"Race walking is painful and just plain torture, but I love it. Pushing yourself to the limit to see how much your body can take is addicting." That is how Lake Brantley sophomore Maite Moscoso describes the sport she has been a part of since the age of nine. She started running track for the Central Florida Gliders to stay in shape, but at her first meet was introduced to racewalking. The next track meet she gave it a try and won her age group and, as they say, the rest was history.
"I hadn't really heard much about racewalking before that. My grandpa thought that I walked really fast and would be good at racewalking. He knew about the sport because we are from Ecuador and the only Olympic medal Ecuador has is in racewalking, but we had no idea where I could do it. So when we stumbled upon it in track and field it was a pleasant suprise. The first year I race walked I competed with spikes and drank Red Bull before every race because some parents on my team told my mom that drinking it would help, but it just made me sick after every race."
Moscoso really focused on her form when she joined Wednesday workouts with the Central Florida Walkers at Lake Eola. She says she started taking racewalking more seriously under the direction of coach Don DeNoon at the age of 12. DeNoon dominated the sport in the 90's winning the Overall World Masters Championship several times in the decade and also holds numerous national records. His level of expertise helped Moscoso to become a more technical walker. The sport requires you to have one foot on the ground at all times with one leg being straight at all times.
"My coach said once that when you racewalk you walk on the fine line between running and walking and that you haven't really racewalked until you get disqualified."
A runner can receive a "yellow paddle" as a caution for bad form, or a red card if it is more severe. If three different judges give you a red card you are disqualified. The Lake Brantley sophomore remembers the first and only time she was dq'ed, well kind of.
"It was when I was 12 or 13 I think at the Junior Olympics in California. I had gotten second and I can't remember getting any paddles or red cards from any of the judges. The weird thing about is that they didn't disqualify me at the race. I went on the podium and got my medal and when I got home I looked at the results and it said disqualified. To this day I still have my medal though so I guess I just felt really confused."
Over the past several years, Moscoso has transitioned from the club level to the national scene. Recently, she won the BAYTAF Classic in Tampa in a US #1 time of 6:45.80. The performance also breaks the Florida record she set last year at the same event and is the fifth best mark all-time. She says it was her best performance to date and it means a lot to be one of the best in the state and in the country.
"It's really overwhelming and exciting because I've never really been number one up until recently. I remember reading results and records and thinking wow she's good or if only I could go that fast. Now to think that I actually walked a 6:45 1500 is incredible."
She will be the first to admit she doesn't train as much as she should though. Moscoso tries to work out six days a week with two or three days devoted to race walking and the rest to long runs.
Maite may not even be the best racewalker in her family. Her dad started first and then mom--also named Maite--joined in not too long ago, and her ten-year-old brother is the latest in the Moscoso legacy.
"They're amazing I never could have done anything without them. My dad started because I needed someone to train with and it was too painful for my mom. My parents aren't the kind of parents who watch from the sidelines. They get involved and find out what it's like for themselves. They are actually faster than me."
Maite's mom recently qualified for the Olympic Trials at the 20K distance. Should they both make it they would be the only mother-daughter tandem in the sports history to accomplish that feat. She says she used to beat her mom up until a few months ago when she first started, but now is a different story.
"When it comes to short races I don't really know who'd win because I can go pretty fast. I feel really comfortable doing short races up to a 5k, but then I also have other races like a 10k. That is more intimidating for me. When it comes to distance my parents smoke me and the longer it is the more likely my mom will beat my dad."
The younger Maite is proud of her mom's success. She says she has learned a lot from her and the sport has helped the family bond.
"She's helped us get faster because she's obsessed with improving our forms. She watches all of these YouTube videos of World Championships and tries to copy their form and it's definitely paying off. Racewalking has helped my family become closer and we get to interact on another level."
The differences between track and racewalking are quite different. There is technique, rules, distances, just to name a few. Racewalking clearly doesn't get the coverage of other sports if at all. Moscoso believes there are common misconceptions about race walkers that she wants to clear up.
"Racewalking is 100 times harder than running. When you run the harder you push yourself the harder you breath, and the more you tired you become. When you racewalk you don't really get to breath as hard because your body gives up on you before that. People judge racewalking and label it weird, but they should know it's a real event in track and field and its pretty darn serious."
She knows the racewalking community is small and tight-knit, but that is what she loves about the sport. She wants those who might be interested to know that it is a lonely sport so if you want to be successful you have to push yourself.
"Racewalking has a lot of opportunities to offer to those that have the guts to succeed. Since I started race walking I feel like a lot more people have started or changed the way they view it. I like to tell my brother that I'm really the one walking through mud and he gets to come after me and walk through pavement since I'm paving the way for him."
More On Maite (Athlete Profile)
Interview: 2010 Cross Country Season
Maite Moscoso of Lake Brantley represented Team USA this weekend in Columbia the Pan Am Racewalking Cup. The was the second American junior and finished 17th overall for the 10K walk in 58:32, which is a relatively new distance for her.