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Ford Palmer - By ELLIOTT DENMAN(Jun 29th 2014, 8:54am)




Published by
Armory Track News   Jul 7th 2014, 4:57pm


  It's been a win-win eight days on the West Coast for the Long Island-based Walk USA Club.

  Kicking off the USA Track and Field Junior National Championships at the University of Oregon's "historic" - as they call it - Hayward Field last Saturday morning was the women's 10,000-meter racewalk and it saw Walk USA's Katharine Newhoff win it in 52:33.06 with Walk USA teammates Katie Michta third in 53:46.89 and Monika Farmer fourth in 54:53.00.

   Only walker-up Anali Cisneros of the Chicago-based Elgin Sharks (second in 53:42.86) got between them.

  Newhoff's time was a qualifier for the IAAF World Junior Championships, right back at Hayward Field, in two weeks' time.

  Taking on the world, of course, is nothing new for Newhoff and Michta; they were USA delegates to the World Cup of Racewalking, May 3-4 in Taicang, China, where Newhoff was the top American Junior 10K finisher.

   Newhoff, of Islip Terrace, has another year to go in high school; Katie Michta will be a freshman at Molloy College in September.

   Veteran international official and former world-class competitor Gary Westerfield continues to be the spearhead of all thisWalk USA achievement.     One week before the National Juniors, and one state to the south, Katie's big sister, Maria, continued proving herself the nation's best of all ages/all categories with a 1:35:55 win in the 20K walk at the USA Outdoor Nationals at Sacramento State University.

   It was a 1-2 finish for the "MM Brigade" as Walk USA's Maria Michta easily outclassed NYAC's Miranda Melville (1:38:00) with Oregon's Erin Gray (1:39:24) third.

  For Maria Michta, this wasn't her quickest 20K - that was the 1:30:49 she recorded leading the Americans in the Senior Women's 20K event in  the World Cup at Taicang. China.

   But it was her fifth consecutive Nationals wins - followingtriumphs in 2013 (1:37:35), 2012 (1:34:54), 2011 (1:34:52) and 2010 (1:39:47.)

   No other American woman had walked to more than four straight wins at Outdoor Nationals, a distinction held by Debbi Lawrence (1990-91-92-93.)  But Lawrence had also won at Outdoor Nationals in 1984, 1986, 1996 and 1997 - for a total of eight wins - so that's another target for Michta in the years ahead.

  Oh, but one more thing.

   We won't be seeing the name Maria Michta in the official summary sheets of events to come.

   The name has been officially retired.

   Five days after Nationals, Michta and long-time beau Joel Coffey walked down the aisle - slowly - and pledged their eternal troth at Long Island church services, before celebrating with 225 guests at a gala reception.

   So she'll be Maria Michta-Coffey for about a year and then - after all the legalities have been sorted out - she'll be Maria Coffey.

    Her coach - thanks to the marvels of electronic communication - continues to be Tim Seaman, the now-retired and California-based two-time Olympic walker and multi-national champion who is a Long Islander, too, out of North Babylon.

   Coffey smiles when he says, "Me? I'm just Maria's waterboy and support team."  (And splits-reader and cheerleader.)

   In real life, he's a physics teacher and track and field and cross country coach at Long Island's Sachem East High School.

   Michta, 28, has already led the way for her nation at the 2012 London Olympic Games as well as the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Korea.   Twice this year she was named USA Track and Field's "athlete of the week."

  Look for more of the same kind of leadership at the 2015 World Championships in Beiing and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.  Melville, Gray - and all others - with have a lot of catching-up to do.

   Michta has been a leader off the track - and in the academic world - for years and years, too.

 After graduation as valedictorian at CW Post College in 2008, she moved directly into a doctoral program in microbiology at Manhattan's Mount Sinai University of Medicine.

  Now she's on the homestretch of that long, hard academic road, as well.

  "I hope to defend my dissertation sometime in late summer," she said.  And then she'll head back into full training for defense of her national titles.

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