2019 Pan Am U20 Women’s Preview: US long sprint, hurdle talent stands out

by Steve Underwood

Here's our 2019 Pan Am U20 Women's Preview, by event, U.S. entries (with USA U20 mark and career PR, plus HS or college affiliation) and event preview.

Pan Am U20 Champs starts today! Team USA includes 64 NSAF/NBN current stars and alums


  • Brandee Presley – 11.19/11.19 – U. of Mississippi frosh
  • Thelma Davies – 11.25/11.25 – Girard College, PA ’19 (LSU recruit)
    (photo at right by Walter Pinion)
  • Preview: Outstanding performances of 11.19 and 11.25 at US U20s put Presley and Davies in a great position to battle for medals. But the overwhelming favorite will be Briana Williams, the 17-year-old Florida prep repping Team Jamaica, who clocked an HSR 10.94 a few weeks ago in taking 3rd at the senior Jamaican champs. Williams was a shining star last summer at the IAAF U20s, sweeping the 100 and 200, so she’s prepared for international competition. Incidentally, Williams and Davies were 1-2 in the NBNI 60m dash this past winter at 7.28 and 7.30, so Davies won’t be intimidated.



  • Lanae-Tava Thomas – 22.64w/22.65 – U. of Southern Cal frosh
  • Jayda Eckford – 22.72w/23.00 – U. of Mississippi frosh
  • Preview: With the above-mentioned Williams having signed up for just the 100 (and probably 4x100), Americans Thomas and Eckford would seem to have a leg up on the field as the only sub-23 performers. Thomas, the former sprint/jump standout at Rush-Henrietta HS (NY) has focused mostly on the former this spring to great success at USC. Eckford, like her teammate Presley, has had a breakout freshman year at Ole Miss. Lorraine Martins, a World U20 finalist last year for Brazil, and the Trinidad and Tobago pair of Alya Stanisclaus and Shaniqua Bascombe are among the other top contenders.



  • Kayla Davis – 51.28/51.17 – Providence Day, NC ’22
  • Alexis Holmes – 51.52/51.21 (’18) – Penn State U. frosh (transferring to Kentucky)
  • Preview: The field is loaded with a lot of 52- and 53-second talent, but no one has matched the 51s that Davis and Holmes have been putting up. They brought out the best in each other at USATF U20s and it’s reasonable to expect more of the same in San Jose. Holmes and Davis are back-to-back NBNO 400 champs, the former being four years older but having won in equally stunning fashion. Davis has proven to be able to handle the pressure extremely well for someone who doesn’t turn 16 until later this year. The top challengers to this duo will likely be U. of Florida frosh Doneisha Anderson (BAH) at 52.15 and CARIFTA champ Shaquena Foote of Jamaica.



  • Athing Mu – 2:05.59/2:01.38 – Trenton Central, NJ ’20
  • Morgan Foster – 2:07.75/2:06.13 – Chandler, AZ ’19 (Stanford recruit)
  • Preview: Mu with her 2:01.38 PR is the #2 U20 performer in the world for 2019 and no other athlete from a Pan American country is close. The 2018 Youth Olympic silver medalist often thrives when she has faster elite runners to key off of in open races, so the biggest factor here is whether she can pace herself and run to this level again. Several eligible athletes have run in the 2:05-06 range this year, including 2nd American Foster, Jamaican Charokee Young, Lorena Itzel Rangel Batres of Mexico and Canadians Aurora Rynda and Haley Walker.



  • Rachel Hickey – 4:30.93/ 4:52.37 mile – Illinois State U. frosh
  • Meghan Underwood – 4:31.20/4:22.39 – Arkansas U. frosh
  • Preview: Although Underwood was 2nd at USA U20s, she owns the faster 1500 PR of the U.S. duo at 4:22.39. The women to beat, however, are probably the Canadian duo of Jocelyn Chau and Maggie Smith. Chau, a Yale freshman, was 9th at the IAAF U20s last year and has a 4:16.99 PR. Smith, still a prep, has run 4:21 and was 2nd in the Louck’s mile this past spring in 4:51.46.



  • Marlee Starliper – 9:29.39/9:20.91i – Northern, PA ’20
  • Ariana Gardizy – 9:41.15/9:40.22i – U. of Penn frosh
  • Preview: Starliper has been one of the top U.S. prep distance runners the past few years, winning the NBNO mile, running sub-4:40, and also putting up fast times in longer distances like 9:20.91 for 3k and 9:54.75 for 3200m. Gardizy, a 9:56 3k runner as a North Penn prep, has improved nicely this year. In Brogan MacDougall, however, Canada has the world’s #2 performer outside of East Africa and Japan. The 18-year-old recently shattered her national U20 record at 9:08.25 and she and Starliper could push each other to new heights this weekend.


3000m Steeplechase

  • Lydia Olivere – 10:33.08/10:22.93 – Villanova U. frosh
  • Megan Worrel – 10:36.14/10:27.90 – U. of Michigan frosh
  • Preview: As is the case in the flat 3000, Canada has the top seed in Grace Fetherstonhaugh, who clocked a 10:03.13 this spring and has a career best of 10:01.95. She was 11th at the World U20s last summer and this spring competed for Oregon State. The USA duo of Olivere and Worrel are the top candidates for silver and bronze.



  • Heidi Nielson – 16:54.02/16:54.02 – Cinco Ranch, TX ‘21
  • Preview: After winning the NBNO 5000m last spring as a Cinco Ranch TX freshman, Nielson backed it up nicely with her runner-up finish at USA U20s last month. Unfortunately, she won’t be accompanied by USA champ Jess Larson (U. of Michigan frosh), who is staying home with a stress fracture. Nielson is one of three runners seeded between 16:50 and 17:00 who will likely battle for silver and bronze. Yet another Canadian, Anne Forsyth – the Ann Arbor Pioneer MI alum now competing for U. of Michigan – has a 16:14.80 PR and stands as the woman to beat.



  • Jasmine Jones – 13.19/13.19 – Greater Atlanta Christian, GA ’20
  • Masai Russell – 13.42/13.18 – U. of Kentucky frosh
  • Preview: Thanks to Jones scintillating PR at USA U20s, and Russell’s PR from earlier in the NCAA season, Team USA has the top two entries in the field. Jones has had a spectacular junior season, including recovering from bad spike wounds to win NBNO and then USA U20s. Meanwhile, Russell – part of the Bullis School dynasty and winner of numerous NBN titles and All-American honors in relays and individual events – has lowered her 100H to 13.18 at U. of Kentucky. The Jamaican duo of Ackera Nugent (CARIFTA champ and NACAC U18 silver medalist) and Crystal Morrison (NACAC U18 champ) stand to challenge, as do World U20 semifinalists Micaela Rosa De Mello of Brazil and Yoveninny Mota of Venezuela – also the runner-up at NJCAA’s this spring at Barton County. Another to watch for is Texas prep Tamia Badal, repping Trinidad and Tobago.



  • Britton Wilson – 56.36/56.36 – Mills Godwin, VA ’19 (Tennessee recruit)
  • Masai Russell – 56.78/56.78 – U. of Kentucky frosh
  • Preview: The PR performances of Wilson and Russell from USA U20s make them the 1-2 seeds and what a year it’s been for both – with Wilson sweeping NBNO and USAs, and Russell getting her first sub-57 to make this team and then a short time later making the 100H squad as well on the final day at USAs. The Bullis School grad, of course, also is a 2017 Pan Am U20 bronze medalist in the event – one of 2 U.S. returnees from Peru. With her 56.72 best, Chayenne Da Silva of Brazil has the best chance to break up the USA sweep and two others in the field have run in the 57s.


10K Race Walk

  • Taylor Ewert – 48:24.61 / 45:57.81 – Beavercreek, OH ’20
  • Grace Endy – 56:21.52/56:05.29 – Westfield, NJ ’21
  • Preview: As spectacularly great as Ewert has been in destroying all U.S. prep and U-20 racewalking records the past few years, she’ll be walking against some of the world’s best here, as Central and South American walkers have a great tradition in the event. World U20 bronze medalist Glenda Morejon (ECU), Rachelle De Orbeta (PUR) (7th) and Noelia Vargas (CRC) (9th) are in the field. Ewert was 10th in Finland last summer and while she’ll be a underdog to make the podium, it could happen with a breakthrough performance.


4x100 Relay

  • Team USA: Brandee Presley, Thelma Davies, Caisja Chandler, Semira Killebrew
  • Preview: Team USA has the talent to medal and possibly win gold, but any team with Briana Williams anchoring (JAM) is to be feared and probably favored. The key, as always, will be good stick passing.


4x400 Relay

  • Team USA: Kayla Davis, Alexis Holmes, Ziyah Holman, Kimberly Harris
  • Preview: With four legs sporting PRs between 51.17 and 52.16, this will be one of the more talented US U20 teams ever, capable of threatening the World U20 record of 3:27.60 from 2004. It’s hard to see many others pushing them unless there’s a bobble somewhere.


High Jump

  • Shelby Tyler – 6-0/6-0.75 – Noblesville, IN ’19 (U. of Georgia recruit)
  • Sanaa Barnes – 5-10.75/6-0.5i – Villanova U. freshman
  • Preview: Tyler, last year’s NBNO and USA U20 champ – who then made the World U20 final in Finland – got her 6-foot form back just in time last month in Miramar to make another team. And while Barnes didn’t clear 6 feet at USAs, she rejoins her Tampere teammate with hopes of a pair of USA medals. They may or may not remember Lamara Distin, the Jamaican high jumper who struggled in the World U20 final (as did Tyler). Distin is now a 6-1.5 jumper, however, and holds the top seed.


Long Jump

  • Claire Bryant – 20-1/20-8.75 – Houston Memorial, TX ’20
  • EJ Onah – 19-4/20-2.25 – Albany U. frosh
  • Preview: With her 20-8.75 wind-legal PR from the Texas Relays (21-2w as well), Bryant tops a crowded and similarly talented field here. Three others have jumped 20-6 or better, including Andriele Rainana Zander of Brazil, Shantae Foreman of Jamaica and Chantoba Bright of Guyana.


Triple Jump

  • Trentorria Green – 41-10.75/41-10.75 – Florida State U. frosh
  • Kali Hatcher – 41-8/42-1.25 – Columbia U. frosh
  • Preview: With Americans Green and Hatcher holding the 6th and 7th seeds, this will be one of the tougher events to get a medal. In Leyanis Perez, Cuba not only has the meet favorite but the world’s #1 U20 jumper at 46-4.25 – competing in her first international championship.


Pole Vault

  • Nastassja Campbell – 13-5.25 / 14-4.75i – Stephen F. Austin U. frosh
  • Hayley Horvath – 13-5.25 / 13-5.25 – Towson State U. frosh
  • Preview: Campbell, the 2018 NBNI champ as a prep senior in Texas, struggled with injuries that year outdoors, but has come back and thrived as a SFA freshman. In a small field of four vaulters, the U.S. athletes should take 1-2.


Shot Put

  • Patience Marshall – 52-8 / 52-8 – Campbell U. frosh
  • Tedreauna Britt – 51-0.75 / 51-0.75 – Mississippi U. frosh
  • Preview: Trinity Tutti – a 50-footer as Canadian prep senior in ’18 – has improved dramatically to 55-1.5 this year while training with SISU and competing in a number of U.S. meets. She’s the woman to beat, but Marshall – who had a huge 4-foot PR herself at USA U20s, reaching 52-8 – could certainly challenge and will hope to backup that mighty mark from Miramar. Britt, who’s also progressed well as a college freshman to surge over 51 feet, is by far the next best medal contender.



  • Tedreauna Britt – 177-2 / 177-2 – Mississippi U. frosh
  • Veronica Fraley – 167-9 / 173-7 – Clemson U. frosh
  • Preview: The standout in the field is Melany del Pilar Matheus of Cuba, the only entrant over 60 meters and #2 in the world with her 198-4 PR. Though she’s just 18, she recently won NACAC U-23 bronze in the event. Last year she had a disastrous no mark in World U20 qualifying, but came back and won the Youth Olympic title. Shot put favorite Trinity Tutti of Canada and Americans Britt (also doubling with the shot) and Veronica Fraley are among the top silver and bronze contenders.



  • Ava Curry – 160-5 / 166-6 – U. of Missouri frosh
  • Skylar Ciccolini – 158-0 / 184-2 – Mifflin County, PA ’19 (Missouri recruit)
  • Preview: Future Missouri teammates Curry and Ciccolini have had great seasons and Ciccolini’s PR of 184-2 from her Penn Relays triumph is #11 among the World’s U20s. But holding down #4 is Juleisy Angulo (ECU) at 190-1. Angulo finished just ahead of Ciccolini at the Youth Olympics (4th to 6th in the final) and was a medal favorite in Finland – but finished just 12th while way off form in the final. She’ll be looking for redemption and Ciccolini may have to be in 180s form to win. Curry obviously has a strong medal shot as well, along with Brazilian Deisiane Teixeira.



  • Hawa Mahama – 215-5 / 215-5 – U. of Penn frosh
  • Shelby Moran – 191-10 / 197-9 – Arizona State U. frosh
  • Preview: With her eye-popping 215-5 PR from USA U20s, Mahama vaulted herself into the favorite’s role here. Cubans Alegna Osorio Mayari and Liz Arleen Collia Llorente are the top contenders, while Moran will likely need a breakthrough to snag a medal.



  • Anna Hall – 5,646 pts / 5,798 pts – Valor Christian CO ’19 (U. of Georgia recruit)
  • Timara Chapman – 5,383 pts / 5,412 pts – N. Carolina State U. frosh
  • Preview: There are just seven entrants in the 7-eventer, but Hall and Chapman will not be without competition. Marys A. Patterson (CUB) has scored 5,630 this year and won the Memorial Barrientos with a backup mark over 5,200 points. Still, if Hall’s last month of training has got her long jump back in shape, she’ll have a good chance to get back over 5,700 or better and claim the gold. Chapman’s a good bet for bronze.

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