If the past year has shown anything, it has demonstrated to take things in life as they come, as we never truly know what to expect. The delay of the Tokyo Olympic games was no exception. Three Marist racewalkers were faced with a tough task already. And now another year was tacked onto their Olympic trial timeline as they were at their peak fitness level.
To put it simply, the Olympic Trials felt long overdue.
Times have changed since the original trials were set. Katie Miale finished her fifth year and could no longer wear a Marist singlet, and remaining Marist students Lauren Harris and Kayla Shaprio did not have their typical practice schedule due to COVID protocols on campus. There was limited access to facilities, including the Vassar track, and COVID cases had to be dealt with throughout the year. Much of their training was based on their own schedules, which was unusual as they all have been on a team since high school.
“It was just unorthodox here in terms of training because as the girls said, a lot of it was on their own, which is not how we typically train,” said coach Chuck Williams. The women were at their best at the time of the 2020 trials and as Williams described, they were “ready to have the race of their careers.”
More time also brought the possibility of injury. Miale tore her MCL during quarantine and was still recovering while in quarantine. On top of that, she was juggling two jobs and working seven days a week, all while training and recovering for the trials. Miale could feel that she could have PRed last year, so tearing her MCL made this difficult to come to terms with. She has spent the past year training with a coach and a group of racewalkers based in Seattle, and was being coached remotely.
“That’s just like athletics, everything is always changing. You can’t predict anything and you kind of just have to roll with the punches,” said Miale. However, she enjoyed training on her high school track, where her career began. It reminded her why she fell in love with the sport in the first place and reassured her to keep pushing.
“The last year has really showed me that nothing is ever guaranteed,” said Miale. “While I do hope to be back at the next trials, I knew I didn’t want to miss out on this experience that very well could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
While there were several bumps in the track to finally get to the trials, the racewalkers took this as a learning experience for their careers, helping them understand what is at stake down the line.
“We’re kind of going in there, seeing what we can do, trying to PR and do our best,” said Shaprio.
It was a lower pressure situation for these women because in racewalking, racers peak in their 30s. The three U.S. women racewalkers now in Tokyo are in their late 30s, giving these three young women hope for the future and trust in the time they have. Harris placed ninth, maintaining her pre-race ranking, while Shapiro placed 13th, followed by Miale at 14th.
“This year really was about the experience of competing on that big stage and just taking it all in and understanding what goes on with the trials,” said Williams.
All three of the racewalkers plan to train for the 2024 summer Olympics in Paris and are looking forward to the World Championship qualifying races in Oregon. While they will no longer be able to wear Marist singlets, Coach Pete Colaizzo and Williams are working to create a certified USATF club for Marist’s elite level alumni athletes. With this club in motion, the Marist alum will have a team to race under and the coaches can continue to train them.
Both Harris and Shapiro live in Long Island and they are able to meet up and train together for the next trials. Shapiro is coming back this fall for cross country while Harris is taking a semester off before she begins graduate school. As for Miale, she is moving to Boston in the fall and she is hoping to meet some racewalkers in the city to train with. Because of their age and their desire to compete, all three women have a lot left in the tank to dedicate to this sport.
“I have a lot left inside of me. This past trials definitely isn’t the note that I want to go out on and I just don’t want to 10 years from now look back and wonder how good I could have been,” said Miale. “So 2024 is definitely on my radar and 2028 as well. That being said, I know a lot can happen in three years, even more in seven, but if I keep improving I definitely wouldn’t count myself out.”
By the time of the next summer games, changes may be made to the women’s racewalk. Currently, there are two men’s events and only one women’s event. According to Williams, different ideas are being bounced around about having two women’s events: a road race and a track race, along with a possible co-ed relay.
Williams explained the older women are more suited for the longer, endurance races while the younger women have more speed. A race on the track is more suited for these three women, as a racer knows what to expect. For a road race, the path can be unpredictable depending on the course. This will determine how the women should train and how they should navigate the next three years.
The racewalkers have time on their side and are pushing forward to discover what the sport has left in store for them. A professional runner tweeted a quote long ago and it resonated with Miale: “It’s not about IF it’s going to happen, it’s about WHEN.” This quote is quite fitting for the past year and is posted on her bedroom door, reminding her to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other.
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney & Connor Kurpat
Photo by Marist Athletics