U.S. athletes win track and field national titles on first day of championships

By Brianna Tammaro | June 19, 2015, 11:30 p.m. (ET)
Aaron Pike races during the men's T53/54 5000-meter run on Day One of the 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota.

ST. PAUL, Minn.  – An unofficial world record by Paralympian Cassie Mitchell (Atlanta, Georgia) highlighted the opening day of the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships held at Hamline University on Friday.

Mitchell, a wheelchair sprinter and field athlete in the T51 class, found great success on the track with the world mark in the women’s 200-meter race, crossing the finish line in 44.17 seconds. Although Kerry Morgan (St. Louis, Missouri) took gold in the event, Mitchell’s performance exceeded her own expectations as she smashed the previous world record set in 1998 by less than 12 seconds.

“It definitely came as a surprise,” Mitchell said. “During the race, I felt like it was going really well but honestly at the end, in terms of time, I didn’t know it was going to be that close or under the world record. I was really excited by that. This was my first track world record.”

 After recently being sidelined due to health issues, Mitchell is regaining the confidence that won her three medals at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships. The personal achievement was especially significant for Mitchell as she reflects on her journey to this year’s nationals.

“I’ve had a lot of health issues this spring so that’s been an obstacle for me,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s just really thrilling knowing how much I’ve had to overcome with my health to see that all come to a head with a really amazing result. I think that made it more special for me than maybe it even would’ve been otherwise.”

In the women’s F34/53-57 javelin, two-time Paralympian Angela Madsen (Long Beach, California) also added an American record for the F56 class to her long list of accolades with a throw of 16.37. Madsen returned in solid form after a three year absence from nationals, having last competed in 2012 at the event in Indianapolis.  

Shaquille Vance (Houston, Mississippi) showcased why he’s the 2012 Paralympic Games silver medalist in the men’s T42 200 race, running away with both the prelim and final races in the homestretch. Vance finished with 25.97 on a windy evening to shave .24 of a second off his time in the finals. He hopes to build on his momentum from nationals to represent Team USA at the upcoming Parapan Am Games and IPC Athletics World Championships in August and October respectively.

“Hopefully I can take this first place and transfer it over to world championships and Parapan Ams,” Vance said. “I’m definitely looking for gold at both events and I want to break the world record so I’m preparing. It’s going to be a fun year for me.”

In the men’s T43/44 200 race, Richard Browne (Jackson, Mississippi) led the 1-2-3 Paralympic charge to secure the national title with Blake Leeper (Churchill, Tennessee) following in second and Jarryd Wallace (Athens, Georgia) in third. Browne, the current record holder for the T44 100 and 200, cruised on the fast Hamline track to cross the line at 21.88 in the finals.

Other newly crowned national champions include: April Holmes (Kissimmee, Florida) in the women’s T44/45 200, Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Maryland) in the women’s T53/54 5000 and 800, Aaron Pike (Park Rapids, Minnesota) in the men’s 5000, Michael Wishnia (San Clemente, California) in the men’s 34/54-57 shot put, Tobi Fawehinmi in the men’s F20/45-47 triple jump, Amy Watt (Palo Alto, California) in the women’s F20/37-38/42 long jump and many more.

Competition runs through Sunday, June 21 at Hamline University. Full results can be found at www.halfmiletiming.com. For more information on the 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships, visit USParalympics.org