Liberty’s Hallman breaks second American record

WALTHAM, Mass. — In the land of Minutemen, the 60-Minute Man prevailed.

A few miles south of Lexington and Concord, where Minutemen once answered the call to oppose the coming British, Jonathan Hallman of Liberty this month felled an American record that stood for more than a quarter century.

Hallman, 19, broke the American Junior record for distance covered in one hour in the race walk, which differs from running in that one foot must remain on the ground at all times.

The new record, set at the USA Track and Field One-Hour Championship on Oct. 7, stands at 12,884 meters — just more than 8 miles — walked in exactly 60 minutes.

The previous U.S. record for “juniors” — an international classification for track-and-field athletes who are 19 or younger — was set in 1986 by Curt Clausen, who went on to compete for the United States in three Olympic Games in Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004).
Hallman shattered the 26-year-old record by 330 meters — nearly a quarter of a mile.

“Jon’s breaking the one-hour Junior record is a testament to his hard work and dedication and his future potential as a race walker,” said Clausen, now a Manhattan attorney, who earned a bronze medal for the United States at 50 kilometers in the world championships in Seville, Spain, in 1999. “I hope one day to witness Jon competing for the United States in the Olympic Games and challenging the best in the world for podium position.”

It is Hallman’s second American record. In New Jersey on Sept. 9 he set a new American Junior record for 25 kilometers — 15.53 miles — at 2:13:42.

“Setting these records has been the greatest honor I’ve ever been blessed with in athletics,” said Hallman, who joined the U.S. Junior national team last year. “I owe such a tremendous debt to those athletes who’ve come before me and those who have helped me reach this level of competition. It’s a very humbling experience and I’m extremely thankful for it.”

In setting the record at Bentley University in suburban Boston, Hallman claimed the Junior national championship in the race — his seventh in the sport. He also took the silver medal in the overall men’s division, finishing the race just 47 meters behind men’s national champion Dan Serianni.

Serianni, 22, had owned the Junior 25k record Hallman broke last month, and the pair raced to a stirring photo-finish at the U.S. 5 kilometer championship in Kingsport, Tenn., Sept. 29, where both crossed the finish line shoulder-to-shoulder — and were promptly disqualified.

“They say that if you stay in this sport long enough, you’re bound to be DQ’d,” Hallman said. “It took me 11 years, but eventually my time came around. There’s a pretty good hill on the Kingsport course and it’s tough to keep your feet on the ground going downhill at those speeds.”
Judges stationed around the course observe athletes to ensure they adhere to the sport’s only two rules: The lead leg must be straight when its foot touches the ground and at least one foot must be on the ground at all times. Violations receive a red card; three red cards disqualify the athlete.

Just behind Hallman and Serianni, third-place Mike Mannozzi, 26, a U.S. men’s team member from Ohio, also DQ’d at the finish. The 5k championship then was awarded to the fourth-place finisher, David Swarts of Michigan.

The three disqualified leaders adjourned after the race to recover at a local Dairy Queen.

“We figured if we all three DQ’d during a single championship race, we might as well commemorate it with another, happier DQ afterward,” Hallman said. “Mike and Dan are good friends of mine as well as tough competitors. It helped to lighten the mood a little before we got back to competing.”

The lesson was not lost on them a week later in the one-hour competition: Serianni and Hallman received only one red card each in the Boston race, which Mannozzi wasn’t able to attend.

All three athletes have trained with help from Ian Whatley, who maintains an athletic compound in Greer, S.C., to prepare race walkers at all levels of competition. A sports scientist with a degree from Great Britain’s Loughborough University, Whatley competed for the United States on four international teams, earning a team silver medal at the Pan American Cup in Manaus, Brazil, in 1996.

“I am delighted to see Jon take his second American Junior record,” Whatley said “I know he was disappointed with his performance in the World Cup in Russia this spring, but he responded to that challenge by working harder and training smarter. He’s making excellent progress, and these records are a direct result of his work.”

Hallman, who turns 20 next year, will finish his Junior eligibility at the end of 2012. After that, he will be training for the open men’s division races, primarily at 20 kilometers, or 12.4 miles. He won’t compete at the 50 kilometer distance – at more than 31 miles, the longest race in the Olympic Games — until he is older and his bones have stopped growing.

“I have three years in which to train for the next Olympic trials, and I’ll be joining a lot of excellent athletes for that privilege,” Hallman said. “At my age, I know I’m a long shot. Like athletes in most distance events, race walkers don’t usually peak until they are in their 30s. I have a lot of miles left to go. With God’s help, I’ll make the best of them.”