FAIRBANKS — Janay DeLoach’s Twitter account on Wednesday included congratulations from a United States senator and a famous rapper. The surprise tweets arrived after the 2003 Eielson High School graduate earned a track and field medal in the London Summer Olympics.
DeLoach captured the bronze medal with a third-place finish in the women’s long jump on Wednesday at Olympic Stadium. The first-time Olympian leaped 22 feet, 7 1/4 inches and just barely made it to the medals podium.
DeLoach finished just one centimeter, or 0.39 inches, ahead of fourth-place jumper Ineta Radevica, of Latvia.
Consistency was a goal of DeLoach for the eight-jumper final after she posted the second-best mark and led the Americans in Tuesday’s qualifying round, reaching 22-4 1/4.
“It was a matter of just getting on the board and doing what you can and trying to be consistent, and that was what happened,” DeLoach said Wednesday in a USA Track and Field press release.
“I was consistent, and I wasn’t consistently the best, but it got me the bronze,” DeLoach said. “Words cannot describe how I feel right now; I’m on Cloud 9. I felt so good that I was able to barely get that bronze medal, but barely is a bronze medal.
“It doesn’t even matter. I got that centimeter and got my bronze medal.”
American teammate Brittney Reese won the gold medal at 23-4 1/4, and Russia’s Elena Sokolova took the silver medal with runner-up effort of 23-2 1/2.
Eielson athletic director Kelly Growden hopes it isn’t the only time that the 26-year-old DeLoach has an Olympic medal placed her around her neck.
“I thought it was terrific,” said Growden, who followed the event online Wednesday. “I hope she’ll be back a couple of more of times. I’ve watched (the Olympics) and some of these (track and field) women are in their 30’s.”
DeLoach’s Twitter account Wednesday included a notation from Colorado State University that she was the first former Rams athlete to win an Olympic track and field medal. DeLoach garnered NCAA Division I All-America honors for Colorado State in the 100-meter dash and long jump in 2007. She now lives in Fort Collins, Colo., where her alma mater is located.
DeLoach also is the two-time defending U.S. indoor women’s long jump champion and current Colorado State assistant coach Tim Cawley helped her gain the 2011 indoor title.
DeLoach’s Twitter account also contained congratulatory comments from U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and rapper Lil’ Wayne.
“So proud of all 4 former Alaskans in the Olympics! Janay DeLoach from Fairbanks just won the bronze in the long jump,” Murkowski wrote.
Lil’ Wayne composed, “All luv to Brittney Reese and Janay DeLoach!!!”
DeLoach’s achievement marks three medals among the four athletes in this year’s Olympics who are either from Alaska or have connections to the 49th State.
Jamie Gray, who was known as Jamie Beyerle when she competed for the Alaska Nanooks rifle team from 2002-06, won the gold Saturday in the women’s 50-meter three-position event.
On Monday, former Nanooks teammate Matt Emmons gained the bronze in the men’s 50-M three-position match. Emmons, a Nanook from 2001-04, claimed gold in the 50-M prone event in 2004 in Athens, Greece, and garnered silver in the same event in 2008 in Beijing.
Eagle River’s Corey Cogdell placed 11th Saturday in women’s trap shooting. Cogdell collected the bronze medal in 2008.
DeLoach’s medal also marks the 21st won by Olympic athletes with connections to Alaska, and her accomplishment may make Eielson the only high school in the state with three former students who became Olympic medalists.
Sherri Howard and her sister Denean went to school there when their father was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in the 1970s. They later transferred Norton Air Force Base near San Bernardino, Calif.
Sherri and Denean were members of the 1984 Olympic gold medal 4x100 relay team in Los Angeles. They also teamed up for the silver medal in the 4x100 at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
DeLoach still holds the Alaska high school girls long jump state record of 19-5 that she set at the 2003 state meet at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.
DeLoach’s state record created a buzz throughout Eielson that proved to be prophetic.
“I remember people at Eielson and the coaching staff saying to ourselves that someday we’ll probably see her in the Olympics,” Growden recalled. “I think everyone who watched her thought that would be a real possibility.”
Growden coached DeLoach in girls basketball at Eielson from her freshman to junior years.
News-Miner sports editor Bob Eley, the Anchorage Daily News, the Denver Post and the Loveland (Colo.) Reporter-Herald contributed to this report. Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.