Team USA shines with 13 medals, including five gold, to wrap 2023 Parapan American Games
by Kristen Gowdy
SANTIAGO, CHILE – Team USA concluded the Parapan American Games Santiago 2023 with its biggest day of track and field competition yet, finishing the session with five gold medals and a total of 13 overall. Both the gold and overall totals were the highest of the five-day competition for the United States’ Para track and field team, which wraps the meet with 51 total medals.
The U.S. was led by a second podium sweep from Beatriz Hatz (Lakewood, Colorado), Sydney Barta (Arlington, Virginia) and Annie Carey (Boise, Idaho), as well as Parapan Am Games records from Hannah Dederick (Mead, Washington) and Brianna Salinaro (Massapequa, New York). Paralympian Tyson Gunter (McCammon, Idaho) also took home the first international title of his career, while newcomer Miguel Jimenez-Vergara (Lawrenceville, New Jersey) put an exclamation point on an already successful international debut with his first win in Santiago.
Also putting together podium performances for Team USA was Jessica Heims (Swisher, Iowa), Catarina Guimaraes (Cranford, New Jersey), and Chelsea Stein (Spring, Texas), who each brought home silver. Americans also won four individual bronze medals courtesy of Delaney Nolin (Cumberland, Maine), Alicia Guerrero (Wapato, Washington) and Annie Carey (Boise, Idaho), as well as Antoine Craig (Richmond, Virginia) with his guide Treyton Stuckey (Chula Vista, California).
The U.S.’ universal 4x100-meter mixed relay team comprised of Dederick, Hatz, Ryan Medrano (Savannah, Georgia), and the athlete-guide team of David Brown (St. Louis, Missouri) and Je’Von Hutchison (Boynton Beach, Florida) earned Team USA’s last medal of the meet, a hard-fought bronze.
Hatz snagged her second individual title of the meet in a second Team USA podium sweep in the women’s T64 events in Santiago. Hatz, Barta and Carey took all three spots on the podium for the second time in Santiago, this time in the women’s 100-meter T64. After Barta took the top spot in their 200-meter competition, it was Hatz’s turn to claim gold, edging her teammate by .07 seconds to finish in 13.41.
“Going into the race, I was very much focused on myself and my own performance,” Hatz said. “I’m the only one in my lane, I’m focused only on what I can do. If you let someone else get in your head, that’s where it all goes down the drain. It gives me a lot of confidence heading into next year.”
For Barta, it is her second medal in Santiago as the 2020 Paralympian looks to qualify for her second Paralympic Games next summer.
Carey finished in 13.89 for her third bronze medal of the meet. The 19-year-old is enjoying her most successful international meet to date after winning two bronzes at the 2019 Parapan Am Games when she was 15.
“We’ve been racing together since Annie was 13 and I was 14, so this moment was really special,” Barta said.
Controlling the race from start to finish, Dederick added her third individual gold medal of the event with a dominant victory in the women’s 100-meter T54. Her time of 16.19 was a Parapan Am record, a season’s best, and beat the rest of the field by nearly a full second.
The 2020 Paralympian’s win capped an individual competition slate in Santiago in which she won four medals. Showcasing her versatility, her golds came at a variety of distances – the 100-meter, 400-meter and 1500-meter – while bringing home silver in the 800-meter.
“I absolutely loved this experience,” she said. “Today, I got to experience both an individual celebration and then a team celebration, and they were both amazing. I hope to be able to do it again someday.”
Dederick and Hatz also made up half of the U.S. universal 4x100-meter mixed relay team that raced to bronze to conclude the meet. Teaming with Brown/Hutchison and Medrano, the team battled with Colombia and Brazil for the top three spots on the podium. Team USA’s time of 48.90 was just .25 seconds off the gold medal pace set by Colombia.
“The vibe of our team just changes the whole aspect of racing,” Medrano said. “Even just going through the tent to get out onto the track, you feel excited and energized instead of nervous. It was fantastic to see everyone run their hardest for their teammates.”
For Brown and Hutchison, who also finished fourth in the men’s 100-meter T11 in today’s session, nabbing their first medal in Santiago was a meaningful way to end their meet.
“It feels great to wrap it up with our teammates,” Brown said. “I came out here and said ‘if I don’t get an individual medal, I’m going to run as fast and as hard as I can for my teammates. That’s what happened, and I’m truly humbled to be a part of this with these guys.”
Salinaro and Nolin combined for their second double podium of the week, finishing first and third, respectively, in the women’s 100-meter T35 competition. The duo is each making their international debut and said they have pushed each other to be better.
“It’s been really awesome to have the class be more competitive in the United States,” Nolin said. “I’m really hoping we’ll get to train together soon and push each other in practice and be doing this together next summer in Paris.”
A 2020 Paralympian in taekwondo who switched over to track and field after her classification was removed from the Paralympic program, Salinaro sprinted to her second gold medal of the meet. Her time of 15.90 was a Parapan Am record, and she beat the rest of the field by half a second.
“Honesty, I felt like I could have run a little bit faster,” she said. “I’ve only been doing this since February, and I think I have much more improvement that I can make. I’m definitely chasing that gold in 2024.”
Nolin, meanwhile, took home third in 17.32 for her second medal of the meet. This week was her first time competing since U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships last May, and she said she was feeling nervous prior to racing in Santiago.
“I’ve been really focused on the 200, so it was really just coming out and seeing what I’ve got in the 100,” she said. “I didn’t have the best start, but from then on I just tried to execute as best as I can, and I’m really happy with a medal at the end of the day.”
Gunter earned the first international title of his career in a dramatic fashion in the men’s long jump T13. The 2016 Paralympian held a lead over event favorite Paulo Andrade until Andrade’s last jump, when the Brazilian posted a mark of 6.56 and took the lead. With his final jump, Gunter edged ahead of Andrade by .02 meters with a jump of 6.58 to take gold.
It was a synchronous moment for Gunter after Andrade beat him by a sliver at the 2023 world championships over the summer. He had not been able to jump since that meet due to injury.
“I feel super, super grateful and excited,” he said. “I haven’t jumped in four months … I didn’t know what to expect. I was just going to see what happens. I couldn’t be more excited. It was nerve-wracking and exciting and that’s how long jump should be.”
Jimenez-Vergara also had his big moment on the final day of competition, surging to his first career international gold medal in a competitive men’s 1500-meter T54 final. Showing poise beyond his years in his first international meet, the 23-year-old held off the rest of the pack in a showstopping final sprint to the line.
His time of 3:09.69 earned him his third medal in Santiago.
“My strategy was do work, but don’t get taken advantage of,’” Jimenez-Vergara said. “I think I executed that fairly well. I wanted a gold medal so badly and as we were ticking off the events, I knew we we’re getting down to the last one. The 1500-meter is one of my stronger events, but I also know how deep this field is. It was about a pull from [my heart], and I think I did that.”
Teammates Evan Correll (Waukee, Iowa) and Phillip Croft (Spokane, Washington), who each have won multiple medals of their own this week, placed fourth and fifth to round out their international debuts.
Another Team USA double podium came in the women’s discus F64 competition, where Heims and Guerrero powered to silver and bronze medals, respectively.
For Heims, a two-time Paralympian, competing on the Parapan American Games stage was extra special because she got to mentor two athletes – Guerrero and Chloe Chavez (Panhandle, Texas), who finished fifth – who were competing internationally for the first time.
Both Guerrero and Chavez ended their meets with massive personal best throws, which made the experience all the more rewarding for Heims.
“I’m really grateful,” Heims said. “It is so great to have three Americans in this class. They both are incredible people and athletes.”
For Guerrero, her first international medal was an emotional experience.
“I was a little nervous just because I’ve never been in a stadium this big,” Guerrero said. “I feel very emotional just being able to throw with these amazing ladies. For an international debut, I didn’t think I was going to get a medal, but I did it.”
After competing all week in combined events with the less impaired T54 classification, Stein, a T53 athlete, finally had her medal moment in the women’s 100-meter T53 race. It was the first race this week that hasn’t been a mixed class event, and Stein took full advantage, sprinting to her first international medal, a silver.
“I just feel so blessed to be here,” she said. “I have just fallen in love with wheelchair racing ever since [I started], and I didn’t know where it would take me. I’m just incredibly shocked that I’m here.”
Stein only began wheelchair racing four years ago and said that while she often feels like she has some catching up to do compared to athletes who have been racing their whole lives, achieving a podium today gives her confidence.
“Seeing all of these athletes who start so young, I’ve often felt behind,” she said. “But coming here, I’ve learned so much with the great coaching and great staff here. First Parapan Am Games, first medal, I couldn’t be happier.”
Competing in her best event, the long jump, Guimaraes recorded a best mark of 4.40 meters en route to her second medal in Santiago. Her silver was her best result of the competition after she took bronze in the 100-meter T38 earlier in the week.
To represent Team USA on the international stage, she said, meant everything to her.
“This is something I dreamed about as a kid,” she said. “Whenever times get tough, or there’s a day I don’t feel like training, I just think back to these moments. Coming away with two medals and being able to represent Team USA really shows that every day I didn’t want to get out of bed and train, every day that I trained in the rain and the cold, it all led up to this moment.”
Craig and Stuckey were equally as elated with their first career international medal after they raced to bronze in the men’s 100-meter T11. After a rocky start, Craig and Stuckey made up time in the second half of the race and finished in 11.56, just .04 seconds off the silver medalists and .16 out of the gold medal position.
“I had a little stumble step in the beginning off the block,” Craig said. “But you know, we did what we could do with it. We felt really prepared. At my last Parapan Am Games, I didn’t even make it to the finals, so I’m just proud that I worked this hard, and we got this far, and we did it.”
The duo has only been training together for less than a year, and hope the podium performance is indicative of what’s to come.
“It’s been a learning experience,” Stuckey said. “Iron sharpens iron, and it’s been a beautiful journey. Our goal was to come back with a medal, and we’re coming back with a medal.”
Rounding out Team USA’s finishes in the top four today were Danielle Kanas (Lutz, Florida), Tanner Wright (Fort Worth, Texas), and Madison Hahs (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania). Kanas made her international debut in the women’s javelin F46, while Hahs placed fourth in long jump T38, and Wright was fourth in the men’s 100-meter T47.
Team USA concludes track and field competition in Santiago after five days of events. 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 25
Hannah Dederick – women’s 100-meter T54
Tyson Gunter – men’s long jump T13
Beatriz Hatz – women’s 100-meter T64
Miguel Jimenez-Vergara – men’s 1500-meter T54
Brianna Salinaro – women’s 100-meter T35
Sydney Barta – women’s 100-meter T64
Catarina Guimaraes – women’s long jump T36/37/38
Jessica Heims – women’s discus F64
Chelsea Stein – women’s 100-meter T53
Annie Carey – women’s 100-meter T64
Antoine Craig/Treyton Stuckey – men’s 100-meter T11
Alicia Guerrero – women’s discus F64
Delaney Nolin – women’s 100-meter T35
David Brown/Je’Von Hutchison/Beatriz Hatz/Ryan Medrano/Hannah Dederick – universal 4x100-meter mixed relay
Other Team USA Results:
David Brown/Je’Von Hutchison – 4th, men’s 100-meter T11
Evan Correll – 4th, men’s 1500-meter T54
Madison Hahs – 4th, women’s long jump T36/37/38
Danielle Kanas – 4th, women’s javelin F46
Tanner Wright – 4th, men’s 100-meter T47
Chloe Chavez – 5th, women’s discus F64
Phillip Croft – 5th, men’s 1500-meter T54
Rayven Sample – 8th, men’s 100-meter T47