Barta, Medrano, Salinaro surge to Parapan American records in 11-medal second day in Santiago
by Kristen Gowdy
SANTIAGO, CHILE – Three of Team USA’s four gold medals came with record-breaking performances as the U.S. added 11 medals on the second day of track and field competition at the 2023 Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile. Parapan Am records from Paralympian Sydney Barta (Arlington, Virginia), as well as Parapan Am rookies Ryan Medrano (Savannah, Georgia) and Brianna Salinaro (Massapequa, New York) put an exclamation point on a session that also saw the second Team USA podium sweep in as many days.
Barta stood atop a women’s 200-meter T64 podium that also included teammates Beatriz Hatz (Lakewood, Colorado) and Annie Carey (Boise, Idaho). Other highlights on the day included the first U.S. throwing gold in Santiago from Josh Cinnamo (San Diego, California), and a 1-2 finish in the women’s 200-meter T35 by Salinaro and Delaney Nolin (Cumberland, Maine).
After winning nine medals on the opening day of competition, Team USA’s total stands at 20 with three days remaining.
Paralympian Barta, who found extra motivation after missing the world championships over the summer, ran a Parapan Am record 27.45 seconds en route to her second consecutive Parapan Am title in the event.
“I feel amazing,” she said. “This race has a lot of history for me. I came out [to Parapan Ams] for the first time when I was 15, I had run only about one 200-meter race at that point and ended up winning that one too. Coming back here, I’ve had a lot of injuries and a lot of other things going on in my life like school, so it’s just great to prove to everyone what I’m made of.”
Hatz, a 2020 Paralympian who was competing on a new prosthetic blade, finished with the silver medal, just .41 seconds behind her teammate. She still has her two best events – the 100-meter and long jump – on her plate in Santiago.
“I’m pretty confident heading into the rest of the week,” Hatz said. “This blade is a week old. Obviously, I’m not the happiest with silver, but I can’t complain too much with this thing being so new. The goal is always gold but watch out for the 100-meter and the long jump, because I will be up there.”
Competing for Team USA internationally for the first time since the Parapan American Games Lima 2019, Carey’s bronze came via a 28.72-second performance. The 19-year-old earned her first international medal in the 200-meter after taking bronze in 2019 in the long jump and 100-meter competitions.
Salinaro and Nolin shared the women’s 200-meter T35 podium for the first time as both make their international debuts.
For Salinaro, the road to gold in Santiago has been a long one. The first woman to compete for the U.S. in taekwondo at a Paralympic Games, Salinaro was forced to give up her sport after her classification was removed from the Games program.
So she took up track and field – and is now reaping the rewards. Her time of 34.67 was a Parapan American record.
“I’m fighting back tears,” she said, visibly emotional after her win. “I can’t put into words. I loved my taekwondo career, but it was so hard, and now I’m here and I feel like it’s my time now. I couldn’t be happier. The fact that track has [cerebral palsy] events is just a blessing, it really is.”
She said she had looked to the more experienced Nolin for guidance as she navigates a brand new sport.
“She really does inspire me, especially in the 200,” Salinaro said. “My goal was actually to keep up with her. I’m really grateful to have her as a teammate and to look up to her.”
Nolin, meanwhile, finished in 35.98 in her Team USA debut. The former Occidental College athlete said she is focused on soaking in the experience of her first Games environment.
“If it wasn’t going to be me, I’m really happy it’s Brianna,” Nolin said. “I’m really happy to see her progression. This is my first real international competition, and it’s nice that we’re able to do this meet just months out to get all of that experience before setting our sights on Paris. It’s been a long time since there’s been another T35 [teammate] around, so I’m just really looking forward to having someone to compete with.”
Less than a year after beginning his track and field career, Medrano added a second Parapan Am record in two days, this time in the men’s 100-meter T38 competition. Medrano won his 400-meter race yesterday, and said he felt confident and smooth in today’s shorter 100-meter event.
His time of 11.20 was a season’s best and was enough to edge Columbian Santiago Solis by .16 seconds.
“It felt great, my coach said just go out there and execute. I’m excited to get out there and keep training. I still have people who aren’t here who are faster than me, so this isn’t it, I have to keep going.”
Medrano has made a quick impact in the Para track and field world. He competed in his first world championships over the summer, where he placed fifth in the 400-meter and sixth in the 100-meter. He said he feels healthier and more mentally ready in Santiago than he did during his international debut.
“At worlds, I came off two back injuries and only five days of training,” he said. “I feel extremely prepared and confident. This is my second international race, so my heart isn’t coming out of my chest. I feel more composed. I know what I’m doing now, not just getting thrown into the deep end.”
Cinnamo powered to Team USA’s first throws gold medal of the Games, posting an event-best mark of 14.93 that won him the title. The Paralympic bronze medalist defended his Parapan Am gold that he won in 2019, where he set the meet record.
“Any meet you go to you want to win,” he said. “It’s disappointing in the sense that I thought I was primed to go pretty far today. Any time you can do enough to win though, that’s what you want to do.”
Fresh off a silver medal in shot put at the 2023 Para Athletics World Championships, Cinnamo said he is continuing to learn and gain experience as he aims for his second career Paralympic Games berth next summer.
“Every one of these meets is important, from making the call room on time to the practice areas,” he said. “They run very differently and every time you get an opportunity to be at one of these, that’s a learning experience for the environment you’re going to be at in the Paralympic Games. I have a whole year to build on where I am and get better from today.”
Paralympic bronze medalist Justin Phongsavanh (Des Moines, Iowa) secured the second Parapan Ams medal of his career with a silver in the men’s javelin F54. Battling heavy winds as the sun set over Santiago, Phongsavanh faulted on four of his six throws.
His throw of 29.41 sealed the podium behind only Edgar Fuentes of Mexico.
“This is what makes competitions great,” Phongsavanh said. “Not every throw is a perfect throw, and you have to learn in the moment. I’m happy to come out with a silver and I’m happy for [Fuentes], who has come back from some injuries. This is the kind of rivalry that really makes competition fun.”
With his lone Parapan Am event behind him, Phongsavanh turns his attention to working to qualify for Paris 2024.
“The goal is to get more consistent,” he said. “If my average is higher than everyone else’s best day, then I’m going to win. The way we get there is we get back to the drawing board and start focusing on diet, flexibility, mobility, and get back on the chair and start getting some throws in.”
Adding his first international medal to the mix was Devin Huhta (Battle Mountain, Nevada), whose silver caps a year in which he made his first national team, first world championships team and earned his first Parapan Ams medal.
Huhta’s best mark of 13.68 put him comfortably in second place behind only Caio Da Silva of Brazil, who set a Parapan Am record of 14.50. The throw was .26 meters further than his world championships’ best throw, but Huhta said he still has more room to grow as he seeks his first Paralympic Games.
“I was pretty confident headed into this one, I know I could have won gold,” he said. “I was too amped up, and I wasn’t patient enough. Going forward, it’s giving me more tools for my toolbox, to compete like I do in practice on an international stage.
So there are mixed feelings. I’m excited, I hope I get to do this next year. The effort I put in wasn’t what I feel like showed on the field today. But I’ll keep chipping away, and that’s the best I can do.”
Just 24 hours after his first career international medal, Miguel Jimenez-Vergara (Lawrenceville, New Jersey) turned in a second silver medal performance, this time in the men’s 800-meter T54 competition. The 23-year-old said he executed his race strategy perfectly en route to a two-second personal best time of 1:36.53.
Jimenez-Vergara established an early lead over race favorite Fernando Sanchez of Mexico and was able to hold on until the final 200-meter stretch.
“I raced him in the prelim, and I knew he had a wicked finish,” Jimenez-Vergara said. “I knew if I could get out front, I could hopefully try to beat him. He definitely had more gas in the tank than I did at the end, but I’m still really happy. It was a huge personal best, and I think I’m learning to race my own race.”
Despite this being his first-time representing Team USA at the senior level, Jimenez-Vergara said he hasn’t felt nervous about the big stage.
“I love pressure,” he said. “It makes diamonds. Everyone is here to compete, and you really have to use that pressure to motivate you to compete.”
Racing against Vergara-Jimenez, yesterday’s Parapan Am champion in the 5000-meter Evan Correll (Waukee, Iowa) just missed his second medal of the event, finishing fourth. Phillip Croft (Spokane, Washington), who brought home bronze yesterday, was seventh.
Mirroring Jimenez-Vergara’s performance was newcomer Tahmar Upshaw (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), who added his second silver in two days, this time in the men’s 1500-meter T46.
The medal was nearly a gold, as Upshaw raced from fourth all the way to second position in the final 300 meters, falling just short of his first Parapan Am title. His time of 4:12.96 was less than half a second behind Mauricio Orrego of Chile.
“To come here with little to no expectations, everyone just told me to do my best and that was all they could ask of me,” Upshaw said. “So to be able to go home and tell my friends and family I came home with two medals, I’m just looking forward to seeing their smiles.”
Primarily an 800-meter runner, Upshaw has had to shift his training in order to adjust to both the 1500-meter and the 400-meter, the events which are offered for his classification.
“It’s a huge adjustment.,” Upshaw said. “For the 800, you have to find that mixture of having good speed and good endurance. This year, after multiple years of track, I decided to do cross-country again this year because I realized the base is the most important part and the speed can come later. I feel like the training definitely changed. I’m doing a lot of two-a-days this year.”
Finishing just off the podium in fourth place were Jonathan Gore (Fayetteville, West Virginia) and Christy Gardner (Lewiston, Maine) in the men’s 200-meter T64 and women’s discus F57. In his first major competition since the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, David Brown (St. Louis, Missouri) returned to the track alongside guide Je’Von Hutchison (Boynton Beach, Florida) and qualified first in their semi-final heat for the final of the men’s 400-meter T11.
Track and field competition resumes Nov. 23 at 3 p.m. local time with the third day of the sport at the Parapan American Games Santiago 2023. Watch live on the Pan Am Sports channel. Follow U.S. Paralympics Track & Field on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for Team USA updates and results.
For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Kristen Gowdy at Kristen.Gowdy@usopc.org.
Team USA Medals – November 22
Sydney Barta – women’s 200-meter T64
Josh Cinnamo – men’s shot put F46
Ryan Medrano – men’s 100-meter T38
Brianna Salinaro – women’s 200-meter T35
Beatriz Hatz – women’s 200-meter T64
Devin Huhta – men’s shot put F12
Miguel Jimenez-Vergara – men’s 800-meter T54
Delaney Nolin – women’s 200-meter T35
Justin Phongsavanh – men’s javelin F54
Tahmar Upshaw – men’s 1500-meter T46
Annie Carey – women’s 200-meter T64
Other Team USA Results
Evan Correll – men’s 800-meter T54
Christy Gardner – 4th, women’s discus F57
Jonathan Gore – 4th, men’s 200-meter T64
Simon Detmer – 5th, men’s 400-meter T37
Conner Pierce – 6th, men’s 400-meter T36
Phillip Croft – 7th, men’s 800-meter T54
Emily Lopez – 7th, women’s 200-meter T47
Madison Hahs – 8th, women’s 400-meter T38
David Brown/Je’Von Hutchison – finals, men’s 400-meter T11