Para Track And Field Athletes To Watch This NCAA Season
by Luke Hanlon
Erin Kerkhoff competes at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. (Photo: Mark Reis)
With the weather becoming milder across the country, it’s time for NCAA track and field competitions to move from indoors to outdoors. While some teams have yet to compete in any outdoor competitions, most programs have gotten at least one meet under their belts.
Among those teams, there have already been some standout performances from U.S. Para track and field athletes. From Paralympic stars to up-and-coming prospects, here are seven athletes to watch this NCAA track and field season.
Liza Corso, Lipscomb University
Corso made an impressive Paralympic debut in Tokyo, winning a silver medal in the 1,500-meter T13. The visually impaired distance runner is now having success while competing in her second collegiate season for the Bisons.
The sophomore ended her indoor season with a bang at the Atlantic Sun Indoor Championships at the end of February. After qualifying for the final of the 1,500, the Newmarket, New Hampshire, native made the All-Conference Third Team with a third-place finish in the 3K finals. She started her outdoor season a month later at the Raleigh Relays in North Carolina by posting a 1,500 time of 4:22.97. At her next meet — the Joe Walker Invite in Oxford, Mississippi — Corso ran a full two seconds faster to set a new Lipscomb record with a time of 4:20.97 in the 1,500.
Catarina Guimaraes, High Point University
Guimaraes got her first taste of college competition in early December when she competed at the Liberty Kickoff meet for the Panthers. The 19-year-old freshman ran the 60 and 200 at the indoor meet, but she made a good first impression with a personal best mark of 4.40 meters in the long jump.
Guimaraes, who has cerebral palsy, made the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Team for the first time in January and is hoping to compete in this summer’s world championships in Paris.
Erin Kerkhoff, University of Northern Iowa
Kerkhoff, who made here Paralympic debut at the Tokyo Games, had a strong indoor season full of highlights. The visually impaired sprinter set career-best times in the 400 (57.05 at the South Dakota State University Indoor Classic) and 200 (25.96 at the Iowa Open) in back-to-back competitions in February.
The redshirt junior from Solon, Iowa, capped off her indoor season by helping the Panthers’ 4x400 relay team finish third at the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships at the end of February. She carried that momentum into the outdoor season-opener at the Wartburg Outdoor Select meet on April 2, where she finished third in the 200 with a final time of 26.07.
Noelle Malkamaki, DePaul University
Malkamaki is competing in her senior season at DePaul after a notable summer of international achievements. She won gold in the shot put and discus at the Desert Challenge Games last May and followed it up by setting an Americas record with a throw of 12.18 meters in the shot put F46 at the U.S. Paralympics National Championships.
The Decatur, Illinois, native, who was born without her right hand, started her indoor season out strong with a throw of 12.81 meters at the Illini Challenge in January, which was good for a third-place finish. Her indoor season culminated with an eighth-place finish in the shot put at the Big East Indoor Championships.
Noah Malone, Indiana State University
Malone, a three-time Paralympic medalist, is having an outstanding season so far for the Sycamores. At the end of February, Malone finished third in the 60 and the 200 at the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships. That helped the Sycamores men’s team win their second straight indoor conference title.
The visually impaired junior has turned that conference championship into individual success to start his outdoor season. Malone won the 100 at the Don McGarey Invitational at the end of March, and he was a part of the 4x100 team that finished second at the event. While that relay team didn’t win its race, it ran the 4x100 in 40.16, which is the third-fastest time in Indiana State history.
Malone followed that up with wins in the 100 and 4x100 at the Pacesetter Sports Invitational the following week on Indiana State’s campus.
Rayven Sample, Bucknell University
Sample, who made his Paralympic debut in Tokyo, is double majoring in psychology and education. When he isn’t studying, he’s competing for the Bison track and field team. The Jamestown, New York, native, who was born with arthrogryposis, a condition that leaves him with little motion in his hands, has had success in relays this season.
Sample was on the 4x400 relay team that finished fourth in the Patriot League Championships, which qualified the team for the Eastern College Athletic Conference Indoor Championships. At that competition, Sample competed in the distance medley relay and helped the Bison clinch a fourth-place finish with a time of 9:53.21. That time marked the third-best in a distance medley relay in Bucknell history.
Dallas Wise, University of Southern California
Wise competed as a jumper for two years at Coastal Carolina University before he competed in the Tokyo Paralympics. At those Games, Wise finished fourth in the long jump and won a silver in the high jump T47.
After his success in Tokyo, he transferred to the University of Southern California. Wise — who has Erb’s palsy, which limits his arm motion — struggled with injuries last season, but has been competing in high, long and triple jump this season. He set an indoor personal best of 7.32 meters in the long jump at the Ken Shannon Last Chance meet to conclude his indoor season.
To start his outdoor season, he finished fourth in the high jump at the Aztec Invitational at the end of March.