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Olympic Dreams: Bellevue's Katie Burnett hopes to speed walk her way to the Olympics

Katie Burnett, 32, holds and American Record for race walking, and hopes her third Olympic trials will be the charm to send her to the Olympics.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — The 2021 Summer Olympics is just about six months away and athletes across the Northwest are busy training for their chance to represent their country. In western Washington, one athlete is hoping to speed walk her way to the Olympics. 

Katie Burnett, of Bellevue, is an American Record holder and she’s hoping her third Olympic trials will be the charm as she chases her Olympic dreams. The 32-year-old doesn't go for leisurely walks, instead when she hits the track, it's all business. 

"This past year I did a track 50 km, which, people don’t do, because why would you want to do 125 laps around a track, and I broke the American record for that," said Burnett. She is one of the top race walkers in the country. 

"I mean, I'm incredibly proud of how far I've come, because when I was in high school doing this, I wasn’t very good," Burnett admitted.

Burnett lives in Bellevue, but she went to 12 different schools as a child. She lived in Washington, Oregon and Arizona, and while her home address wasn’t consistent, her passion for sports was. 

She comes from an athletic family, too. Her dad did track and basketball, her mom was a tennis player and her grandfather, Dick Young, played 2nd base for the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Growing up, Burnett played basketball, football, softball, soccer, gymnastics, and track. "Sports always gave me an outlet, made me feel like I was part of something," said Burnett.

In college, Burnett threw the javelin at Arizona before transferring to William Penn University, where she focused on race walking and became a 6-time All-American.  

"It wasn't until I started doing well in college that my parents were like, well, maybe you have a future in this. But I didn't tell them for a long time, you know, about my Olympic dreams and trying to go for big things like that," she said. 

In 2012, Burnett made her first international team, but was disqualified at the U.S. Olympic trials. A year later, she won her first national championship.

Then, in 2016, Burnett finished 3rd at the U.S. Olympic trials, but didn’t hit the time standard, so there was no trip to Rio. And in 2017, she shattered the American Record in the 50 km race and finished 4th at the World Championships.

Burnett has been consistently on the hunt for the podium in every national event. 

"The two times I've gone to World Championships, it was incredible being on the team with like other athletes do, they dedicate their lives to sport and it's just like you finally feel like you're with people who understand you," said Burnett.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought uncertainty, but it hasn’t changed Burnett's focus. She walks 60-100 miles a week, still chasing after her Olympic dreams. 

"I mean, that's when you know, you made it like, you know, you talk about World Championships, but everyone like if you say, you’re an Olympian, you’re an Olympian, there's nothing above that. I guess unless you get an Olympic medal, then you're an Olympic medalist. But, just being an Olympian, it’s significant. People acknowledge that," said Burnett.