Farmington native Kevin Eastler moved closer to a berth in the 2004 Olympic Games with a personal-best performance Saturday in the men’s 20-kilometer racewalk at the 2003 IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Paris.
Eastler, a 25-year-old Air Force captain now living in Fort Collins, Colo., finished the 20K (12.4-mile) event in 1 hour, 22 minutes and 25 seconds, good for 18th place in the field of 39 competitors. He was the only American in the race.
His time bested the Olympic “A” qualifying standard of 1:22:30 by five seconds, marking the first time an American has achieved the “A” standard in nearly two decades.
By achieving the “A” standard, Eastler will qualify for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, by finishing the 20K at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif., next July and not placing behind a walker who has achieved only the Olympic “B” standard of 1:24:00. Currently, Eastler would be the top-seeded walker at the U.S. trials.
Eastler’s performance in Paris was the third-fastest time for the 20K racewalk in American history, and only eight seconds off the American record of 1:22:17 set by Tim Lewis in 1989.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound graduate of Mt. Blue High School and the U.S. Air Force Academy walked a “negative split” at the worlds, meaning he walked the second half of the race faster than the first half, according to his father, Dr. Thomas Eastler of Farmington. Kevin Eastler finished the first 10 kilometers in 41 minutes, 20 seconds, and the second 10K in 41:05.
Eastler’s time topped his previous personal best of 1:23:52 set while winning the 20K at the U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Palo Alto, Calif., on June 20.
Eastler also tied the best-ever finish by a U.S. 20-kilometer racewalker at the world championships, matching the 18th-place finish of Allen James in 1993.
Jefferson Perez, 29, of Ecuador won the 20K at the 2003 world championships, setting a new world record with his time of 1:17:21. That time broke the old mark of 1:17:27 set by Bernardo Segura of Mexico in 1994.