A weekend spent in Des Moines, Iowa turned out pretty special for several former Stanford athletes and Olympians.
Erica McLain, Jillian Camarena and Lauren Fleshman each collected a gold medal at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium while Russell Brown, Garrett Heath, Ian Dobson and Sara (Bei) Hall each reached the finals of their respective events.
Cardinal grad Lindsay Allen also earned a medal, finishing third in the 3,000 steeplechase in 9:59.19 on Sunday while Brown was sixth in the 1,500 with a time of 3:52.20 and Heath went 3:52.80, finishing 10th.
Stanford sophomore Karynn Dunn took home the Junior National title in the girls' long jump.
The 24-year-old McLain recorded her winning mark of 46-6 1/4 (wind-aided) on her first attempt, and then fouled four times. Her final jump of 46-5 1/4 is the best legal mark of the season by an American and matched her personal best.
"My goal coming in was definitely American record," McLain said. "It was a little hard, I'm pretty sure my second jump probably was it; maybe a couple jumps in there too where I fouled by a toenail. So I was little upset there at the end. But it's the most courageous performance I think I ever had."
McLain won her second USA Outdoor title and set a Drake Stadium record in dominating the competition. She won in 2005, finished second at the 2009 USA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, and finished third in 2007 and 2008.
Fleshman won the second U.S. 5,000 title of her career when she crossed the finish line first in 15:27.70 on Friday at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
"With 200 to go I was dying," Fleshman said. "I probably wasn't looking so good. I don't want to see the video on that one. At that point, I was just like, 'Don't think about anything but the next step. Think about the finish line and I'll do that thing where you wobble and fall over before you get there.'"
Fleshman, who first won this event in 2006, and has been ranked in the Top Ten in the U.S. every year from 2002 to 2008, held off runner-up and four-time Big East Outdoor champion Molly Huddle (15:30.89) for the win.
"Oh my gosh, if you'd have talked to me 12 months ago, I was ready to open up a shoe store or something else - maybe move to another state," Fleshman said. "I was very frustrated and if I didn't have Coach Rowland and the Oregon Track Club, I don't know if I would have made it back. I definitely wouldn't have been national champion this quickly. So I'm just full of gratitude for my situation."
Olympic and 2009 World Outdoor Championships finalist Jenny Barringer, who won this event last year, finished third in 15:33.33.
Fleshman was a 15-time All-American and 5-time NCAA champion while at Stanford.
"This was so sweet," she said. "I mean, I don't know how else to put it. Especially coming into today and the mental side of it that I'm racing against people who haven't had any time off and that can really mess with your head. I was sitting around on my sofa and going, 'Can I run four miles today?' You spend so many months thinking 'I'm on the comeback' and then at one point you just have to go, 'You know what, I'm here.'"
Camarena produced her championship throw during the fifth round.
"You know I've been training really well and I knew if I just made a couple tweaks from the first three, I could get a big one and that's what I really focused on in that fifth round one," Camarena said. "I've been really consistent this outdoor season and just having bigger marks, and I just think really good things are to come in the next few weeks."
The six-time defending USA Indoor champion in the event, Camarena succeeded in winning her second outdoor title, and first since 2006, after finishing second in two of the three previous years. Her winning heave of 62-9 1/4 was more than two inches further than second-place Michelle Carter, a Cal grad.
Camarena, who owns the third-best shot put all-time, was sixth in the world indoors this season, and will be looking to improve on last year's 23rd-place finish at the outdoor world championships.
Camarena qualified for her first Olympic team in the shot put with her third-place finish at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. It was Camarena's first competition of the 2008 outdoor season and came less than three months after she had back surgery to repair a herniated disc.
Dunn won the junior long jump with a mark of 20-4 1/2. She overtook early leader Andrea Geubelle, of Kansas, who went 20-4 1.4 on her first attempt and held that lead through four rounds. Dunn recorded the winning mark on her fifth attempt.
"My first jump, I actually ended up with a new personal record for the season, with 6 meters even," Dunn said. "That wasn't that great, but it kept me in second until the finals. I consistently jumped around 6 meters."
Hall finished ninth in the women's 1,500 with a time of 4:17.87. Olympian Anna Pierce won the race in 4:13.65. Dobson finished eighth in the men's 5,000 with a time of 14:03.53.
The USA Outdoor Championships are the third stop of the USATF Outdoor Visa Championship Series, which concludes July 3 with the Nike Prefontaine Classic from historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.