John Nunn reacts as he wins the men's Olympic Trials 50K race walk, defending his 2012 Trials victory. USATF Director of Events Jim Estes holds the tape. Photo by Ken Stone
John Nunn reacts as he wins the men’s Olympic Trials 50K race walk, defending his 2012 Trials victory. Photo by Ken Stone

Saturday night, John Nunn of Bonsall was in a fetal position with the flu, crying. Sunday morning, he won the Olympic Trials 50-kilometer walk — qualifying for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and his third Games.

“Laid in bed all yesterday. I couldn’t fathom the idea of how I would do this,” the 38-year-old said minutes after finishing a Santee loop course in a personal best of 4 hours, 3 minutes, 21 seconds.

Nunn’s 11-year-old daughter, Ella, wearing orange Team Nunn T-shirt like dozens of others, said she knew he would compete.

Nick Christie leads men’s Olympic Trials 50K race walk seconds after start on Mast Boulevard in Santee. Photo by Ken Stone

“It’s amazing,” she said after handing him an American flag to drape around his shoulders. “It means another superexciting experience. I don’t know if I could be happier.”

With his brother’s help, Nunn found medicine that didn’t run afoul of doping rules.

Nunn got through the night at a nearby hotel. But he didn’t feel OK until 2 hours after the 7:22 a.m. start, he said.

Nunn defended his 2012 Trials title on the same 1.25K course (40 laps) — 19:10 ahead of 2010 Grossmont High School graduate Nick Christie, 24, of El Cajon.

Christie walked with (and sometimes ahead of) Nunn for more than half the race, briefly leading before falling off the pace for a 4:06 Olympic Games qualifying mark. He finished at 4:22:31 — 11 minutes off his previous best at the distance but 16 minutes short of the Olympic qualifying standard. Both Christie and Michael Mannozzi, third in 4:31:37, have until May 8 to chase the standard for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Christie, 24, coached by two-time Olympian Tim Seaman of Cuyamaca College, said the last 10K of the 31.1-mile race was painful.

“I was just crawling. My body shut down.” At 38K, Nunn “demolished me” and eventually lapped him twice.

He said he would had a “real good shot” at making the team in the 20K walk, but would try another time for a 50K qualifying mark at a Rome world team event in early May.

Nick Christie shows the strain late in men’s Olympic Trials 50K race walk. Photo by Ken Stone

“The race started off pretty well. I felt good,” Christie told USA Track & Field. I was wearing a heart rate monitor. Everything looked good, and all of a sudden it’s what happens in 50K and marathon: the body just gave out and I crashed bad.”

He took solace that he didn’t stop, and said: “I might do the 50K in Rome at the World Team Challenge, but I might just focus on the 20K, do 50K work and focus on the 20K.”

A former hurdler and pole vaulter (best of 13-2) at Grossmont, Christie took up the walk in 2011, he said. He was runner-up to Nunn in the 2014 and 2015 national 50K championships.

Third at the trials was Michael Mannozzi, 29, of Toronto, Canada, but a 12-time USA Track Field champion at various distances. He clocked 4:31:47.

Although women don’t contest the 50K at the Games, Erin Taylor-Talcott, 37, of Oswego, New York, was the first female finisher in 4:44:26 — lapping the field three times by Lap 15 for more than a one-mile advantage. The race was a USATF national championship, however.

Taylor-Talcott was the sixth person overall to complete 50K.

In a separate 20K invitational race, the top man was Emanuel Corvera, 22, of San Diego, in 1:28:57. Winning the women’s race was late entry Robyn Stevens in 1:44:31.

John Nunn and his daughter, Ella, pose with flag after men’s Olympic Trials 50K race walk. Photo by Ken Stone

Jon Matthews of Helena, Montana, at 59 years, 235 days, became the oldest man ever to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Track and Field events, finishing in 5:03:25 — and seventh out of 15 entrants.

Dave McGovern, 50, of Locust Valley, New York, became the first man to compete in eight Olympic Trials, stretching back to 1988.

Nunn, competing for the U.S. Army, broke down in tears during a postrace interview as he thanked “the generals” who made it possible for him to chase his Olympic dream.

Nunn won $10,000 from a purse of more than $33,000. He took 26th in the 20K walk in the 2004 Olympics and 43rd in the 2012 London Olympic 50K walk in 4:03:28.

Nunn, who is divorced, runs a gourmet cookie business, Ella’s Cookies, with his daughter.

He said making this team was more like a job, requiring him to buy a $2,000 altitude tent for sleeping at night — which caused nightmares until he lowered the elevation setting.

“It’s all been worth it,” he said. “I’m grateful.”