Sat, Jun 22, 2013 - [Outdoor Track & Field]
Risch crosses finish line at USATF Outdoor Championships
Risch crosses finish line at USATF Outdoor Championships

(Des Moines, Iowa) Foul weather returned on the final day of the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, IA. Shortly before the scheduled 7 a.m. start of the men's 20k race walk, meet officials evacuated the stadium as a thunderstorm system approached. For the next three hours, the athletes waited in the Knapp arena. On three occasions, officials announced that lightening was still in the area and the race was still on hold indefinitely.

Three hours later, athletes were allowed to return to the track and given 30 minutes to warm up. The junior women's 10k race walk, scheduled to follow the 20k would now be contested simultaneously so as not to put the rest of the days' events behind schedule.  That put CU freshman, Kayla Ovokaitys along with sophomore, Nate Vanderwall and senior Cody Risch altogether in the combined races.

Risch started the 50 lap event walking just under two minutes per lap with Vanderwall ten seconds back after an opening mile of 7:36.

Ovokaitys walked near the back of the Jr. Women's field of ten and worked her way up to eighth but getting two form violations. Kayla slowed a bit in the final laps to minimize the risk of receiving a third mark which would result in disqualification, and didn't respond when passed by Melissa Tylock with 800 meters to go. A careful 25th lap brought her to the finish in 1:00:23.17 for ninth place.

Risch reached halfway passing 10k in 48:38 with one mark on the violation board. Vanderwall survived a digestive disagreement with an energy gel, barley slowing to vomit over the inside rail. He passed 10k in 50:30 and a mark on the board as well.

Risch picked up momentum in the second half, as several in the field faded, passing former NAIA champion Michael Mannozzi. With two miles to go he trailed Alejandro Chavez of Missouri Baptist by nearly 200 meters, but he also had two marks. Needing to avoid a repeat of the NAIA Indoor 3,000 meter championship where Risch beat Chavez in the last lap but was disqualified, Cody worked to find the balance between aggressively pursuing Chavez and avoiding his third mark. With 500 meters to go, Risch pulled even, then moved ahead. Chavez made a half-hearted attempt to go along, but within a few steps his head dropped and he conceded.

Risch held form to the finish, taking fourth in 1:49:39.51, a personal best by seven minutes and the highest finish by a CU athlete at a US Open Championship. Tim Seamam of New York Athletic Club won in 1:30:13.06

Vanderwall also collected a second mark and walked much of the second half trying to avoid his third. He finished eighth in 1:49:39.51.

Both Risch and Vanderwall qualified for prize money but as collegiate athletes were ineligible to accept it.

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