Watcke's Gold-Medal Effort Highlighted Final Day Of Pan Ams

* Dan Watcke, a graduate of Hinsdale Central, ran a personal record 1:48 en route to a Pan American U20 title on Sunday in Puerto Rico

Photo Credit: Jesus Velez Perez/MileSplit

MAYAGUEZ, PR -- Dan Watcke had experienced anguish in July when he finished third in the men's 800m at the USATF U20 Championships, one spot outside a qualifying bid to represent Team USA at the Pan American U20 Championships. 

But when Tinoda Matsatsa, the winner of the U20 800m on that same day, could not travel, an open spot found its way to Watcke, a recent graduate of Hinsdale Central (IL). 

He didn't let it go to waste.

The Illinois man won the 800m final at the Pan American U20 Championships on Sunday at Jose Figueroa Freire Stadium, clocking a winning time of 1:48.86, this time edging Birnbaum, who finished second in 1:49.31. 

Watcke's winning move highlighted the final day of action in Puerto Rico, as the U.S. won 12 more gold medals. The U.S. contingent dominated throughout the three-day meet, hauling in 30 first-place finishes in all. 

Ellie Shea, fresh off her win in the 1,500m on Friday, claimed her second win on Sunday in the 3K, finishing with a meet record time of 9:05.78, a performance that was 10 seconds faster than the current U.S. No. 1 and No. 2 all-time, only behind Katie Rainsberger, who ran 9:00.62 in 2016 at the World U20 Championships. 

Shawnti Jackson was next up. The South Granville superstar, who closed off her high school season with a U.S. U20 title in the 200m with a time of 22.48 seconds, was not done. 

She lowered that mark to a U.S. No. 2 all-time level of 22.34, moving to U.S. No. 1 to end the season. If it wasn't already clear, Jackson dominated the 2023, finishing with the nation's top two times in the 100m and 200m, along with a high school national record of 10.89 seconds in the 100m. 

Sophia Gorriaran, the Rhode Islander headed to Harvard next season, won her first international title for the U.S. team in the 800m, clocking a time of 2:04.68.

Jaicieonna Gero-Holt, the youngest member of the U.S. team at 16 years old, won the heptathlon with a point total of 5,463. 

The U.S. team closed off the Pan American U20 Championships with gold-medal runs in the 4x400, ushering on times of 3:30.25 and 3:05.98, respectively. 

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Team U.S. pockets 12 wins on the first day of action at the Pan American U20 Championships

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Gold Medal Winners: 

Ellie Shea, Belmont School (MA), '24, 3,000m, 9:05.78

Grant Campbell, Heritage (TN), '23, HJ, 2.19m (7-2.35)

Kenna Stimmel, Margaretta (OH), '22, 4.30m (14-1.25)

Mike Stein, Spirit Lake (IA), '22, 71.38m (234-2)

Shawnti Jackson, South Granville (NC), '23, 22.35

Sophia Gorriaran, Moses Brown (RI), '23, 2:04.68

Dan Watcke, Hinsdale Central (IL), '23, 1:48.86

Sterling Scott, Starkville (MI), '22, 15.67m (51-5)

Aiden Carter, Tigard (OR), '23, Decathlon, 6,808 

Jaicieonna Gero-Holt, Emerald Ridge (WA), '25, 5,463

United States: Women's 4x400, 3:30.25

Lauren Lewis, Madison Whyte, Sydney Segalla, Christine Mallard

United States: Men's 4x400, 3:05.98

George Garcia, Jacob Andrews, Jace McGavock, Grant Buckmiller 


Photo Credit: All photos by Jesus Velez Perez/Milesplit