JAY — Of all the track and field events, racewalking is perhaps the most misunderstood.

“People think it’s easier than running,” said Spruce Mountain High School racewalker Sam Brenner, a junior who is the defending Class B state champion in the event. “It’s way harder. It uses a muscle group that no one else uses.”

It doesn’t involve the explosiveness of sprinting and jumping, the upper body strength of the throwing events, or the raw endurance of the long distance running events. Yet, racewalking is a sport within a sport.

Senior Brooke Steele, who placed fourth at the Class B state meet last year, started racewalking in fifth grade.

“I was having a hard time fitting in, and I found something I liked,” she said. “I was going up against eighth graders and winning.”

Brenner remembered his first racewalking strides as a freshman. He quickly improved, and is looking to better his times from last year.


This is senior Brianna Martin’s first year of track and field, and her first time doing the racewalk.

“I saw my peers doing it. I thought it was cool and tried it,” she said. “I picked it up naturally and stuck with it.”

Sophomore Trevor Judd is entering his second year of racewalking.

“I didn’t have the strength to be a thrower,” he said. “And I wasn’t that fast. Sam helped me, and I picked up the technique.”

The emphasis on technique is unlike that of all other track events. Racewalkers must keep at least part of one foot in contact with the ground at all times. When weight is fully placed on the load-bearing lead leg, the knee must be kept locked.

“You can start bent, and then rotate to a locked technique,” said Brenner.


Randy Easter coaches the Phoenix racewalkers, and recalled his first experiences with it.

“I was actually doing it in high school many decades ago,” he said. “At the that time, it (racewalking) was AAU. I was a distance runner, but they had to have three people to hold the event, and I’d always hop in.”

Easter attended UMF in the 1970s, where he met a professor with a keen interest in the sport, Dr. Tom Eastler.

“I’d heard about Tom Eastler, and we used to get this publication called ‘Ohio Racewalking,'” Easter said. “I got Tom’s, he got mine, and this is how we met.”

Years later, thanks to their efforts, racewalking became an official part of track and field in Maine. However, it’s not just for high schoolers.

“You don’t have the pounding that running has because it’s skeletal,” said Easter.


“It’s harder mentally than running, but it’s easier on your body,” said Brenner.

“You can do it for the rest of your life,” Steele pointed out.

The Spruce Mountain racewalkers do a workout in which they do five laps as fast as they can, with a five-minute break between each lap. In doing so, they simulate race conditions while learning to deal with lactic acid that builds up in their legs.

Even though Brenner and Steele are two of Maine’s elite high school racewalkers, they have supplemented what Easter has taught them with lessons from Dr. Eastler. This winter, Steele took away valuable advice from Dr. Eastler about arm positioning.

“I didn’t actually get the arms right until this January, when I started working with Dr. Eastler,” she said. Steele now keeps her arms at a 90-degree angle and swings them freely behind her, as opposed to up and across her body.

“Dr. Eastler says it’s a mental sport and an arm sport,” said Brenner.

So, what do racewalkers think about during a race?

“When I’m in a race, I try not to think about the negative things,” said Steele. “I think about crossing the finish line, and winning.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.