Olympic Trials Men’s 20K Walk — Now Nick Christie Waits

Nick Christie finds himself on the cusp of being high enough in the WA ratings to earn a Tokyo spot. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

THE PLAN — by moving the start to 7:00 in the morning — was to beat the worst of the heat wave and to give America’s quickest walkers a fighting chance of collecting some all-critical WA rankings points.

But even after his wire-to-wire, 1:30:48 win on an L-shaped kilometer-long road course in downtown Springfield, Nick Christie had no clear idea of his chances of actually getting to Japan.

“It’s all beyond my control right now, I wish I knew more but I just don’t, that’s just the way the system works,” said the 29-year-old Californian, who’d been a pole vaulter, a hurdler and cross country runner before finding his true calling in the pedestrian game.

The 60-man Olympic field will be named by WA after the rankings shut down on July 01. Current standings have Christie several names beyond that range. Japanese trips are not really in range for the 2–3 finishers, Daniel Nehnevaj and Emmanuel Corvera.

With a sizeable crowd in attendance for the early morning start, Christie blasted off the line, built a quick edge, blazed a 4:13 opening kilometer, and was never seriously challenged. Nehnevaj, who’d upset Christie in April’s Pan-Am Cup Trials, was never in position to again turn the tables and settled for 2nd in 1:31:59. Corvera was a relatively distant 3rd in 1:34:38.

Steven Smith (1:35:54) and AJ Gruttadauro (1:37:51), landed the 4-5 spots. One of the very few in the race to claim a PR was 19-year-old hot prospect Samuel Allen, a Cornell frosh, 6th in 1:37:59 after holding 3rd and 4th in the early going. For Allen, a past National Scholastic champion, it was just the second 20K of his life.

At the other end of the age spectrum was 57-year-old Allen James, the 1992 and 1996 Olympian, still “hanging in there,” 14th of 15 finishers in 1:47:25.

Springfield embraced the event with loads of civic enthusiasm, as its own share of the Olympic Trials pie. “Springfielders were incredible,” said Trials committeeman Tracy Sundlun. “They closed down their downtown streets on a busy Saturday morning; they went way out of their way for these athletes. They showed us their own tremendous Olympic spirit.”

MEN’S 20K WALK RESULTS

(Springfield, June 26; 1K road course)

1. Nick Christie (unat) 1:30:48 (21:03, 22:05 [43:08], 43:14 [1:06.22] 24:26) (43:08/47:40);

2. Daniel Nehnevaj (RalW) 1:31:59 (22:06, 21:59 [44:05], 23:17 [1:07:22], 24:37) (44:05/47:54);

3. Emmanuel Corvera (NYAC) 1:34:38 (22:13, 22:48 [45:01], 23:29 [1:08:30], 26:08) (45:01/49:37);

4. Steven Smith (unat) 1:35:54;

5. AJ Gruttadauro (Shore) 1:37:51;

6. Samuel Allen (Shore) 1:37:59 PR;

7. Bricyn Healey (unat) 1:38:18;

8. Jordan Crawford (Legacy) 1:39:45;

9. Joel Pfahler (unat) 1:42:48;

10. Pablo Gomez (Tracksm) 1:43:40;

11. Carson Johnson (Cumb) 1:43:49;

12. Michael Mannozzi (USAF) 1:44:35;

13. Benjamin Hofstra (Corner) 1:46:23;

14. Allen James (SoCalTC) 1:47:25;

15. Anthony Peters (RalW) 1:47:40.

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