By Tim Hipps, IMCOMNovember 2, 2011
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Nov. 2, 2011 -- Soldiers in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program represented the Army and nation well at the XVI Pan American Games Oct. 14 through 30 in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Three-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski won a gold medal in 10-meter air pistol and silver in 50-meter free pistol shooting.
A five-time Pan American Games competitor, Szarenski already held the event record for free pistol. This year, he added the Pan Am Games air pistol record to his resume by scoring 583 of a possible 600 qualification points.
"I hold both Pan Am records with both guns, but I don't know how many gold records I've won in each over the years," said Szarenski, 43, a multi-finalist at the Pan American and Olympic Games since 1995.
Sgt. Cody Nagengast, a 2004 Olympic fencer, combined with former Olympic teammates Seth Kelsey and Soren Thompson to win a gold medal in the men's epee team event in Guadalajara.
Maj. Michael Mai won the silver medal in the hammer throw with a hurl of 72.71 meters. Team USA's Kibwe Johnson took the gold with a Pan Am Games record throw of 79.63 meters.
"It is great for the U.S. to take first and second," Mai said. "I was definitely shooting for gold like anybody else. Some people took time off after the World Championships. I went right into a heavy cycle and then tapered off a bit. I'm not at my best shape for the whole year but I'm still close to a peak."
"Hopefully, I can take the momentum of this silver medal into next year," Mai said. "It's all about getting that 'A' standard to make the Olympic team. And with Kibwe being the only guy who has it right now, the field is wide open. My plan is to be one of those three guys on the team."
Mai's wife, Deirdre Mullen, finished fourth in the high jump at 1.84 meters.
"My wife took time off after nationals and she is really starting to come around after the wedding and moving out to California," Mai said. "She was out there cheering for me and she helped get me motivated before my last couple throws. It is always nice to have her there. She is a big reason where I am where I am. I can't say enough about her and me pushing each other to better and better performances."
Spc. Dennis Bowsher did not win a medal but did earn a quota spot for Team USA in men's modern pentathlon at the 2012 London Olympic Games with his fourth-place finish in Guadalajara.
Mexico's Oscar Soto won the gold, followed by silver medalist Andrei Gheorghe of Guatemala and bronze medalist Esteban Bustos of Chile.
"In the last 1,000 meters, I knew if the guy behind me passed me I wouldn't have the spot," said Bowsher, who moved from sixth to fourth place on the final event: the combined run and shoot. "So I was running to keep him off and I didn't realize how close I was until the last 100 meters, and that's when the Chilean runner just took off."
Team USA's Sam Sacksen moved from 13th to sixth during the final event and was closing on Bowsher, who finished 21 seconds behind Soto and 19 ahead of Sacksen.
"You always shoot for the top," Bowsher said. "Gold would have been nice. If shooting and fencing went a lot better I could have been on the podium, but I'm definitely happy with my finish."
Staff Sgt. Glenn Garrison won a bronze medal in Greco-Roman wrestling with a 1-0, 0-1, 1-0 victory over Ecuador's Vincente Huacon in the 66-kilogram/145.5-pound final.
"The final match against Ecuador was against a tough kid," U.S. coach Steve Fraser said. "It wasn't sexy, but Garrison did enough to win the medal. He should be proud of his bronze medal. We are."
Spc. Timothy Taylor finished eighth in the 120-kilogram/264.5-pound Greco-Roman division.
Three-time Pan American Games competitor Staff Sgt. John Nunn finished eighth in the men's 20-kilometer race walk with a time of 1 hour, 26 minutes, 30 seconds.
"I was hoping to go a little faster," said Nunn, who wanted a time between 1:24 and 1:25. "But the elite group went through the first lap just under eight minutes flat. That's a 1:20, and with 10 guys in that pack, there was no way to maintain that pace.
"I went through the first kilometer in four-flat and I realized at that point that's too fast, so I backed off a little bit and maintained a 4:15 pace for quite a while. Then the second half it was hard to stick. Everyone seemed to be slow. It might have been the altitude."
Sgt. John Franklin and Spc. Jeffrey Spencer were two of Team USA's final four boxers eliminated from the quarterfinals in Guadalajara. Franklin lost to Cuba's Robeisy Ramirez when the referee stopped their contest in the third round. Reigning world champion Julio de la Cruz of Cuba outscored Spencer, 19-2.
"Our plan was to stay low and box him," said Spencer, who had WCAP boxing coach Staff Sgt. Charles Leverette working his corner. "But after the first round, they had me down 1-7. It was my fault for not executing our game plan. It's a learning process. Everything that happens in boxing is a learning process."