Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Preview of USA Masters 5km XC Championship on November 8, 2014 at Carmel, Indiana--Men's teams

November 4, 2014. The 2014 edition of the USA Masters 5 km Masters Cross Country Championships come to Greater Indianapolis, and Carmel, Indiana in particular on the 8th of November. In cross country the story is dominated by the teams rather than the individual runners and some great teams are coming to Indiana. Some teams are fully entered and some still have team slots to fill in the entry list. USATF rules specify that scoring is based on 5 runners finishing. Up to 9 may be entered and the 6th and 7th runners may displace scoring runners on other teams. So five is the minimum number needed to compete in the team competition; everyone from a 5-runner team must finish or the team will not get a score. This is only true for M40+ through M60+. For the Male 70+ category and for women it takes only three runners to score.
2014 USATF National Masters 5K Cross Country Championships in Carmel, IN

A note: In the discussions below I am referring to road 5K times, not cross country times. A caveat before proceeding. All predictions are offered in a spirit of fun. It is understood they are 'on paper' predictions. We run the races to find out how the teams actually do and that's all that counts. I hope that no one sustains an injury, that everyone has a good race and a few have spectacular races that leave us in wonderment. Given that caveat, here's how it looks to me, at present, for the Men's team races:

M40+.  As of Sunday, November 2nd, nine teams have indicated their intent to contest the championship in this division. The Atlanta Track Club, Cal Coast, Patient Endurance Racing, the Purdue Area Track Club, Team Ohio and TNT International Racing Club have registered for the team competition with rosters of 5 or more runners. The Boulder Running Company/adidas, Genesee Valley Harriers, and Igloi Track Club, have entered teams but the rosters are not yet complete.

Last year the event was held in New Jersey so it is likely there were more teams from the East and fewer from the Midwest and West. How did the M40+ team competition come out in 2013? The only returning club so far from last year is the winning team, the Atlanta Track Club. Last year's edition won pretty convincingly, taking the top 3 spots, 5th and 16th. ATC returns its top 3 runners in Chad Newton , Kristian Blaich and Alan Black but the other runners are different. Newton, and Blaich  clocked 15:40 and 15:50, in the recent National 5K road Championships at Syracuse.
Kristian Blaich storming over a cross country course [photo: facebook/K. Blaich]

Black did not run there but has run some 5K times in the low 15 minute range in the last few months.
Alan Black, winning the Macon Labor Day 5K Road Race [photo: Facebook-A. Black]

And Matthew Whitis, who ran 16:17 at Syracuse, shouldn't lose too much ground to the front runners.Malcolm Campbell is something of a wild card; he was entered at Syracuse but did not run.

Malcolm Campbell, breaking the tape for another Cross Country Win [photo: Facebook/M. Campbell]

If his fitness is anywhere near where it was last December for Club Cross he will be an important addition.  

Valentin Alvarez and Thomas Carroll appear to be important additions as both appear capable of  the low 16 minute range. A final new runner, Michael Scholtz, is also a bit of a puzzle. At the Masters Track championships this summer he showed good speed, taking 3rd in the M45 800 meters in 2:04. But he also seems to prefer the longer races, with most of his recent races at half marathon and beyond (1:20:49). Atlanta is certainly not resting on its laurels and must anticipate a fierce battle for 1st as do we.

Cal Coast will prove a formidable opponent. Noted masters runner, Pete Magill leads the club into the competition but he is coming off a hamstring injury from earlier this year so may not be at his peak form. Of course, Magill is likely to be up there towards the front even if not at peak fitness. And Cal Coast has plenty of other ammunition. John Gardiner has run a 15:03 road 5K recently and Christian Cushing-Murray was able to maintain a 5:06 pace in finishing 2nd in the national 8K
Cal Coast TC M40+ after SoCal USATF Mile Road Championship (From left:Vermuelen, Cushing-Murray, Keyes,Gardiner, Arsenault and Ray Knerr)--[photo:]

road championships earlier this year in Brea, California. Rob Arsenault averaged 5:20, Rob Vermeulen 5:27, and Gregory Keyes 5:29 in that same race and so should offer very strong support.

The third main contender looks to be the Boulder Running Company. Until we know the full slate it is tough to predict but their three entered so far should all be up in the top bunch well into the race. Craig Greenslit finished 4 seconds behind Atlanta's Newton, and just ahead of Blaich in the 5K road championships a few weeks ago. And  Cody Hill and Cary Hitz ran tremendous races in the
Cody Hill capturing the title in the Max Silver Run [photo:]

National Cross Country [10K] championships in Boulder earlier this year, with Hill finishing a bit ahead of Cal Coast's Arsenault, and Hitz finishing a bit behind him. If their 4th and 5th runners are cut from the same cloth, they will absolutely be in the hunt for gold.

The others are worthy teams but do not appear, at this reading, to be capable of competing with the top three. But it is often just as tight a battle for 4th through 6th as it is for 1st through 3rd.

Team Ohio is the favorite for the bronze. In Frederic Kieser they have a potential sub-16 minute 5k road runner, with Damon Blackford, Charles Novak, and John Romanic all likely to be under 18:00. Their fifth runner listed is Michael Ryan and I cannot figure out which of the many possible sets of results for Michael Ryan's belong to this Michael Ryan. He is likely to be critical to their effort but I cannot handicap his running.Patient Endurance Racing, out of Michigan, will be battling all the way however, especially as it is Wolverines vs. Buckeyes. Derek Dexter, Brian Fahey and  Scot Ursum all have the potential to be in under 18:00 with Brian Mazur not far behind. But I can find no race results for Steve Menovcik. As with team Ohio, this one uncertain runner could be key to the end result. If Menovcik is a flyer, the bronze could go to Patient Endurance; otherwise Team Ohio should take it.

M50+. Six teams are entered in this division: Atlanta Track Club, Genesee Valley Harriers, Igloi Track Club, Playmaker Elite/New Balance, Purdue Area Track Club and Runners Plus Elite. On paper, the Playmaker Elite/New Balance team out of the Grand Rapids, Michigan area appears to be a strong favorite for the team gold. But it could be a tight battle for the second and third spots on the podium with the Atlanta Track Club and Genesee Valley Harriers slight favorites over the home clubs,the Igloi Track Club, andthe Purdue Area Track Club.  The apparent lack of a front runner appears to handicap the Runners Plus Elite team but we all know that a strong pack can sometimes make up for that, and Runners Plus appears to have a tight pack of runners who can come in between 18 and 19:30.

Reuben Henderson leads the Playmakers Elite team, which should be considered the favorite. They took the measure of the Atlanta TC at the 5K road championships in Syracuse although team scores in road races are based on the times of the top 3 finishers while in cross country it is the place finish of the top 5 runners. Only a slim second separated Henderson and Youngers in Syracuse and they should duke it out again in XC at Carmel. At least on paper it would appear Henderson has the stronger supporting cast. Daniel Dixon finished only ten seconds behind Youngers and Henderson at Syracuse, with Ron Zywicki less than ten seconds back from Dixon. But it does not stop there. It appears that Eric Stuber has also been recently running 5K's in the low 17 minute range and should keep pace with Zywicki. Tim Lambrecht ran 17:58 at Syracuse and both J.D. Pepper and Mike Scannell appear capable of hitting the low to middle 18 minute range for a road 5K. All in all, it looks like the Playmakers Elite has the 'horses' to make the play for the gold medal. The M50+ crown is theirs to lose.

The Atlanta TC will be led by the indomitable Ken Youngers, one of the best M55 runners in the country; he ran a 16:49 at the 5K road championships in Syracuse in early October.
Ken Youngers at the 2013 Club Cross Championships [photo: Facebook/K. Youngers]

He will be ably backed by Nathan Skipper who ran a 17:40 at the same race. Jeff Haertel is third man in on paper as he appears usually capable of a low 18 to 18:30 road 5K. Their 4th and 5th runners, Jim Bitsko and Jeff Reaume, appear to be low 19 to 19:30 5K runners. This is a very strong team but unless they add a runner or two at the last minute, it looks like there are likely to be some gaps that an able pack of runners from another team could exploit.

Genesee Valley Harriers will be one of the teams trying to do just that. David Bischoff, Tim Dwyer and John van Kerkove will all be trying to come in before ATC's 3rd runner.
Tim Dwyer, GVH Stalwart [photo: Facebook/T. Dwyer]

If so they, can partially offset the Youngers advantage for Atlanta. After those 3, Gary Radford and Wayne Crandall need to pack it up ahead of Atlanta's 4th and 5th runners. It will be a tough battle in the trenches.

The Purdue Area team is led by the remarkable local runner, Tim Mylin, of Carmel. In 2012 he had 5K results of 15:54 and 16:46; in 2013 he ran a 4 mile run in 20:12 but has only 1 race in 2014, a 17:52 5K. If he is close to his historic fitness, Purdue can make a run for the podium; if that recent 5K race is a good gauge of fitness, it will be tough. Kurt Gogolin should be capable of low 18's, with
Robert Newman and John Schmitz not far behind.

Kurt Gogolin, running in 2013 [photo: Facebook/K. Gogolin]

Lane Custer appears capable of running around 19 minutes range. The other local team in this division is the Igloi Track Club, led by two indomitable runner, Mike Smith and Don Baker, with Smith likely to clock in the low 17's and Baker in the high 17's.John Stille should run in the upper 18's  with George Purdy and Doug Balogh likely in the upper 19 minute range. All will need to contribte for Igloi to have a shot at the podium.

The Runners Plus Elite team from Ohio includes Daniel Lee and Jeffrey McDaniel, both of whom should be capable of breaking 18:30. Mark Feighery should follow close behind with Rich Heiber, Jr., Tom Quigley and Mark Trick pushing him.  If Runners Plus can hold a tight 6-runner pack together, they could do some real damage and, instead of finishig towars the rear of the team race, push up onto the podium. This will be another fun one to watch!

M60+. Three teams are entered in this contest: Ann Arbor Track Club, Athletic Annex Running Club and Genesee Valley Harriers. As of this date, GVH has only 3 runners listed so they may not field a scoring team.  

Ann Arbor is led by the remarkable M65 runner, Lloyd Hansen, who won his division at the Syracuse 5K road championships in 18:48. He will be ably supported by John Tarkowski who ran 19:33 at Syracuse, Wally Hayes and Aaron Pratt, both of whom seem capable of running low 20's, followed by Dave Minier with a likely time around 21 minutes, and Michael Manz poised to step up should any of the others falter.

Photo: Exciting News: Below is a post-race picture of the men's 60+ team from the United States Track and Field Association 15K masters grand prix national championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, October 25, 2014.  Pictured are Captain Wally Hayes and team members John Tarkowski, Lloyd Hansen, Aaron Pratt, and Eduardo Matsuo.  The AATC team finished in first place, capturing the 15K national championship in the men's 60+ division.  Lloyd Hansen won individual national championship honors, finishing first in the men's 65-69 age category.  

The men's 70+ team also finished first in its division, the men's 70+ team division.  Doug Goodhue won individual national championship honors, finishing first in the men's 70-74 age category.  The course this year was very challenging, with very few flat parts.

With this win, the men's 70+ team has clinched the 2014 USATF masters grand prix team national championship in the men's 70+ team division.  Likewise, the men's 60+ team has clinched at least a tie for the 2014 USATF masters grand prix team national championship in the men's 60+ team division.
Ann Arbor Track Club, 2014 USATF M60+ 15K Champions (Eduardo Matsuo, John Tarkowski, Lloyd Hansen, Aaron Pratt, Wally Hayes) [photo:Facebook/Ann Arbor Track Club]

The Athletic Annex club, of Indiana, has less room for error with only 5 runners entered. Denny Priest has three 5K races this fall in the 19:19 to 19:29 range. Jerry Orange and Paul Carlin both have 5K times this year around 19:40. Unfortunately for Athletic Annex, Carlin is coming back from a hamstring injury and his current fitness is uncertain. Both Bill Doyle and Alan Parris appear capable of running from mid-20 to low 21 minutes. If Priest can outduel Tarkowski and Orange and Carlin could both come in ahead of Ann Arbor's 3rd runner, then Athletic Annex would have a chance. Then it would be down to how the race between Ann Arbor's  third through 5th runners and Athletic Annex's 4th and 5th runners plays out.

At this point, Genesee has a tight bunch consisting of Jim May, Mitch Moore, and Gary Sterber who ran times at Syracuse of 20:39, 20:40, and 20:50. They need 5 finishers to score in the team competition. Based on the team they entered in Syracuse, it appears they could add a couple of runners who would run in that same range. If so, they are poised to move up to second should Athletic Annex falter; it does not seem likely they would overtake Ann Arbor.

M70+. Two teams are entered: Ann Arbor Track Club and the  Atlanta Track Club.
Ann Arbor is led by the indomitable Doug Goodhue, the 'Silver Bullet' from Milford, Michigan and many time masters Runner of the Year. He ran 19:42 in Syracuse to take the M70 division by a wide margin. he is the strong favorite to lead his team to gold in the team competition here. Goodhue gets able support from veteran runners, Monte Piliawsky who ran 22:48 at Syracuse and Wally Herala who came in shortly after in the same race for a time of 23:27. It appears that Harlan van Blaricum and Thom Weddle who did not run in Syracuse could well break 25 minutes.
Ann Arbor Track Club, 2014 USATF National Masters 15K M70+ Champions (Doug Goodhue, John Farah, Malcolm Cohen, and Phil Kroll) [photo: Facebook/Ann Arbor Track Club]

Atlanta Track Club has no one to cross swords with Goodhue. It appears that unless someone raises their game considerably they will not mount a serious challenge for gold but will prove a very worthy silver medal team. The entire team of Ed Bligh, Jr., Kermit Bowen, Ron Mastin, Charlie Patterson, and David Turner, Sr. tend to run 5K times between 23 and 25 minutes. If they can do that here, it would be an excellent performance.

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