Media Press Release

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, NCAA and Drake University announce qualifiers for first-ever National Collegiate Wheelchair 100-meter Championships

by USOPC

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, NCAA and Drake University today announced the field of competitors for the inaugural 100m national collegiate wheelchair championships. The event is slated for April 29 as part of the 2023 Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, and is one of several initiatives of the USOPC/NCAA Para-College Inclusion Project, which launched in late 2022 as a unified effort to partner with the collegiate community, athletes, National Governing Bodies and the NCAA to advance Para and adaptive sport.

 

“We’re just scratching the surface of integrating adaptive sports into already-longstanding collegiate athletics events, and we’re excited to move the needle with track and field,” said USOPC senior director of collegiate partnerships, Sarah Wilhelmi. “We couldn’t be more proud to see this idea come to life at Drake later this month, and it wouldn’t have happened without the great work of our Para-College Inclusion Project members, Drake and the NCAA.” 

To qualify for the finals, wheelchair student-athletes from around the country had the opportunity to participate in an eastern regional and western regional held at the University of Illinois and University of Arizona, respectively. The top-three qualifiers from each region earned their spot to compete in the finals at the Drake Relays, alongside the athletes who posted the next two fastest times at the qualifiers. The University of Michigan provided a grant to facilitate athlete participation in the championships, and eligible participants must be full-time students and have represented their institution in athletic competition during the 2022-2023 academic year.


“It’s such an honor to be a part of the first-ever wheelchair racing events at the Drake Relays,” said U.S. Paralympian Hannah Dederick. “This is a huge step on the path of creating equal opportunities for Para athletes in college sports.” 

 

The women’s 100m field is comprised of seven competitors from three schools; they’ll compete on April 29 at 2:54 p.m. CT in the championship race. The seven racers are:

·     Hannah Dederick (University of Illinois), 2020 U.S. Paralympian

·     Jenna Fesemyer (University of Illinois), 2020 U.S. Paralympian

·     Eva Houston (University of Illinois), 2020 U.S. Paralympian

·     Jacie King (University of Arizona)

·     Camryn Ledford (University of Arizona)

·     Chelsea Stein (University of Arizona)

·     Maria Velat (University of Michigan)

 

The men’s 100m championship race will be held April 29 at 2:59 p.m. CT. The field is comprised of eight competitors from two schools:

·     Valera Allen (University of Arizona)

·     Evan Correll (University of Illinois)

·     Phillip Croft (University of Illinois)

·     Aidan Gravelle (University of Arizona)

·     Peyton Gunnarson (University of Arizona)

·     Jason Robinson (University of Illinois)

·     Dustin Stallberg (University of Arizona)

·     Wyatt Willand (University of Arizona)

Each year on the final Saturday of April, Drake Relays fans have celebrated athletic excellence for generation after generation, cheering competitors to 14 world records, 50 American records and countless personal bests. Crowning the first-ever collegiate national champions in wheelchair track and field is an exciting next chapter in the history of our event, and we’re all proud of the partnerships that have brought it to life,” said Franklin P. Johnson director of the Drake Relays, Blake Boldon. “With two Iowa natives among the medal contenders, local fans will have an even greater rooting interest in this first-of-its-kind championship.”

 

“The NCAA is honored to partner with the USOPC and Drake University for the inaugural 100 meter men’s and women’s collegiate championships as part of the Para-College Inclusion Project,” said Jean Merrill, NCAA director of inclusion. “These incredible student-athletes are at the top of their sports and are remarkable ambassadors to their universities.  We are thrilled to crown collegiate champions and to continue building awareness and opportunity at the collegiate level for adaptive sports.”

 

Following the race, the top-three competitors in each field will be recognized during a medal ceremony on the track. Media interested in receiving more information should reach out to Annemarie.Blanco@usopc.org. For more information about U.S. Paralympics Track & Field, please visit TeamUSA.org/usparatrackandfield.  

 

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About the USOPC
Founded in 1894 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee serves as both the National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee for the United States. The USOPC is focused on protecting, supporting and empowering America’s athletes, and is responsible for fielding U.S. teams for the Olympic, Paralympic, Youth Olympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games, and serving as the steward of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the U.S. For more information, visit
TeamUSA.org.

 

About the NCAA
The NCAA is a diverse association of more than 1,100 member colleges and universities that prioritize academics, well-being and fairness to create greater opportunities for nearly half a million student-athletes each year. The NCAA provides a pathway to higher education and beyond for student-athletes pursuing academic goals and competing in NCAA sports. More than 54,000 student-athletes experience the pinnacle of intercollegiate athletics by competing in NCAA championships each year. Visit 
ncaa.org and ncaa.comfor more details about the Association and the corporate partnerships that support the NCAA and its student-athletes.

 

About Drake Relays

The Drake Relays presented by Xtream powered by Mediacom has served as "America's Athletic Classic" since its first running in 1910. The annual competition, hosted by Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, is recognized internationally as a destination for the world's premier track & field athletes across multiple professional and amateur divisions. In 2020, the Drake Relays was named a Silver Level event on the World Athletics Continental Tour, one of only two meets in the United States to earn Silver Level status. In addition to its signature stadium competition, the Drake Relays includes two marquee road running events open to the general public — the Grand Blue Mile presented by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Drake Road Races. For more information, visitdrakerelays.org.

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