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Maria Michta Sets American 20K Racewalk Record


MANCHESTER, N.J. -- "Time never stops. Life moves on. The world keeps spinning." Those 10 words are a good capsule of Maria Michta's outlook on life.


The Long Island graduate school student - she's a Ph.D. candidate in microbiology at Manhattan's Mount Sinai School of Medicine - never stops, either.


Her dual lives as a brilliant student and world class racewalker keep moving right along. And her dossier of brilliant performances keeps on spinning, too.


Latest addition to her list of achievements - a list that will surely and eventually rank her as one of the most accomplished women's racewalkers in American history - came Sunday morning. In cold, drizzly and generally difficult conditions, the 27-year-old out of Nesconset, N.Y. and C.W. Post College blazed to an American women's record performance of one hour, 31 minutes and 10 seconds for the 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) racewalk.


She thus erased the prior American citizen's record for the event that had been in the books nearly 14 years. And she was thoroughly delighted.


"This is awesome," said Michta. "I got a 10K PR (45:19 for her second 10K), and I negative splitted to get the American record, so I can't be more happy.


"This is everything I wanted, I worked so hard, and I had so many people who helped me," she continued. "It all came together. And now it's on to the World Cup."


When Michelle Rohl clocked a 1:31:51 on May 13, 2000 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, it became a mark destined to stay in the books until the morning of March 30, 2014.


In remarkably fine job of pacemanship, Michta reeled off splits of 5:56, 5:40, 5:45, 5:37, 5:42, 5:40, 5:42, and 5:41 for each of the 1,250-meter loops on the USATF-certified course at Harry Wright Lake Park in New Jersey's Ocean County, breezing home 41 seconds under the Rohl record.


Twist of all twists, though, was that Michta didn't actually win the race.


Even though the event was designated as the USATF National Trials for the World Cup of Racewalking, scheduled May 2-3 in Taicang, China, it was open to athletes from other nations and Rachel Seaman of Canada, a friendly rival and wife of Michta's coach, Tim Seaman, wound up leading all the ladies and her performance of 1:30:41 was a national record of her own. The previous best by a Canadian woman was Seaman's own 1:33:05, achieved at Naumborg, Germany on April 22, 2012.


Remember how Seaman and Michta duked it out in the Susan Rudin 1-mile walk at the NYRR Millrose Games at The Armory on Feb. 15? So the stage is set for yet another Michta-Seaman duel - of course involving all the rest of the world's elite - in China in five weeks time.


Not only that, but she'll have family company on the trip to China.


Kid sister Katie Michta - both Michtas competed for the Walk USA club team - placed a close second (in 52:10) to winner Brenda McCollum (51:55) in the concurrent women's junior 10K (6.2-mile) racewalk and and thus is bound for China, too, to compete against the best 19-and-unders of the planet.


Leading the men's 20K pack was two-time Olympian John Nunn of Bonsall, California with a 1:26:45 win over Patrick Stroupe of Armstrong, Missouri (1:27:12), Nick Christie of El Cajon, California (1:29:20), Alejandro Chavez of Pharr, Texas (1:29:22) and Shore AC representative Michael Mannozzi (1:31:10.). Stroupe, though, is likely to opt to walk the longer, tougher 50K race (31.1 miles) for Team USA in China.


Expected to join Michta on the Team USA women's 20K squad are NYAC's Miranda Melville of Rush, N.Y. (second American in 1:33:10), Susan Randall of Beaver Creek, Ohio (1:43:18), Katie Burnett of Rochester, N.Y. (1:43:49) and Shore AC's Erin Taylor-Talcott (1:44:26.)


While the balance of America's top track and field athletes have no outdoor world championships meet to aspire to - the race walkers are more fortunate in having this biennial World Cup event as a primary focus.


First held in Lugano, Switzerland in 1961, the event has had 25 editions - two of them in U.S., Central Park, New York in 1987; San Jose, California in 1991. So this will be the 26th World Cup and the U.S. is expected to continue in a catch-up role.


Just one American - National Track and Field Hall of Famer Ron Laird, formerly of Peekskill, N.Y. - has ever earned an individual medal at the World Cup. Laird collected bronzes in men's 20K races of 1967 (held in East Germany) and 1973 (held in Switzerland.)


Serving as chief of the U.S. delegation will be veteran official Bill Pollinger of Mahwah, N.J. He knows there's plenty of potential in the American lineup. He also knows the best of these Team USA members have a lot of catching up to do.


Reprinted courtesy of

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