Competition Heats up at 2008 U.S. Paralympics Team Trials – Track & Field; Team Nomination to be Announced Sunday, June 15TEMPE, Ariz. - Twenty-four hours from now, 44 athletes will know their plans for September; the nomination for the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Track & Field team that will compete in Beijing, China will be announced.
Competition at the event has been tight, with approximately 200 athletes from around the world competing. At stake? Forty-four slots on the U.S. Team and well over 100 U.S. athletes vying for them.
Highlight performances of the day featured some of the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Team "usual suspects," including Joshua George (Champaign, Ill.) in the men's T53 400m with a time of 50.58. Behind George, in third position, was Adam Bleakney (Urbana, Ill.) in 52.39.
Jessica Galli (Savoy, Ill.) bested the field in the women's T53 400m with a final of 57.91. She was followed by Cheri Blauwet (Menlo Park, Calif.) in 59.35 and Anjali Forber-Pratt (Urbana, Ill.) in 1:00.11.
Galli, who's already raced in the 100, 200, 400 and 800m, still has the 1,500m to go. She said the Arizona State University track is fast and definitely comparable to the one athletes will be racing on in Beijing come September. Galli knows firsthand, as she raced in the Chinese Nationals just a few weeks ago, giving her a test run on the same surface she hopes to race on in September.
"Overall, I'm really happy with my performance," said Galli. "It's also great to see the turnout we've had here. This is the first time in years where we've had enough athletes to run prelims in the women's T53 division. It's great to see the younger athletes and growth of Paralympics as a whole."
Troy Engle (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Head Coach of the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field Program, echoed Galli's sentiments noting the increase in the level of competition at this year's Trials.
"The total experience so far, without having nominated our team, has shown us that Paralympic track & field is growing and healthy in the U.S.," said Engle. "We've had growing numbers in several classes and significantly increased the competition level and talent. It's assured us that the message of Paralympics is out there."
Among some newcomers to Paralympic competition was Alex Richter (Cullman, Ala.), a student athlete at Wallace State. Richter surprised his opponents in the men's T46 400m, placing second behind a runner from Venezuela, with a final time of 50.82. Richter also placed in the top-three in earlier 200m competition.
Another new name on the Paralympic circuit is Jim Bob Bizzell (Abilene, Texas), who finished second in the men's T44 400m with a time of 54.54. Bizzell finished close behind U.S. Paralympics National Team member Danny Andrews (Tucson, Ariz.), who took first with a time of 52.76. Andrews said he welcomes the new talent to the field.
"I've noticed a number of new guys out here competing," said Andrews. "It's really exciting to see them come in and contribute to the team. It really helps us all step up the competition - that was me nine years ago. It's great to see new faces because it makes everyone race more competitively and helps us all go faster."
In the field events, there were several highlights on the day. Iraq war veteran Scott Winkler (Grovetown, Ga.), who was reclassified from F54 to F55, set a new Americas' standard in the men's F55 shot put with a best throw measuring in at 10.97m. The previous record, set last year, was 8.99m.
High jump world record holder Jeff Skiba (Chula Vista, Calif./Sammamish, Wash.) finished first in the men's F44 high jump, despite suffering a cracked prosthetic foot during competition. His final winning height was 2.00m.
Skiba also shattered the Americas' record in the men's F44 javelin, which he set at the 2007 Paralympic Nationals, with a distance of 53.54.
Elexis Gillette (Chula Vista, Calif.), the sole competitor in the men's F11 long jump, finished the day with a best jump of 5.56m.
In women's field events, Jill Kennedy (Charlottesville, Va.) took first place honors in the F40 discus with a throw of 19.89m.
Julie Crisp set a new Americas' record in the women's F37 javelin with a distance of 18.81m. The previous record, which had stood since 2003, was 18.22m.
For complete competition results, visit the event Web site at http://www.2008paralympictracktrials.com/.
UP NEXT: Sunday's (June 15th) competition schedule will feature the 1,500m, men's long jump, men's discus and shot put and women's javelin.
For more information, please contact Beth Bourgeois, U.S. Paralympics, at (719)866-2039 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About U.S. Paralympics:
U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is dedicated to becoming the world leader in the Paralympic sports movement and to promoting excellence in the lives of people with a physical disability. Visit our Web site at http://www.usparalympics.org/.