MIRAMAR, Fla.—Mother Nature took center stage on the first day of the 2010 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships as rain washed out the majority of final events on Friday evening.
Before the storms rolled in, four 800m races were held for different classification groups and several field events were completed during the morning session.
U.S. Army veteran Jeannette Thompson (Augusta, Ga.) never had dreams of being an American record holder in anything, especially not after having been severely injured in an IED attack while she was stationed in Iraq in 2008.
Competing in just her third track & field meet ever, Thompson did just that, as she set a new American record in the women’s javelin (F58) with a throw of 19.47 meters.
“I’m floored right now, just in shock,” said Thompson. “I never thought I’d be at this point and it feels so good to compete. I trained hard so that when I got to competition I knew I’d be ready.”
University of Illinois athletes made a strong statement on the track by winning each of the 800m events in which they were entered. In the T54 category, Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Md.) breezed to gold in a time of 1:51.93, easily defeating Great Britain’s Shelley Woods (1:55.53) and Canada’s Diane Roy (1:56.45).
In the women’s T53 race, Illinois teammates Amanda McGrory (Kennett Square, Pa.) and Jessica Galli (Savoy, Ill.) took the top two spots with times of 1:57.38 and 1:58.22, respectively, while Shirley Rilley (Tucson, Ariz.) earned the bronze with a time of 1:58.58.
“I started a little slower than I would have liked, but I’m happy that I was able to finish strong and take the win,” said McGrory.
The only other women’s race of the session saw Canada’s Michelle Stillwell (2:41.51) beat out Kerri Morgan (St. Louis, Mo.), who ran a 2:54.24, in the T52 category.
Only one men’s 800m race was contested during the rain-shortened evening and Illinois’ Joshua George (Fairfax, Va.) demolished the field with his time of 1:46.18, more than six seconds better than his teammate and second place finisher, Brian Siemann (Champaign, Ill.). Third place went to Eric Gauthier of Canada.
The men’s triple jump, javelin and shot put were the only other events to go final on Friday.
The F33/34/53 shot put competition saw Sam Craven (Walnut Creek, Ariz.) edge out Canada’s Kyle Pettey by just 30 centimeters to win gold. Craven’s throw of 10.62 narrowly clipped Pettey’s 10.32 to earn the top spot.
Dennis Ogbe (Louisville, Ky.) staked claim to gold in the F55/56/57/58 shot put with a heave of 12.93m.
Two athletes, each competing in a different classification, took on the triple jump. Elexis Gillette (Raleigh, N.C.) put out a best jump of 12.05m (F11), while Daniel Rizzieri (Cohocton, N.Y.) had a top performance of 12.45m (F46).
“Lex did well today, but we expect to see him jumping even better as we approach the world championships next January,” said Al Joyner, Gillette’s coach and Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump from 1984.
Events that were postponed due to Friday’s weather have been re-scheduled for Saturday morning, June 19. A revised schedule, and complete event information, can be found at http://www.usparalympics.org/2010trackandfieldnationalchampionships.