Olympic Trials Women’s 20K Walk — Stevens Up Front Again

Now 41 years old, ’21 champ Robyn Stevens rebounded from a 5th-place showing in ’23. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

SEVENTEEN WOMEN STARTED (at 7:31) a minute after the 16 men and the 20K, 20-loop early-Saturday chase around a curvy downtown Springfield course was on. The friendly “battle of the genders” raged on for two hours. And there was concurrent honor in it for both guys and gals.

Women’s champion and ’21 Trials winner Robyn Stevens (1:37:38) was quicker than all but 7 men. But all 16 men outwalked over half the ladies’ field.

Could you call this a perfect warmup for the all-new male-female marathon distance (42.2K) racewalk relay set to debut at the Paris Olympic Games?

Not so fast, folks. It’s still a long-long shot for the 42.2K American record-holding duo of Nick Christie and Miranda Melville to earn one of the 25 Paris relay spots.

And it’s “not going to happen” for any USA walker, man or woman, either, in the hunt for an individual-race 20K berth.

Stevens, in fact, came into the Trials as just third American in the WA women’s rankings. None are even close to the top-48 spot needed for Paris, and No. 2 WA-ranked American and 9-time 20K champion Maria Michta-Coffey, expecting her second child, is sitting out the ’24 campaign.

Two-time past USATF champion Melville was atop our pre-Trials formchart but never really posed a threat to Stevens, winding up 2nd exactly 2:00 back at 1:39:38.

Veteran talent ruled the day. Stevens is 41 (and the oldest of all Trials event winners) and Melville 35.

But amazing in her own right was 58-year-old 3rd-placer (1:42:27) Michelle Rohl, the 3-time Olympian/mom of 5/grandma of 1. She’s making a sensational return on the comeback trail after years on the sidelines raising that family and assisting husband/former Mansfield U coach Mike Rohl.

Instead of Paris, though, Rohl is on the Road to Gothenburg, Sweden (site of the World Masters Championships in August).

Rohl may be mini (at 4-11¾ and 99lb), but her get-up-and-go is gigantic. Consider this: she ran a 2:24.90 2nd-place 800 in the Masters exhibition event on day 3 of the Trials.

Stevens — once a brilliant prospect out of the Junior Olympic ranks — has made comeback after comeback after comeback over the years. Disappointed that her mom couldn’t attend the spectator-less Tokyo/Sapporo 2021 Games, she returned to action. She returned again after a tough bout with long-Covid last year.

“I’m a cluster of emotions,” she said after crossing the line. “This might be my last one, so I wanted to make the most of it.”


(June 29)

(1K road loop in Springfield)

1. Robyn Stevens (JOMAWolf) 1:37:38

(23:28, 24:05 [47:33], 24:29 [1:12:02], 25:36) (47:33/50:05);

2. Miranda Melville (NYAC) 1:39:38;

3. Michelle Rohl (GPhila) 1:42:27;

4. Katie Burnett (Harrier) 1:43:44;

5. Stephanie Casey (TSHarr) 1:44:51;

6. Lydia McGranahan (unat) 1:45:22;

7. Celina Lepe (NYAC) 1:46:47;

8. Talia Green (unat) 1:51:04;

9. Ruby Ray (WUSA) 1:54:15; 10. Katie Miale (NEW) 1:54:44; 11. Victoria Heiser-Whatley (CaminE) 1:54:46; 12. Marissa Sciotto (Marist) 1:55:21; 13. Jessica Heiser-Whatley (CaminE) 1:58:37; 14. Angelina Colon (unat) 2:00:01;… dq—Rachel Chapla (TCRW);… dnf—Erin Taylor Talcott (Shore), Mia Priore (Marist).