Pan Am U20s, Day 1: Stellar U.S. sweeps in 400, hurdles

by Jim Spier

2019 Pan American U20 Championships, San Jose, Costa Rica

All photos by Joy Kamani

At left, 400 gold medalists Justin Robinson and Kayla Davis. At right, U.S. decathletes Corbett Fong and Jett Kinder.

Getting There

Costa Rica is much closer to the U.S. than one would think. It’s only about a 3-hour flight from Houston.  That’s where my colleagues Joy Kamani and Steve Underwood arrived from (Steve had connected from Detroit).

We all arrived at about the same time, around noon on Thursday, July 18.  I was met with a line of about 500 people at customs.  It took 45 minutes to work my way through it.  Joy and Steve, arriving shortly thereafter, had to deal with the same numbers. But immediately after that, it had shrunk down to virtually no one.  It was empty by the time I picked up my luggage.

We used Uber (quite prevalent in San Jose) to get to the hotel.  It was about a 45-minute drive.  (Up to about 2 months ago, there was no information on the organizing committee web site about the exact location of the meet.  I guessed it was the National Stadium.  Right next to the stadium is the Hilton Garden Inn.  I gambled that that would be the hotel and I won for a change).

We went to the stadium and got our press credentials.  That’s another interesting story: We applied about a month ago and never got a response about acceptance.  But that was nothing new.  We had been through this many times before.  But there they were, waiting for us.

That afternoon we walked a bit of the city, looking for a restaurant.  We passed the beautiful Sabana Park on the way and lots of traffic.  (There are over 100 “public” bus companies servicing the city.  They are actually not public, but private, and seem to go on forever.  Most are not “eco-friendly,” so the air qualify is not the best). 

We wound up at Casa Colon for a traditional meal of rice and beans, salad and fish or chicken.  It was relatively inexpensive, about $6 per person.  Then Uber back to the hotel and off to bed.

Day 1, Friday July 19

There would be two sessions this day.  We went to the stadium to get the start lists.  We asked where the press section was.  They told us it was over the finish line. 

It was perfect, over the finish line in a stadium that seats 35,000.  But there was one problem.  There is no seating.  So we went back to the main headquarters room and “borrowed” three folding chairs.  As it turned out, there were five of us: We three, Paul Reid of Jamaica and Cory Mull of Milesplit.  That’s the press corp.

It was a terrific day for the Americans, winning most of the events.

Women’s 100 Meters

The favorite was the U.S. high school record holder, Briana Williams (Northeast, Oakland Park, FL), representing Jamaica.  She looked sluggish in the early rounds, finishing second in qualifying, resulting in her lane 2 placement in the finals.  She won in 11.38 [-1.4], but only slightly over New Balance Nationals Outdoors (NBNO) 200 champ Thelma Davies (Girard College, Philadelphia, PA; LSU signee) at 11.39.  Brandee Presley (Mississippi), the U.S. U20 champ, was third in 11.41.

At left, Alexis Holmes taking the 400 silver. At right, Kayla Davis pulls away to victory.

Women’s 400 Meters

Kayla Davis – the high school freshman (Providence Day, Charlotte, NC) – continued to impress, running 51.61.  She had earlier won the U.S. U20 Championships 400 as well as the NBNO 400 – that in 51.19, the National Freshman class record.  The women had run the trials that morning, only six hours before.  Alexis Holmes (Kentucky transfer), the 2018 NBNO champion, was second in 52.59.  Doneisha Anderson of the Bahamas was third; she was part of the U of Florida’s 4th place 4x400m relay the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Women’s 3000 Meters

Brogan MacDougall of Canada and NBNO mile champ Marlee Starliper (Northern, Dillsburg, PA) battled for six laps, both having broken away from the rest of the field after the first 800 meters.  With a lap and a half to go, MacDougall put on a spurt and Starliper could not keep up.  MacDougall had a 9:08 best time (Canadian U20 record) to her credit and that talent showed.  She ran 9:23.23 to Marlee’s 9:27.28, an outdoor PB for her.  MacDougall will be attending Queens College in Canada in the fall.  American Ariana Gardizy (Pennsylvania) was fourth in 10:09.32.

Women’s 100 Meter Hurdles

What a year Jasmine Jones (Greater Atlanta Christian, GA) has had!  She won the Barrientos Memorial in Cuba (our CSI), the day after being spiked in relay practice – which required a dozen stitches.  A week later she won NBNO in 13.36.  Then the next week she won the US U20 meet in a U.S. high school-leading time of 13.19.  Now several weeks later, she wins the Pan Am U20 meet in 13.20 (photo at right)

Masai Russell (Kentucky) was gaining on Jasmine through the ninth hurdle but crashed (literally!) the last hurdle and did not finish.  It was obviously very frustrating for her, but she still has the 400m hurdles.

Women’s Pole Vault

With only four competitors, the U.S. finished 1-2 as they had at the US U20 champs.  Nastassja Campbell (Arkansas transfer) was first in 14-00 with Hayley Horvath (Towson State) second in 12-9.5.  Campbell won the NBNI pole vault in 2018 as a New Caney, TX senior.

Women’s Long Jump

Claire Bryant (Houston Memorial, Houston, TX) the US U20 champ and NBNO runnerup, was the champ here, edging favorite Shantae Foreman (Jamaica), 20-02.25 to 20-01.5.  Foreman, just 16 years old, was leading until the final jump when Claire improved her mark from 20-00.25 by 2 inches to get the win.  EJ Onah (Albany), the surprise runner-up at the US U20 champs, was third at 19-11.75. (medal stand photo at left)

Women’s Shot Put

Tedreaunna Britt (Mississippi) got a PR 51-10 in round 4 to take the lead, but Canadian Trinity Tutti bested that in the next round and ultimately won with that throw (52-04).  Patience Marshall (Campbell), the US U20 champ who had a PR of nearly five feet at the meet (52-8), proved that it was no fluke in finishing third here in 51-05.75.




Men’s 100 Meters

Matthew Boling (winning prelim, at right), the dominant U.S. sprinter this year, ran a wind-legal, personal best (10.11) here to get the victory.  The Georgia-signee got a poor start but had a magnificent second half of the race to win going away.  The Jamaicans Oblique Seville (10.21) and Michael Stephens (10.34) were second and third.

Men’s 400 Meters

What a long season Justin Robinson (see photo below) has had.  From early January where he won the Arkansas High School Invitational, until now, he has run a very high level for seven months.  Here he came very close to his altitude-assisted 44.84, running 45.04.  That converts to 44.95 at altitude so it was close.  Myles Misener of Canada, the UCLA signee, was second in 45.62, with Bovel Mc Pherson of Jamaica running third in 45.97.  Trey Johnson (Southern Mississippi) failed to make the final, having run 47.02 in his semifinal.

Men’s 800 Meter Trials

Both Americans, James Olivier (Maine) and Darius Kipyego (St. Raphael Academy, Pawtucket, RI) had PBs and were surprises in qualifying for the U.S. team.  But they held there own in qualifying here, running intelligent races against fields that included (between them) five sub-1:50 runners.  The final is somewhat “up for grabs,” with the 8 qualifying times ranging from 1:51.67 to 1:52.45.

Men’s 5000 Meters

Canada dominated here at the end of a tactical race, with Joshua Desouza the champion (Iona College) and Marc-Andre Trudeau in second.  But that was only after a wild finish where a Peruvian runner misjudged his laps and launched an all-out kick with two laps to go. The U.S. athletes have had better days, running 5th (Adam Dayani, Oklahoma State, 15:28.04) and 8th (Grant Gardner, Springville, UT – BYU signee – 15:44.50).

Men’s 110m Hurdles

It was a “picture perfect” race for Eric Edwards (Oregon), winning in a windy 13.11 and besting teammate Tai Brown (Kentucky) who ran 13.36w.  That gave the Team NSAF (Cuba '17) alum a defense of his 2017 Pan Am U20 title and reversed the U.S. U20 championship results -- where both ran 13.21 with Brown being the winner. Edwards had run 13.32 in his victory two years ago.

Tai Brown, at right, winning his 110H prelim.

Men’s Pole Vault

The U.S. athletes took gold and bronze here, with Branson Ellis (Stephen F. Austin) winning at 17-06.5 and Max Manson (Monarch, Louisville, CO – Stanford signee) third at 16-10.75. Manson was the NBNI champ back in March and his father, Pat, was the silver medalist in this meet back in 1986. The Americans were separated by Argentinian Pablo Zaffaroni, who jumped 17-00.25 for silver.  Both Ellis and the female champ Natassja Campbell were freshman at Stephen F. Austin this year.

Men’s Long Jump

The favorite (and Penn Relays Champion) Wayne Pinnock (Jamaica) won.  But just barely; he got his ultimate winning jump of 25-08 in the first round.  Phillip Austin (Arizona) was second until the next to last jump of the competition, then equaled Pinnock’s mark with his own 25-08, a personal best.  But Pinnock had a better second jump, 25-7.75 to Austin’s 25-00.5.  Shaquille Lowe of Jamaica was third in 24-06.25, with A’Nan Bridgett (Rutgers) fifth in 24-02.25.

Men’s Discus

Claudio Romero got Chile’s first medal, winning with a throw of 203-07.  Dabirac Perez (Cuba) was second at 201-08, with Josh Sobota (Kentucky) third with a big PR of 201-02.  Sobota was 7th until his final throw, where he unleashed his bronze medal effort.  Zach Gehm (Youngstown State) was 9th in 179-05.

Men’s Hammer Throw

Rowan Hamilton, the 2019 NAIA champ from Canada (U of British Columbia) was the dominant thrower here, winning with a big 247-02 throw.  Second was Ronald Mencia of Cuba (234-01), with Julio Nobile (Argentina, 227-8).  Fourth was NBNO runner up Michael Soler (Puerto Rico, 220-11).  Joseph Benedetto (Mississippi) was 6th at 218-03, close to his 219-09 PR.  Garrett Doyle (Ohio State) was 11th in 189-07.


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