Dederick, Gomez, Hatz get Golden Moments as U.S. Nabs Double Digit Medals on Santiago’s Penultimate Day
by Kristen Gowdy
SANTIAGO, CHILE – Paralympians Hannah Dederick (Mead, Washington), Joel Gomez (Encinitas, California), and Beatriz Hatz (Lakewood, Colorado) earned a hat trick of gold to spark Team USA’s 12 medals on the second-to-last day of track and field competition at the 2023 Parapan American Games.
While Dederick and Gomez went the distance in their respective 1500-meter races, Hatz found the top of the podium in long jump to lead the first of three Team USA double podiums on the day. Joining Hatz on the long jump podium was Annie Carey (Boise, Idaho), who earned her second bronze medal of the meet. The duos of Jonathan Gore (Fayetteville, West Virginia) and Cooper Blair (Wheeling, West Virginia), as well as Robert Hunt (Spokane, Washington) and Phillip Croft (Spokane, Washington) went 2-3 in the 100m T64 and T53, respectively.
Earning their first medals in Santiago were military veterans Max Rohn (Fallbrook, California) and Beth Grauer (Palm Bay, Florida), while Taylor Swanson (Spokane, Washington) and Evan Correll (Waukee, Iowa) added their second and third medals, respectively.
The unprecedented medal haul brings Team USA to 40 in total through four days of competition in Santiago, Chile.
In the men’s 1500m T13, Gomez broke away from the pack early and maintained a dominant lead for his first career Parapan Am gold medal. The Paralympian ran eight seconds faster than his world championships time over the summer and finished in 3:56.24.
The win served as redemption for the 2019 Parapan American Games, where Gomez won the silver.
“The mindset of seeing that gold medal around my neck, that was the main thing that kept pushing me,” he said. “Ever since the 2019 Parapan Ams, it was a close one at the finish, and I didn’t want that to happen again.”
Already with medals in the 800m and 400m T54 competitions, Dederick waited until the final straightaway in today’s 1500m race to pull ahead of Brazilians Aline Dos Santos and Vanessa De Souza to snag a .17-second victory.
After battling with the Brazilians, who were working together to box her in, for the entire race, Dederick saw her opportunity with less than a lap remaining.
“I was just waiting for that opportunity,” Dederick said. “I went to lane three on the outside in the last 90 meters but didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it, to catch up to first place.”
Dederick, a 2020 Paralympian, has excelled in races as short as the 100m and as long as the 1500m this season. She has one individual race – the 100m, arguably her best distance – remaining, plus will compete as a member of the Team USA mixed relay team tomorrow.
“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow,” she said. “I’m really excited to just go and push [for the 100m. That’s my technique, that’s my strength.”
Hatz earned the first Parapan Am title of her career in the women’s long jump T42/44/61-64, posting a best distance of 5.09 en route to the gold medal. After finishing just off the podium in fourth in the event at this summer’s world championships, Hatz jumped .06 meters further than her best mark in Paris.
For the 2020 Paralympian, who just last week switched over to a new prosthetic, hitting further marks is a promising sign for what’s to come.
“I’ve been having a lot of prosthetic issues,” Hatz said. “This is my second time ever jumping on this leg, so I was really excited to get a further mark. I wish I would have had it at worlds, I feel like I could have walked away with a medal. Moving forward, we’re stepping in the right direction, so it’s giving me hope.”
Hatz will return to the track for the 100m T64 and the universal relay in the final day of competition tomorrow.
“I’m excited, I did what I said I wanted to do,” she said. “I’m enjoying the moment now, but I definitely know that I need to refocus for tomorrow.”
On the podium alongside Hatz was Carey, who defends her Parapan Am long jump bronze medal from 2019, when she was part of a podium sweep with Paralympians Scout Bassett and Lacey Henderson (Denver, Colorado). Henderson, one of Team USA’s captains in Santiago, placed fourth with a best jump of 3.54.
For the 19-year-old Carey, who now has two bronze medals in Santiago, sharing the podium with Hatz for the second time this meet – they also both medaled in the 200m earlier in the week – has been meaningful.
“I’m super excited to medal again for Team USA and to be here to represent my home and where I come from,” she said. “It’s not often that you get to be on a podium with a teammate. [Beatriz] is someone I look up to a lot, so having that opportunity twice has been amazing.”
Team USA recorded two double podiums in the 100m T53 and T64 competitions. Earning their second double podium in two nights were Hunt and Croft, who went 2-3 in the men’s 100m T53 race.
After the newcomer Croft was the top U.S. finisher with silver in last night’s 400m race, veteran athlete Hunt took the silver tonight. In a podium that was decided by less than a second, Hunt’s time of 15.43 gave him his best finish of the meet.
Hunt said he has surprised even himself with two medals in Santiago.
“I had a really good start, and Phillip was right there next ot me the entire time,” he said. “I did not come in expecting this. Not one bit. It’s been 11 years since the last time I made a Parapan Am team, so it’s just awesome to see the growth I’ve made since then.”
Croft, meanwhile, nabbed his third medal of the event, taking bronze with a time of 15.79. Like Hunt, he came into his first Parapan American Games with no podium expectations.
My goal was to come with personal bests, to run the best race I can and to the best of my abilities,” he said. “I’m definitely happy with my result. But this is awesome. I knew that the competition here would be tough, and I knew that I had to work hard to earn this.”
In the men’s 100m T64, meanwhile, West Virginia natives Gore and Blair each picked up the first major international medals of their careers. Gore’s silver medal in 11.26 came after a disappointing 200m event in which a problem with his prosthetic cost him a medal.
“I’ve had a terrible year with blade problems and injuries,” he said. “It feels really good to just get one good race in.”
Finishing just behind him in the bronze medal position was Blair, who is a varsity student-athlete at the University of Mount Union, and tonight earned the first medal of his career in his international debut.
“This is my first international competition,” he said. “To get to go back with a medal is a surreal experience.”
Both Gore and Blair were ecstatic to share the podium with a fellow West Virginian.
“To share the stage with someone who was born and raised in the same place that you were is amazing,” Gore said. “It’s amazing that we get to represent our state.”
“It’s a small state, but we’re both blessed to be from there,” Blair added. “We’ve gotten so much support from it, and we love it.”
A U.S. Navy corps veteran, Rohn’s silver in the men’s discus F64 marked his first career international medal. Rohn, who has long competed in the same classification and event as American discus legends David Blair and Jeremy Campbell, finally had his moment to shine in Santiago.
Before qualifying for the 2023 Parapan Am team, Rohn last competed at a major international competition in 2014 at world championships, where he placed 11th. Today, his best throw of 52.31 was enough for the silver behind only Wimana Stewart of Trinidad and Tobago.
“I don’t know how this feels yet,” he said, emotional after his win. “It means everything to be on the medal stand. That’s why we do this, getting through those rough days, this is what makes it worth it. You’re just getting raw emotion right now. It just means everything.”
As Rohn builds confidence in hopes of qualifying for his first Paralympic Games team next summer, he said that standing on the podium in Santiago has provided even more motivation to work toward Paris.
“On the road to Paris, this is just the grind,” he said. “I celebrate today, but I go home tomorrow and it’s back to the grind. I throw against two of the greatest throwers in U.S. discus history, so I’m just trying to keep up with them, and I’m going to do my best.”
Another former military service member-turned athlete to earn her first career podium today was Grauer, whose massive 7.20-meter throw in the women’s shot put F34 powered her to silver. At the time Grauer hit the mark, it was a Parapan American Games record, but was broken shortly after by eventual champion Wanna Brito of Brazil.
Grauer, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2017, is representing Team USA at a major competition for the first time.
“I felt very good. Last month I hit a personal best at 7.22, and I showed today it wasn’t a fluke,” she said. “It means a lot to wear the USA again on a different uniform.”
Swanson, meanwhile, is enjoying a successful international debut of her own, earning her second silver medal in two days, this time in the women’s 100m T37.
“It’s my first experience, so it’s a really good start for me considering how new I am,” she said. “It’s a dream come true to finally be here representing Team USA, having gone through so many obstacles to get here. It’s an awesome opportunity.”
Swanson went toe-to-toe with Colombian Karen Palomeque, the reigning 100m T37 world champion, and was edged by less than a quarter of a second at the finish. Her time of 13.01 put her comfortably in second. Teammate Michelle Cross (Mission Viejo, California) posted her second fifth-place finish of the meet.
Rounding out the medal haul for Team USA was Correll, who has a trio of medals in his races this week, adding a gold and two bronzes to his resumé in his Parapan Am debut.
Today’s bronze in the 100m T54 competition was won in a tight competition, with the top four finishers all within a second of each other.
For Correll, who competes and excels in events as long as the marathon and as short as the 100-meter, his internal competitiveness and pushing himself in training drove him to the podium.
“In our roller room at [the University of Illinois], it says ‘you train hard, and you win easy,’” he said. “I’m just a very competitive person in general, and to me that means I want to do everything I can to win everything I can. It’s been a really good experience here, this is the most fun I’ve ever had. My competitors are extremely talented and very hard to beat. I’m just happy I have the opportunity to race them.”
Hitting a personal-best in the men’s long jump T38 was Ryan Medrano (Savannah, Georgia), who is already a two-time Parapan Am champion in Santiago. Medrano finished just off the podium in long jump, but posted a mark of more than six meters for the first time in his career. Cody Jones (Simi Valley, California), Noah Scherf (Michigan City, Indiana), and Chelsea Stein (Spring, Texas) posted a trio of fourth-place finishes in their respective events.
In preliminary heat action, both U.S. men’s T11 athletes – David Brown (St. Louis, Missouri), running with guide Je’Von Hutchison (Boynton Beach, Florida) and Antoine Craig (Richmond, Virginia), running with Treyton Stuckey (Chula Vista, California) – qualified for tomorrow’s event final. In the men’s 100m T47 prelims, Team USA’s Tanner Wright (Fort Worth, Texas) and Rayven Sample (Jamestown, New York) qualified through the semi-finals to tomorrow’s final.
Track and field competition resumes Nov. 25 at 3 p.m. local time with the final day of the sport at the Parapan American Games Santiago 2023. 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 24
Hannah Dederick – women’s 1500-meter T54
Joel Gomez – men’s 1500-meter T13
Beatriz Hatz – women’s long jump T42/44/61-64
Jonathan Gore – men’s 100-meter T64
Beth Grauer – women’s shot put F32/33/34
Robert Hunt – men’s 100-meter T53
Max Rohn – men’s discus F64
Taylor Swanson – women’s 100-meter T37
Cooper Blair – men’s 100-meter T64
Annie Carey – women’s long jump T42/44/61-64
Evan Correll – men’s 100-meter T54
Phillip Croft – men’s 100-meter T53
Other Team USA Results:
Ryan Medrano – 4th, men’s long jump T38
Noah Scherf – 4th, men’s 1500-meter T13
Chelsea Stein – 4th, women’s 1500-meter T54
Michelle Cross – 5th, women’s 100-meter T37
Caleb Howard – 5th, men’s 400-meter T13; 5th, men’s 1500-meter T13
Simon Detmer – 7th, men’s long jump T38
Kasey Nickel – 7th, women’s discus F38
Conner Pierce – 7th, men’s 100-mter T36
Miguel Jimenez-Vergara – 8th, men’s 100-meter T54
Madison Hahs – 9th, women’s discus F38
Margaret Beaudoin – 10th, women’s discus F38
David Brown/Je’Von Hutchison – finals, men’s 100-meter T11
Antoine Craig/Treyton Stuckey – finals, men’s 100-meter T11
Rayven Sample – finals, men’s 100-meter T47
Tanner Wright – finals, men’s 100-meter T47
Valera Jacob Allen – prelims, men’s 100-meter T54