Maybe they should just rename it ‘Race Walk Island.’ Three Long Islanders earned All-American status in the girls one- mile race walk on the second day of the weekend-long New Balance Indoor Nationals Saturday at the Armory in Manhattan. That’s pretty good, considering All-American honors are only awarded to the top six places.
Sachem East, a perennial race walking factory, claimed two of those places — putting state champion Margaret Atwood and Chelsea Benedict on the podium. Atwood finished second in seven minutes, 16.25 seconds and Benedict was fourth in 7:29.10.
Huntington’s Keily Rivas squeezed between the two Sachem standouts, placing third in 7:25.53. Taylor Ewert of Beavercreek, Ohio won in 6:49.20, a new national record, breaking Sachem East alumni Lauren Harris’ record of 6:53.44, set last year.
The race marked one of the few times this season that Atwood was pushed by anyone. She dominated Long Island from the get-go and strolled to a 15-second victory in last weekend’s state championship race.
Atwood said last week that she expected Ewert to win this week, and was aiming for second place.
“I thought of it almost as two separate races,” Atwood said. “One race was Taylor (Ewert) , because I knew she was going to go out really hard, and the other race was the girls that I was competing against.”
Atwood couldn’t help but get used to being alone in races this winter, a welcome consequence of her season-long dominance. But, with the field more bunched up than a typical Suffolk race, she still felt right at home.
“It helped a lot,” she said of the race congestion. “When we first went out, everyone was in front of me because I was in one of the inner lanes. Everyone went out hard and I just kept moving up.”
The race served as major redemption for Benedict, who was unhappy with the way she walked at the state championship and needed a solid race to knock the sour taste out of her mouth.
“Mentally, I think I got psyched out and thought too much of it,” Benedict said of the state race. “I didn’t want to do that again. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.”
After the race, Benedict was able to feel the full impact that redemption can have.
“I cried,” she said. “It was a great moment.”
Unlike the past few years, the race walking fun didn’t end with the girls. Bay Shore’s Moises Hernandez placed sixth in the boys one-mile race walk in 8:16.15, earning him All-American honors. Sean Glaze of Springfield, Ohio won in 7:07.05.
In New York, race walking is exclusively a girls event on the high school level. After practicing the event with the Bay Shore girls team, Hernandez, who is a middle distance runner on the boys team, qualified for the national meet at a USA Track and Field meet earlier this year.
Saturday’s race was only the second time Hernandez had competed in the event.
“It feels really good,” he said. “Honestly, during the race I kind of fell back a little bit, so that kind of worried me. But, I kept going and kept my place.”