Sachem North's Maria Michta wins another national championship
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After winning one more national championship, Maria Michta, America's most celebrated women's racewalker, isn't retiring from her sport.
No way, with the 2015 World Championships in Beijing and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro coming into full focus.
All she's retiring is her name.
"Joel [Coffey] and I are getting married July 3," she proudly said after her fifth consecutive victory in the 20-kilometer walk at the USA Outdoor National Championships.
She did it by strolling the 12.4-mile distance nine times around a 2-kilometer loop course outside Sacramento State University Saturday morning and finishing on the track at Hornet Stadium.
Michta, 28, handled the assignment in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 54.37 seconds with no problems. It wasn't close to her best time, the American record of 1:30:49 she clocked at the World Cup of Racewalking on May 4 in Taicang, China, but it sufficed for an easy win over the New York Athletic Club's Miranda Melville (1:37:59.83) and Oregon's Erin Gray (1:39:23.91) and seven others.
"Maria's out there all by herself and has been for quite a while," Melville said. "But we'll keep trying. In time, maybe we can get closer."
Michta's next big walk will be much slower.
She and Coffey, good friends of 11 1/2-years standing since their days at Sachem North High School, will walk the aisle in their long-planned but often-delayed wedding scheduled for July 3.
After a church ceremony, they'll greet more than 225 guests at the Harborfields catering facility in St. James. And an 11-day honeymoon trip to Cancun will follow.
Coffey, a physics teacher and track and cross country coach at Sachem East, doesn't consider himself Michta's official coach. That role, he insists, belongs to California-based Tim Seaman, himself a two-time Olympian and a product of Long Island's supportive racewalking community.
"I'm not her coach," Coffey said. "I'm just her waterboy, her support team.
"Maria and I met back in high school, as juniors at Sachem North, at a Thanksgiving food drive," he said. They clicked from the beginning, and now they take their biggest step.
The wedding delays have been for good reason -- Michta's globetrotting assignments, along with the challenges of her doctoral studies in microbiology (now on the homestretch) at Manhattan's Mount Sinai University of Medicine.
"Next year, at this meet, she'll be Maria Michta-Coffey," Coffey said. "It takes a lot of paperwork to get things straightened out. It might take a full year. But by 2016, hopefully at the Rio Olympics, she'll be Maria Coffey.
"And won't that be cool?"