Track: Race-Walking presents unusual challenge
The WHAC is the only college conference in the nation to include race-walking as a track and field event, according to Rod Wortley, head coach of the track and field team at Cornerstone.
Junior Katie Malinowski and sophomore Janelle Brown have both been highly successful at the track race-walk event. Brown and Malinowski placed sixth and ninth, respectively, at indoor nationals during spring break.
Wortley said race-walking is unlike other track events because it is the only judged event. He said participants are required to follow a strict racing form, and failure to do so can result in disqualification.
“The faster you go, the more you risk breaking form,” Wortley said.
One of the main rules of race-walking requires one foot to be touching the ground at all times. This rule is designed to keep athletes from running, because when a person runs, there is a split-second during each step when both feet are off the ground.
The judges are positioned all around the track watching the racers carefully. They give warnings and marks whenever it is appropriate. Three marks given to any athlete means disqualification.
At Malinowski’s first race during her freshman year, she said she met Vince Peters, the U.S. National Chairman of race-walking.
Peters invited Malinowski and Brown to an elite race-walking camp, and offered them both scholarships to help cover the cost.
Malinowski said after attending the race-walking camp she felt like she finally knew what she was doing. At the camp, performances would be video-taped, and afterward, each athlete watched how they performed and were critiqued on their race-walking form. The camp also educated its campers about opportunities beyond college, such as international competitions.
Brown said there were only 20 athletes invited to the camp, and five of them received scholarships.
During Malinowski’s second race-walk of her freshman year she qualified for nationals.
At first, Brown admittedly did not know much about race-walking.
“I knew that it looked like it hurt a lot,” Brown said.
She said she first started race-walking because her coach told her to. She had a shin injury, and race-walking was a way for her to train and compete without putting the same strain on her shins that running did.
In January 2008, Brown qualified for nationals in Tennessee where she placed fourth and earned All-American honors. Malinowski qualified for the All-American honors as well, with a fifth place finish.
“At that point I liked race-walking a lot,” Brown said.
In March of that same year Brown and Malinowski both qualified for outdoor nationals. Brown set the school record at nationals placing fifth and earning All-American honors once again.
This year, Brown is recovering from an injury in her Achilles tendon and knees, so she said she has not been able to train as much as she would like, but she still earned All-American honors at indoor nationals with her top six finish.
Malinowski and Brown have trained together in the past, but their future competitions will not look very similar. They require very different training workouts.
Malinowski placed ninth at this year’s indoor nationals, but her next race will be in Texas, competing in a 20K race-walk instead of a 3K, which she and Brown have typically run in the past.
The 20K race is known as the Pan Am Race-Walking Trials. Performing well in this race means she could qualify for the USA team at the Pan Am Race-Walk in El Salvador.
Race-walking is something Malinowski said she has really enjoyed.
“It’s definitely something that I don’t really want to give up,” Malinowski said.
Cornerstone athletes have competed in the race-walk event for the last four years, and have been qualifying for nationals since 2007.