR;

3. Randolph Ross (NCAT) 44.74;

4. Trevor Stewart (NCAT) 44.90;

5. Vernon Norwood (NBal) 44.92;

6. Elija Godwin (Ga) 44.94;

7. Bryce Deadmon (TxAM) 44.96;

8. Wil London (unat) 45.00.

(lanes: 2. Stewart; 3. Norwood; 4. Deadmon; 5. Godwin; 6. Cherry; 7. Norman; 8. Ross; 9. London)

(reaction times: Deadmon 0.177; Norman 0.178; Ross 0.184; Cherry 0.188; Godwin 0.196; Stewart 0.202; London 0.251; Norwood 0.307)

HEATS (June 18)

I–1. Stewart 44.75; 2. Noah Williams (LSU) 45.21; 3. Justin Robinson (GateC) 45.46; 4. Howard Fields (Bay) 46.00; 5. Michael Bluth (BYU) 46.05; 6. Marcus Chambers (unat) 46.30.

II–1. Cherry 44.86; 2. Ryan Willie (Fl) 45.34; 3. Deadmon 45.46; 4. Tyler Johnson (OhSt) 45.71; 5. LaShawn Merritt (Nik) 45.81; 6. Kahmari Montgomery (Nik) 45.85; 7. Gil Roberts (unat) 49.96.

III–1. Godwin 44.81; 2. Norman 45.18; 3. Nathan Strother (adi) 45.44; 4. Tyler Terry (LSU) 45.56; 5. Jacory Patterson (unat) 45.61; 6. Myles Pringle (unat) 46.18; 7. Chris Bailey (Tn) 46.29.

IV–1. London 45.46; 2. Norwood 45.46; 3. Ross 45.61; 4. Aldrich Bailey (unat) 46.03; 5. Jonathon Sawyer (SEnLa) 46.39; 6. Johnnie Blockburger (Az) 46.75.

SEMIS (June 19)

I–1. Cherry 44.50; 2. Godwin 45.10; 3. Deadmon 45.17; 4. Willie 45.40; 5. Robinson 45.41; 6. Patterson 45.68; 7. Williams 45.73; 8. Johnson 45.78.

II–1. Norman 44.73; 2. Ross 44.85; 3. London 44.92; 4. Stewart 45.05; 5. Norwood 45.12; 6. Terry 45.84; 7. Merritt 46.27; 8. Strother 47.37.

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