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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 2, 2011

Stanford grad hits big time

Camarena-Williams makes history with bronze medal at the World Championships

by Keith Peters

This has been quite a track-and-field season for Stanford graduate Jill Camarena-Williams, who has re-written the record book in the women's shot put.

Camarena-Williams established an American indoor record of 65-2 1/4 earlier this season and followed that by tying the U.S. outdoor mark of 66-2 1/2, first set by Ramona Pagel in 1988.

Camarena-Williams made some more history this week while becoming the first American medalist in the women's shot put at the World Track and Field Championships as she took the bronze medal on Monday in Daegu, South Korea.

Camarena-Williams, who lives in Tucson, Ariz., earned her medal with a mammoth put of 65-8 1/4 on her fourth attempt. That was her second-best performance ever, second only to her American record-tying mark. She currently holds the top three throws by an American this season and ranks No. 3 in the world.

"This is an incredible feeling!" Camarena-Williams said. "We knew that 20 meters was gonna place' we just didn't know how high. It's been a great season, and this tops it off!

The previous best finish by an American in the women's shot put at the World Championships was a fifth from now-head coach Connie Price-Smith in 1997.

"It was so close through all the rounds," Camarena-Williams said. "Everybody was passing each other.

"I think I was trying to do too much (in the first three rounds). I just told myself that this is a new set of throws in the finals, and I told myself just to slooooooowww down. I was trying to be a bat out of hell in the first three rounds, and when I try to speed up, it breaks down my technique. After the third round, I re-focused and got my 20 meters on my first one and held on. It has been an amazing season, a big builder going into next year."

Stanford grad Lauren Fleshman, meanwhile, helped make a little history while advancing to the finals of the women's 5,000 meters on Tuesday.

Fleshman, who now lives and trains in Eugene, Ore., joined with Amy Hastings to give the Americans more than one finalists in the event for only the second time in history. Both ran different races to qualify for Friday's finale.

Hastings moved positions throughout the first heat and took the lead with 1,000 meters remaining, but was unable to hold on and finished in sixth place in 15:29.49. Fleshman ran a very different race in the second heat and stayed towards the front of pack running in the third position through much of the race. Fleshman began her kick with 200 to go and was able to hold on for fourth in 15:34.04.

Fleshman qualified automatically while Hastings was able to qualify on time. American recordholder Molly Huddle was unable to qualify as she finished 10th in the second heat in a time of 15:42.00.

"It's hell out there," said Fleshman. "It's really hard to concentrate with all of those people and the sounds and the cameras and things are just different. There is a lot going on, and I'm really grateful that we have rounds in the 5K, just to get that all worked out. I didn't expect the jitters to get that bad when I walked on the track. I kept them under control pretty well till then, then I was like, 'Oh, God.'

"At 600 meters to go, my plan was, if we were all together, I was going to kick then. But they created a humongous blockade — like an intercontinental blockade. They were talking to each other, and I could believe that Bahrain, Ethiopia and Kenya were working together, so I was stuck.

"At 200 meters, I was like 'There are seven girls left' and I didn't know what was behind me. I thought if I get out around these people, I should at least be able to hold off a couple of them if they get me back. So, it was sort of like an all-or-nothing effort, and I'm glad it worked out. But it hurt really bad."

The Americans had their best night of the championships on Thursday with three gold medals during a 32-minute span.

Lashinda Demus started it off by setting an American record of 52.47 while winning the 400-meter hurdles. The time ranks her No. 3 all-time in the world as she erased Kim Batten's 52.61 from the top of the U.S. list.

Jesse Williams then ended a 20-year drought in the men's high jump by winning the gold medal with a leap of 7-8 1/2. He became the first American to medal in the event since Charles Austin and Hollis Conway won gold and bronze, respectively, at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo.

Less than 10 minutes later, Jenny Simpson of the USA was a surprise winner in the women's 1,500 meters in 4:05.40. She became only the second American to win the title since Mark Decker in 1983.

Team USA has won seven golds, four silvers and one bronze in the championships.

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