SANTEE, California -- Two-time Olympian John Nunn defended his national title and claimed consecutive first-place finishes at U.S. Olympic Team Trials - 50 km Race Walk, breaking the tape in 4:03:21 to make his third U.S. Olympic Team.
Nunn and 24-year-old Nick Christie walked shoulder to shoulder for 28 laps, keeping each other within reach of the 4:06:00 Olympic “A” Standard by clocking sub-eight minute 1.25 km laps on the 40-lap course. Coming into Lap 29, Christie took a five-second lead before Nunn came surging back on Lap 30 to gain a nearly nine-second advantage that never wavered.
Nunn held strong, finishing his final lap at 7:30-mile pace for his championship victory in 4:03:21, improving on the 4:03:42 he clocked on the same course in November to earn the standard.
Christie finished in second place in 4:22:31, 11 minutes off his previous best at the distance and 16 minutes of the standard. Finishing third was Michael Mannozzi in 4:31:37. Both Christie and Mannozzi have until May 8 to chase the standard for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The event also hosted the USATF Women’s 50 km Race Walk Championships as reigning champion Erin Taylor-Talcott earned back-to-back victories. Taylor-Talcott blazed through the course, lapping the field three times by Lap 15 for more than a one-mile advantage. She made her finish in 4:44:26 and was the sixth person overall to complete 50K.
View results from U.S. Olympic Team Trials - 50K Race Walk here
John Nunn, first place (Olympic Qualifier)
“I hurt for the first half of the race. I started realizing it a little bit, but I knew I wasn’t going to stop. It’s all been worth it, and I’m really grateful. I didn't want to look back at regret anything. This one was hard, and I’m grateful."
"I laid in bed all day yesterday, and I couldn’t fathom how I was going to be able to do this. I thought about it at length, but I think thinking about it gave me more anxiety. I made phone calls to USA Track & Field to see what I needed to do to still make it. Could I just start and quit? Fortunately, it just all worked out. I’m thankful for the Army and for their support, and the opportunity to be a part of an organization that’s bigger than me. It’s something that does wonderful things for this country and for the world. I’m grateful that they give soldiers the opportunity to chase their dreams. It’s been my life, and I’m incredibly grateful for that."
"To Ella (my daughter), for all the things she has done. She means the world to me, and I am grateful."
Nick Christie, second place
“The race started off pretty well. I felt good. I was wearing a heart rate monitor. Everything looked good, and all of a sudden it’s what happens in 50K and marathon: the body just gave out and I crashed bad. I thought I could do it the whole race. I didn’t stop, so I’ll take solace in that. I have until May 8 to chase the standard. I might do the 50K in Rome at the World Team Challenge, but I might just focus on the 20K, do 50K work and focus on the 20K.”
On today’s performance versus in November
“I raced 11 minutes faster in November when the temperature was a record high for the day, and it was over 90 at the finish. I don't think the weather had any effect today. It just wasn’t my day."
On pacing with John Nunn
Initially John had the flu so he wasn't sure how he was going to finish, so he said he was going to try to walk with me through 30K and see what happens. He was actually talking about maybe taking second. He started feeling a lot better. I tried to make a move at 37 or 38 K and that was kind of the end of me.”
In the 50K, you stop thinking. I didn't think for one minute that I wasn't going to get the standard You start doing weird math and doing really bad math. If I walk this, than I can still get the standard. The numbers kept getting smaller and smaller each lap. I never thought about falling or dropping out. I kept looking at my coach and wanting him to pull me. It is what it is. I’ll think about it for the rest of the day, and then this race is in the past and I’ll focus on the next race."
Michael Mannozzi, third place
“Today was a pretty challenging, considering that two and a half days before I got out here, I was training in 10 degrees fahrenheit temperatures in Toronto. It was the toughest mental challenge I have ever had to face up to this point. Talking about it isn’t enough. It’s wanting to improve. All the technical reminders were key, and positive thoughts even though you felt like you were falling apart."
"Third place for me. Four years ago, I came out and finished ninth. This is quite a breakthrough for me, but I know that I can’t get too proud because I dont have the standard and that’s the name of the game. I congratulate John (Nunn) and Nick (Christie) for a valiant effort. For myself, making the podium is an awesome, awesome dream come true."
Erin Taylor-Talcott, USATF Women's 50K Race Walk Champion
"I started off exactly how I wanted to, and I went through halfway exactly how I wanted it to be. And then it just got warmer and warmer and warmer. I'm just not used to this heat, and it just sucked it out of me. I was about 10 minutes slower than I wanted to be. Happy I finished; happy I finished strong, and happy I got my title, but a bit disappointed that I didn't get my time."