by ELLIOTT DENMAN
Who are my special stars of the USA Outdoor Championships?
Kibwe Johnson and Amanda Bingson, Sean Furey and Kara Patterson, John Nunn and Maria Michta.
And just why?
Answer: They competed with honor, gave of their all, delivered solid gold-medal performances, and did it all in virtual privacy.
Sure, the men's and women's hammer and javelin throws were staged in prime time
at Sacramento State University but Johnson and Bingson, Furey and Patterson, and all their long-throwing buddies, were relegated to distant practice fields, a considerable hike from the main stands at Hornet Stadium.
You had to have a special curiosity, or a special interest in the hammer throw and the
javelin, or be friends or family of the hammer-heavers or spear-chuckers, to be willing
to (a) take the long walk out to the throwing zones, and (b) be willing to give up the chance to pass up any of the excitement going on simultaneously with these events at the main stadium.
Unbothered by their un-audience (which, well, maybe numbered in the 100s), Johnson and
Bingson delivered some bang-bang hammer action.
Johnson led all the men with the wire-and-ball with a heave of 243-4, edging long-standing
rival AG Kruger's 240-7.
Johnson, out of that hammer hub of Ashland College in Ohio, regained the USA crown
he held in 2008-11-12.
Maybe his mini-audience was a blessing in disguise, keeping some folks out of the way
of potential disaster. In the course of the event, two throws ricocheted off the
edges of the high cage, went over a too-short fence and plummeted down near a grandstand.
That no one was injured by the flying ball and its wire was miraculous. That officials didn't order all spectators out of that danger zone, not once but twice, was downright negligence. .
There certainly have been horrors - yes, even deaths - at some long throw events in the past.
Why the officials allowed those spectators to remain in that zone after the near-mishaps
went beyond credulity.
Anyway, the hammer show resumed two days later with the ladies taking over the ring,
And Bingson, out of UNLV, was sensational.
She'd broken the American record with her 248-5 winner at 2013 Nationals in Oregon; Not quite in that form again, she still whirled one out to 246-3 to win by a giant-sized margin over Jessica Cosby Toruga's 235-4.
The javelinists took over these practice field venues when the hammerers were away, and they delivered two rousing good shows, as well.
Dartmouth grad Sean Furey regained the men's National jav title he'd won in 2010 with a
handsome hoist of 266-10. North Dakota State alum Riley Dolezal was his closest rival at 260-0. But Tim Glover, who'd got one out to 275-7 in May, could only reach 258-9 for third.
USA's jav-women aren't quite in the league of Barbara Spotakova, the University of Minnesota alumna who set the world record of 237-2 for the Czech Republic in 2008.
But fellow Big 10 product Patterson keeps taking aim just the same.
The former Purdue star regained the U.S. title she'd won in 2009-10-11 with a chuck of 204-9. Impressive in beating the 200 mark, too, was silver medalist Brittany Borman, out of Oklahoma, at 203-6.
If you don't have a good alarm clock, it seems, you'll never be a national-caliber American racewalker. Both 20K (12.4-mile) races started at 7 a.m., the women Saturday, the men Sunday.
Unlike the throwers, they at least got to experience the inside of Hornet Stadium, their races started with 600-meter (lap and a half) strolls around the stadium track, proceeded with nine completions of an outer 2K loop-course route, and finished with a final 100-meter dash back at the stadium.
Maria Michta led off the pedestrian phase of the National program by pacing the ladies in 1:35:55, not her best, but good enough for a decisive win over Miranda Melville (1:38:00.)
The brilliant Long Island Olympian - she's on the brink of completing her doctoral studies in microbiology at Manhattan's Mount Sinai University medical shool - knows her next walk will be far slower.
It will be down the aisle on July 3 as she weds long-time beau and former Sachem North High School classmate Joel Coffey, who these days doubles - as he puts it - as Maria's "waterboy and cheerleader."
These 2014 Nationals will also be the last time you'll see the name Maria Michta in the official sums.
She'll re-emerge as Maria Michta-Coffey and, within a year, morph into Maria Coffey.
But, hopefully, for this soon-to-be renamed American record-setter (1:30:49 in early May in China) she'll be even faster.
U.S. Army staff sergeant John Nunn, originally of Evansville, Indiana, now of the San Diego area, is a 36-year-old vet of the 2004 and 2012 Olympics.
A quality walker at both the 20K and 50K distances, he regained the 20K national title he last owned in 2010 with a 1:27:57 clocking.
In an event that urgently needs young American talent to emerge - four of them actually did in trailing Nunn home.
Grabbing the 2-3-4-5 places were Patrick Stroupe (1:29:27), Nick Christie (1:29:53),
Alejandro Chavez (1:30:29) and John Cody Risch (1:32:50.)
The racewalkers' sunrise audience may have been mini, but it sure was regal.
Giving vocal encouragment along the College Town Drive sidelines were Olympic icons Billy Mills and Larry Young.
The 50-year anniversary celebrations of Mills' epic run to the Olympic 10,000-meter gold at the 1964 Tokyo Games will soon be underway.
Then again, American walk fans have been celebrating Larry Young's two historic bronze medals at 50K (Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972) all along.
There's been no one like him on the American walk scene in all the years since.
Cloning, sure, would be nice but even Larry Young knows that it would be against the