SAM ALLEN LEADS WAY FOR TEAM USAIN WORLD RACEWALKING TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP20KM EVENT IN JOURNEY TO MUSCAT, OMAN !!!
By SAM ALLEN
Last month, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to compete with the greatest racewalkers in the world. Representing the USA, I competed in the 20km distance at the 2022 Racewalking Team World Championships in Muscat, Oman. Coming into the race, I knew that Team USA would be towards the back of the field. Most of the front runners have personal bests nearly 10 minutes faster than my personal best. Seeing as I was the top seeded American in the 20km race, I was very unlikely that any of us would be contending with the lead pack. With all this being said, I didn’t let the challenge deter me, and I planned to race smart and focus on a race that I could be proud of.
The Racewalking World Team Championships were just a month after the Team USA trials for the event where I shaved 7 minutes off my personal best to cement my place on Team USA with a time of 1:30:43. The Team USA trials gave me a lot of confidence in my fitness. My training had been going really well up to the race. I knew that getting the team standard of 1:34:00 was going to be easy for me, but I didn’t expect to walk sub-1:31:00. I felt very comfortable during the first half of the race and was pacing well with a large group of walkers. Around 12km, I made my move, dropping a 4:22 kilometer split and left the pack. I never looked back from that point on because I was focused on catching Tokyo Olympian Nick Christie whose pace stalled after lapping me. With only a mile to go, I had unlapped myself and was 40 seconds behind Nick and closing fast. In the end, I came up just short, finishing 10 seconds behind Nick, but I’ll also add that Nick just came off a few 35km performance the weeks prior. My coach, 20km Olympian Tim Seaman, and I were extremely happy with my performance and knew that this was just the beginning on a great season.
I couldn’t wait to race for Team USA in Oman. My training leading up to the Racewalking World Team Championships was very good. I was feeling good and had solid, consistent training weeks. A few central New York snowstorms threw some chaos into the training regime, but it was nothing I wasn’t used to while studying at Cornell University.
Racing yet another snowstorm, the day finally came for my flight out to Muscat. Upon landing in Muscat, the first thing that struck us was the beauty and hospitality of the country. The country is an oasis in a desert with trees and greenery in an otherwise barren landscape. Our hotel was right on the racecourse, so we were able to see the course the night we arrived. To our surprise, the course had a large hill, enough so that our bus had to shift to the lowest gear to get up it. Racewalking courses rarely have any elevation change and to have a hill that is 30 meters high meant that it would play a huge factor into the race.
Raceday came and I was ready. Unfortunately, the originally four-man strong team for the 20km was reduced down to just two due to flight troubles and injuries, so we were not able to field a full team. With the combination of hot conditions, 30 degrees Celsius, and a large hill that we had to traverse 10 times, our race times would be very slow. Learning from the other races before mine, it seemed like our times would be five to six minutes slower than on a flat course. My teammate, Jordan Crawford, and I planned to go out slow and come back faster in the second half of the race. I put on my USA uniform and was ready to go.
65 athletes were in my race which was the largest and most important race I have ever been in. The gun sounded and we were off. Immediately, Jordan and I fell to the back of the field, but it was allpart of our plan. Slowly but surely, athletes started succumbing to the tough race conditions and we started pasting athletes. After the 12th km, I decided to push a littler hard and break away from Jordan and a Canadian athlete of similar ability. I surged up the hill and got away from them. However, my surge took a lot of energy out of me, and the lead I had gained on Jordan slowly started to decrease. In the end, I just held off Jordan and we finished 47th and 48th with a time of 1:39:07.
All the showcase athletes had finished and were probably in the showers by the time we had finished, but we were happy with our performances. This was Jordan and I’s first senior national team, and definitely not our last! I will be back and racing competitively with the greatest athletes in the world.
Overall, the World Team Racewalking Championships was a fantastic experience. I traveled halfway across the world to represent the USA and compete against the best athletes in the world. Maybe more important than the physical race was the great people and athletes I met. Even though they are the best athletes in the world, everyone was so friendly and humble to talk to. We all want to see each other progress and become better athletes. It goes to show how strong and great the racewalking community is. This race was my first taste of international competition, and it won’t be my last!
A letter from Elliott Denman:
(All of Sam's Shore AC teammates share his pride in qualifying for his very first USA international team and performing so tremendously well in this biggest race of his life.. Just turning 20 on May 2 and completing his sophomore year at Cornell University, Sam has a world of promise and many even greater things ahead in his racewalking future !! He was a member of the track and cross country teams at Kingsway High School but has found his true niche in the sport as a racewalker. !! Rising through the racewalking ranks, too,
is his younger brother, Ryan, already a star in the National Junior ranks and the national scholastic racewalking champion.
Shore AC teammate Michael Mannozzi was also a member of the USA team in Oman, placing 51st in the 35-kilometer event. However, SAC's Erin Taylor-Talcott had difficulties in the tough condtions and DNFed in the women's 35K event and A.J. Gruttadauro slated to compete in the men's 20k had travel problems.) (Elliott Denman)