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Westhampton's Annica Penn sets record in 1,500 walk at Hispanic Games

Westhampton Beach's Annica Penn finished first in the

Westhampton Beach's Annica Penn finished first in the girls' 1500 m racewalk. (May 5, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Westhampton Beach's Annica Penn knows that good things come to those who study hard. For her, this doesn't just apply to good grades in school. Penn, a race walker, wants to know everything she can about her event.

"She's a real student of the activity," coach John Broich said. "She spends time on websites and reads a lot about it. She's working real hard and really starting to believe in her abilities."

For Penn, the reason for research is simple.

"I wanted to be faster," she said. "It just made sense to [research] the little things that I needed to work on. It's helped [lengthen] my stride."

Just like with schoolwork, studying technique usually pays off. It certainly did for Penn. She won the 1,500-meter walk at Saturday's Hispanic Games at the Armory.

Her 6 minutes, 53.72 seconds was the fastest time in the 19-year history of the event, breaking the record of 6:55.09 set by Bay Shore's Brittany O'Brien in 2006.

Penn's time is also the fastest in the state this season, according to milesplit.com.

"I went out a little harder than I usually would have, just to separate myself from the competition," Penn said. "I just held that pace the rest of the time."

What made the performance even more impressive was the surface. Races at the Armory are on a banked track, meaning portions of the surface are raised. For race walkers who are more accustomed to competing on flat tracks, this can cause a problem.

"I could see that some of the kids were struggling when they were getting to the turns," Broich said. "It interfered with some of the kids' strides because they're not used to going uphill."

But not Penn.

"I've only race walked on the banks once [before], but it wasn't too hard to overcome," Penn said. "I tried to stay in [the first lane] as much as possible because that was the flattest lane and the easiest to [walk in]."

Penn enjoys the walk because the strategy and skill set is different from running.

"Running is [more tiring], but race walking hurts your muscles," she said. "Usually, I go out a little bit slower and come out with a fast lap at the end of the race."

Sachem East's Holly Lindoe finished second in 7:06.08. Kings Park's Stephanie Saccente finished fourth in 7:14.84

It was the first time that Penn has competed at the Hispanic Games.

Another Long Island athlete was making a debut of a different kind. Port Washington junior Joelle Feinberg won the varsity mile in 5:05.97. She had never run the event before.

"I got myself into a good position at [the] start," Feinberg said. "I got pushed in the first couple of seconds, but after that, I was pretty good."

Feinberg decided she would give the mile a try toward the end of the cross country season, setting her sights on a possible birth in February's Millrose Games.

One race down. One victory notched. It doesn't get much better than that.

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