BATH — Racewalking is not as simple as taking a brisk stroll around a track. Competitors can’t lift a toe on their back leg until their front heel is on the ground. And their legs have to remain straight from the time their foot touches the ground through their body passing over it.

It’s easy to understand why Elly Arsenault wanted to be a hurdler when she decided to join Maine Central Institute’s track and field team four years ago. It’s a lot more natural motion and easier to learn the technique.

But she found clearing the hurdles more challenging than learning how to racewalk, so she took up the event as a freshman and learned from two of the best, former state champion Katie Cronkite and Cameron Neal.

“Katie really took me under her wing as I was coming up through and really worked with me,” Arsenault said. “They told me to keep one foot on the ground and straighten your leg. Ever since that, I’ve never had a warning. The form is really easier for me, I guess. I think I focus on it probably a little too much.”

Arsenault’s form was probably the difference in one of the closest 1,600-meter racewalk’s the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Championships have ever seen. She won her first KVAC title by exactly one second over Winslow’s Miranda Hotham on Saturday at McMann Field.

“It means a lot to be able to win my senior year,” said Arsenault, who was KVAC runner-up last year and finished fourth in the Class B state meet.

High school racewalkers deal with a lot of misconceptions and myths about their event, MCI coach Jason Allen

“People often think racewalkers aren’t athletic and they’re not good at anything else and you just put them in the racewalk,” Allen said. “But she’s actually a decent sprinter and on our 4×100 relay and has done some long jump and triple jump in the past. And she’s a pretty good field hockey player.”

There’s no denying racewalking is the slowest-paced event on the track, but there was some chaos during Arsenault’s race. Unlike other events at KVACs, where Class A competes separately from Class B, both classes were on the track for the racewalk. Arsenault found the mix a bit confusing at first.

“Going into the race, I didn’t even know who was in my class. Who do I go against?” she said. “Might as well just go for it.”

She took the lead early, but Hotham passed her about halfway through the race.

Battling knee pain, Arsenault wasn’t very optimistic about catching Hotham when she reached the back stretch. As they approached the final 100 meters, she’d convinced herself if she was going to make a move, it was now or never.

“My mental state switched to ‘You need to win this for yourself. You’ve been working for it for four years, so let’s go,'” she said.

Arsenault passed Hotham with about 100 meters to go, then started passing some of the Class A competitors.

She finished in 9 minutes, 19.99 seconds, Hotham in 9:20.99. She wasn’t sure she’d won until some teammates started celebrating with her.

“I was actually kind of shocked,” she said.

The niece of former MCI prep basketball coach Max Good (1989-1999), Arsenault will enroll at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI (where Good also used to coach) for the fall semester. Her major — international corporate business financial management — won’t leave her a lot of free time for sports, although she’s considering field hockey and track.

So next week’s state final may be Arsenault’s last racewalk.

“I’m excited for (the state meet),” she said. “I’m not sure what I’m seeded right now, but we’ll see what it brings. I don’t really pay attention to my seedings. I just kind of pick someone and keep up with them.”

Keeping up while keeping one foot on the ground.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33