Olympics: Ex-Cal star Alysia Montano wins first-round 800m heat; she goes in semifinals Thursday

Cal grad Alysia (Johnson) Montano went out fast — as she usually does — and held on to win her first-round heat in the 800 meters at the London Olympics.

Montano will run in the semifinal round Thursday, where her heat includes eight runners who have broken 2 minutes and two — Janeth Jepkosgei of  Kenya and Caster Semenya of South Africa — who boast faster personal bests than Montano. On the other hand, Montano beat Semenya in Wednesday’s opening round.

Her race goes off at 11:30 a.m. PDT.


Track and field: Cal’s Deborah Maier honored

Cal’s Deborah Maier, the NCAA runnerup in indoor 3,000 and 5,000 meters, was named the 2012 National Scholar-Athlete of the Year for indoor track and field by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Maier, a political science major, sports a 3.82 grade-point average. She also placed 11th at the NCAA cross country championships as a junior last fall, the best showing by a Cal runner in 24 years.


Olympics: In ’48, a remarkable Cal man won the pole vault at the London Olympics

He had completed his education at Cal six years earlier, was married, had a child and had flown cargo missions from India into China over the “Hump” of the Himalayas during World War II.

But Guinn Smith still had the skill and toughness necessary to win an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault in a rain storm at the 1948 London Games.

Here’s his story.


Track: Ex-Bear Montano 3rd at Monaco meet

Alysia Montano, in her final tuneup before the London Olympics, ran third today in the 800 meters at the Herculis Diamond League meet in Monaco.

The former Cal star ran 1:59.05, well off her season and personal bests.

Russian Yelena Kofanova won the race in 1:58.41 and Burundi’s Franchine Niyonsaba was second with a national record of 1:58.68. South Africa’s Caster Semenya, projected as an Olympic silver medalist by Track and Field News, placed ninth in 2:01.67.


Track and field: Ex-Cal star Montano on Oly team

Former Cal star Alysia (Johnson) Montano earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic track team with a victory in the 800 meters at the trials in Eugene, Ore.

Montano took the lead from the start and won wire-to-wire in a time of 1:59.08. Gina Gall was second at 1:59.24 and Alice Schmidt third at 1:59.48.

Montano, a 2008 Cal grad, earned her fourth national title in the event — and her most important one. She’s going to London.

Montano made the team four years after suffering a foot injury at the trials.

“I’m super-duper elated,” Montano said. “Four years ago I was lying on this track after the first round. My whole mentality is to be brave and have heart. When I’m out there giving it my everything, I’m prepared to run a really, really fast time.”

Meanwhile, ex-Cal star Ed Wright gave the favorites a scare in the high jump before finishing fifth at 7 feet, 4 1/2 inches.

Cal senior Deborah Maier and 38-year-old Cal grad Magdalena Lewy Boulet, a 2008 Olympic marathoner, both advanced to the final of the women’s 5,000. Maier was fifth in her semifinal heat in 1n a school-record time of 15:43.43 and Lewy Boulet was seventh in the second heat at 15:51.73.

Cal alum Tracey Stewart wound up sixth in the triple jump final with a best mark of  43-2 1/2.



Track and field: Maier third at NCAA meet

Cal junior Deborah Maier placed third in the 10,000 meter-run at the NCAA track and field championships at Des Moines, Iowa.

Maier, who earlier this year recorded the No. 3 all-time collegiate mark in the event, crossed in 32 minutes, 47.20 seconds. Her finishing spot matches the highest by a Cal woman in the 10,000 at the NCAA meet.

Meanwhile, freshman Harrison Steed finished eighth in the high jump with a Cal career high clearance of 7 feet, 2 1/2 inches. Theh highest-placing freshman in the event, Steed moved to No. 9 on Cal’s all-time high jump list.




Track and field: Ex-Bear David Torrence races to USA-leading mile at Prefontaine Classic

David Torrence, who five years ago broke a 50-year-old Cal record in the mile, ran a personal-best time of 3 minutes, 52.01 seconds at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., climbing to the top of the 2012 U.S. leaders list.

Torrence finished just ninth in the super-quick field, topped by Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop in 3:49.40. How fast was the race? The first 10 finishers now rank 1 through 10 on the world season list.

Torrence’s time also moves him to No. 18 on the all-time U.S. list.

More importantly, he beat all of the top American runners he will face in three weeks at Eugene in the U.S. Olympic trials. Leonel Manzano finished 12th, Bernard Lagat 14th, Lopez Lomong 15th and Andrew Wheating 16th.

A top-3 finish at the trials will earn Torrence a spot at the London Olympics.


Track and field: Ex-Cal star Montano blazes at Pre

Cal grad Alysia Montano (Alysia Johnson before being married in 2011) ran the second-fastest time in the world this season to win the 800 meters at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore.

On the same Hayward Field track where she will compete at the Olympic trials in three weeks, Montano ran 1 minute, 57.37 seconds in her season debut in the rain to beat the best American runners by a decisive margin of almost 2 seconds.

Her time was a Pre Classic record and a track record at a facility that has known some fast times.

“I feel great. It was a really nice run. I am so excited of things to come. I feel great about where things are at right now,” Montano said. “I actually appreciated the fact that it did rain. It’s just like London weather. I have so much motivation right now.”

Her mark was just .03 seconds off her two-year-old personal best and ranks her No. 2 in the world for 2012, behind only Kenya’s Pamela Jelimo (1:56.94).


Track and field: Two Bears qualify for NCAA finals

Cal’s Chase Wheeler and Deborah Maier qualified for the NCAA Championships with performances Thursday at the NCAA West Preliminary meet in Austin, Texas.

Wheeler had a wind-aided long jump mark of 25 feet, 2 3/4 inches to finish 11th.

Maier easily advanced to the NCAA finals in the 10,000 meters, running fifth in a field of 48 with a time of 33 minutes, 59.90 seconds. Earlier this season, the junior ran the third-fastest 10K time ever by a collegiate runner, clocking 32:12.47.

The West prelims meet continues through Saturday with athletes vying for spots at the NCAA Championships, June 6-9 at Des Moines, Iowa.