September 30 2016. [Part III] Online registration is closed; we have 270 Elite Masters Athletes entered for the USATF 5K Masters Championships at the Syracuse Festival of Races this coming Sunday. A small number usually register on site so the final total of registrants should be a little higher--a great turnout for this excellent championship! Dave Oja and his dedicated staff are ecstatic about the quantity and quality of the turnout for the 2016 edition of the Championship. The weather forecast is still tricky but looks a little better. Light rain showers overnight give way to a morning of partly cloudy skies with rain not returning until noontime. Let's hope the rain clouds take a little break for our races. The earlier blogs hit the record-chasers, the overall race and the age-grading contests. It's time to look at the 40-44 through the 55-59 age groups--very deep and quality fields for almost every group.
Men 40-44. Kevin Castille, John Gardiner and David Angell, who were featured as the primary contenders for the Overall Championships are also favored for the M40 age group. As most Masters Runners know, at USATF Masters Championships winning a prize in one category does not disqualify one from winning prizes in other categories.Clearly Brent Fields and Aaron Totten-Lancaster, whose qualifications were also mentioned in the Overall Competition hope to derail those predictions. Other top quality competitors who could surprise include Musa Gwanzura who finished 5th at the 2015 USATF Masters 12K Championships in 41:10 and posted a 15:53 5K earlier this year and Ethan Nedeau who claimed 4th place overall in the 2014 USATF Masters 10K Championship in 33:59. If the Scott Weeks who is entered is the same athlete who ran 53:04 in the Army 10 Miler and had a couple of 5K's in the high 15's this summer, he could also make things interesting. Castille, Gardiner, Angell.
Women 40-44. As suggested in the discussion of the Overall Race, Janet McDevitt, Holly Ortlund and Sascha Scott are the favorites for the podium. McDevitt's prediction is based in part on a 17:33 at Carlsbad and a 37:44 10K this summer as well as top finishes at Club Cross the last two years. Ortlund actually has a faster 5K and 10K this year, with a 17:27 at the Macon Labor Day 5K and a 37:19 10K in February. And Scott finished 8 seconds ahead of Ortlund at the 2014 USATF Masters 5K. Scott has no recent flat 5K's though as she has been focusing on Triathlons. Does that help or hurt? Heather Webster who finished 4th last year here in 18:16 will surely be there if anyone falters; she has two 5Ks in the mid 18's this summer. Christy Peterson could also be a factor. She ran 17:48 at the 2015 Freihofer's 5K. But her 5K's this year have been slower, perhaps because she was emphasizing distance conditioning over speed. She ran a 1:25:02 at the Bjorklund Half Marathon and a 1:20:15 20K at the Stratton-Faxon race on Labor Day. She ran an 18:37 earlier and on August 13 an 18:53, but that was in the lead-up to the 20K. If she can fire off another sub-18 5K Peterson might find her way onto the podium.
McDevitt, Ortlund, Scott.
Men 45-49. Since I picked Mark Andrews to finish 3rd overall, I had better pick him to win the M45 group. He took 1st place at the USATF Masters 10K in 32:45 in April and over the summer was running high 15's to low 16's for 5K. Elliott and Jonathan Frieder (who are apparently twins) will try to take the top spot as well. Jonathan finished just off the podium at the 2015 USATF Masters 12K Championships in 40:59 so that gives him some credibility but Elliott just finished 6 seconds ahead of Jonathan at the NJ 5KM XC Championships. Both have 5K's in the 16:15-16:30 range this year. Craig Greenslit has been absent from the roads for the past year and a half but ran 15:44 in the 2014 5K Masters Championships. It's a long way to come from Colorado so he is probably ready to roll! Greg Putnam will try to upset these predictions and has plenty of evidence in his favor. He finished 3rd in the 10K Masters Championships in Dedham in 33:08 and has run 5K's in the 16 to 16:30 range this year.
Andrews, Greenslit, Putnam.
Women 45-49. Although it is hard to see Sonja Friend-Uhl making the podium for the Overall Race, it is hard to see her not making it for this age group. Her 18:49 in her first race in several months suggests she might be able to flirt with 18:30. If she can do that, she is definitely a threat for age group glory. Who can keep her off the podium? Fiona Bayly and Cassandra Henkiel are favorites for 1-2 but ti is hard to see anyone else beating Friend-Uhl if she can come close to 18:30. Bayly took the 45-49 group bronze at the 2014 Club XC Championships 16 seconds ahead of Henkiel, ran 1:23:55 at the 2016 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon and 18:05 at the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K in late August. Henkiel won this age group last year in 18:14 and ran 18:07 at Carlsbad last spring. But she has no races since then; that could make her vulnerable or just hard to predict.Others who could factor in are Irma Dennard who has some 5K's this summer in the high 19's and a 41:53 10K and Laurie Wisotsky who ran 19:56 here last year.
Bayly, Henkiel, Friend-Uhl.
Men 50-54. The long list of contenders from those entered in this group would ordinarily include Rob Arsenault, Kristian Blaich, Francis Burdett, Carl Combs, Alan Evans, Ruben Henderson, Nat Larson and Mike Nier. Let's make the job a little easier by pulling Blaich and Evans out of the list. Both have been injured most of the year; this is their first race of 2016 as far as I can tell. Most likely they are running to support their team effort. The race for the gold should be between Combs and Larson and it should be a beauty of a race. If Larson can repeat his 16:10 from last year or get close, as seems likely, the only one who can stay with him is Combs, although Arsenault, Burdett, and maybe Henderson can, if they have one of their better days. Combs came in 27 seconds ahead of Arsenault at the 8K Championships in Brea in 26:20 when Burdett had an off day and was further back. I figure Combs's 8K time is roughly equivalent to a 15:55 5K. Also Combs must be running well or he would not come all the way from Cheney Washington for the race. And Burdett had the better of Arsenault at Carlsbad so it will depend on relative fitness and how the day goes. Henderson only ran 16:54 here last year but he seems to be in better condition this fall. Nier is always in the mix and is a tough competitor so one can never count him out. He ran 16:33 here last year.
Combs, Larson, Nier.
Women 50-54. As I picked Marisa Sutera Strange to take the overall crown, I had better pick her to win the age group crown. Strange is almost certain to run well under 18 even if she would have an off day. Lorraine Jasper and Karyl Sargent typically run in the high 19' or low 20's and will certainly contend for the next two spots on the podium. Sargent beat Jasper last year in this race. Jasper had her revenge on the cross country course a few weeks later. Suzanne LaBurt could figure into the race. Usually in the low 20's she ran 19:34 in a recent local 5K. The same is true for Laurie Wharton whose 5K's have been in the low 20's but she ran a 19:29 in the Macon Labor Day 5K. Laura Delea and Julie Pangburn have both run in the low to mid-20's for 5K's but that will probably not be fast enough for the podium.
Strange, Sargent, Jasper.
Men 55-59. This group lost their headliner when Pete Magill had to pull out because of a hamstring issue. But there is still more than enough quality to make this an outstanding age group contest. Dave Bussard is the defending champion; he took the crown last year in 16:55. But his fitness may be off a bit as his times in a couple of local 5K's this year were a half minute or more off his 2015 times. If a time just under 17 is going to win it there are a few other contenders. Kerry Barnett has run 5K's in the high 16's to low 17's. Gary Droze ran 16:59 in this race last year although his recent 5K times have been up in the 17's but that was true last year as well. Fred Zalokar who is focused on winning his age group in the major marathons occasionally finds time for a shorter race just for fun. He ran a 28:24 8K in the Masters Championships at Brea; that equates roughly to a 17:00 5K. William 'Hugh' Enicks also focuses mostly on the longer distances but he ran 28:50 at Brea, equating to about a 17:20 5K.
Bussard, Zalokar, Barnett.
Women 55-59. Hall of Famer and defending champion, Carmen Ayala-Troncoso is the favorite; she took the crown in 19:14 last year. Susan 'Lynn' Cooke, of the newly formed New Balance Tampa Masters Women's team will not give up the gold without a fight. She ran 19:20 at a 5K in April and clocked 2:46 and 5:33 on the track at the Outdoor Masters Championships in the 800 and 1500 meters. After those two, several runners could take 3rd. The likely contenders are Patrice Combs, Paula Johnson, Colleen Magnussen, and Mary Swan. Magnussen ran 21:59 here last year but has run slower times this year. Combs has run her 5K's in the high 21's while Johnson generally hits the lower 22 range. Swan has run from the mid-20's to low 21's this year.
Ayala-Troncoso, Cooke, Swan.
There are terrific races in the 60 and up age groups too. That is in the next installment, Part IV.
[Sorry--No time for pictures now. I will try to go back and add them later.]