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June 21, 2017

2017 USATF Outdoor Championship: 20K racewalk preview

Women’s 20K Race Walk

Maria Michta-Coffey and Miranda Melville will be expected to bring the star-power one-two punch in this race, as the two fastest qualifying times coming into the USATF championship race by over six seconds. Michta-Coffey and Melville were the only two women to compete for the U.S. at Rio in this event, and they’ve both continued to race competitively in the months since Rio, placing 15th and 17th, respectively at the Pan American Race Walking Cup this May.

Star/Favorite to watch

Both Maria Michta-Coffey and Miranda Melville bring World-qualifying times into the race. In the past year, Michta-Coffey has pretty consistently been the top U.S. woman, beating Melville at the U.S. Olympic trials, then the Olympics, the Pan Am Race Walk Cup Trials and lastly at the Pan Am Race Walking Cup. But, in 2015, Melville (1:36:33.99) beat Michta-Coffey (1:38:45.92), and will be looking to replicate that championship-winning performance.

Dark horse pick

Melissa Moeller. In case you hadn’t noticed, women with Ms for initials do very well in this race. It makes me a little curious about what Marshall Mathers could accomplish in this event if he put his mind to it. But back to Moeller. She’s got the sixth-fastest qualifying time, in a field of 13, but she’s packing the double Ms, so anything could happen.

Fun fact/Stat

Erin Taylor-Talcott, your number four seed, less than two tenths of a second behind the third entry. She competed last year as the only woman entered in the 50k walk at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome. She’s been a driving force in the push to include a women’s 50km walking event.

Predictions of who makes the team:

  1. Maria Michta-Coffey

  2. Miranda Melville

  3. Erin Taylor-Talcott

Men’s 20K Racewalk

The race walk isn’t given the same prestige or even respect that many if not all the other events are viewed with. But, close your eyes and imagine blissfully an alternative universe where an event from track and field is deemed America’s favorite spectator sport instead of football or baseball. Now picture that it’s race walking. Pedestrianism is what race walking was called in the US in the decades after the Civil War, and according to author and race walking expert Matthew Algeo, it “filled a void for people” and spectators came from all over to watch competitive walking matches.

 None of the men currently have the world championship qualifying  standard of 1:24:00 for the 20km race walk. Nunn is the closest, with a 1:25.37 qualification time. Emmanuel Corvera is not far behind Nunn’s USATF qualifying time with a 1:26:58.00 posted. Corvera hit this qualifying time in the Pan Am Race Walking Cup, where he beat John Nunn by less than one second, but  four places. While both men are less than three seconds off, the extreme heat predicted for Sunday’s final (and only heat), even by the 9:00 AM start-time could make hitting a Q difficult to say the least.

Star/Favorite to watch

John Nunn is a veteran race walker who has competed in the sport at three Olympic Games. He’s PR’ed the morning after being wracked with the flu, and he’s endured both external conditions like extreme heat and self-induced obstacles, like ingesting four energy drinks before racing. I feel confident he’ll be able to handle whatever SacTown throws at him. He’s already qualified for the 50k World Championships in London, but has said that training for the 50k makes him feel even more prepared and competitive in the 20k.

Dark Horse Pick

Corvera is my straightforward answer to this. He might give Nunn a run walk (so sorry) for his money. But, there’s also this crazy storyline in men’s racewalking about how Trevor Barron finished the 2012 London Olympic 20km race walk in the fastest time ever recorded by an American at the Olympics and was only 19 at the time, but then ostensibly walked away from the sport for over three years after that performance. He was a phenom who decided he wanted to do other, less lonely things with his time and energy, like focus on school, and running recreationally. Seven months before the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, he decided he wanted back in and gave it a go, only to fall three seconds short of qualifying. You’ll notice he’s conspicuously absent from the sport again here in Sac.

Fun fact/Stat

What’s the motivation for these athletes to compete in the often-ridiculed racewalk? “I’m really good at it and I can beat the average runner, walking,” John Nunn told Citius earlier this Spring.

Predictions of who makes the team

John Nunn, Emmanuel Corvera and Nick Christie if they can manage to get under the standard

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