Fans of the U.S. Paralympics track and field team have a rare chance to see prominent athletes in action at St. Paul’s Hamline University in June. U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, has announced that Hamline will be the host site for the 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships, June 19-21. This marks the first time that the national championships have been held in Minnesota.
The championships will serve as a selection event for athletes competing at the 2015 Parapan American Games this summer and 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in the fall. International classification will take place from June 17-18.
The venue at Hamline University is the Robert and Alexandra Klas Center, at the north end of the campus. The $7.1 million Klas Center is a four-level multi-use facility with an adjacent athletic stadium and track and field facilities. The seating capacity of the stadium is estimated at 2,000 people. For the past seven years, Klas Center has served as the home for the Minnesota State High School League boys’ and girls’ track and field meet.
“Hosting the national championships in Minnesota will be an exciting atmosphere ahead of the Parapan Am Games this summer and Rio in 2016,” said Cathy Sellers, high performance director for U.S. Paralympics track & field. “This next year will be a make-it-or-break-it time for our athletes, and we’re eager to see who stands out at nationals. Fostering the most competitive environment is imperative for preparing for Rio, and we’re confident Hamline University will deliver that.”
Hamline University and Meet Minneapolis will cooperatively host the championships with approximately 200 top U.S. athletes expected to compete. Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Md.), who is the first woman to win an unprecedented six events at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships, is anticipated to highlight a talented roster at this year’s trials. McFadden, an 11-time Paralympic medalist, set new world records in the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters T54 races and won her second-straight marathon grand slam in 2014.
Lineups for the meet are still being finalized. Potentially joining McFadden is Raymond Martin (Jersey City, N.J.), the first man to win five individual titles in the 2013 world championships. Martin bested his own 200 meters T52 world record at the 2014 Desert Challenge Games in Mesa, Ariz. and took gold in the 100 meters, 800 meters and 1500 meters events at the same meet.
Other reigning world champions anticipated to compete at nationals include Richard Browne (Jackson, Miss.), men’s 100 meters and 200 meters T44; Jarryd Wallace (Athens, Ga.), men’s 200 meters T44; Joshua George (Herndon, Va.), men’s 800 meters T53; Jeremy Campbell (Perryton, Texas), men’s discus F44; Lex Gillette (Raleigh, N.C.), men’s long jump T11; Cassie Mitchell (Atlanta, Ga.), women’s shot put F52/53; Browne, Jerome Singleton (Irmo, S.C.), Blake Leeper (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Wallace also won the men’s 4×100 meters relay T42-46 title. The Parapan American Games will take place Aug. 7-15 in Toronto, Canada followed by the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, Oct. 21-31.
“We are excited and honored to host this great event at Hamline University,” Hamline athletics director Jason Verdugo said. “It’s a testament to the quality of the track and field facilities at Klas Center and to our outstanding track and field staff.”
“It has been a great experience working with U.S. Paralympics and learning about all the great work they do with these truly inspiring athletes,” said, Scott Romane, executive director of Sports Minneapolis. “We look forward to continuing to work together on a very successful track and field national championships here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and celebrating the athletes’ journeys to reach the championships.”
Athletic events have been a part of the Paralympic program since the first Paralympic Games in Rome, Italy, in 1960. Events in the first games included track, throwing, jumping and the marathon.
The rules of Paralympic track and field are almost identical to those of its non-disabled counterpart. Certain allowances are made to accommodate certain disabilities. For example, the blind and more severely visually impaired runners compete with guide runners, who are often attached by the wrist with a tether to the runner. Paralympic track and field competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation/limb loss, blindness/visual impairment, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.
Paralympic track and field events are enjoyed increased popularity. The 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France was one of the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Team’s most successful competitions to date. During the nine days of competition, Team USA won a total of 52 medals — 17 gold, 18 silver and 17 bronze — to finish one medal shy of winning the overall medal count. U.S. team members also set four world records at the event.
Tickets for the national championships will be sold at the spectator entrance gate during the times of competition on June 19-21. Tickets are $15 per person for an all-session pass (age 10 and up). A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to local track and field clubs. Cash and VISA credit card are the only method of payment accepted for tickets. Spectator parking is available on the campus.
Merchandise will be sold at the competition venue during the times of packet pick-up. Cash and VISA credit card are the only methods of payment accepted for merchandise.
For more information on the 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships, visit USParalympics.org