Lacey Henderson competes in the Women's Long Jump - T42 Final at Olympic Stadium at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 on Sept.10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
MINNEAPOLIS — The opening day of the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for Track and Field in Minneapolis featured some of the nation’s best throwers and jumpers, as the field athletes took center stage in their attempt to qualify for this summer’s Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The competition began at Breck School with the women’s club throw F51, during which two-time Paralympic medalist Cassie Mitchell threw 23.15 meters, the furthest in the world this year. Her new best mark for 2021 in the club throw comes less than a month after she broke the world record in discus at May’s Desert Challenge Games in Arizona. Mitchell, who grew up on a small farm in Oklahoma and has won a Paralympic silver and bronze previously, is now putting herself into contention to grab that elusive gold in Tokyo after a stellar performance at Trials.
“That puts me at No. 1 in the world right now, so I’m pretty excited and looking forward to the discus up next on Saturday,” Mitchell said.
The women’s long jump competition followed with several solid performances, including that of Paralympian Lacey Henderson, the daughter of national decathlon champion T.J. Henderson. The Denver native jumped 4.10 meters in the F63 classification, a mark that would have placed her within the top four at the most recent World Para Athletics Championships.
“All things considered with the past year we’ve had and the extenuating circumstances, I’m relatively happy with my performance,” she said. “It’s not as consistent as I’ve had in practice, but anything over 4 meters in my classification is something to be proud of, so I’m pretty happy to see that.”
Holly Lompa jumped 3.73 meters, Lindi Marcusen hit 3.63 meters and Paralympian Scout Bassett made it 3.49 meters to round out the F63 class.
Beatriz Hatz jumped 5.21 meters in the F64 class — which would have been good enough for bronze at the last world championships — while Paralympian Taleah Williams vaulted 5.37 meters in the F47 class and world silver medalist Jaleen Roberts went 4.29 meters in the F37 class.
In the men’s shot put F46, reigning world champion and hometown hero Josh Cinnamo of Minneapolis recorded a mark of 14.70 meters in his own backyard.
Parapan American Games champion Hagan Landry, a Louisiana native now living at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, then threw 13.59 meters in the men’s shot put F41. His distance was just three hundredths short of the American record.
“It was not my best performance of the year, but it was a solid, consistent performance so I’ll take it, and if this secures my spot, I’ll be ready for the Games,” he said.
Elsewhere in the throwing pit, Paralympic gold medalist Josiah Jamison, a father of two, hit 12 meters exactly in the shot put F12 and Justin Caine recorded 10.33 meters in the F36 class. On the women’s side, rising star 19-year-old Kasey Nickel threw 8.60 meters in the F37 class and 21-year-old Aubrey Headon threw 4.95 meters in the F35 class.
On the track, 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden opened her five-event campaign at Trials by winning the women’s 400-meter T54 race by a quarter of a second over an eight-time Paralympic medalist in Cheri Madsen. McFadden held onto her lead down the final stretch to finish in 53.50, with Madsen coming in at 53.75, followed by four-time World Para Athletics Junior Championships gold medalist Hannah Dedrick in 55.49.
“It was my second track meet of the year, so it was about competing and getting through the nerves,” McFadden said. “Cheri’s always strong and a force to be reckoned with, and Hannah’s coming on up, so overall it was a good, strong race for all of us on Team USA.”
Additionally, Alexa Halko, who was the youngest member of Team USA in Rio at 2016, won the women’s 800-meter T54 race in 2:08.76, with Eva Houston finishing second in 2:15.26.
Stuart Lieberman has covered Paralympic sports for 10 years, including for the International Paralympic Committee at the London 2012, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.