Audra Curtis had conditions working against her before Tuesday afternoon’s 1500-meter racewalking event for girls 11-12 at the national Junior Olympics meet in Omaha, Neb.
First, she was seeded last out of 22 competitors in the event because of a less-than-stellar time at the New England-New York regional. And second, the heat index was more than 110, something that the 11-year-old doesn’t experience living in Belfast.
But Curtis blasted by her competition, took the lead in the third lap and finished in a gold-medal time of 7 minutes, 40.60 seconds – a personal best and more than 14 seconds in front of the second-place finisher.
“I drank a ton of water,” said Curtis, who will be in sixth grade at the Troy Howard Middle School this year. “It was humid. It was hard to racewalk. At the end of the race there were volunteers giving out towels that were wet and cups of water.”
Audra’s father Tom Curtis watched at the Burke High School track as she worked her way from the far outside lane – not the optimal place to start.
“She played it really smart,” he said. “She was going faster than I thought she would. I couldn’t sleep [Tuesday] night, I kept replaying the race. I didn’t recognize her out there.”
Curtis works out three or four times a week and credits her coaches Mike Woodbury, father of state high school racewalking champion Jenny Woodbury of Belfast and Tom Eastler, a UMaine-Farmington professor whose own children earned racewalking recognition on a national level.
“My coach [Eastler] helped me lengthen my stride a lot, and that helped because I am pretty short,” said the 4-foot-7 Curtis.
Tuesday’s race was the second time Curtis has medalled at the national event. She earned a silver last year.