The goal of the 2004 Olympic Trials, held Sunday February 15th, in Chula Vista, California was to make the Olympic Team. The top three finishers, if under 4 hours would not just take a medal home, but know that they will forever be known as an Olympian.
If the top finishers do not complete the 50 kilometer race in under 4 hours, then those finishing the highest in today’s race, but hitting the 4 hour mark at another competition, would make the team.
In 2000, the story was quite different. Four competitors had already hit the “A” standard needed to qualify for the Games. 2000 was a race of strategy and place, where the grueling weather conditions played a huge factor. Today however, the weather although a bit warm, was clear and pleasant. Today it was about walking on pace and securing the sub 4 hour mark.
13 competitors came to the starting line, however, in my personal opinion, there were 5 racers vying for the 4 hour mark. Right from the gun, that’s exactly how the race shaped up. The ARCO squad of Al Heppner, Curt Clausen, Sean Albert, Philip Dunn and Tim Seaman formed a lead pack. The ARCO Olympic Training Center is where many of the top American race walkers (ok, at least the top American male race walkers) are training under the guidance of Enrique Pena.
The pack was followed, but not ever so closely, by the dynamic duo of Dave’s: Doherty and McGovern. The Doherty took the early lead, but the veteran fan friendly McGovern kept Doherty in his sights.
The two were followed closely by 1998 20K Olympian, wily veteran Gary Morgan. Not two far behind were Theron “always smiling” Kissinger and one of our brightest future race walking stars, Ben Shorey.
The final pack of Nick Bhera (age 55!), John Soucheck, and Steve Quirke rounded out the pack. Steve looks like he is giving the what have I gotten myself into gesture. And this was only lap 1!
The story continues on the following page.