Photo by Peter Simmons – Jenna Prandini, a 2011 graduate of Clovis High School, is headed to Rio de Janeiro to represent Team U.S.A. in the 2016 Olympic games. Prandini placed third in the 200m with a time of 22.53 a mere a hundredth of a second faster than fourth place finisher Allyson Felix, the defending Olympic gold medalist.
By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
Jenna Prandini’s dreams of being an Olympian in the 200 meters came down to the blink of an eye.
Prandini, the decorated track and field star and 2011 Clovis High graduate, secured her place on Team USA in the 200 meters on July 10 when she placed third by a mere one hundredth of a second at the U.S. Olympic Trials, stumbling at the end but falling into history in a race that was both suspenseful and dramatic.
Running in lane six at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, Prandini got off to a quick start before falling to third, pushed hard by defending 2012 gold medalist Allyson Felix on the straight away. As Felix and Prandini both crossed the finish line Prandini stumbled to the ground in a photo finish.
Would her dreams be crushed in a split-second? Would all the blood, sweat and tears leading to this moment turn into tragedy?
With her eyes gazing upon the official scoreboard while still sprawled out on the track and the hush of 22,944 fans, Prandini turned anxiety-filled seconds into elation as the board posted her time of 22.53, barely besting Felix’s 22.54.
“I really don’t know what happened,” Prandini said after the race. “I guess it worked. I didn’t intentionally (dive). But it was a fight to the finish, that’s for sure.”
Furthermore, among the fans packed into the stadium were around 50 members of the Go Jenna Go bunch, a cheering section made up of close friends and family, including parents Theresa and Carlo.
“I love being here and every single time you feel the Hayward magic. To be able to do it here and have all my family and friends here is just an incredible feeling,” Prandini said. “That whole field is (filled with) amazing girls, so I was honored to get to race with all those girls and I’m just so excited to go to Rio.”
For Prandini it’s been a spectacular adventure from Clovis to Oregon and now to Rio de Janeiro.
“I don’t think it’s hit quite yet but every second that goes by I feel it a little bit more,” Prandini said.
During her senior year at Clovis High, Prandini won the USATF Junior national championship in the long jump, claimed state titles in the 100, 200 and long jump and competed at the Pan Am Junior Championships.
After accepting a scholarship to the University of Oregon Prandini’s highlights included being the 2015 NCAA 200 champion and a member of the 2015 National Champion Track and Field team. She won NCAA outdoor titles in the 100 and the indoor long jump, the USA national 200 title and a silver medal in the 4×100 at the IAAF World Championships.
And how about these accolades: The University of Oregon Athlete of the Year award, the Track and Field News Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year award, the Honda Collegiate Track Athlete of the Year award and winner of the Bowerman Award as the nation’s best collegiate track and field athlete.
Prandini turned pro and signed with Puma in August of 2015, foregoing her senior year of college eligibility – a move that has played out nicely.
Earlier in the trials, Prandini placed fifth in the 100, short of qualifying for the event. She is also on the 4×100 team, a team chosen from six members, a team considered the favorite for gold.
The 2016 Summer Olympics will be from August 5-21 with track and field events starting on Friday, August 12 and broadcast exclusively by NBC.