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  Now In The Air Force, Mike Mannozzi, 35, Still Pursuing Racewalking Career With Dreams Of Earning 50k Olympic Berth  
  Former NAIA Champ Named Airman Of Year By USAF Sergeant’s Association:   May 13, 2021 Edition  
     BY JOHN A. DARNELL JR.
      associate editor
      There haven’t been many sporting events happening at full throttle during the pandemic, however, in late February, the USA Track & Field 50k/35k Race Walk national championships were held in Santee, Calif. The field of international competitors included Boardman native and USAF Airman First Class Michael Mannozzi along with several Olympians.
      Mannozzi’s goal was to finish in the top-ten in the 31 mile ultra-race. He finished fifth with a time of 4:54.00 for the 31 miles (50k) race. (Equivalent to 21 times-consecutively for 125 laps around a 400 meter track without breaks).
      In the California race, nearly half the American men did not finish or were disqualified for having three red cards for either one or a combination of the two rules of racewalking---loss of contact, and straightening the advancing leg upon the point of contact until it passes under the body. These two cardinal rules distinguish race walkers from their running counterparts.
      It was sunny and 45-degrees at the start which was a pleasant temp compared to Dayton, Oh. where Mannozzi trained in 16 degrees less than two weeks from race day while stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB. The warmest training temperature he had in the 12 weeks leading up to this event was 37-degrees, where half of his training time was completed before sunrise.
      “As a newly operational airman, father to a family of four, who is completing his Career Development Course, I had to sharpen my routine to allow time for the arduous training for a 50k (31.07 miles) race, the longest footrace in the Olympic program,” Airman Mannozzi (who in known in race walking as ‘The Italian Stallion’) said.
      “To finish fifth with my best time in over four years and wearing my Air Force shirt and hat on the podium was a dream come true,” said the airman, adding “It made all of the training in the cold and dark worth it.”
      Mannozzi, who raced that day with three World Championship competitors representing their military branches from Ecuador and Columbia, relied on his experience, discipline and resolve, which were refined through his Air Force service.
      “My long term goal is to represent our Chapel Staff, the 88th ABW, and the entire Air Force in future events and ultimately apply for the World Athlete Class Program (WCAP) in 2022. The fact that I have finished one place higher than in 2016 Olympic Trials and over eight minutes faster shows my progress while an active duty Airman and raising a family,” Mannozzi said.
      The racewalker said the fifth place finish marks 12 years consecutively being ranked in the top-10 in an Olympic distance, Mannozzi said.
      “I am the only current male racewalker to achieve this mark,” he said.
      Airman of the Year
      Recently, Mannozzi, 35, was named the Chapter and Division 1 recipient of the Air Force Sergeant’s Association Airman of the Year Award.
      Competes In Pan Am Cup Trials
      On April 11 , Mannozzi raced in the Pan Am Cup trials and Masters 20k Race Walk Championships in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. He attained his personal goals in the meets, finishing top-10 ( 9th American) and finished second in his age group with a time of 1:48.02 for 20k.
      “That is 8:43 per mile average for 12.4 miles (50 laps on a 400 meter track equivalent). This is nearly four minutes faster than my previous 20k and my best time in two and a half years, Mannozzi said, adding “Now I wait to see if I make the top-15 for the Olympic Trials in two months. I am near the cut-off of the top-15 times in the nation. According to my records I currently sit ranked 14th.”
      Mannozzi began his racewalking career while attending Notre Dame College in Euclid, Oh. In 2010 he came from one lap behind to win
      the NAIA 3k national title.
     
 
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