Liberty teen wins national crown in race walk

John Hallman

John Hallman

NEW YORK CITY — In his first race in the men’s division of USA Track and Field, Jonathan Hallman of Liberty won the USATF indoor mile race walk national championship on Saturday, Feb. 16.

Hallman, 19, took the honor at the 106th Millrose Games, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious indoor track meet, held at the Armory in Manhattan.

The Tri-County Technical College student earned six national championships and set two American records in the race walk as a “junior,” a status track-and-field athletes hold until the year they turn 20. Hallman entered the men’s division with the turn of the calendar to 2013.

“It’s an amazing experience to win the Millrose Games, especially in my first men’s race,” he said. “The atmosphere here is electric. Shortly after my race, Bernard Lagat was setting an American record in the indoor two-mile. And when you look a the history of Millrose Games champions — people like Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Maurice Greene — you just can’t help but be humbled by it all. It’s an awesome feeling.”

Hallman’s time of 6:07.62 in the one-mile men’s race walk eclipsed fellow Team USA member Dan Serianni of Rochester, N.Y., by just over three seconds. Defending Millrose Games champion Mike Mannozzi of Youngstown, Ohio, took third. Serianni and Mannozzi placed fourth and fifth respectively in the U.S. Olympic Trials last year.

“Dan and Mike are fierce competitors and really great friends,” said Hallman, who placed third behind them at Millrose a year ago. “Training and competing together has made us all much better athletes. It’s a privilege to represent American track and field with them.”

Hallman has represented Team USA in international competition three times, including the 2012 World Cup of race walking in Saransk, Russia. Later in 2012 he broke the American Junior records for 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) and for distance covered in one hour (just more than nine miles).

The race walk is a distance competition that differs from running in that one foot must remain on the ground at all times. In the Olympic Games, men compete at distances of 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) and 50 kilometers (31 miles) — five miles longer than the marathon.

The United States is one of the few nations to compete in the race walk at distances as short as a mile. Hallman’s previous experience at that distance includes winning the American high school mile race walk championship in 2011 in Greensboro, N.C.

But it is the longer distances that dominate Hallman’s time and training.

“Like athletes in most distance events, race walkers don’t usually peak until they are in their 30s, so I know I’m a long shot for making international teams for a while,” said Hallman, who turns 20 in June. “I have a lot of miles left to go. With God’s help, I’ll make the best of them.”