KENOSHA, Wis. — Ben Shorey rises early to get in a morning walk before he heads off to his job as an aide in a special education classroom at an elementary school in nearby Zion, Ill.
But for Shorey, a 29-year-old native of Osborn and 2001 graduate of Ellsworth High School, it’s no ordinary power walk around the block.
“I try to get up around 4:30 a.m. and do 10 kilometers before work and then the quality workouts after work,” said Shorey, who will compete Saturday morning in the men’s 20-kilometer racewalk at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials to be held at Hayward Stadium in Eugene, Ore.
“I am still working on being better about getting in the workouts during the school year. Some days are just so busy between teaching and meetings that I am so tired I do not do anything by the time I get home.”
Shorey specializes more in the 50-kilometer racewalk, in which he is a two-time national champion and placed third at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials.
He has the eighth-fastest qualifying time for this year’s 20K trials at 1 hour, 34 minutes and 8 seconds, a time he secured May 6 while winning the USATF Wisconsin & Illinois 20K Racewalk Championship.
That time is well off the top qualifying time of 1:22:12 held by race favorite Trevor Barron of Bethel Park, Pa., and with Shorey having focused his training attention on the 50K held in January he doesn’t anticipate qualifying for 2012 Summer Games in London in the shorter event.
“I have no expectations at all,” said the 5-foot-7, 145-pound Shorey, whose personal best for the 20K (12.4 miles) is 1:27:26 set in 2003. “For the last two years I have been doing base work, just trying to get stronger so my body can handle walking 50 kilometers.
“No workouts I have done have been faster than 4:35 per kilometer so I am not fast right now. I see the race as a fast tempo workout. If I can have fun and enjoy my walk I will consider it a successful day.”
Shorey took up racewalking after he entered Ellsworth High School in 1997.
“My freshman year was the first year the 1,600-meter racewalk was introduced and I was one of a few freshman on a team of juniors and seniors so I was volunteered to walk in the races,” said Shorey, who also competed in cross-country, wrestling and indoor track while in high school. “I did not train for walking, I was actually training for the 300-meter hurdles and the 400.”
Yet Shorey rose quickly through the national racewalking ranks and became a two-time USA junior 10-kilometer champion. He won for the first time in 2001 and successfully defended that crown in 2002 while a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, one of the collegiate hotbeds for the sport in the United States.
Shorey made his U.S. Olympic Trials debut in 2004, finishing fifth in the 20K and sixth in the 50K, and continued to walk competitively through his graduation from college in 2005. Then he backed away from the sport until his wife, Lauren, suggested he start racewalking again for fitness purposes.
Less than a year after starting anew, he placed third in the 50-kilometer racewalk and seventh in the 20K at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, and he has remained among the country’s elite senior racewalkers since then.
Shorey won the bronze medal in the 2009 USA outdoor 20-kilometer championship, placed third in 2010 in the 3,000-meter racewalk indoors and won the USA 50-kilometer championship in both 2008 and 2011 — the latter victory also producing his best time for the 31-mile distance of 4 hours, 16 minutes and 1 second.
That recent success, Shorey said, is indicative of a stepped-up focus on his sport as he approaches his prime years as a racewalker.
“I thought I had committed myself by going to school to racewalk but I was wrong,” said Shorey. “Up until this last calendar year I had not trained for a full year. All through high school and college I ran in the fall and half walked and half ran in the winter and spring. This last year was the first full year that I just walked all year.”
Shorey’s 50-kilometer PR was the top qualifying time for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in that event held Jan. 22 in Santee, Calif. But with no American having achieved the Olympic ‘A’ standard of 3:59:00, trials winner John Nunn of San Diego captured the only available berth on the U.S. team.
Nunn edged two-time Olympian and six-time U.S. 20-kilometer champion Tim Seaman of Imperial Beach, Calif., in the race, with Shorey finishing third in 4:17:40 as one of five competitors who broke the course record.
“It went well,” said Shorey. “I wanted to go and see what I could do. We were all walking for [an Olympic ‘B’ standard] and I tried to go as long as I could with the other guys, but they both have way more training years on me. It is just going to be a few more years for me.”
Perhaps such patience is inherent in an athlete who specializes in the relatively deliberate discipline of racewalking, and Shorey is confident that continued steady improvement will lead to his career goals in the sport.
“I am stronger than I was four years ago and my times do support that,” he said. “I did not have the best November and December of training leading up to this year’s 50K trials. I feel that I have the ability to walk much faster, I need to get the mileage in and quality workouts.
“I will make an Olympic Games. I have no idea how much longer I will walk, but I figure I will keep going as long as it is still enjoyable,” Shorey said.