Maria Michta-Coffey’s numbers were in golden alignment. Digitally diagnosed, 32, 42, 50, 426 and 1352159 told the story of her resounding triumph. Competing a day before her 32nd birthday, she racked up her National title win No, 42, blazing her 50 laps—adorned in bib number 426—with a clocking of 1 hour, 35 minutes and 21.59 seconds (officially 1:35:21.6).
Reeling off her laps at an impeccable pace, the veteran Long Islander, perhaps the most academically accomplished competitor on the premises, as the holder of a doctorate in microbiology, built early leads that only grew wider as the evening race proceeded. All but 5 of those laps were under 2:00.
Only Katie Burnett, the peripatetic Californian who attended four high schools and has called Arizona, Pennsylvania New York and Washington her state of residence at different times, was able to stay within a reasonable distance of the leader.
Somewhere around the race’s 14,000m mark, and still a lap behind, it even seemed that Burnett was gradually closing the gap. But MMC responded to the possible challenge and went on to win her eighth National 20 title—on track or road—by a comfortable margin. Her only recent-year loss in this event was to fellow New Yorker Miranda Melville 2 years ago, but Melville sat this one out, still recuperating from a virus acquired at May’s World Team Championship in China.
Burnett hung on for 2nd in 1:37:56.0, while 3rd went to Robyn Stevens, the Californian who’d been a hot prospect in the Junior ranks before disappearing from the sport for 10 years. Her long sabbatical over (“I finally realized how much I missed the sport”) Stevens is back in the thick of the action and clocked a promising 1:40:29.0.
When Michta won her first National title—winning the 40K in’07—she hardly envisioned where it would lead. “And I didn’t really go to that race expecting to win it, or even finish it,” she remembered. “But I had a big lead at 30K and Gary [Westerfield, her coach] said, ‘You might as well finish this thing.’” Well, she did finish it and win it and one good thing has led to another… and another… and lots more. She has been to the last two Olympics, every recent World Championships, Pan-Am Games and Pan-Am Cup, and a wide assortment of other biggies, with travels and adventures through the wide world of sports. National crown No. 41—at the 5K road distance—came just 12 days before Des Moines, in Framingham, Mass., a town best known as a way station on the Boston Marathon route.
The morning after her big win she said, “I love this sport and want to continue in it as long as I can. But we [she and husband Joe Coffey] also want to start a family. “So….we’ll just see about those things.” Professionally, she is “Dr. Michta,” and now teaching at Suffolk Community College. Soon, she’ll start additional studies, working on her physician’s assistant plans.
Next up for all the leaders will be August’s NACAC Championship 20K in Toronto. But what about the 50K, now an official IAAF event on the program for the 2019 World Championships in Qatar, and (its exponents fervently hope), the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games? “No, no, I don’t think so,” she said. “I’ll just leave that to Katie and the other ladies.”
USATF WOMEN’S 20K WALK RESULTS
(June 22; on track)
1. Maria Michta-Coffey (OisW) 1:35:21.6 (46:03.0/49:18.6);
2. Katie Burnett (unat) 1:37:56.0 (48:16.1/49:39.9);
3. Robyn Stevens (Skech) 1:40:29.0;
4. Anali Cisneros (Judson) 1:46:48.7;
5. Melissa Moeller (unat) 1:46:56.8;
6. Lydia McGranahan (RWalk) 1:50:55.9;
7. Amberly Melendez (unat) 1:52:13.6;
8. Jennifer Lopez (StAmb) 1:55:04.7;
9. Stephanie Casey (unat) 1:55:11.9;
10. Sam Cohen (WiRun) 1:58:23.1;
11. Katie Miale (Marist) 2:01:07.9;
… dnf—Chelsea Conway (Shore). □