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Diane Cummins Wins 800m at 2007 Pan Am Games
by Robert Johnson

July 24, 2007- The women's 800 meters at the 2007 Pan Am Games featured a stacked field with six women with personal bests under 2:00 entered.  The women's final did not disappoint.

Competing in her first major international competition, Cal's Alysia Johnson,  the 2007 NCAA indoor and outdoor champ as well as USATF outdoor champ, took the race out hard as is her custom.  She may have been a bit excited as the early splits were 27 low at 200 and roughly 42.2 at 300. At 300, Johnson and Guyana's Marian Burnett looked like they were pressing a bit as they were 2-3 meters clear of the field led by Brazil's Josiane Tito, who was followed closely by Canada's Diane Cummins. At the bell (57.97 official), Johnson and Burnett were still 1-2 but Cummins and the rest of the field had closed the gap.

Just after Johnson passed 500 (1:13.7 approx), Cummins took the lead. At 600 (1:29.20 official), Cummins still had the lead but was followed closely by Burnett and Jamaica's Ysanne Williams as 7 of the 8 runners were still closely bunched and in contention. Williams would soon fade but coming into the homestretch Burnett was still on right behind Cummins as the two were in a great duel.  The two remained tightly bunched halfway down the homestretch before Burnett cracked and started to fade. As Burnett faded, Colombia's Rosibel Garcia Mena moved up into 2nd but never seriously challenged Cummins who held on for a well deserved victory in 1:59.75. Garcia Mena got the silver in 2:00.02 as Cuba's  Zulia Calatayud nipped Burnett in cruel fashion just before the line for the bronze in 2:00.34 to Burnett's 2:00.40.

Johnson, who led the first 500 but had faded to 6th by 600, ended up 6th in 2:02.57.  Johnson tried to rally with 150 to go,  but it was clear she didn't have enough in the tank to wage an epic comeback although getting cut off with 100 to go certainly didn't help her cause. In the final today, Johnson certainly looked a bit off and looked like one who might reasonable be tired since she's been racing at a very high level since February. Of course, her fade today could just as easily have been the result of the hot early pace.  Let's hope so.

Time will telll. We'll certainly find out in Osaka.

(To read a nice pre Pan-Am Games article on Johnson, please click here)

After the race, Cummins admitted that taking the lead with 300 left in a fast race certainly wasn't in keeping with her pre-race plan.  She said she'd normally only take the lead that far out if the pace was slow.

Full Results - Women's 800 Meter Final - 2007 Pan Am Games
1 203 CUMMINS Diane CAN 19 JAN 1974 6 1:59.75 SB
2 271 GARCIA MENA Rosibel COL 13 FEB 1981 8 2:00.02 SB
3 319 CALATAYUD Zulia CUB 9 NOV 1979 2 2:00.34 SB
4 406 BURNETT Marian GUY 22 FEB 1976 4 2:00.40
5 181 TITO Josiane BRA 8 AUG 1979 3 2:01.41
6 677 JOHNSON Alysia USA 23 APR 1986 5 2:02.57
7 479 WILLIAMS Ysanne JAM 25 SEP 1980 1 2:03.18
8 606 de LEON Melissa TRI 7 APR 1981 7 2:03.63

Intermediate Times: 400m 57.97 677 JOHNSON Alysia (USA)

For those of you with access to ESPN Deportes, we highly recommend the coverage. They seemingly show all of the track races including the prelims (we're not 100% certain as our Directv was misbehaving up until today).  On Wednesday, the key distant action will be the men's 1500 final. The lone American in the race is USA 5th placer Andrew McClary. McClary used to run at Cal but transferred to Arkansas under famed coach John McDonnell, where he redshirted this year.  

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