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Girls Track and Field: Race walker can twirl baton, too

When she first tried the event, Blayr Corazzini was like many who knew little or nothing about the 1,500-meter race walk.

Walking? Anyone who can walk can race walk, right?

Er, not really.

It was three years ago, as a freshman, when Corazzini was asked by Mike Gunther, the Greenport/Southold girls track and field coach, if she wanted to give the race walk a try. Corazzini jumped at the chance.

“I wasn’t really good at anything else,” she said. “I thought I knew stuff about it, but I actually didn’t. I thought you just walked fast. I didn’t realize that there was a whole bunch of form and everything that went into it.”

Race walking is one of the most demanding events in track. It’s anything but a leisurely stroll around the track.

“It’s emotionally stressful because you know you can just make your body go faster by bending your knees a little,” Gunther said. “You can break form and go a lot faster.”

But that’s illegal.

Race walking involves endurance and technique, with walkers required to maintain contact with the ground at all times. It requires the lead leg to be straightened as the foot makes contact with the ground. It must remain straightened until the leg passes under the body. Any violations may lead to disqualification.

To those who don’t know how difficult the walk is, Gunther says: “Give it a shot. See what happens.”

Gunther said he knew the race walk was a good fit for Corazzini “because she was just driving herself 100 percent … Blayr gives everything she has, plus a little more, and I know she’s going to succeed. She’s got another gear.”

As tough as it is, Corazzini has embraced the walk. “I love it,” the Greenport High School senior said.

In the Section XI small school team championships in February, Corazzini turned in a personal-best indoor time of 8 minutes, 53.10 seconds to finish sixth for Greenport’s only point in the meet. Her best outdoor time had been 9:30 until Saturday when she clocked 8:44.91 to break her own school record, finishing 14th in the Westhampton Beach Invitational.

Gunther said Corazzini is “one of the most determined race walkers I’ve ever seen. She’s one of the shortest ones, so she’s got one of the longest strides. If you look at the top 20 race walkers in the county, she’s there.”

Corazzini is more than a race walker, though. She knows how to twirl a baton pretty good, too. It’s something she has worked at since she was 3 years old.

That work has earned her a scholarship to the University of Tennessee, where she will twirl for the school’s marching band and perform at famed Neyland Stadium, which the school calls the fourth-largest college football stadium in the country with a capacity 102,038.

Corazzini said she was told she made the team after auditioning about a month ago.

Are there similarities between race walking and twirling?
“Not really,” Corazzini said. “It’s similar to dancing with a little bit of gymnastics in it and twirling a baton. There’s a lot of things that go into it.”

Just like race walking.

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Photo caption: Blayr Corazzini, a senior race walker for the Greenport/Southold girls track and field team, has received a scholarship to twirl a baton for the University of Tennessee’s marching band. (Credit: Bob Liepa)