Racewalker Eastler qualifies for Athens

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An exhausted Kevin Eastler had no problem settling for a third-place finish in the 20,000-meter racewalk at the Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday.

The United States Air Force captain from Farmington was a shoe-in to make the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team anyway. All he had to do was finish the race with a decent time and a plane ticket to Athens was waiting for him at the airline counter.

Although he decided to lay low for this event, he still snatched third place with a time of 1:28:39. Tim Seaman was the No. 1 guy with a time of 1:25:40, while John Nunn played second fiddle to Seaman at 1:26:23.

Another Mainer, Benjamin Shorey of Ellsworth, finished fifth at 1:31:58.

“I could tell it wasn’t going to be a good day,” said Eastler, who recently became a father to a baby girl, Savannah. “I was pretty tired.

“I just had to finish. I was happy to get third place. I wanted to have a better race in in Athens. It (trials) gets me up for a better race and that’s all that matters.”

So now it’s official: Eastler is an Olympian, and not many guys can say they are a member of that elite team. And now he is off to Greece to represent his country in an event that not only requires stamina but technique as well.

“It’s still sinking in,” said a tired Eastler from his hotel room in Sacramento. “It is a good feeling.”

But oh what a feeling it is for Eastler’s proud father, Tom, who made the trip to California to watch his son walk his way into the Olympics.

“It’s just an amazing feeling,” said the University of Maine at Farmington professor. “He knew he could do it; we knew he could do it, and he did do it.”

Tom Eastler said his son’s race wasn’t one of his best outings, but Tom added that Kevin, who had to cope with the added stress of being a father, did the right thing by keeping a low profile.

While third place is certainly nothing to sneeze at, especially with the way Kevin was feeling Saturday, Greece is the Eastlers’ No. 1 priority and Kevin is now an Olympian.

“One you are an Olympian, you are always an Olympian,” said Kevin Eastler. “There is no such thing as a former Olympian.”

Spoken like a true and proud father.

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