Nyack Racewalks… No Walk in the Park

SUFFERN — “I’m going for a walk” never sounds as impressive as “I’m going for a run.”  But then, the average person doesn’t walk like Dan Serianni.  The 22-year-old from upstate Genesee Junction circled the Nyack High School track 25 times Sunday in 47 minutes to win the open 10,000 meters (6.2 miles) at the second annual Nyack Racewalks.

Bill Vayo, USATF-NY Racewalk VP

The race, combined with two others, attracted 40 participants. That was up from last year’s 23 — an “amazing accomplishment,” according to Bill Vayo, for this “eccentric” little sport whose participants often seem to  draw more chuckles than applause.

Vayo, 48, of White Plains, is a former national age-group champion and the new U.S. Track and Field Association New York racewalking chairman. He finished the 10,000 in 57:53.  Later, he commiserated with “war buddies” who’ve “endured the same catcalls.”

“Girls don’t get made fun of. Boys, it takes a tougher skin,”  said Nyack’s Shawn Frederick, who co-founded the event with his wife, Debbie.

Swiveling their hips for greater leg drive, racers face disqualification for bending their front-leg knee or having both feet off the ground simultaneously.

The net effect is like fast-forwarded sashaying, or a quasi “Twist” dance, which New Rochelle High track coach Andy Capellan jokingly did before the race.

Sunday’s fields included racers ages 13-65. The oldest local resident was Ossining’s Elizabeth Pasquale, 60, who finished the 5,000-meter open in a solid 31:41.  Indeed, age and gender weren’t issues.

The runner-up to Serianni,  a national team member, was Dave Talcott, 51, of upstate Owego (50:04), who qualified for last year’s Olympic trials.

U.S. team member Katie Burnett, 24, of Rochester, who has competed in Russia and will compete along with Serianni in Guatemala next month, won the open 5,000  in 23:35, a personal record by 13 seconds.

She had company in the PR department. New Rochelle High junior Caitlin Apollo (previous best, 31:18) sought to break 30 minutes in the 5,000 and crossed in 29:35.  “To finally reach my goal is insane,” said Apollo, who, tiring, still had a personal-best  2:14 her final lap.  “I wanted  (to break 30 minutes) so bad. You just have to get over the pain,” she said.

“I’m ecstatic right now,” Capellan said after Apollo finished. “She’s exhausted and asking why she’s doing it. But all her hard work paid off, thank God. Now, she’s got more.”

“It’s a painful race — something they’ve really got to train for,” said Clarkstown North track coach Heidi Bernasconi, who coached senior Sarah Haber.  Haber, who began racewalking as a sophomore, didn’t train, learning of the race just days earlier. Hoping just to finish, she crossed 23rd in the 5,000 in 33:09.

Michta in the lead.

Michta pulling away.

The winner (in 25:47) was defending champ Katie Michta, 16, of Nesconset, who was 5 when she followed her now-Olympian sister, Maria, into racewalking.  After her gasping-for-breath finish, Michta said, “At the end of race, I feel amazing — not physically but mentally.”

And so she’ll keep pushing herself, as will relative racewalk newcomers such as  Apollo.


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