TRUJILLO, Peru – Cayman Islands’ Jamal Watson led magic afternoon of world class athletics on the opening day of the 19th Pan American U20 Championships at Trujillo’s Chan Chan stadium, where four event records fell in spectacular fashion.
Walton, fourth at the 2015 World U18 Championships, marked a special return to South American soil with an impressive 44.99 win in 400m, eclipsing the 10-year old championships record and becoming the 16th man in history aged 19 or under to break the 45-second barrier.
“I am happy to win gold for the Cayman Island. There’s a good atmosphere and the competition pushed me all the way to a fast time,” said Walton, who held off USA’ Josephus Lyles (45.30) and Zachary Shinnick (45.98).
In the women’s race, Roxana Gomez and USA’s Jaevin Reed set off to a close duel from the start, but the Cuban held a narrow lead to win gold in a new national U20 record of 51.46, the third fastest time by a U20 athlete in the world in 2017.
Reed’s 51.71 was also inside the previous record set 10 years ago. Canada’s Kyra Constantine completed the podium in third with 52.63.
Despite his tender 18-year old age, Gomez showed her composure and experience from the previous continental U20 event, the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2016 World U20 Championships. She was named on the Cuban team for the IAAF World Championships in London.
Tia Jones, the 2016 World U Championships bronze medallist, set the first championships record with her 13.01 in the 100m hurdles, closely followed by her countrywoman Tara Davis (13.05), the fastest U20 woman in the world this year. Davis showed her versatility by winning the long jump, a discipline in which she claimed the World U18 title in Cali in 2015. Her winning 6.51m leap was not considered as a competition record due to an illegal 2.4m/s tail wind.
Ecuador’s Maribel Caicedo, the 2015 World U18 champion and silver medallist at this event in 2015, settled for third in 13.41.
The fourth record fell in the pole vault as Rachel Baxter (USA) entertained the large crowd with a personal best of 4.41m in the third time of asking. Already a winner at 4.30, Baxter added 1cm to the previous mark before three misses at 4.47m.
A week after becoming South America’s first individual world U18 champion, Claudio Romero took the continental discus gold in 62.30m, over four metres better than his previous national record. Romero is also scheduled to contest the shot put.
Other notable winners were Trinidad and Tobago’s Khalif St. Fort, who successfully defended her 100m crown despite an initial stumble at the start. Taylor Werner came within 0.07 seconds of the event record in winning the 3000m gold in 9:16.12.
Ecuador enjoyed a successful first day with two victories in the women’s javelin and the men’s 10000m walk thanks to Yuleixi Angulo and Alexander Hurtado, respectively.
Carlos Hernandez took Colombia’s first medal with the 5000m gold, an event in which Yuri Labra Phuturi gave hosts Peru their first medal of the championships (bronze).
Seventeen finals are scheduled on Saturday at Chan Chan stadium. They include 200m and 800m, the 4x100m relays and the conclusion of the decathlon.
Over 500 athletes from 30 countries are participating at the event, held for the first time in Peru.