Meet Records Fall in Rare Event

It isn't often that the race walk is contested at the high school level.   A very popular Olympic event in many countries around the world, especially in South America, China and Russia, most high school athletes here in the USA are unaware it exists.   But that hasn't deterred a dozen or so cross country runners from high schools across southwestern Ohio from learning this very technical event for distance runners.  And then racing when the opportunity is provided.

Leading the way this past Saturday at the Cedarville University hosted Yellow Jacket HS Tune-Up Meet were Jacob Gunderkline and Erika Shaver.   Both athletes would set new meet records in an event. 
Gunderkline, a Yellow Springs senior, is a talented runner and soccer star.   A finalist in last years 3200 meter run at the Ohio HS state meet and a member of the Yellow Springs squad that finished 4th in the 4x800 relay, Gunderkline started race walking 3 years ago as cross training while recovering from a running injury.  Gunderkline, who has scholarship offers from several colleges for his race walking abilities, bettered the mark he walked in last year's meet by 4 seconds with his 7:25.1 clocking.   He broke away from Beavercreek's John Randall with three laps to go and cruised to victory on Cedarville University super fast 200 meter track.

While not a personal best for Gunderkline, it does indicate that he is well on his way to returning to the form that earned him a 6th place finish at last year's Nike Indoor High School T&F Championships in the walk.

Erika Shaver is a relative new comer to the event.   She only learned how to race walk last summer while doing the USATF Junior Olympic T&F meets.  But she has picked up the technique quickly and went  heel to toe with Tipp City Tippecanoe's Allison Chin.  Chin led the duo thru four laps in just under 4 minutes.  Chin, with a lifetime best of 8:10 for the mile, wasn't able to hold the pace and Shaver went by for the win and record as both athletes bettered the old mark. Shaver also finished third in the 1600m run earlier in the meet with a time of 5:30.56.

So why do colleges like Cedarville, Findlay and Ohio Northern include the race walk in the meets they host? 

While race walking, which has been an official event at the Olympic Games since 1908, is conducted as a scoring event at the high school level in only two states, Maine and New York, race walking is a surprisingly popular event at the college level.   But Ohio is known for having some of the best collegiate walkers in the country!   Currently Cedarville distance stars Seth Campbell, a senior from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Josh Wiseman, a sophomore from Springfield Shawnee HS, are ranked 3rd and 4th on the 2009 performance list of qualifiers for the National Indoor Collegiate T&F Championships.  This year's meet will be on March 5th thru 7th at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee.  Other Ohio universities and colleges with ranked race walkers are Malone, Notre Dame, Walsh, and Rio Grande.

The top ranked collegiate race walkers in the country are currently Chris Tegtmeier, a junior at Concordia University in Nebraska, and Tina Peters, a junior at Goshen College in Indiana.   Peters, a graduate of Ohio's Yellow Springs HS is a three time NAIA National Champ as well as the Nike HS indoor champ from 2006.

Many colleges offer scholarships for race walking and recruit those athletes from foreign countries because so few American HS coaches know how to coach the event.  But you can get that little boost for yourself by learning how to become a fleet footed pedestrian.  For more information on race walking check out these web sites:

Or contact Yellow Springs HS coach Vince Peters at:

Event 32  Boys 1 Mile Race Walk
Meet Record: % 7:29.15  2/9/2008    Jake Gunderkline, Yellow Springs
 1 Gunderklein, Jacob        12 Yellow Springs         7:25.10% 
 2 Randall, John             11 Beavercreek            7:40.77  
3 Niehaus, Nick             11 Kings Mills King       8:30.13  PR
 4 Meadows, Josh             10 Yellow Springs         8:31.48  PR

Event 33  Girls 1 Mile Race Walk
Meet Record: % 8:32.00  2/9/2008    Allie Berrie, Yellow Springs
 1 Shaver, Erika             11 Day. Miami Valle       7:57.46% PR
 2 Chin, Allison             11 Tippecanoe             8:28.68% 
 3 Kenney, Sarah              9 Bellbrook              8:33.09  PR
 4 Brickson, Reini           11 Yellow Springs         9:26.84  PR
 5 Graham, Kaitlyn            9 Greenon               10:50.87