SAN MATEO — With the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships in the Bay Area for the first time, spectators Sunday were witnesses to a record-setting day.
Natalie Bieule (Miramar, Fla.) set an American record in the women's F40-44 discus when her second attempt traveled 94 feet, 11 inches, which also obliterated her previous record (87.6) that she set in April.
“It took a lot of hard training and focusing on what I had to do,” Bieule said. “I came out of nowhere, no one has heard of me, and I want to make my mark know. My coach, Scott Danberg, has been excellent, and I've come so far in the past seven months.”
Bieule added: “I never thought in a million years I would be here. I'm so blessed to be a part of this community, it is just amazing. It is so motivating and inspiring watching all of these athletes and it motivates me to be to keep pushing to reach my maximum potential.”
Josh George (Champaign, Ill.) may have stolen the show though, winning the men's 1,500-meter (T53-54 class) — his fourth win of nationals — as he held off fellow statesmen Brian Siemann (Savoy, Ill.), pulling ahead in the final 300 meters to win in 3 minutes, 24.46 seconds.
George's win in the men's 1,500 was the feather in the cap to a great weekend, as he also won the 100, 400, and 5,000 meters.
In the 1,500 (51/52), San Francisco's Steven Toyoji had the lead midway through the race, but eventually was overtaken by Raymond Martin, who won in a time of 3:54.10. Toyoji finished in 3:56.76.
Paralympic legend Tatyana McFadden — a 10-time Paralympic Games medalist in track and field and Sochi Paralympic Winter Games silver medalist in cross-country skiing — didn't disappoint over the weekend as she medaled in a whopping four events, taking home gold in the women's 100 (54), 400 (54), 1,500 (53/54), and 5,000 (53/54).
In one of the most exciting races of the day, Michael Kinoshita (Folsom) had the lead coming down the homestretch in the men's 1,500 meter (13/20/37/38), but Michael Murray (Nashville, Tenn.) came-from-behind to win by a little more than two-tenths of a second in 4:27.50. Kinoshita finished in 4:27.71.
In the women's 400 (44-46), 16-year-old Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio) rallied to overtake Megan Absten (Burlington, Wash.) and win with a time of 1:05.59.
“I took off strong and on the backstretch Megan came up on me, and I kind of gave up a little bit, and then I thought, 'I can't give up, I'm at nationals,” Norman said. “Then I got to the final 100 and I started to drive home, and I heard the announcers say that I was challenging for the win, and I thought, 'Oh, yeah there is.' It was a really good race.”