Clausen wins U.S. Olympic 50 km Race Walk Trials

by Tom Surber, Media Information Manager USA Track & Field

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - (February 15, 2004) - Two-time Olympian and 1999 World Championships bronze medalist Curt Clausen dominated the field Sunday in winning the 2004 U.S Olympic Team Trials Ė Menís 50 km Race Walk in Chula Vista, California. Clausen will compete for Team USA at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece after covering the 2000-meter loop course 25 times in 3 hours, 58 minutes, 24 seconds.

Clausenís Chula Vista Olympic Training Center teammate Tim Seaman finished as the distant runner-up in 4:08:06, with fellow Chula Vista resident and 2001 U.S. 50 km champion Philip Dunn placing third in 4:10:37.

Although Clausen won the competition easily, he faced a difficult situation midway through the race when he had to make two bathroom stops due to a bad stomach. 'The first half of the race I was having some stomach problems,' he said. 'I have to admit that I didnít really eat anything last night because I wasnít feeling good when my dinner didnít arrive, so I was drinking carbo liquids and I felt the effects of that during the first half, so I figured Iíd take care of the problems early and then worry about the second half. I stopped twice and both times cost me a total of about a minute.'

Under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 40s at the beginning of the race, a tight pack that included Clausen, Seaman, Dunn, and Chula Vista residents Sean Albert and Al Heppner led the remainder of the field at the 8 km mark. Shortly thereafter, Heppner, who showed good form with his runner-up finish at the 2004 USA 30 km Championships on January 11 (2:16:52), bolted from the pack to grab a 20-meter lead.

Over the next 20 kilometers, Heppner kept building his lead, and at the 30 km mark he held a 1 minute, 51 second margin over Seaman, Clausen and Albert. Heppnerís lead dwindled to 1:07 at the 34 km mark, and in a dramatic and sudden reversal, at the 36 km point in the race Heppner was trailing Clausen and Dunn by 40 yards.

From there to the finish it was a two-man race, but not for long. Clausen gradually distanced himself away Seaman, building a commanding two-minute margin with six kilometers to go before hitting the finish line unchallenged.

Clausen will compete in the 50 km race walk in Athens after bettering the Olympic ďAĒ qualifying standard of 4:00:00 with his performance Sunday at Chula Vista. Two spots on the Olympic team await the two highest finishers in Sundayís race who better the ďAĒ standard by August 9, 2004. The top-five finishers in todayís race selected themselves to represent Team USA in the 50 km competition at the 2004 IAAF World Race Walking Cup, May 1-2 in Naumburg, Germany.

The 2000 Olympic Trials 50 km champion (3:56:16), Clausen won his fifth career U.S. 50 km title with his performance in Chula Vista. Clausen also owns five U.S. 20 km race walk titles and the 50 km American record of 3:48:04 in 1999.

1Curt Clausen363:58:24Chula Vista CA$6,000
2Tim Seaman314:08:06Chula Vista CA$4,000
3Philip Dunn324:10:37Chula Vista CA$3,000
4Sean Albert304:18:33Chula Vista CA$2,000
5Al Heppner294:23:52Chula Vista CA$1,000
6Ben Shorey204:27:38Osborn ME 
7Dave McGovern384:37:30Mobile AL 
8Theron Kissinger334:41:53Waterbury CT 
9Gary Morgan444:45:26Clarkston MI 
10Steve Quirke234:46:29Kenosha WI 
11Dave Doherty334:51:35Chula Vista CA 
12Nick Bdera555:04:31Roosevelt Island NY 
dqJohn Souchek38 Little Silver NJ 

Quotes:

Curt Clausen: What a relief and a whole lot of excitement. Itís kind of a mix of both. There were a lot of times in that race when I thought it would be real easy to walk off the side here because this really hurts. Once I put my problems behind me I just started getting more and more comfortable. My last 10K was probably my fastest. I really felt strong when I realized there was a good chance for me to get the job done today.

About Al Heppner getting off to a large lead: If I didnít catch Al that wouldíve been fine with me as long as I finished under four (hours). I really thought that if I could get in under four everything would take care of itself. The race doesnít start until the last 15 to 10K and I wasnít going to worry about him until we reached that point. It was great that my family was able to make it here and it was awesome. We had a huge crowd for a walk and Iím real happy to be at home and get the job done here. Itís great to be on the Olympic team and represent my country in Athens.

Tim Seaman: On his objective of pacing Clausen for the first 30 kilometers before dropping out of the race: That was my original plan, but I felt good and decided to keep going. I pushed too hard from 30 to 40K. We had trained so well together and things were moving okay, but it became just a little too hard for me. Curtís the best, I love him. Iíll use this for motivation for the 20 km Trials in July. At 42K I was on the Olympic team. At 50K, Iím not on the team. Thatís okay, if I have my choice Iíll make it in the 20K.

Philip Dunn: It was one of the tougher races Iíve had because I just didnít feel very good today. I was able to tough it out. I had some great fans out there and they really kept me going. They really gave me a boost. I never got a very good rhythm going until late in the race and by then I was out of position to challenge. Iím pleased with finishing third. The other guys walked incredibly well. I just wish a few of us could have walked the ďAĒ standard with Curt. The conditions were fine and it was a beautiful day.

Al Heppner: On grabbing an early lead in the race: I was going to stay with the pack, but Curt stopped to use the bathroom after picking up the pace a little bit, so I was able to separate myself and I decided to just roll with it. I was feeling good until about 31 or 32K when it just fell apart. Iím not sure what happened. I thought my fitness was good enough to hold the pace and I was pretty good for a while. This is disappointing. In retrospect, I should have just stayed with the pack.

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