Brittney Reese (left) goes for her last hurrah while Joel Gomez is barely saying hello to the world stage.
Brittney Reese (left) makes her last hurrah in 2021 while Joel Gomez is barely saying hello to the world stage. Photos by Chris Stone and Ken Stone

At the 2009 IAAF championships in Berlin, site of Jesse Owens’ legendary 1936 feats, San Diego’s Brittney Reese won the first of her seven world titles in the long jump.

She spanned 23 feet, 3 1/2 inches in front of tens of thousands.

Saturday at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, the three-time Olympian (with a gold from 2012 and silver in 2016) jumped 23 feet, 3 1/2 inches. Amid a crowd of dozens.

At 34, Reese is consistent. And ready for Tokyo.

So is Joel Gomez — half her age at 17.

On Sunday — also at the former Olympic Training Center — the Encinitas teen won a near solo 1500 meters in 3 minutes, 57.40 seconds, equivalent to a 4:16.4 mile, two weeks after running 3:57.41. In 2019, he took 11th in the World Para Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, running the metric mile in 4:07.12.

Gomez hopes to compete in the Tokyo Paralympic Games following the Olympics. He has a rare genetic disorder, blue cone monochromacy, that puts him in the T13 category for the nearly blind.

The former Canyon Crest Academy runner, graduating soon from the online Classical Academy High School of Escondido, has met the Tokyo “high performance” standard of 3:58, but not Team USA’s “A” qualifying time of 3:49.30 or a “B” standard of 3:51.62.

He has at least two more shots, including Sunday at Chula Vista and June 18 at the U.S. Paralympic Trials in Minneapolis.

“It’s like a 70-30 chance” of being selected for the Tokyo team, he said. “It’s leaning in the direction of being able to go, but it’s not quite guaranteed.”

Gomez aims for as close to 3:50 as possible — this time with a longer pacer, he hopes. In Saturday’s race, he was helped through 500 meters.

His rabbit might only be a blur, but he says having someone to run behind allows him to shut off his brain and not have to think: “OK, what’s the time? What pace am I at? … That’s half the effort right there — 50% of it is mental.”

The mental game is old hat to long jumper Reese, the former San Diego Mesa College track coach.

After taking second Saturday to an African record of 23-6 1/4 by Nigerian Olympian Ese Brume, Reese said she had no problems getting up for a contest with no packed stands (just occasional “Go B!” shouts from Training Center mates).

The event had the same quality as a professional Diamond League meet, she said after jumping farthest on her sixth try.  “So when you have that type of field, it just brings out the best in you. And that’s exactly what happened today.”

She said her last leap, with a slightly over-the-allowable aiding wind, “basically showed what I was trying to do…. Now all I have to do is go to trials and execute that same last jump.”

Reese, with only three meets this year, is ranked fourth globally under the World Athletics point system. But she’ll likely have to be a top-three finisher at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, to punch her ticket for Tokyo.

Is she worried about chatter that Japan is being urged to cancel the Games?

“I don’t look at that type of stuff,” Reese said. “I trust the committees to make sure we’re not in harm’s way. I think they’ll put us in a bubble. … do our own thing and then go home.”

Reese expects Tokyo to be her swan song. It’s also her last chance to move up from equal-ninth-best jumper in women’s history. (Her best, a fraction short of 24 feet, was set in 2016.)

For Gomez, years of world-class competition yawn ahead of him.

“Whether it’s the Paralympics in 2028 in L.A. or the regular Olympics, who knows what happens?” he said, holding an orange Gatorade after Sunday’s race.

He didn’t achieve his one-time goal of a sub-4-minute mile in high school. But that milestone remains a motivation.

“It’s every middle distance runner’s dream of to run sub-4,” he said.

Gomez says he recently ran 400 meters in 49 seconds, fueling hope he’d also clock a sub-1:48 two-lap race. (His coach is Joaquim Cruz, 1984 Olympic champion at 800 meters.)

He doubts he’ll try longer distances, preferring “the burst of adrenaline instead of the sustained lap after lap after lap. The 1500 is pretty much as monotonous as it can get for me.”

But the recent prep 1500 record of 3:34:36 by Michigan sensation Hobbs Kessler gives Gomez a push.

“Yeah, 3:34. That is insane,” he said. “It’s definitely inspirational. I wish I could honestly go train with them … Oh, man. I could only imagine how great that is — to have that support.”

Gomez trained the past year by running Highway 101, and sneaking onto tracks at UCSD, La Costa Canyon High and CSU San Marcos. And he’s too young to train at the Chula Vista center.

“Since he’s a minor, he’s not able to stay here by himself,” said his father, Carlos Gomez. “One of those rules.”

He hasn’t buttoned down his college choice yet, but he’s poised to attend Purdue as an industrial engineering student.

“A few colleges were interested in me [for track] but I didn’t end up getting into the major I wanted to there, particularly UCSD,” he said. “So I decided to go for academics when it comes to college. I’ve put my down payment [at Purdue]” where he looks forward to the challenge of cold weather running.

“But I’m still recruitable if I run some good times later on in the season,” he said.

No matter where he matriculates, “I’m definitely going to keep running at a very high level as long as I can,” he said. “For the foreseeable future, I definitely am.”