The first week of March was memorable for Cuyamaca College graduate and race walking champion Nick Christie.
Christie, who transferred to Missouri Baptist University on an athletic scholarship, set a collegiate record with a time of 11:59.73 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Indoor Championships in the 3000-meters at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, on March 6. That came just six days after the former Coyote won the 2-mile race walk in a time of 12:42.12 at the USA Track & Field Indoor Championship at Boston.
Now he is aiming for the 2016 U.S. Olympics. As a Cuyamaca College student, Christie finished third at the 2012 Olympic trials less than a year after taking up race walking, barely missing out on a bid for the U.S. team at the London games.
“I’ve been very fortunate, I couldn’t ask for anything more, but it all begins with my time at Cuyamaca College and Coach Tim Seaman,” Christie said. “His guidance has helped put me where I am today.”
Indeed, Seaman – a two-time Olympics race walker – has built a race walking power at Cuyamaca College. Two of the top six top race walkers in the world are Cuyamaca College alumni, including San Diego State University standout Emmanuel Corvera.
“I can honestly say that people across the world know about Cuyamaca College because of its race walking program,” Seaman said.
Christie is a big reason why.
“His is an amazing story,” Seaman said of Christie, whom he still coaches and talks to daily. “This is a kid who came from a community college that nobody had ever heard of, takes the bronze medal at the Olympic trials and goes on to set records at the collegiate levels.”
Christie, 23, said he wasn’t even thinking about race walking when enrolling at Cuyamaca College after graduating from Grossmont High School. Christie, who described himself as an “O.K.” track and field athlete at Grossmont, said he was urged by Grossmont High School coach Lyle Barton to pursue the pole vault at Cuyamaca. (Barton, who has also served as a pole vault and decathlon coach at Cuyamaca College for the past 15 years, was named Assistant Coach of the Year for Men’s Track and Field by the California Community College Cross Country and Track Coaches Association in 2014.)
“I had initially just gone to Cuyamaca College because it was more affordable to get an education and I was really sure what I wanted to do,” Christie said. “I wanted to study anthropology and maybe go into academia and become a professor. Track and field was more of an afterthought.”
With encouragement from Barton and Seaman, Christie spent his freshman year participating in various track and field events. Race walking was not one of them.
“I really didn’t know anything about it,” Christie said.
Then Seaman suggested he compete in the sport.
“I suppose he saw something and asked if I was interested in pursuing it,” Christie said. “I’m pretty versatile, so I gave it a shot. Initially it was difficult, but I picked up on it pretty fast.”
A star was born. Christie, a pedestrian cross country runner and pole vaulter, was suddenly excelling in his new event. These days, he training includes up to 100 miles per week on the track.
“You’re basically running, but with some restrictions,” Christie said. “You have to have one foot on the ground at all times, and you’re using different muscles. It’s sort of like running but different.”
Christie is now among the sport’s biggest boosters.
“He is very, very dedicated to the improvement and advancement of the popularity of race walking,” Seaman said. “He wants to make it a popular sport, and he is a great ambassador for the event.”
Christie credits the Cuyamaca College coaching staff for his success.
“The coaches at Cuyamaca are among the best I’ve seen in my life, and they’re probably some of the best in the world. They are so willing to work with athletes who may not have a chance and they let them have an opportunity,” Christie said.
“Right now, my focus is on the Olympics. And I could not have had this opportunity had Cuyamaca College not been there for me.”