Fri, Jan 27 2012 02:37 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Regardless of their sport of choice, American Olympic hopefuls are gathering speed — and momentum — as the 2012 London Games draw closer each day. And for a select few, they are starting to punch their tickets to England.
The United States Olympic 50K Race Walk Trials took place Sunday in Santee (the 2004 U.S. 50K Race Walk Trials took place in Chula Vista), with one qualifier — John Nunn — making the grade.
The 50K race walk event is the most grueling and demanding of the Olympic events. In fact, it is the longest foot race in the line-up of Olympic sports. Walkers must also adhere to strict technical rules on foot placement during the continuous 31-mile trek, often contested on a looping course.
Twelve Olympic hopefuls gathered along Mast Boulevard near Santana High School for the chance to represent their country in the upcoming Olympiad. In most other track and field trials events, the top three finishers earn berths on the U.S. Olympic team.
But more stringent rules apply to race walking: Only those walkers who place among the top three finishing positions at the U.S. Olympic Trials and who also meet specific time standards are allowed to advance.
The Olympic A-time standard is three hours, 59 minutes. Those who meet or exceed that mark advance, providing they were among the top three place-finishers.
If none of the top three place-finishers meet the Olympic A-time standard, only the winner advances by meeting the Olympic B-time standard of 4:09.
Nunn, 33, won Sunday’s U.S. trials in 4:04:38, a new course record.
Longtime Chula Vista-Olympic Training Center fellow resident athlete Tim Seaman, 39, finished second in 4:05:50.
Ben Shorey, 29, of Kenosha, Wisc., the defending U.S. champion, finished third in 4:17:40.
Competitors came from as far away as New York, Michigan, Florida, Ohio and Missouri for a chance to land a berth on the U.S. team — and earn a share of prize money.
A purse of more than $15,000 was divided among the top five finishers. The winner received $6,000 in prize money.
Erin Taylor-Talcott, 33, from Owego, N.Y., was the first female guest entrant in Sunday’s race and was bucking to make a statement — as well as history — but finished sixth in 4:33:22. She broke three American records, however, in her quest.
Nunn and Seaman are prior U.S. Olympic qualifiers in the 20K race walk distance and formed a core group of race walkers at the sprawling Chula Vista training facility.
Seaman, a two-time Olympic qualifier in the 20K distance and a cross country coach at Cuyamaca College, finished second at the 2004 U.S. 50K Race Walk Trials.
Among those in the spectator gallery was fellow San Diegan Meb Keflezighi, the newly crowned men’s champion at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, held Jan. 14 in Houston.
Members of the Cuyamaca College cross country team also cheered on Seaman.
The sight of Keflezighi, the oldest winner of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials at 36, inspired many in the race but the pace was not fast enough for them to earn the Olympic A-time standard.
Seaman, a native of North Kingstown, R.I., but who has resided in Imperial Beach for the last six years, competed in both the 2000 and 2004 Summer Games. He finished second in the 20K distance at the 2010 U.S. national championships in Des Moines, Iowa, and second in the 50K distance in 2011.
Seaman, who holds 10 American records, won the 20K distance at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials.
He admitted that he gave all that his body could endure and had no regrets about failing in his quest to compete in the 50K event in London.
“Very few people believed in me, the boys from Cuyamaca were out here today and they really, really motivated me and I couldn’t have done it without them,” Seaman was quoted as saying in a USATF press release. “I’m 39 years old, I almost got my PR. I did the best I could, and I couldn’t have done better.”
Nunn, a native of Evansville, Ind., who previously competed in the 2004 Olympic Games, finished first at the 2010 U.S. national championships in the 20K distance and was second in 2011. He made the cut in 2012 after failing to land a berth at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Nunn moved to Southern California following a debut appearance at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. He was a member of the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
Nunn termed Sunday’s win the end of a “long road to get back.”
“I didn’t make the team in ’08 and it was a hard push,” he said, quoted in the same USATF release. “My daughter was six months old when I went in ’04, and I really wanted to give her a chance to come and see it again. It is a dream come true to make it again, and to know she can experience that and have it in her mind for the rest of her life to go and see me compete in the Olympics.”
In the final 12 km of the race, both Nunn and Seaman took turns leading the pack of five breakaway walkers.
“Hopefully it made the race really exciting,” Nunn said. “I know that about 38 km in, I pulled away from Tim, then he pulled away at 43 km, and made it look like I was standing still. When I caught him it was like — ‘What the heck, who is going to pull this off?’ It was a long walk to be that close in the end.”
Keflezighi, who now trains primarily in Mammoth Lakes, was a one time CV-OTC resident athlete but still travels to the Chula Vista facility occasionally to attend training camps.
Keflezighi captured state titles in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters in 1994 while running for San Diego High School.
Joining him in England will be 2001 Hilltop High School graduate Desiree Davila, who earned the right to represent the United States at the London Games after recording a second-place finish in the women’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
“It is evident that the Olympic spirit is strong in Chula Vista — Meb Keflezighi is a former resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center and Desiree Davila grew up in the area and has come to short-term training camps here in the past,” CV-OTC director Tracy Lamb said.
Lamb noted that as the Olympic Trials progress, the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center will host trials events for archery and BMX in the coming months.
“We are thrilled to see more athletes with ties to Chula Vista succeed and couldn’t be prouder of the strength that Team USA is showing throughout the Olympic Trials process,” Lamb said. “We are immensely proud of all of the athletes who make the U.S. Olympic Team and inspire Americans along the way.”
The U.S. Olympic Archery Trials are scheduled April 23-28; the U.S. Olympic BMX Trials are scheduled June 16.
The U.S. Olympic 20K Race Walk Trials will be held as part of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, scheduled June 21 to July 1, in Eugene, Ore.
Visit the Web site at www.usatf.org for more details.
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