Laulauga Tausaga-Collins led a gold medal sweep for the USA as five records fell on the opening day of the North and Central American & Caribbean (NACAC) Championships at the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in Freeport, The Bahamas, on Friday (19).
A World Championships finalist, Tausaga-Collins broke the discus championship record twice in her first two throws (62.21m and 63.18m) to claim one of the eight titles for the USA.
Three other women surpassed the 60-metre mark, all in the final round, but it was not enough to catch the US thrower, who was pleased with her win before heading to the Wanda Diamond League final.
Cuba’s 2015 world champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Denia Caballero returned to competition after a full pause following the 2021 season and moved from fourth to silver with 61.86m in the sixth round, finishing ahead of USA’s Rachel Dincoff (61.56m) and Cuba’s Silinda Morales (60.73m).
Despite the hot and humid weather conditions, US distance runners rewrote three records: Gabrielle Jennings in the women’s 3000m steeplechase (9:34.36), Natosha Rogers in the 5000m (15:11.68) and Sean McGorty in the 10,000m (29:23.77) with the latter erasing one of the two remaining men’s championship records from the inaugural edition in El Salvador in 2007.
Not only did Jennings and Rogers break the championship records, they also led medal sweeps for the USA. Katie Rainsberger and Carmen Graves took silver and bronze in the steeplechase, while Fiona O’Keefe and Eleanor Fulton secured the other podium places in the 5000m.
USA’s 2016 world indoor champion Vashti Cunningham found some redemption after failing to reach the World Championships final on home soil. The three-time global medallist and Olympic finalist cleared 1.92m on her first attempt in the women’s high jump final, breaking St Lucia’s three-time winner Lavern Spencer’s 1.91m record set in Toronto in 2018.
One of the biggest surprises of the first day came in the women’s hammer, where USA’s world bronze medallist Janee’ Kassanavoid got the better of world champion Brooke Andersen. Kassanavoid won with 71.51m as Andersen managed 68.66m, recording just her second defeat of what has otherwise been a highly successful breakthrough season.
The other winners on the opening day were Chris Bernard in the men’s triple jump (16.40m) and Roger Steen in the shot put (20.78m).
In other action outside the finals, world and Olympic champion Shaune Miller-Uibo delighted the home crowd with an easy semifinal win in the women’s 400m in 50.84, only 0.02 off the championship record. Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper led the semifinals in the 100m hurdles (12.62) while her compatriot Andrew Hudson (20.25) and USA’s Brittany Brown (22.59) led the 200m semifinals.
A total of 17 finals will be contested on Saturday, including the men’s and women’s 100m and 400m, featuring two other individual world champions from Eugene: Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson (200m champion running 100m) and Miller-Uibo.
The fourth edition of the championships, held for the first time to the Caribbean, was opened by the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Philip Davis, and is dedicated to the late Anita Doherty, an educator of many generations of Bahamians, who competed for the island nation in the pentathlon at the 1970 Commonwealth Games.
By Javier Clavelo Robinson for World Athletics