TORONTO – Team USA didn’t let rain dampen its performance on the first day of track and field competition at the 2015 Parapan American Games, winning an impressive 10 medals, including three gold.
In his first Parapan Am Games, Daniel Romanchuk (Mount Airy, Maryland) started off competition at the CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Athletics Stadium in exciting fashion as he outlasted two-time Paralympian John Cassidy of Canada by just four-hundredths of a second in the men’s 5000-meter T54. The 17-year-old won the first medal of athletics competition and the first for Team USA with a time of 11:44.88. His teammate James Senbeta (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) finished fourth.
"That was a very tough race at the end, a great race,” Romanchuk said. He later added, “I wasn’t sure how much longer I could’ve held that pace at the end. That was all I had.”
Before an hour rain delay interrupted competition about a third of the way through, Ahkeel Whitehead (San Diego, California) took bronze in the men’s long jump T37 with a jump of 5.27.
American women went second and third in the 800 T54 as Paralympians Hannah McFadden (Clarskville, Maryland) and Cheri Madsen (Nebraska City, Nebraska) added to Team USA’s medal count, crossing the finish line in 2:02.04 and 2:13.76, respectively. Kelsey LeFevour (Chicago, Illinois) finished up just shy of the podium in fourth.
“I think this shows that USA has a strong T54 female presence so this is perfect momentum going into world championships and then Rio next summer,” McFadden said. “I hope we can carry this on and get another USA member up there with us.”
Ayden Jent took more than a fifth of a second off of his personal best to cross the finish line in 13.28 to grab silver at his first Parapan Am Games. Jent (Fort Wayne, Indiana), who’s family and friends drove nine hours to see him race, walked away with a medal from his only event of the competition and best international finish.
“It feels great,” Jent said. “All of the training has paid off and just seeing my country’s flag raised in the second position on the flag pole made me extremely proud that I was able to make that happen.”
World record holder Michael Brannigan (East Northport, New York) crossed the finish line two one-hundredths of a second over Luis Arturo Paiva of Venezuela in a photo finish for the men’s 1500 T20 race. Brannigan took the win in a time of 4:04.32.
Regas Woods (Oscala, Florida) won gold in the men’s long jump T42/44 alongside three-time swimming Paralympian Rudy Garcia-Tolson (Bloomington, California) who wore the bronze on the podium. Woods earned a Parapan American Record with a jump of 5.74m while Garcia-Tolson lept 4.88.
U.S. teammates Rachael Morrison (Spokane Valley, Washington) and Cassie Mitchell (Warner, Oklahoma) combined for the one-two punch for a silver and bronze, respectively, in the women’s club throw 31/32/51 final.