Pronghorns to be well represented at Pan Am Games

As Canada prepares to host the Pan American Games in Toronto, Pronghorn Athletics will be well represented with four former athletes and one current Pronghorn competing with the maple leaf on their chest.

The Pan Am Games will open July 10 with closing ceremonies wrapping the games up July 26. For full games information and results, visit the Toronto 2015 website.

Former Pronghorn track star Jim Steacy is a veteran of international competition.

Of the five people representing the Pronghorns at the Pan Am Games, three come from the Steacy family. Siblings Jim and Heather Steacy, as well as sister-in-law Ashley Steacy (nee: Patzer), will all compete under the family name, a true rarity in Canadian sport history. Aaron Hernandez and Kayla Moleschi round out the group of Pronghorns and former Pronghorns competing at the games.

For the first time, Rugby Sevens will make an appearance at the Pan Am Games and Ashley Steacy and Moleschi will play prominent roles for the Canadian side.

Steacy was one of the most decorated CIS women’s rugby players by the time she graduated from the U of L, winning three national championships and two CIS player of the year awards. This year, she was named the Canadian Sevens player of the year, and at the last stop of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, she was named to the overall series Dream Team.

“Pan Am’s will be my first multi-sport games and I'm very excited to get there and get a feeling for what the games are like,” says Steacy. “Women's 7s Rugby is new to the Pan Am Games so having the opportunity a year out from the Olympics to participate in a multi-sport games is going to be a big advantage to our team.”

Steacy says it's special to be competing in the same event with Jim and Heather.

“It’s pretty cool that my brother and sister-in-law will both be at the games, but unfortunately we will miss each other because of the timing of our sports," says Steacy. "I would love to stay and watch them throw but our team is travelling down to Rio to do a site visit leading into the Olympics next summer.”

While Moleschi only played one season for the Pronghorns, she had an immediate impact. Moleschi was named the Canada West Rookie of the Year and a CIS All-Canadian in her lone season and quickly earned the attention of the Canadian national program.

The Steacy siblings are no strangers to national team nominations, but say it is always an honour to represent their country.

“As an athlete, there is no greater feeling than being able to compete at a level where you can represent your country,” says two-time Olympian Jim Steacy.  “I am so proud to have been selected to compete for Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto this July; it will be particularly special to compete in the red & white in front of a home crowd.”

After starring at the University of Lethbridge, winning nine CIS gold medals and going undefeated throughout his university career in the weight throw, Jim has achieved national and international success. He represented Canada at the Beijing and London Olympics, is the Canadian record holder in the hammer throw and most recently won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

Sister Heather was also a star at the CIS level, winning four Canada West titles in the weight throw and four CIS medals (two gold, silver and bronze). She also is an Olympian, having joined her brother at the 2012 London Olympics.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be named to the Canadian team for the Pan American Games,” says the youngest Steacy. “The last time I competed for Team Canada was in 2013, and I was dealing with some injuries then. The past couple years have been challenging for a myriad of reasons, but this year has been filled with some changes that have been a big step in the right direction.”

Heather moved to Kamloops last fall and changed coaches – a move that has paid dividends with some great early season results.

“I was out in Victoria a couple weeks ago for a meet, and Ashley and I were able to meet up for dinner and chat about us all representing Canada at the same time and in the same event,” says Heather. “I think it’s a big deal that the rugby teams get to participate in Pan Am’s as a major multi-sport competition before their first go at the Olympics next year in Rio. It’s such a different atmosphere when you’re surrounded by not only athletes from other countries and cultures, but from completely different sports.”

Current Pronghorn Aaron Hernandez is enjoying his first senior team appointment through his participation at the Pan Am Games. Through two years of his university career, Hernandez has been nothing short of spectacular. He has won two national titles in the triple jump, been named the CIS Rookie of the Year, and this past year registered the second furthest jump in Canada West history.

“It's an unbelievable feeling to be nominated to compete for your country,” says Hernandez. “Ever since I started competing in track & field the goal has been to wear the Canada singlet. To be able to do it in front of a home crowd and at a huge event like this is just the cherry on top. Big thanks has to go out to my coach, Jaime Thomas, and coach Larry Steinke, my family and friends and all the support I have received lately. I wouldn't be here without everyone's dedication.”

“I am looking forward to competing against some of the best in the world, it will be a great learning opportunity and I'll be soaking up the atmosphere from the moment I get to athletes village to the day I compete, and through to the closing ceremonies. I can't wait!”

The city of Lethbridge as a whole will be represented well at the Pan Am Games with another eight athletes with Lethbridge connections participating in Toronto.

“I am so proud to represent Lethbridge and it is so awesome to have such a strong showing from our city!" concludes Ashley Steacy.