Newcomers And Paralympians Shine At Para Track And Field Nationals
by Luke Hanlon
Catherine "Annie" Carey competes during the women's long jump at the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team Trials on June 17, 2021 in Minneapolis.
Over 70 athletes flocked to Miramar, Florida, this past weekend to take place in the 2022 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships.
Many athletes in attendance had won at least one Paralympic medal, but the weekend’s biggest star might have been Catherine “Annie” Carey, who has yet to graduate high school.
The 17-year-old from Boise, Idaho, set a new women’s long jump T44 world record with a distance of 4.81 meters. The previous record had been 4.49 meters, and Carey jumped longer than that distance in four out of her six attempts in the competition. She ended up officially breaking the record three different times, with the 4.81 jump coming on her fifth attempt.
“I came out here hoping that I’d break it again, so I’m really excited about that,” Carey told USParaTrackandField.org. “I’m going to take what I did today and use it (to build on) my consistency of the running approaches and getting height in the air to bring to meets next year.”
After setting that record on Friday, Carey then competed in the 100-meter and 200-meter on Saturday. She won the 100 by over 2.5 seconds and set a new Americas record in the 200 T44 with a time of 28.19.
Coming one year after the postponed Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with the planned 2022 world championships in Japan being postponed until 2024, some top Americans elected to rest this season. For many of the athletes who did compete in Miramar, this year’s nationals served as their biggest competition of the season.
The unique circumstances meant this was a non-traditional nationals in many ways. One way the meet felt familiar, however, was in the standout performances by some of the biggest U.S. names.
Richard Browne Jr., who won a silver in the 100-meter T64 at the London 2012 Games, set a new world record in the same race with a time of 10.53.
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) June 19, 2022
This breaks Browne Jr.’s own record of 10.61 set at the 2015 world championships, when he won both the 100 and 200. It’s also the fastest 100 ever ran by a single or double amputee, as the Jackson, Mississippi, native beat Johannes Floors’ — a double amputee from Germany — previous record of 10.54, which was set at the 2019 world championships.
Trenten Merrill competes during the men's long jump at the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team Trials on June 18, 2021 in Minneapolis.
There was also a new Americas record in the long jump T64, set by Trenten Merrill. The San Juan Capistrano, California, native held the previous mark of 7.08 meters, which he set in Tokyo last summer, earning him a bronze medal. He comfortably beat that in Miramar, recording a distance of 7.19 despite this being his first competition since Tokyo due to a nagging hamstring injury.
Three other athletes set new Americas records over the weekend. Noelle Malkamaki, a 21-year-old who competes at DePaul University, recorded a throw of 12.18 meters in the women’s shot put F46, good enough to break the old record by over two meters.
Paralympians Joel Gomez, 18, and Jessica Heims, 23, each picked up new Americas records as well; Gomez in the men’s 1,500-meter T13 and Heims in the women’s discus F64.
“It’s always an honor to win a title, and it’s even more rewarding when it’s captured at the end of a long or busy season,” Heims told USParaTrackandField.org. “My coach and I love seeing the fruits of our labor at these competitions. We look forward to getting back to work on our offseason.”
Other notable results came from some of the biggest names in the sport. Daniel Romanchuk, a two-time Paralympic medalist in Tokyo, won every race he competed in — the 100, 400, 800, 1,500 and 5,000 — all of which were in the T54 classification. That included tight wins against fellow Paralympian Erik Hightower in the 100 and 400. Romanchuk, 23, also won his heat of the mixed 100.
Romanchuk is an alum of the University of Illinois wheelchair racing team. So is Hannah Dederick, who also had a successful weekend in Miramar. The 19-year-old, who made her Paralympic debut in Tokyo, competed in the 100, 400, 800 and 1,500. She won three of the four events, finishing second in the 1,500 by a little over a second to Cheri Madsen, a 10-time Paralympic medalist.
Madsen, 45, and Dederick battled in the same races all weekend, and the 1,500 wasn’t the only event that came down to the wire. Dederick beat Madsen in the 100, 400 and 800 by a combined time of 1.15 seconds. Madsen did get the better of Dederick in the mixed 100, where she won their heat by .14 seconds.
Brittni Mason and Hunter Woodhall, who each have three Paralympic medals to their name, won multiple events as well. Mason won the 100 and 200 T46 while Woodhall won the 100 and 400 T62.
For Mason, it was a pleasing way to end her season before she takes time to get ready for the 2023 cycle.
“It’s the last meet of the season so I was able to get two gold medals,” Mason told USParaTrackandField.org. “I’m going to take some down time now, doing some recovery and fitness during the offseason and getting ready to amp up for next year.”