TORONTO -- For 17-year-old Kaylin Whitney, the choice wasn’t all that hard to make.
She traded the senior prom for the podium at the 2015 Pan American Games.
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“I gave up a lot of normal 17-year-old things,” Whitney said. “I can’t go out with my friends as often. I can’t go to my prom. Doing this and having everything pay off is worth it.”
But they were sacrifices she was willing to make.
“I’d wear this USA gear any day,” Whitney said, laughing.
Whitney’s sacrifices paid off as she stormed out to win the 200-meter race for Team USA with a time of 22.65 seconds.
Her teammate, Kyra Jefferson, finished in second place with 22.72. Simone Facey of Jamaica took the bronze.
“Coming off the curve,” Jefferson said, “I made sure I was the first one. I just tried to bring it home. I saw Kaylin in my peripheral view and I thought, ‘Okay, as long as we get this and go 1-2, I’m okay.’ …
“This is my first senior team and it’s great to medal my first time.”
Jefferson and Whitney, teammates on last year’s junior worlds team in Eugene, Oregon, took their victory lap around the stadium together, American flags waving behind them.
“It’s awesome to come out here, be my first Pan American Games, and be able to compete with these athletes,” Whitney said.
“How does this compare?” Jefferson asked. “I have the USA on my chest. It’s the best feeling ever.”
Also earning gold and silver for Team USA Friday night was Ashley Higginson and Shalaya Kipp in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.
After fighting the wind, both Americans quickly jumped into the front as leaders of the race and never relinquished their lead.
“On the back stretch, it’s evident how gusty it is, so we kind of slowed down,” Kipp said. “Then, all of a sudden, we realized that we’re 2K in and we need to drop the field.
“With that last lap, I knew Ashley could close that last 400 well and she did.”
“I haven’t trusted myself tactically, so to see something more tactical work out and feel confident in my abilities meant a lot,” Higginson said.
Higginson pulled away from Kipp in the home stretch, taking gold with a time of 9:48.12, a Pan American Games record. Her teammate earned a time of 9:49.96
“That makes this so much more special,” Kipp said of sharing the podium with Higginson.
“To come in and be teammates and really take over the race together,” Higginson said, “both of us leading the win and come out 1-2 is more than special than winning alone.”