SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The final week of preparation for the U.S. Olympic track and field trials didn’t go quite as planned for Kevin Eastler.
The 26-year-old former Mt. Blue of Farmington athlete became a father for the first time on July 8 when his wife, Sara, gave birth to their daughter, Savannah. With that exhilarating experience came a few sleepless nights and a slightly different focus.
But that didn’t keep Eastler from fulfilling his lifelong Olympic dream. Despite stopping to vomit during the race, Eastler recovered and finished third Saturday in the 20-kilometer race walk at the trials. With that finish, in 1 hour, 28 minutes, 49 seconds, Eastler secured his place on the team.
Former Ellsworth High star Ben Shorey, now a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, battled a sore hamstring and bloodied heels en route to fifth place in 1:31:58.
On Sunday, Columbia’s Anne Favolise, also a senior at Wisconsin-Parkside, finished eighth (1:49:31) in the women’s 20-kilometer race walk.
Defending trials champion Tim Seaman won the men’s race in 1:25:40, followed by John Nunn (1:26:23). Seaman, Nunn, and Eastler all previously walked the Olympic A standard of 1:23, so they were selected for the team.
“[Having Savannah] was a great joy, but it took the focus away from other things. I don’t regret that at all,” said Eastler. “[I think I had stomach trouble because] it threw off my sleep schedule and recovery. I’ve probably got one good night of sleep since last Thursday.”
The race walk course started on the track at the Spanos Sports Complex at California State University. It then left the stadium, and competitors completed nine loops on the roads of the CSUC campus before re-entering the stadium for the finish.
Early in the race, the lead pack included Eastler, Seaman, Nunn, and Curt Clausen. Gradually, Shorey joined the lead pack. Seaman and Eastler broke away, and Nunn, Clausen, and Shorey began to get strung out along the course.
Nunn passed Eastler as he began to slow down, and then Eastler finally stopped to vomit. Clausen and Shorey maintained the fourth and fifth positions for the remainder of the race.
“After I threw up, I felt a lot better – I got my rhythm back,” Eastler said.
Eastler was second at the trials in 2000 but did not go to the Sydney Olympics because he had not met the “A” standard.
Eastler now lives in Aurora, Colo., and trains under the Air Force’s World Class Athlete Program. He said he would return to Maine to train for a few weeks before heading to Europe for additional pre-Olympics training.
It was a painful day for Shorey, who had a hamstring injury heading into the race. His suffering was compounded when the skin on his heels began to bleed.
“It hurts,” said Shorey. “I had to start walking funky when I pulled my heels off. I have no skin on my heels now.”
Shorey said the trouble with his heels began between 8 and 10 kilometers. He could not explain why it happened.
“I have no idea why,” he said. “I wore [these shoes] on Monday in a time trial and they were fine. It’s never happened before. I guess I need a different pair of shoes. I really don’t know.”
At 21, Shorey – the American junior record holder – was the youngest competitor in the race.
In the women’s race, Favolise worked her way through the field en route to a higher-than-expected finish. The 21-year-old former Narraguagus of Harrington star had the 11th-fastest time heading into the trials. Favolise also was the youngest competitor in her race.
Teresa Vaill, competing in her fourth Olympic trials, won the race in 1:35:57. The only athlete in the race with the Olympic A standard (1:33:30), Joanne Dow, was second in 1:38:42. Countries are allowed to send more than one athlete to Athens only if they all have the A standard, so Vaill will be the only American representative in Athens.
Favolise was pleased to finish above her seeding, but the sultry conditions meant her time was about four minutes slower than her best.
“I was slow, it felt more like a workout [than a race],” said Favolise. “I started OK, but at 17K I hit a wall. “I think it was just the heat, I’m not used to the heat.”
Favolise said the race would probably be the last 20-kilometer race walk of her college career. She will concentrate on running cross country and track next year.