Alysia Johnson Montano shaved off more than two seconds from her 2010 world bronze medal-winning time Sunday, but it wasn’t quite enough to medal in the 2011 IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Johnson Montano, a 2004 Canyon High School standout who still holds Foothill League track records and went on to become the 2008 Pac-10 Women’s Track Athlete of the Year while at Cal, finished best among Americans Sunday in the 800-meter race.
But her time of 1:57.48 was a fraction of a second off the pace of Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei, whose 1:57.42 took bronze. Gold went to Mariya Savinova of Russia (1:55.87), followed by Caster Semenya of South Africa (1:56.35).
“What can I say, guys?” Johnson Montano Tweeted after the race. “Thank you, God, and thank you (fans) so much for your support. I raced my heart out.”
An all-grown-up Alysia Johnson Montano with her former Canyon High School track coach, George Velarde. (Photo courtesy of George Velarde.)
“I’m so proud of Alysia,” said George Velarde, who coached her in high school. “She has been training so hard for the World Championships. Placing fourth overall and being our top American is quite an accomplishment.”
Velarde, Paul Broneer and Dave Delong were Johnson Montano’s distance coaches at Canyon High from 2001-2004. Today, Velarde is the physical education department chair at Sierra Vista Junior High.
“Knowing Alysia, this will only continue to motivate her for the Olympic trials,” Velarde said.
The No. 2 American in Daegu on Sunday was Maggie Vessey of Seacliff, with a sixth-best time of 1:58.50.
The world record for women is 1:53.28, set in 1983 by Czech sprinter Jarmila Kratochvílová.
Johnson Montano’s fastest time in the 800, her best event, is 1:57.34, which she hit last summer in Monaco. A time of 1:59.60 gave her bronze in last year’s IAAF Championships in Doha, Qatar.
The reigning American in the women’s 800, Johnson Montano won last year’s USA Track and Field Championships with 1:58.33.
Famous for wearing a flower in her hair while running, Johnson Montano, 25, was born Alysia N. Johnson in 1986. In March she married her eighth-grade sweetheart, Louis Montano.