HELSINKI, Finland -- Fittingly, the last event of the world track and field championships went to the Americans.
The 1,600-meter relay team, anchored by 21-year-old Jeremy Wariner, raced to victory Sunday night, a record 14th gold medal for the United States in the nine-day competition.
"I was fortunate to have a great bunch of guys running with me," Wariner said. "Each leg put each other in a great position. Getting the stick around was our main goal."
The four carried a big U.S. flag in celebration, each waving smaller Finnish flags to show thanks to the near-capacity crowd.
Wariner was the right one to top off America's big show in Helsinki. Of all the rising young U.S. track stars, he is the most impressive.
In successive years, the smooth-running, soft-spoken Texan has won the 400 meters at the Olympics and the world championships, and has been part of the victorious 1,600-meter relay teams in both as well.
"I feel real confident," he said. "I came into this meet and ran a great open race, and a great relay. I can just improve from that over the rest of the year."
The team of Andrew Rock, Derrick Brew, Darold Williamson and Wariner won in 2 minutes, 56.91 seconds. The Bahamas was second at 2:57.32, followed by Jamaica in 2:58.07.
Miles Smith, who is heading into his junior year at Southeast Missouri State, ran the lead leg Saturday during the U.S. team's in the preliminary round. While he did not run the final, he received a gold medal as well.
The U.S. gold haul surpassed the previous record of 13 set at the 1993 world championships in Stuttgart, Germany. The Americans wound up with 25 medals overall, one shy of the record 26 they won at the 1991 worlds in Tokyo.
"Normally, you might have a letdown after an Olympic games," said Craig Masback, executive director of USA Track & Field. "But you had a group of young athletes that are so exuberant that they want to do better each year."
The relay provided the Americans with their only chance to shine on a gorgeous final evening of a meet often marred by rain and wind at the cozy, 40,000-seat Olympic Stadium, where the Helsinki Olympics were held in 1952.