OCEAN TOWNSHIP, N.J. — After more than 15 miles and two hours of racing, 23 seconds made the difference.
That’s the margin by which Pickens County athlete Jonathan Hallman set a new American record on Sunday, Sept. 9 in Ocean Township, N.J.
With a time of 2 hours, 13 minutes and 42 seconds, Hallman shaved 23 seconds from the previous American Junior record at 25 kilometers — 15.53 miles — in the race walk, a distance competition that differs from running in that one foot must remain on the ground at all times.
Hallman, a Tri-County Technical College student and 2011 Pickens High School graduate, has competed on the USA Track and Field team in the race walk for the past two years.
He represented the United States in the 2012 World Cup of race walking in Saransk, Russia, in May and again in August in a dual meet with Canada in Toronto.
Hallman holds six U.S. national championships at distances ranging from one mile to 15 kilometers. He also won the U.S.A. Track and Field (USATF) Junior Grand Prix — a circuit of races held around the United States — last year.
“Of all the achievements I could make, setting an American record is by far the most humbling,” Hallman said. “I have truly been blessed to have these opportunities and to be able to make the best of them. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to a lot of very fine people.”
One of those, he said, is the previous holder of the 25 kilometer record, Dan Serianni of New York.
Serianni set the previous record of 2:14:05 in 2009 on the same course. When he turned 20 the next year — the age at which international track-and-field athletes no longer retain their “junior” status — Serianni made the leap to the American men’s team. He was a member of the 2011 silver-medal-winning U.S. men’s team at the Pan American Race Walk Cup in Medellin, Colombia, and joined the men’s World Cup team in Russia this year, where Hallman competed as a junior.
Hallman’s record-setting 25k took place during the USATF 40k (24.8 mile) national championship in New Jersey’s Joe Palaia Park, where Serianni took second place overall to Maine’s Ben Shorey.
“Because I was racing the shorter distance, I came out a lot faster than Dan did,” Hallman said. “But midway through the race, I got stomach cramps that threw me way off pace. I was fighting my way back through them when I heard Dan coming up behind me. His encouragement really helped me finish strong — and he was helping me beat his own record. He’s a great friend and terrific sportsman.”
“Despite his best efforts, Hallman is now an American record holder,” Serianni joked after the race. “Seriously, when it appeared he was fading, he found enough strength to come back and beat the record. That’s the mark of a competitor.”
Hallman turns 20 next year, so he will no longer compete as a Junior after 2012. But he already has his sights set on men’s competition in the future.
“Like most distance athletes, race walkers don’t typically mature in the sport until they are in their 30s, so, God willing, I have plenty of time to develop. But a lot of young race walkers are making their marks, too, like Dan and like Trevor Barron, who’s just a year older than I am and was our country’s only qualifier at the 20k distance for the Olympics in London this year,” Hallman said.
“I know how privileged I am to be able to compete with these guys and to come along in this sport at a time when there are so many fine people making their marks in this sport,” he said. “As happy as I am to set this record, I’m really looking forward to what comes next.”