Johnson, future Wildcats shine at Pan-Am Games

Aug. 2, 2009

The 2009 Pan-American Junior Championships wrapped up competition Sunday and several Wildcat faces saw time in the spotlight over the course of the weekend.  One current athlete, two future Wildcats and one coach were among those with ties to the UA track and field program that were involved in the bi-annual event held in Portn of Spain, Trinidad.

The Pan-American Junior Championships are held every two years and welcome some of the top talent under the age of 20 from around the world.  Through the years, athletes such as Carl Lewis, Jeremy Wariner and Usain Bolt have all seen competition at the event helping it to be regarded as the top places to find the future stars of the sport anywhere.

UA sophomore thrower Tyler Johnson started his journey by finishing third a month ago at the USA Junior Championships, making him the first alternate for the Pan-American Junior Championships.  With one athlete ahead of him not being able to make the trip, Johnson moved into the position to take his spot and lived up to the billing on the big stage.

Johnson made the best of his last throw of the meet, going 63.34m (207-9) to finish fifth place overall in the event. Cuba's Reinier Mejias Cabrera won the event with a huge throw of 78.38m (257-2), obliterating the former Pan-American Junior Record by over 22 feet.

Also in competition this weekend was future throwing recruit Julie Labonte, representing Canada.  Labonte took second in the women's shot put event with a best throw of 16.29m (53-5 1/2). 

Also of note is the fact that former UA Director of Operations Francesca Green is serving the US team as an assistant coach with the male sprinters.  Under her coaching, US sprinting corps put on quite a show.  In the 100-meters, Marcus Rowland set a Pan-American Junior Championship record and came close to a World Junior Record with his winning time of 10.03.  The time was the best junior time of 2009.  Fellow American D'Angelo Cherry finished second in the event in 10.17, a time that would have also been good enough to set the Pan-American record.

Green will also assume duties as the UA's sprinting coach this season, and her role as Director of Operations with be given to former sprinting assistant coach Dawn Boxley

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