Erin Taylor-Talcott finds her niche in racewalking
One of the top female racewalkers in the U.S. got her start as a fifth grader, practicing with the Milwaukie Track Club at Milwaukie High School.
Her name is Erin Taylor-Talcott. She's 34 years of age, she holds three U.S.A. Track and Field American racewalk records, and she'll be among those competing in the 20-kilometer (12.4 miles) racewalk at the U.S.A. Track and Field Olympic Trials the morning of July 1, at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field.
'In a way, I have to give credit to Fred Crowe,' Taylor-Talcott says. 'He's the reason I took up racewalking.
'I turned out for the Milwaukie Track Club in fifth grade and Fred was the head coach. The first couple of weeks he said that every new kid had to try out every event, so they could find out which three they were best at. I don't think he knew much about racewalking back then. But he lined everybody up and said walk as fast as you can. I kicked butt. I beat everybody by a long ways, and I was hooked....
'My dad [Larry Taylor] became the racewalk coach, and I did it all the way through high school.'
'Erin tried about every event there is and she was just so-so at it,' Crowe recalls. 'But when she got to racewalk she found something she liked and she was very good at it.....
'She won national titles [in youth racewalking], and she deserved them, because she worked hard.'
Erin Taylor placed ninth in her age division at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Nationals that first year with the Milwaukie Track Club, and she's been making a lot of noise in the sport ever since.
'Every year after that first year - through high school - I placed at least top six [at nationals], and I was usually top three. I won several [U.S.T.F. and AAU] national championships.'
Taylor-Talcott's success today is no surprise, because she does work hard. She trains 45 to 50 hours a week, logging as many as 90 miles.
'It's like a job, but it's an awesome job!' she says.
The last 15 months have been quite eventful for Taylor-Talcott. In March of 2011 she was a part of Team U.S.A. at an international competition in Columbia and she placed 20th in a 20-kilometer race that included the top female racewalkers in North and South America. It was her first international competition.
Last September she turned the racewalking world upside down when she competed in a men's racewalk 50-kilometer (31 miles) Olympic Trials qualifying race in Ocean Township, New Jersey, and met the qualifying standard for men with a 4:41:36 clocking. She ran with the men because there is no 50-kilometer racewalk event for women in the Olympics. There is only a 20-kilometer race, while men have both 20- and 50-kilometer races.
Having met the 50K qualifying standard, Taylor-Talcott petitioned USA Track and Field and the USA Track and Field Racewalk Committee to race in the 50-kilometer men's Olympic Trials, which were held in Santee, Calif., in January of this year.
After being told that she could not compete with the men, she appealed to the Olympic Committee ombudsman's office. A short time later, three months after meeting the men's qualifying standard, Taylor-Talcott got word from the USA Track and Field national office that she would be allowed to compete in the men's 50-kilometer Trials, under the condition that she would not be able to earn a spot on the U.S. men's team.
And compete she did, completing the race in 4:33:22, an eight-minute PR and an American women's 50-kilometer record by over six minutes. Racing in a field that included herself and 13 men who had qualifier for the 50K Trials, Taylor-Talcott placed sixth. Her time was the ninth-fastest all-time for female racewalkers at that distance.
During the Santee Men's Trials, Taylor-Talcott also had splits that broke her own American record for 35-kilometers (3:08:31), and set a new American record for 25-kilometers (2:13:37).
'It's really awesome to be able to go to the records page of USATF and see my name there,' Taylor-Talcott says. 'Especially for the 50K. It means that I am the fastest American woman at that distance ever. It's something I can look at and see my hard work and sweat paid off.'
Taylor-Talcott's success at Santee has buoyed her spirits heading into the July 1 women's 20K racewalk Trials.
'The fact that I can run the 50-K and run strong makes the 20-K like a sprint to me,' she says. 'Chances are I will be able to finish the last 5-K [of the 20-K] stronger than my competitors.'
Taylor-Talcott said she is hopeful that track and field fans from the local area will show up at Hayward Field early Sunday morning, July 1, to support her in her bid for a spot on the U.S. women's racewalking team. Her 20K race starts at 7 a.m.
'[Racewalking] is the only event at the Olympic Trials that's free,' she said. 'Tickets are sold out for the rest of the Trials. It will be a great opportunity for people from Clackamas and the Portland area to witness an Olympic Trial for free. I hope they come support racewalk, and cheer for me.'
Taylor-Talcott says it will be a competitive field.
'Six women [entered in the 20K Trial] have already met the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) 20K â€˜B' time standard [1:38],' she said. 'I'll probably need to win it [to make the U.S. Olympic Team]. I've gone 1:40 and change, and I'm ready for a big PR.'
Erin's husband Dave Talcott is also a competitive racewalker. He qualified and raced with Erin at the 50K men's Olympic Trials in January. They also raced together as a two-person team at last year's Portland-To-Coast 130-mile Relay-Walk. They were the only two-person team in the relay, and they won the mixed open division and placed second overall. Most of the other entrants had eight to 12 athletes on their teams.
Music nerd, band geek
A 1996 graduate of Clackamas High School, Erin Taylor was a part of Clackamas cross country teams that qualified for state her freshmen and sophomore years; and she threw the discus, shot put and javelin in track and field. But Taylor-Talcott says that former students and teachers probably remember her for something other than athletics.
'I was a music nerd and a band geek,' Taylor-Talcott observed. 'I was in three events at the state solo music contest, the clarinet, oboe and bassoon. I placed fourth, fourth and fifth. Not bad when you consider I was up against students who specialized.'
A 3.96 student at Clackamas, Taylor-Talcott went on to earn of a bachelor of music degree from Rutgers University New Brunswick, and a masters of music degree from State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Today, she and her husband make their home in Owego, New York, where she plays the oboe and bassoon in local orchestras, and gives private music lessons.
'I've always loved to run, but as a young kid I wasn't very coordinated,' Taylor-Talcott says. 'I could run after a soccer ball all day, but I couldn't kick it where I wanted it to go.'
Taylor-Talcott says that one of the attractions of racewalking is that it requires technique to be successful.
'Anyone can go out and run,' she says. 'You look at successful runners, and a lot of them have terrible form.
'But not everyone can be a competitive racewalker. You can't do it and do it successfully without good technique.'
As for her future goals, Taylor-Talcott says she would like to see the day when the 50-kilometer women's racewalk is added to the Olympic games, and she plans to continue her assault on the American women's racewalk record books.
'I want to make an international team at 50K, I want to do some 24-hour races, and I want to set some records at 100K and beyond,' she said.
And she hopes to see some former classmates and teachers in Eugene at 7 a.m. on Sunday (July 1), as she attempts to earn a spot in the 20-kilometer racewalk at this summer's Olympic Games in London, England.
'It takes a certain mentality to be a racewalker, and I guess I have it,' Taylor-Talcott says, 'I love how hard you can push yourself, and no matter what you want to accomplish you have a chance to do so....
'I love how many wonderful people there are in the sport. Many times going to meets is a reunion between friends.Â I've made so many friends throughout the U.S. and the world, and I've gotten to travel to places I never would have otherwise.'