by Graeme Shirley
CHULA VISTA, Calif. - (February 17, 2002) - San Diego has a tradition from the 1960s of Bill Gookin organizing most of the races, firing the starting gun, winning, handing out the awards and publishing the results. Curt Clausen followed in his footsteps as he won the bid to host the 2002 USATF 50 Kilometer Race Walk Championships, fielded the phone calls, directed the event, then went out and won it.
Halfway through the 25 2000 meter loops, it didn't look as though Clausen would prevail. He was in fifth place, almost a minute behind defending champion Philip Dunn. By 30 kilometers, he had passed Al Heppner (5th, 4:11:18), and pulled even with Tim Seaman. Clausen and Seaman walked as a pair for about five kilometers, about 30 seconds behind Dunn and Sean Albert who were similarly paired.
On the 17th lap, Seaman (3rd, 4:07:43) faltered, and Clausen was now solo, still 30 seconds back of the leaders. On his next lap, he picked up the pace, and the lead was cut to 20 seconds with one quarter of the race remaining. Dunn then picked up his pace by about 10 seconds a lap, and he dropped Albert who faded to fourth (4:09:58).
Dunn's surge extended his lead again. At 44 kilometers the gap was back to 43 seconds. Clausen then picked up the pace, and Dunn began to fade. With two laps to go the gap was 34 seconds. The penultimate lap saw the lead cut to 9 seconds. Clausen quickly went by as he continued to accelerate with his fastest laps of the race, and Dunn faded to a 3:59:59 finish. Clausen's strong finish (3:58:55) earned his third National title at 50K to go with four titles at 20K.
In the women's race, Susan Armenta was the only entrant, so it was just her against the clock to defend her 2001 Championship. Oh, and the men on the course at the same time. Armenta beat 8 of the 15. Her 4:39:59 not only defended her title, but it took almost ten minutes off her American record.
For more information visit the 50K Race Walk site.