Out of deference to the red, white and blue, Miami Hurricane track star Shakima Wimbley refrained from flashing the orange-and-green U after winning the silver medal Thursday night in the 400 meters at the Pan American Games in Toronto.
But late Saturday night, after Wimbley runs the third leg of the women’s 1,600-meter final, don’t be surprised if she throws out that giant letter known by college sports fans around the nation – and in Canada.
“I don’t know if it’s OK to do that with the USA uniform on, but I’ll definitely do it at some point Saturday,’’ an ebullient Wimbley, 20, who placed second in 51.36 seconds, told the Miami Herald by phone just minutes after accepting her medal on Friday. “I definitely have to represent my school.’’
American teammate Kendall Baisden, a Texas Longhorn, won the gold in 51.27.
“I’m extremely happy I ended my season competing for my country and that I fought hard to get a medal,’’ Wimbley said. “The U.S. is known for having the best athletes, and for me to be chosen as one of the top two 400-meter runners out of all the states, means a lot. My hard work and my coach believing in me and being there every step of the way really paid off.
“This has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Pretty cool.’’
This past week, Wimbley, who grew up in Fort Lauderdale and graduated from Dillard High, has been representing the United States with UM director of track and field and cross-country Amy Deem by her side.
“The Pan Am is a great training ground,’’ Deem, who coached the U.S. women’s track and field team at the 2012 London Olympics, said by phone. “We had a world leader in the pole vault last night. It’s a great experience to live in the village, and it’s kind of a smaller version of the Olympic Games.
“I’m really proud of the way Shakima handled everything. She really stepped up last night and gained confidence from it. She didn’t run the first 200 meters like we wanted her to, but for the first time she said, ‘OK, I’m not where I need to be. I’m going after some people.’
“That, right there, is going to set her up really well for next year – a big year with the indoor and outdoor seasons and then the Olympic Trials July 1. She has a lot to build on from this meet.’’
The nearly 6-2, 147-pound Wimbley, who had the NCAA’s fastest 400-meter time of the season (50.84) before finishing fifth in the NCAA Outdoor Championships and eighth in the USA Championships, said a “really powerful finish’’ propelled her Thursday to the silver.
“I just dug deep and fought to the line,’’ said the All-American, about to begin her junior year at UM. “I really feel confident that the other three girls and I will get to bring home the gold Saturday, and I’m really excited.
“Each major meet helps me with my nerves and calms me down. We’re all human. Just go out there and do your best. You can’t do more and don’t do less.’’
Wimbley will return to South Florida on Sunday.
“I’ll go back, finish a class, then have a three-week summer break until school starts again,’’ she said. “It’s all fun to me.’’