Eric Van der Els, a rising sophomore at the University of Connecticut, scored a gold medal and set a meet record in the 1,500-meter run at the 2017 Pan American Junior Track and Field Championships on Sunday, July 23, in Trujillo, Peru.
A 2016 graduate of Brien McMahon High School, Van der Els captured the championship with a meet record time of 3:43.16, breaking the old mark of 3:45.72 set by Mike Woods of the United States in 2005.
Van der Els finished a little more than second ahead of Canada’s Kyle Madden, who crossed the line in 3:44.19. Cooper Teare of the U.S. was third in 3:46.46.
“I was kind of shocked, but really not that shocked because I’ve been working so hard all summer,” van der Els told John Nash of the Norwalk Hour. “Beating the meet record, that meant a lot more than I thought.”
Van der Els is a former FCIAC cross country champion, winning the conference final in Waveny Park in the fall of 2015. He also set Connecticut records in the 2016 Indoor New Balance Nationals (5K), and the 2016 Penn Relays (3K).
He earned a spot at the Pan Am meet by winning the 1,500-meter run at USATF Junior Nationals in Sacramento, Calif., last month. He finished that race in 3:46.84.