Former Stanford All-American Sara Hall of Mammoth Lakes has been named USA Track & Field's Athlete of the Week after winning gold in the women's steeplechase at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Hall won the 3,000-meter steeplechase in a time of 10:03.16. She led through the first 1,000 meters of the race before defending champion and Pan American Games recordholder Sabine Heitling from Brazil moved into the lead.
Hall ran five meters behind in third place before retaking the lead for good with 500 meters remaining. She opened up a 10-meter lead over Columbia's Angela Figueroa after hurdling the final water jump, expanding the lead down the homestretch to win by 30 meters.
Hall's medal is not only the the first-ever steeplechase medal for an American woman at the Pan American Games, but also is the first in any major international competition.
"It was really exciting," Hall said of winning gold. "It's a dream come true to medal, be on top of the podium and hear the Star-Spangled Banner. It was just an amazing experience, and I hope it is a stepping stone to experience that at the Olympic level."
Hall will conclude her 2011 season this Saturday at the New York Road Runners Dash to the Finish Line 5k.
Now in its 10th year, USATF's Athlete of the Week program is designed to recognize outstanding performers at all levels of the sport. USATF names a new honoree each week and features the athlete on www.usatf.org. Selections are based on top performances and results from the previous week.