It was a record-setting day for race walking in Santee, California.
John Nunn won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the men’s 50K Race Walk on Sunday in 4:04:38 to lead a fast race that saw multiple American and course records in Santee, Calif.
Olympians at the 20K distance, Nunn and Tim Seaman, both of San Diego, pushed each other throughout the race with several changes of the lead as both walked well under the Olympic “B” standard of 4:09. Seaman finished second in 4:05:50. The duo led the way for the top five men to better the previous course record of 4:28:53 set in 2009 by current race director Philip Dunn.
The athletes were greeted to near perfect conditions of temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s as they covered the 1.25K loop on the streets of Santee. The 50 kilometer distance required the athletes to complete 40 laps on the course. This 31.25-mile mile distance is the longest track and field event offered in the Olympics.
“You know it has been a long road to get back,” Nunn said afterward. “I didn’t make the team in ’08 and it was a hard push. My daughter was 6-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.”
From the early stages of the race a pack of five men emerged, including: Nunn, Seaman, Ben Shorey (Kenosha, Wisc.), Patrick Stroupe (Armstrong, Mo.) and Erich Cordero (Pompano Beach, Fla.). The men remained within feet of each other with no separation. The group pushed the pace to come through the halfway point well under the Olympic “B” standard pace of 4:09. At 25K, the top four men split 1:38:50, with Cordero falling back slightly to 1:39:23.
At 35K, the race began in earnest as Nunn surged ahead of his competitors to quickly build a 20-30 meter lead. Nunn held his lead for the next 10K before Seaman was able to reel him back in to take the lead at the 45K mark. From there it was a two-man race as the two walked shoulder-to-shoulder for the next two laps of the course. The veterans pushed one another and extended their lead as they pulled out of sight of Shorey and Stroupe.
Going into the bell lap, Nunn pulled away by nearly 50 meters over Seaman and never looked back as he extended his lead by one minute and twelve seconds to win the race and set the course record of 4:04:38. Nunn’s time improves his PR by nearly ten minutes.
Seaman finished as the runner-up in 4:05:50, while Shorey rounded out the podium, taking third in 4:17:40. Stroupe set a PR by more than seven minutes to finish fourth in 4:19:43, and Cordero finished fifth in 4:28:04.
“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 said. “I’m 39 years old, I almost got my PR. I did the best I could, and I couldn’t have done better.”
The fast pace of the day also produced numerous American Records. Erin Taylor-Talcott (Owego, N.Y.) not only became the first woman allowed to compete as a guest in the 50K Olympic Trials, but she also recorded three American Records en route to her historic finish. Talcott first established the 25K record in 2:13:38 before bettering her own 35K record in 3:08:33. Finally, she set the 50K record by nearly six minutes with her sixth-place finish of 4:33:22. Allen James (Sanborn, N.Y.) also added his name to the record books for the 45-49 division with his 35K split of 3:06:35. James went on to finish seventh in 4:39:24.
“I’m most proud of getting here, it was a fight to get here and luckily there were enough people that saw the bigger vision,” said Taylor-Talcott. “It was a chance for women to show that we can do this too. There is inequality in our sport and it is time to see if we can get that fixed.”
Sunday’s race served as the selector for Team USA for both the 2012 Olympic Games and the IAAF World Race Walking Cup. For details on the selection to both teams, visit www.usatf.org.