Dallas Wise competes in high jump at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. (Photo: Joe Kusumoto)
Spring is here, and so is the outdoor track and field season.
It’s an exciting time for Team USA’s top Para track and field athletes, as many of them get ready to make a splash on the collegiate stage after great success at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Plus, with the 2024 Paris Games coming up in just two years, it’s not too soon to start thinking about who will come home with more hardware to add to their collection.
Here are six Paralympians to watch out for this NCAA track and field season.
Liza Corso, Lipscomb University
If you’d asked Liza Corso two years ago whether she expected to win a Paralympic medal, she wouldn’t know what you were talking about. While the visually impaired runner has participated in track for many years, she only found out that she had the option to compete in the Paralympic Games at 16, when a friend approached her about the opportunity.
Now 18, Corso had an incredible performance in Tokyo to win silver in the 1,500 meters — with a personal record to boot. Corso is a freshman at Lipscomb, so she’ll get her first experience as an NCAA athlete having already won a Paralympic medal.
Hannah Dederick, Alexa Halko and Eva Houston, University Of Illinois
The famous University of Illinois wheelchair racing team has become a dominate force in the U.S. wheelchair racing field, and this year is likely to be no different.
For one, the program features Alexa Halko, a veteran of the sport. She was the youngest U.S. athlete to qualify for the 2016 Rio Games, and since then she’s gained plenty of experience. She’s won a total of four Paralympic medals and competed in three world championships all before the age of 22. She’s set to graduate with a degree in communications this year.
Illinois freshman Hannah Dederick is another one to watch. After she won four medals at the junior world championships in 2019, she just missed out on a podium finish in Tokyo, taking fourth in the 100-meter dash. The 19-year-old has already started competing this season, as she raced in the NYC Half marathon this March.
Eva Houston, meanwhile, has already done more than her fair share for the sport of wheelchair racing as an activist. As a teen, she campaigned to get wheelchair races added to Nebraska high school state track meet. Since then, she’s joined the Illinois wheelchair racing team and competed as a sprinter at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, finishing eighth in the 100 sixth in the 800.
Noah Malone, Indiana State University
It was clear from a young age that Noah Malone would be a force in Paralympic sprinting. At just 15, he clocked a 100-meter dash time that would have been good enough for a medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
Now 20, Malone has exceeded all expectations by bringing home plenty of silverware from international championships. The Indiana State sophomore already has three Paralympic medals, including silvers in the 100- and 400-meter dash and gold in the 4x100-meter universal relay. Before that he won two medals at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, and three medals at the 2019 junior world championships. He did this all before becoming one of the few blind Division I athletes when he started his freshman year in 2020-21.
Dallas Wise, University Of Southern California
The Paralympic high and long jumper shocked the sports world in December 2021 when he announced his decision to transfer to the University of Southern California from Coastal Carolina.
The 21-year-old was already a success in the sport, winning a silver medal in the high lump at the Tokyo Games, behind only U.S. teammate Roderick Townsend, the one who inspired Wise to try out for the Paralympic team in the first place. But would he be able to replicate his success at another program?
As it turns out, the move seems to have done wonders for Wise, as he’s already had an incredible start to his sophomore season. At the Long Beach Opener in March, he jumped 2.06 meters to tie for first place and match his Tokyo performance.
Wise had a quick rise to the sport after he joined the track team as a high schooler, and he’s become an activist by speaking up about the bullying he endured as a kid.