Paralympic Track and Field Hopefuls Shine at Desert Challenge Games
by Karen Price
Brittni Mason reacts after winning the Women 200 Meter Dash Ambulatory final during the Desert Challenge Games at Westwood High School on May 29, 2021 in Mesa, Arizona.
With the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for track and field rapidly approaching, many of the nation’s top athletes found success in the Arizona sun at the Desert Challenge Games in Mesa over the weekend.
For many, it was their first major competition since the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships.
That was true for reigning world champion and Paralympic hopeful Brittni Mason, who took first in the women’s 200-meter T45-47 dash with a time of 25.39 seconds.
Fellow hopeful Josh Cinnamo proved he’s ready to secure a spot in Tokyo with a season-best 15.80-meter throw in the men’s shot put F46.
Ezra Frech was one another Paralympic hopeful in action, and he logged 5.24 meters to win the men’s long jump T63 T42/61/63 ambulatory category.
Nick Mayhugh, who was named the 2019 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year with a Disability but turned to track with seven-a-side soccer not on the Paralympic schedule, won the men’s T37 200-meter sprint with a time of 22.92 seconds. He’s hoping to represent the U.S. in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter events in Tokyo.
Marshall Zackery won both the men’s T35 100-meter and 200-meter dashes.
Jaleen Roberts also had an impressive showing with victories in the women’s T37 100-meter dash and 200-meter dashes, and followed up those speed performances with a win in the women’s long jump.
Noelle Lambert won the women’s T63 100-meter competition, while national team member Sophie Munter had a big weekend with wins in the women’s T34 800-meters, the girls’ 400-meters, the women’s 100-meters and the girls’ 200-meters.
It was also a strong weekend for several Paralympic veterans.
Daniel Romanchuk, who made his Olympic debut in 2016 and has been a powerhouse in the marathon in recent years, showed he still has what it takes at the shorter distances as well. It was a close race between Romanchuk and Erik Hightower in the men’s 100-meter sprint T54 but Romanchuk crossed the line a hair faster at 14.44 seconds to Hightower’s 14.58. Romanchuk lodged a greater margin of victory in the 800-meter with a time of 1:44.93 over 39-year-old Tyler Byers, a 2004 and 2008 Paralympian who finished in 1:46.97. Romanchuk earned his third victory in the men’s 5,000-meter competition.
Two-time Paralympian and six-time gold medalist Raymond Martin won both the men’s T52 100-meter dash and T35 200-meter dash, and 2016 Paralympian Desmond Jackson won the men’s T63 T42/63 100-meter dash.
Sprinter Femita Ayanbeku, who had only started running on a blade seven months before winning the national title in the 100-meter dash and qualifying for the Paralympic Games Rio in 2016, took the title in the same event in the T64 T44/62/64 event.
The team trials to determine who will travel to Tokyo this summer will take place June 17-20 in Minneapolis.