If all rookie seasons went smoothly as Abby Dunn’s first international campaign as a racewalker, rookies wouldn’t have their reputation as unpredictable up-and-downers.

Dunn completed her first cycle of the traveling circuit with the consistency that has become her calling card. The Edward Little High School sophomore was tops in her age bracket Sunday morning at the USA vs. Canada Junior Racewalk Challenge in Minneapolis.

Canada’s Heather Warwick, 18, won the 5-kilometer race, with Ohio’s Allison Chin, 17, in second. Dunn, 15, was third among the eight competitors in a time of 27 minutes, 47 seconds, less than a minute off her personal record clip.

“I wanted to set my personal best,” Dunn said in a telephone interview on her return trip home, “but I think where it’s the end of my season I just didn’t have the strong finish I needed.”

The dog day heat wasn’t a factor, although avoiding it came with a trade-off for the athletes. Dunn endured a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call in order to start the race prior to 7 o’clock local time.

Dunn’s usual strategy is to compete against the clock, follow her own pace and let the walkers who choose to make an early break fall backward as the race progresses.

Knowing that Warwick and Chin were less likely to fade, Dunn determined to stay in their footsteps for the first two kilometers.
Once it became apparent that she would be unable to march in lockstep with the leaders, Dunn focused all her attention upon keeping the bronze medal out of Canadian hands.

“All the American athletes had the same coaches. Their strategy for us was to keep track of the Canadian athletes, to know where they wanted to go and make sure to occupy that space on the course,” Dunn said.

Chin and Dunn’s two-three finish helped the U.S. delegation clinch a tie in the team sweepstakes.

Dunn is encouraged that she was able to keep the champion Warwick in sight for a spell.

“This is her last year in the junior age group,” Dunn said. “I think she has competed in this race four times. And I’m pretty sure this was (Chin’s) third time.”

Much more of a raw talent, Dunn only got serious about perfecting the structured racewalk technique in the last year under the tutelage of Lewiston’s Tom Menendez.

“I’m pretty happy with the way this season went, having been my first time,” said Dunn, almost unable to hide the relief in her voice as she added, “and now I get a little bit of a break.”

Well, not too much of a slowdown.

Dunn will resume practices in her other passion, dance, next month. That will help keep her limber for the next major racewalk test, a one-hour October endurance race at Bentley College in Massachusetts.

“I won’t really start training for the circuit again until December,” she said.

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