The Cal alumni medal haul at the 2015 Pan American Games continues to grow, as former Bear and track and field star Alysia Montano captured silver and gold in Toronto.
Montano began her journey to the podium Tuesday by finishing second in the 800-meter semifinal with a 2:02.95. She placed behind Brazil’s Flavia De Lima, who finished with a 2:02.39, and ahead of Canada’s Jessica Smith, who came in at 2:03.34.
The Cal alumna followed up her fine form the next day in the 800-meter final, where she finished ahead of De Lima. In spite of a three-second improvement from her finish in the semis, Montano’s time of 1:59.76 didn’t quite warrant the top honor. Instead, she settled for second place because first place went to Canada’s Melissa Bishop, who claimed the gold medal for her country with a 1:59.62. In the process, Montano, the only female 2015 U.S. Champion competing in Canada, almost recorded a new season best but fell a mere fraction of a second short of besting the 1:59.15 she ran in Eugene, Oregon.
Almost as if her silver medal served as a precursor to what she would accomplish later on at the tournament, her defining moment came into fruition with her role on Team USA. The former Bear helped the United States get off to an impressive start Friday in the 4×400-meter relay semifinal with an opening leg of 51.15, which led to a 3:26.40 first-place finish — almost four seconds better than Jamaica’s and Canada’s results. The alumna capped off her campaign Saturday by helping the United States win gold in the final, running the opening leg in 50.83 en route to a 3:25.68 finish. The United States claimed the top spot by again outrunning Jamaica and Canada, which both finished nearly two seconds behind the Americans.
The former Bear added the gold medal to her personal list of accolades, which include appearances at the London 2012 Olympic Games, 2011 and 2013 IAAF World Championships, and the 2010 Indoor World Championships, where she placed third in the 800-meter.
Another former Bear, David Torrence, competed alongside Montano and won a silver medal. Torrence captured his first medal as an individual on the international level for USA Track and Field by placing second in the 5,000-meter final with a time of 13:46.60, only .13 behind Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios.
The two medalists were joined at the tournament by Cal alumnus Ray Stewart, who ran in lane No. 5 in the second of three heats in the 110-meter hurdles, where he finished fourth by running 13.62 — less than one-tenth of a second short of a spot in the finals. The alumnus finished 11th overall in his first appearance at the Pan American Games.
Stewart did not end his maiden voyage at the tournament like he might have hoped, but he will likely come home with a better understanding of the aspects of his game that he needs to address.
He is currently 26 years old, which means he still has time to improve his craft and make another Pan American Games appearance.
Although all three former Bears experienced distinct levels of success at the Pan American Games, they will both be coming back stateside with a sense of pride, knowing that they had the opportunity to represent their country and compete against some of the best runners the Americas have to offer.