Friday, October 30, 2015

Preview of USATF 15K Masters Championships at the Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run

October 30 2015. The 38th running of the Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run on Saturday October 1st at 8:50AM is the setting for the 2015 National 15K Masters Championships. The runners are competing for $17,500 in prize money, second only to the Marathon Championship on the Masters Grand Prix circuit!

Last year it was unseasonably hot, the year before pleasant. The race forecast suggests a chance of showers but with moderate temperatures (mid-50's) and light winds, plus more than a chance of hills! So that's all good as the showers, if they arrive, are not expected to drop much rain, but the hills will definitely be there as a challenge for all runners.

There are many top performers and several intriguing races within the race.

Overall Masters Champions.

Men. The remarkable masters runner, Kevin Castille (Lafayette LA) is entered. He has been a dominant force in masters running for the past three years since he turned 40. He has top wins at races from 5K to the half marathon; race directors at many prestigious road races seek him out. Earlier this year he was the 1st place Masters runner at the Crescent City Classic 10K in 29:56 and at the AJC Peachtree Classic 10K in 30:37. Those are smoking times! And he has lasting power as well. He is the 2014 USATF Masters Half Marathon champion (in  a time of 1:07:55) and finished 2nd to Meb Keflezighi in the 2015 contest in San Diego in 1:04:45. If Castille is on his game, no one else can stay with him. Other strong runners who will try include John Gardiner (Rancho Santa Margarita CA) and Jason Butler (Oklahoma City OK) and Christian Cushing-Murray (Santa Ana CA). Gardiner finished in 1:10:04 at the 2015 Half Marathon Championship, and regularly winds up on the podium at the USATF Championship races he enters. He should be 2nd across the line here. Butler and Cushing-Murray should have quite a race for the bronze medal. Butler ran 1:13:12 at the Chevron Houston Half Marathon in January and Cushing-Murray ran 1:13:51 at the 2015 USATF Half Marathon Championship. The San Diego race course is slightly downhill overall while Houston is not; that favors Butler, and Butler has younger legs. But Butler also ran a Marathon 4 weeks ago so may have heavier legs. Picks: 1-Castille; 2-Gardiner, 3-Butler.

Women. This title should go easily to the strong Masters runner from West Florida, Terri Rejimbal, runner up to Melody Fairchild last year. Following that she had to play second fiddle to Jen Rhines in both the 2015 Gasparilla Half Marathon in March and the USATF Masters Half Marathon Championship in May. This time she should not have to run in anyone's shadow. Rejimbal typically breaks an hour and 25 minutes in her half marathons, often by a few minutes. No one else in the field has run under 1:30. There are four runners who should contend for the remaining spots on the overall podium. Laura Stuart (Encenita CA) ran a 1:01:08 15K two years ago and this year has run sub-20 5K's and sub-40 10K's. Kathleen Cushing-Murray (Santa Ana CA) ran 1:30:24 at the 2015 Masters Half Marathon Championships; Deborah Torneden (Andover KS) ran 1:30:35 at the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon in Kansas City in April, and Elena Shemyakin (Geneva IL) won the March Madness Half Marathon in Cary IL in 1:30:27. Only 11 seconds between those three times-how close can you get?! As noted above, the San Diego course is a bit downhill overall so that maybe took a few seconds off of Cushing-Murray's time. The other two are both 'out and backs'. But the KC Half is billed as flat and fast! The March Madness Half is billed as 'the most challenging in Northern Illinois.'  Stuart seems a bit uncertain as a pick but clearly a threat; I will restrict my picks to those with a recent half marathon. Basing my picks on the difficulty of the courses they ran for their almost equal half marathon times this year, I have: 1-Rejimbal, 2-Shemyakin, 3-Torneden.

Age Grade Champions.

Women. Even though Sabra Harvey (Houston TX), 66, may still be in the last stages of recovering her fitness from a layoff due to an ankle fracture, she should still be the favorite. Last year when Harvey was the USATF Runner of the Year, she regularly graded in the vicinity of 100%. At the USATF Masters 1 Mile Championship in Flint MI on the 21st of August, Harvey scored 90.8% in her first race since the injury. Two months along Harvey should be ready to score over 95% and that should be enough. Shemyakin, 56, could challenge for second though; her 1:30:27 Half Marathon at age 55, age graded at 87.2%. Rejimbal, with the 2015 tables, tends to score a little lower than that but it will likely be close. 1-Harvey, 2-Shemyakin, 3-Rejimbal.

Men. It is likely to be closer on the men's side. Castille is typically age-grading at about 95% with the 2015 tables. Tom Bernhard (Castro Valley CA), 64, ran a 17:36 5K at the USATF Championships 4 weeks ago; that age-graded at 93.8%. Doug Goodhue (Milford MI) would ordinarily be one of the top challengers but he appears to still be  a bit nicked up or off his form. It is a sign of Goodhue's quality that when he is off his game he still age grades above 90%. so you can never count him out of age grade competitions. More likely the third challenger will be Nat Larson (Amherst MA), 93.4% at Syracuse. 1-Castille, 2-Bernhard, 3-Larson.

Age Group Champions.

40-44. This title should go to Heather Meehan, a local runner.

45-49. Rejimbal has no close competitors in this group. Stacy Shaw, from
from Nebraska Run Guru Elite, has run a 1:32 half marathon and a 3:22 marathon, and appears a lock for 2nd. Melauna Wescott of the Oklahoma City Running Club should take 3rd. 1-Rejimbal, 2-Shaw, 3-Wescott.

50-54. On the women's side, this is the age group with the most competitors. it seems likely we will see a dandy race between two 1:30 half marathoners and one with a 1:01:08 15K, as alluded to above. Cushing-Murray, Stuart and Torneden are in this age group. 1-Torneden, 2-Cushing-Murray, 3-Stuart.

55-59. Elena Shemyakina is the favorite here. As noted above she has run 1:30 and change for a half marathon and was the first Masters woman in her age group at the London Marathon earlier this year in 3:09:23. Mary Sweeney,(Atlanta GA) in April, finished 3rd in the 50-54 group at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, and , in July, after moving up to the 55-59 group, won the group at the Peachtree 10K Road Race in 41:15. Sweeney will keep the race honest and should get the silver medal as her reward. 1-Shemyakina, 2-Sweeney

60-64. This could be quite a race. Honor Fetherston (Los Gatos CA), one of the identical running triplets, is probably the favorite. She won the USATF Masters Half Marathon Championship in San Diego in 1:32:03, and took 2nd place behind two-time Runner of the Year, Christine Kennedy at both the USATF 8K Championship at Brea in 35:29 and at the Carlsbad 5000 meter run in 21:10. Andriette Wickstrom (Storm Lake IA) won the 55-59 group last year and has since moved up to the 60-64 group. Earlier this year she won her age group at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth MN in 3:27:39, the Quad City Bix 7 Miler in 51:42, and the USATF Masters Marathon Championship at Twin Cities in 3:22:46. She is clearly in excellent condition. One worries that a fast marathon 4 weeks ago might have taken something out of Wickstrom. On the other hand she is used to running marathons; she ran in 5 marathons and 5 half marathons this year. So what's one more marathon before a 15K?! 1-Fetherston, 2-Wickstrom

65-69. The 2014 Runner of the Year, Sabra Harvey, should take this age group with ease even if there were serious competion. As noted above she is coming back from an ankle injury but was able to run pretty well at the USATF 1 Mile Championship. Harvey has broken national age group records at the 5K, 8K, and 10K so a 15K is likely to be just up her alley. This is a challenging course so a record is probably out of the question.

70-74. Local runner, Judy Bomer, of the Tulsa Running Club, is the sole entrant in this group. She has run a quarter marathon this year in 1:02:30 and ran a 2:15:18 Half Marathon at the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.


40-44. This group should pretty much be a repeat of the overall race with Castille, Gardiner and Butler  finishing in that order. 1-Castille, 2-Gardiner, 3-Butler.

45-49. Regardless of how Christian Cushing-Murray, 'Cush', does in the overall competition he should take first in this age group. He will have challengers however. Brad Slavens (Atlanta GA) has run 3 sub 1:20 half marathons this year, in Miami (1:19:04), Augusta GA (1:19:42) and Montreal (1:17:56). He won the age group in Montreal and appears to be peaking at the right time for this race. And we shouldn't ignore Cushing-Murray's teammate, Rob Arsenault, either. A force at shorter distances,he showed his long distance chops at the USATF Half marathon Championship in San Diego where he ran a 1:20:07. 1-Cushing-Murray, 2-Slavens, 3-Arsenault

50-54. This will be a tightly contested race, but with a clear favorite. Nat Larson has burst onto the National Masters scene this year with a vengeance, taking 3rd in the age group at the USATF 10K Masters Championships in 35:16 and winning the age group in the USATF 5K Masters Championship at Syracuse in 16:10. He will be trying to make it two in a row for USATF Masters Road Championships. Larson also just joined the Greater Springfield Harriers to run alongside Francis Burdett (Worcester MA). Burdett is no stranger to National Championships; he won the USATF Cross Country Championship (8K) and the USATF 8K Road Championship at Brea CA earlier this year. These two Bay State runners will be going up against two strong Masters runners from the Midwest. Ruben Henderson (Grand Rapids) took 3rd in his age group at the CRIM Festival of Races 10 Miler in 1:00:57. He followed that up with 4th place in the age group at the USATF Masters 5K Championship in Syracuse with a 16:54. Craig Gunby (Palatine IL)

Gunby has had a strong year from the 10 mile run to the Marathon. Will his legs be a little heavy from the Chicago Marathon three weeks before the Tulsa Run? One would think so but time will tell. He ran 2:49:21 there. He also ran a 10 Miler earlier in the year, finishing in 1:00:49 at the Fleet Feet 10 Miler at Soldiers Field in Chicago. Larson should win it. Burdett finished within 40 seconds of larson at the USATF Masters 5 km Cross Country race on the 18th of October, while Henderson finished 44 seconds behind Larson at the 5K road race at Syracuse. So it should be very tight between those two. Gunby might just be off the podium. 1-Larson, 2-Burdett, 3- Henderson

55-59. 2014 Runner of the Year, Brian Pilcher, is a scratch due to a hamstring injury. In his absence the clear favorite is Dave Bussard (Elkhart IN). A top runner in northern Indiana for years, Bussard joined the Lansing Michigan team of Players Elite/New Balance this year and has immediately risen to the top ranks at national championships. He is going for his 3 rd consecutive win on the circuit and there  is no reason to bet against him obtaining it. He took 1st place in this age group in the USATF 1 Mile Championship in Flint Michigan in 4:57 and at the USATF 5K Championship in Syracuse in 16:55. Antonio Arreola (San Jose CA) will help to keep the race honest. He has run a 1:20 half marathon, a 1:04:52 10 miler and 17:39 at the USATF 5K Masters Championship. Gary Radford, one of the stalwart runners of the Genesee Valley Harriers should take the bronze medal.  1-Bussard, 2-Arreola, 3-Radford.

60-64. The favorite is Tom Bernhard. He has recently become a dominant runner in this age group. He took the age group title at the USATF Masters Championship races--in the 1 Mile Run at the CRIM in 5:21 and the 5K title at the Syracuse Festival of Races in 17:36. But there is plenty of other talent in the race that will be only a few steps back should Bernhard falter. It should be said that Bernhard seems to prefer the shorter races so 15K is a bit of a stretch for him. With his current fitness, however, Bernhard should be up to it. Especially as his main rivals seem to have similar preferred distances. Other contenders include John Victoria of the Boulder Road Runners, who finished 2nd to Bernhard at the 5K Championships, and perennial stalwart, Mark Rybinski, of the Genesee Valley Harriers, who finished 4th at Syracuse. 1-Bernhard, 2-Victoria, 3-Rybinski.

65-69. The strong favorite will be the 2014 Age Group (65-69) Runner of the Year, Lloyd Hansen who recently took the silver medal at the 5K Championships in Syracuse in 18:59.He is the defending champ in this age group with a 2014 time of 1:01:03. Jerry Learned, (Gainesville GA) the dependable runner for the Atlanta Track Club should be able to take 2nd although perhaps not without a fight. Learned has run 20:55 at the Syracuse 5K and earlier int he year ran a 43:48 at the USATF 10K Championships. He will have to worry about Gregory Owings, who does not run much at the national races, but did run 1:08:08 at the Tulsa Run 15K in 2013. If he can run close to that itme this year, he could push learned for 2nd place. 1-Hansen, 2-Learned, 3-Owings.

70-74. Doug Goodhue, if healthy enough to run, is clearly the favorite. Nine times age-group Runner of the Year, Goodhue has always been able to overcome all of the nicks and knocks that the elite older runner sustains from races and training. He was out for the early part of this year but came back and took firsts at the USATF 1 Mile and 5K Championships in August and early October. I was told that Goodhue aggravated an old stress fracture at Syracuse. But the man himself told me it was no big deal and he just kept off it a bit while maintaining fitness and would be at it full blast soon. So most likely he is the man to beat, as usual. Przemyslaw Nowicki, has the credentials otherwise. He finished 2nd to Goodhue at the 5K Championships in Syracuse, but about a minute back. He also took the silver medal at the USATF 5KM Cross Country Championships 2 weeks ago. Nowicki is a battler. The wild card is probably Paul Carlin, yours truly, (Indianapolis IN) who just moved up to this group in the last 2 weeks. As he has also been rehabbing a hamstring injury off and on for over a year, it is hard to tell exactly how fit he is. Two weeks ago he ran a 44:34 10K so he is clearly continuing to regain the form he had in 2013 and 2014 when his times were closer to Goodhue's. 1-Goodhue, 2-Nowicki, 3-Carlin.

Late breaking story as of 9:55 pm CDT--Goodhue will not run tomorrow. He is focusing on the 12K Championship in Alexandria VA in 2 weeks instead. Based on that, it looks like Monte Piliawsky of the Ann Arbor Track Club should be in for the bronze. Despite, like so many others, coming back from an injury, Piliawsky managed to get 6th in this age group at the 5K Championships in Syracuse, and ran a faster time than one of the other contenders, J.L. Seymore of the Shore AC. Revised: 1-Nowicki, 2-Carlin, 3-Piliawsky

75-79.   Fay Bradley (Independence KS) is the defending champion from last year. He won in 1:31:14. Perhaps if the weather cooperates, he can break 1:30 this year. But Bradley has a serious challenger in the race this year, Roland Cormier of New Jersey’s Shore Athletic Club. Cormier appears to be a bit faster at the shorter distance sbut it has been a while since he has run a race this long. Cormier took 2nd in this age group at both the 5K and 10K USATF Masters Championships in 23:59 and 45:49. 1-Cormier, 2-Bradley.

Missing to Injury--Some of the particular guys we will be missing include Jan Frisby, who finished 2nd to Goodhue last year in the 70-74 group, out with an achilles problem and Brian Pilcher who is out with a hamstring. Tom McCormack, who dominated the shorter distance races last year would probably find this race longer than he likes. But if he ran it no one would bet against him winning it! He has been out since April with a variety of injuries. Two-time runner of the Year, Christine Kennedy  would have run the ChicagoMarathon a few weeks ago, not this race but a collapsed apartment balcony set that dream back a bit. There are probably many others who could be named who might otherwise be in this field. I hope that Frisby, Kennedy, McCormack, Pilcher and any others who are out injured are soon back racing on the roads with us again.

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