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GOSHEN -- Tina Peters can walk really fast.
As a junior at Goshen College, the physics major from Yellow Springs, Ohio, boasts three indoor titles and one outdoor NAIA National Championship title for racewalking, a sport Peters says many underestimate.
When she came to Goshen College, she became the school's first racewalker. Although it's been an official Olympic sport for more than 90 years, racewalking is a somewhat less exposed event than swimming, for example.
"Racewalking isn't just being able to walk really fast," said Peters. "The analogy I use is to swimming." Racewalking is less efficient than running much like the butterfly is less efficient than the front crawl, but the movements are much more technical.
There are two key rules to racewalking, Peters said. First, one foot must be on the ground at all times. Second, the advancing leg must be straight from the time it touches the ground to the time it is beneath the body in a vertical upright position.
To make sure these rules are regulated, at least five judges are stationed around the track during a race. They can disqualify a racer if three of the five officials observe an athlete in violation of the rules.
Before a race, Peters prepares by thinking of how she wants the race to go. "I focus on my plan and not let what other people do faze me," said Peters.
Last year, she narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics. However, she said, she is planning to try again for the 2012 games in London.
For Peters, athleticism runs in the family. Her parents met while running in college. Her father, Vince, was her coach since she was 7 years old and began race-walking. Peters' interest in the sport began that year when her father became the race-walking coach at Cedarville University in Ohio, where he is still coach.
When she decided to attend Goshen College, Peters' father worked with her and Goshen cross country coach Doug Yoder to coordinate exercises and training schedules. Yoder hadn't worked with a racewalker until Peters came to Goshen. "He has learned an amazing amount and is an awesome coach," said Peters. "I really enjoy working with him."
At home, her training partner is her dog, Strider, a half-Australian/half-German shepherd, but at school she has more of a rigid schedule. Nearly every day of the week includes some kind of workout: long distance and speed training one day, cross training the next.
"I enjoy racewalking more than running, just because I get more out of it," said Peters. And she's had plenty of opportunities to strut her stuff on the world's stage already. She raced on the USA national team in Brazil and Mexico in the past two years.
Besides her athletic accomplishments, Peters has big plans for her education. She enjoys working with telescopes, and hopes to go to graduate school for astrophysics.
For now, though, she will continue walking -- very quickly.