Update: DeLoach won the bronze medal with a jump of 22 feet, 7 1/4 inches.
FAIRBANKS — Janay DeLoach came from an Eielson High School track and field program that practices at another school. She also set a state record in the long jump, an event that often starts late in Interior Alaska because of the weather.
Today in London, she competes for the gold medal in the women’s long jump at the Summer Olympics.
The first-time Olympian and 2003 Eielson graduate produced the top mark in Group 2 and for the United States, and registered the second-best overall result in Tuesday’s qualifying heats at Olympic Stadium.
“I think it’s exciting for our students,” said Eielson athletic director Kelly Growden, who also coached DeLoach in girls basketball during her freshman through junior years. “It shows no matter where you come from, you still have the same opportunity as everyone else. She’s a great athlete who went to college and works hard.”
DeLoach needed only her first attempt to soar 22 feet, 4 1/4 inches and be among eight jumpers to advance to today’s final round, which is scheduled to start at 11:05 a.m. ADT.
“That was the plan, to do one and done so I can stay as fresh as I can so I can go for the gold (today),” DeLoach, 26, said in a USA Track and Field press release.
DeLoach was one of three Americans who advanced. Brittney Reese, of Gulport, Miss., was second for the U.S., and sixth overall at 21-6 3/4, and Chelsea Hayes, of New Orleans, earned the last spot in the finals after reaching 20-10 3/4.
Shara Proctor, of Olympics host Britain, posted the top qualifying mark of 22-5 and Turkey’s Karin Mey Melis was third overall at 22-3 3/4.
Tara DeVaughn, the secondary math content coach for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, just caught Tuesday’s broadcast of DeLoach’s qualifying attempt.
“It’s amazing. I know how talented she is and how hard she’s worked,” said DeVaughn, who coached DeLoach in girls basketball and was her Algebra II teacher during DeLoach’s senior year at Eielson.
“You feel you have a connection to the Olympics because you have pride for your country,” DeVaughn added. “Now you have a connection to her because you’re watching the Olympics and thinking, ‘I had that kid in my class.’ It’s awesome, and I’m excited to watch her (in the finals).”
Eielson’s track and field team practices at North Pole High School because it doesn’t have a full facility. There is only a dirt track at Buck Nystrom Field at Eielson High School.
The 11-mile trip for practices at North Pole didn’t bother DeLoach because she set the Alaska state girls long jump record of 19-5 during the 2003 state meet at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. The record still stands.
Long jump competition often begins halfway through the season for Interior athletes because the sand in the jumping pits hasn’t dried from the late winter conditions.
“It’s a pretty amazing story what’s she been able to accomplish,” Growden said.
DeLoach also earned NCAA Division I All-America honors in the 100-meter dash and long jump for Colorado State University in 2007 and is two-time defending U.S. indoor women’s long jump champion. She qualified for the Olympics by placing third in the U.S. Olympic Trials in June in
The Coloradoan of Fort Collins, Colo., contributed to this report. Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.