Abby Dunn is ahead of her time as a racewalker.
Unfortunately for the Edward Little High School sophomore, about 300 days ahead of her time.
By finishing second in the 10,000-meter racewalk at Sunday’s U.S. Track and Field Junior Nationals in Eugene, Ore., the 15-year-old Dunn qualified for a berth in the Junior World Cup at the Pan American Games later this summer in Trinidad & Tobago.
Athletes must be 16 years old to compete at the games, leaving Dunn looking forward to a U.S./Canada international challenge in Minneapolis the third week of August, instead.
Still, it’s difficult for anybody in Team Dunn to do anything but celebrate her time of 56 minutes, 47.86 seconds in a race double the length of her customary competitions.
“She had a breakout race,” said Tom Menendez, Dunn’s coach. “Every coach was saying the same thing: ‘Go out and walk nice, easy 9-to-10-minute miles. After about four miles, Abby and Allison Chin were the only
ones still walking nice, easy 9-to-10-minute miles.”
Dunn and Chin, a high school senior from Tipp City, Ohio, broke away from Erika Lamp of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside at about the four-mile mark.
Chin, the only athlete in the field with previous experience at the junior nationals, used another surge to open up a 100-meter lead and held it for the duration.
“We just talked about finding someone to stay with, keeping my mind on
the race, not falling asleep and losing focus, staying positive and not
worrying about the distance,” Dunn said of her pre-race strategy. “I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know how much I would be able to do until I got out there.”
If new challenges don’t intimidate Dunn much, maybe it’s because almost every race is a new experience for her.
Although Dunn first learned to racewalk in Auburn’s summer track program as a 12-year-old, she didn’t begin training and traveling the circuit with Menendez in earnest until last November.
“I tell people she used to walk 1,500 meters in 9:30, and now she walks
a mile in 7:34, 7:35. So she’s walking
almost two minutes faster, 100 meters longer,” Menendez said. “If you ask her, she doesn’t consider herself an athlete. She thinks of everyone else as an athlete. She’s easy to coach and easy to train. She does everything you could ask.”
Menendez’s daughter, Nicole-Court Menendez, finished seventh in what also was her first 10,000-meter race. That finish made Court-Menendez the first alternate for the Minneapolis event.

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