Trevor Barron: America's racewalking hope


photos by Don Rich / and
   RONKONKOMA, N.Y. - Team USA hasn’t had a medalist in a major international racewalking event in 10 ½ years - Curt Clausen’s 50K bronze at the 1999 World Championships in Seville.

   Team USA has never won a medal in the Olympic 20K racewalk - closest call was Queens College grad  Rudy Haluza’s fourth place at Mexico City in 1968.

    Team USA has won only one gold medal in the 104-year history of Olympic racewalking - and that came with George Bonhag’s victory in the 1,500 meters at the “unofficial”  Intercalated Games of 1906 at Athens.

    So it can be said that Uncle Sam’s fortunes in the two of the longest and toughest events in men’s global track and field - every Olympic Games, every World Championships, every World Cup, every Pan American Games, every Pan Am Cup includes the  20K (12.4-mile) and 50K (31.1-mile) racewalks - have been less than stellar.

     Fortunately for Team USA’s long-range outlook, Trevor Barron’s not buying any part of that.

    He sees the glass far more than half-full and far less than half-empty. He’ll never listen to the nattering nabobs of negativity.
    The 6-foot-3, 160-pound, home-schooled 17-year-old from Bethel Park, Pa., who competes for the New York Athletic Club, has impeccable form and has emerged as one of America’s brightest young racewalking hopefuls in years and years.  Those who’ve seen him in full stride say he has all the talent and potential to make his mark - sooner rather than later - among the world’s  racewalking elite.

    Typical was his 43:05:00 victory in the Junior 10K event at the USA World Cup Racewalking Trials, the morning of April 11 on Long Island.  Another hot young prospect, Californian Tyler Sorenson, impressed in second place, but was still nearly

two minutes behind.

    Barron’s 43:05:00 was nearly a minute slower than his best - thanks to a tough 2K loop course around the campus of Sachem High School North and a warm day that took their toll - but it won him a ticket to the IAAF World Cup Junior 10K Championship race coming up in mid-May in Chihuahua. Mexico, and there he’ll get his chance to match his talents against the planet’s top young pedestrians.
   “He’ll still be 19 going into the 2012 London Olympics and we all expect him to be there,”  said Tim Seaman, the Long Islander and NYAC athlete who has won 43 National racewalking titles, has been to two Olympic Games, and now is Barron’s coach.

   “If you look at anyone in the country who has the best shot of making the 2012 (20K) team, Trevor has the best shot, that’s the bottom line,” said Seaman.

  Tentatively, the 2012 Olympic racewalks will become major London showcases, with a
2K loop course to be set up on the famed Mall directly fronting  Buckingham Palace.
(The Olympic marathons would incorporate part of that loop, too.)

   That’s the future scenario for future international racewalks - pick an iconic location in the heart of the host city, apart from the main stadium where the balance of the track and field program will take place, and offer it up as an admission-free alternative to the big-tickets events going on at the stadium.  The racewalks were  smash hits
staged that way at last August’s World Championships in Berlin.  It’s an imaginatgive concept sure to win friends and influence the IAAF top brass.

    Full of modesty, Trevor Barron doesn’t yet dare think about racing past Buckingham

    “ London in 2012?  Oh, that would be very
interesting,” is about all he’ll say about the event two years down the road.

     His principal destination  plans right now focus on 10Ks in Mexico and Canada.  Beyond the Junior World Cup in Chihuahua, there’s the World Junior Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada in July.
  His biggest taste of international competition thus far came in the 10K at the 2009 IAAF Youth Championships in Bydgoszcs, Poland, and he came through handsomely with a solid fourth place.
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   Millrose Games fans this winter got a quick glimpse of Barron in action at the one-mile walk that doubled as the USATF National Championship race and he came through with an outstanding 6:03.48 clocking, good for a national high school record and placing him third over-all, back only of mentor Seaman (5:52:43)  and Swedish internationalist Andreas  Gustafsson (5:54.97.)

   Another sizzling Barron performance came in the 20K division of the USATF
Senior 50K racewalk, held Feb. 7 in Surprise, Arizona.  Barron blazed the course in 1:31.51, for both an American junior and national high school record.

  Barron’s racewalking career began almost by happenstance.

  When big sister Tricia trekked to the USATF National Junior Olympics 
in 2001, to compete in the high jump and hurdles, he knew he wanted to be a Junior Olympian, too.

  And by 2002, he was. At age 9.

“So I went to Junior Olympics in the racewalk, the high jump, and triple jump,
and had fun in all of them,” he said..

   He stuck to all those events, as well as his other sport, swimming,
 for a few more years, but a severe epileptic condition nearly sidelined all his athletic ambitions.

   Two rounds of brain surgery in 2006 finally  ended his difficulties.

    “The doctors at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh did wonders,” he said.  “They were outstanding.  I’m very thankful to them.
  “Finally, when I had to give up on swimming, because of my seizures, that’s when I started focusing full-time on my racewalking and that was the right decision.
That summer, I broke the Junior Olympic national record for 3000 meters.”

  Not quite ready for international prime time, he went to the 2008 IAAF Junior World Cup in Cherboksary, Russia  and placed a distant 42nd, getting a good view of his rivals from the rear of the pack.

   It wasn’t a downer at all.  No one had to remind him he was  only 15.

  Barron attended Bethel Park High School, in a Pittsburgh suburb, until Christmas of his junior year.  At that point, he switched over to home schooling under the tutelage of his father, Bruce Barron, who has a doctorate in religion.

  Another  big move for  Barron comes April 15, when he’ll be able to check into the
US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and use the facilities there to
train full-blast (at altitude) for the trip to Chihuahua (also at altitude.) From Colorado, he’ll go straight to Mexico.

  After Mexico, he’ll move to another USOC Training Center, in Chula Vista, California, to train for the USATF Outdoor Nationals in late June in Des Moines, Iowa.

  Seaman happily handles the coaching reins of a pack of the nation’s speediest junior walkers, but it’s far from a profit-based enterprise.

 “I have six (other) jobs, that’s how I survive.” he tells people.

  “Trevor getting into residency at the Olympic Training Center (with its rigorous entry
qualifications), that is great news, and great for racewalking.

  “The (Chihuahua) race is at altitude, we’ll be training at altitude.   He’s in great shape right now, he’ll be in a lot better shape in May.”

  Some question why the World Cup is actually going to Chihuahua. After all, the
city is considered the second  most dangerous city in Mexico, its crime rate
(amid raging drug wars) trailing only Ciudad Jurarez, also in Chihuahua state,
the cross-the-border neighbor of El Paso, Texas.
 “The Germans aren’t going, maybe some othercountries will follow suit,” said Seaman.

“John Nunn
(a top American walker who is serving in the Army) had already been told, ‘don‘t even think about Chihuahua, you’re just not going.’ ”

  Then again, Nunn didn’t compete at all in the Senior Men’s 20K, also a World Cup Trial race, at Sachem High North.   The race went to Central Methdist University graduate
Patrick Stroupe in 1:32:10, over Seaman’s 1:36:29.  Sachem Hills/ C.W. Post College
alumna Maria Michta led the U.S. women’s field in 1:43:46, over Philadelphian
Solomiya Login’s 1:44:05.   Sorenson’s second place in the Junior 10K solidifies his candidacy for the first IAAF Youth Olympics in Singapore in August.

  "There sure was a lot of excitement around the Sachem community today," said Sachem North coach Alex Young, obviously a racewalking fan.

    Even though he was facing America’s top Senior Men - all the races were staged concurrently - Barron still stole the show, staying ahead of Stroupe for 10K.

  “I’m not going to put a limit on what Trevor can do, nor am I going to put a bottom or a top,” said Seaman.  “Let me just say he’s making progress, big progress.

  “Believe me, we’re going to have some amazing results.”