The house had mostly cleared when Theresa Prandini received a text message from her daughter.
The Prandinis hosted a watch party in their living room a half hour earlier. Even at 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning, a full living room watched Clovis native Jenna Prandini run the third leg of the U.S. women’s 4×100-meter relay. At stake for Jenna was one more chance to medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
When the baton came to Prandini, the U.S. was locked in a close battle with Great Britain and Switzerland. Prandini finished her leg putting the Americans clearly in second behind Jamaica, and anchor leg Gabby Thomas secured the silver medal for Team USA.
Jenna Prandini — high school state champion, collegiate national champion, and now an Olympic silver medalist.
“It was a sense of relief in a lot of ways that she was finally rewarded for all of her effort and hard work,” said Jenna’s father, Carlo. “She wanted so much to come home with a medal.
“She ran well, I could tell, just making up the stagger and pulling away. She was racing against some good girls on that third leg.”
It wasn’t by accident that Prandini ran third, meaning she raced along the track’s curve. She arrived in Tokyo with the curved 200-meter dash as her main event. She was even a favorite to medal after winning the 200-meter national championship in 2015 and 2018.
Yet Prandini did not improve upon her 10th-place finish in the 2016 Rio Olympics. She finished 5th in her semifinal heat and placed 13th overall in the 200-meter event. She did not advance to the final of her other individual race, the 100-meter dash, finishing 14th overall.
“I knew she was going to run well [because] she was so disappointed after the semis of the 200,” Carlo said. “She said it was inexplicable what happened in the two semis… but she shook it right off and ran very well on that turn.”
The Prandini living room hollered and erupted in applause as Jenna ran. It grew louder when it became clear that Jenna would return to Clovis with a medal.
She won’t be back in her hometown for a while; she will run in the Prefontaine Classic on August 21. But Carlo believes that Prandini’s Olympic performance will have an immediate impact locally.
“She’s always been ‘Jenna from the neighborhood’ or ‘Jenna down the block’… we’ve lived in this community for over 40 years so people know Jenna,” Prandini said. “I think the message it sends is that, if a kid from the Fresno/Clovis area has a little bit of talent and a lot of work ethic, you can achieve some things in this world.”
Jenna isn’t active on social media, so she isn’t fully aware of the supportive fervor back in Clovis or the “Go, Jenna, Go” signs pitched on front lawns. She mostly kept direct communication with her parents, family, and other loved ones.
So, 30 minutes after celebrating on the track with her Team USA teammates, she texted her mother.
“She told her mom she loved her and called and talked to the nieces and nephews and some folks who were still here,” Prandini said. “When she comes home, she’ll get a big hug.”