Race walkers Maria Michta and Miranda Melville qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by placing first and second, respectively, in Thursday morning’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field in Salem, Oregon.
Michta covered the 20-kilometer course in 1:33:41, with Melville right behind, hitting the tape at 1:34:11. Making her second Olympic team a week after her 30th birthday, Michta finished 29th at the London 2012 Olympic Games, while Melville will make her Olympic debut.
Michta is a five-time outdoor national champion at the Olympic distance of 20 kilometers. Her time Thursday was 72 seconds faster than the 1:34:53 that gave her the win at the 2012 trials. She was inspired to become an Olympian after watching Kerri Strug’s historic performance in gymnastics at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games and pursued soccer before switching to race walking. A valedictorian graduate of Long Island University CW Post with a degree in biology, she has been a fixture on the U.S. race walking team, competing in 11 countries on four different continents. She currently is pursuing a doctorate in microbiology. She finished seventh at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
Melville took up race walking at a freshman in high school hoping to score more points for her track team at local meets. She finished second at the 2012 Olympic Trials, only three seconds behind Michta. She holds a silver from the 2014 U.S. outdoor championships after winning bronze at the 2013 outdoor nationals. She placed 10th at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
Women’s race walking made its debut at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The U.S. still is in pursuit of its first Olympic podium finish.
John Nunn won the men’s race with a time of 1:25:36, which was 1:36 slower that the Olympic minimum qualifying standard of 1:24:00. Nunn already had secured a berth on his third Olympic team Feb. 21, winning the Olympic Trials for 50-kilometer in Santee, California.