Thursday, October 27, 2016

2016 USATF Masters 15K Championship-Preview 2—Age Grading, Age Divisions 55-59 to 80-84.


October 27 2016.  The excitement is building as we move closer to Saturday October 29 2016 in Tulsa Oklahoma, the site of the 2016 USATF 15K Masters Championship and the last road race stop on the Masters Grand Prix Tour. The second installment of my preview considers the top Age-Grading scorers, the contenders in Age Groups from 55-59 and up and the top team races.

Age Grading—Age-Grading is a data-based statistically derived calculation that indicates how a runner’s finishing time relates to the World’s Best time for that person’s age and gender over that race distance. A score of 100 is equivalent (roughly) to a ‘World’s Best’ time. If the world’s best is 15 minutes for a race and a person ran 17:00, that would score as a (15/17)*100=88.24%. The top Age-Grading performances are likely to come from the two most likely to break US Age Group records, Libby James and Brian Pilcher. They are typically at the top when they are healthy.

Who else will contest for the Age-Grading Podium? Tom Bernhard and Nat Larson can push Pilcher but it is unlikely either will match him. Bernhard and Larson typically make the Age Grading podium. But if either Greg Mitchell or John Gardiner cracks one off, they could wind up on the Age-Grading podium as well. Fred Zalokar is also a threat. He finished 4th in the Age-Grading at the USATF Half Marathon Championship in San Diego. Last year Bernhard edged Larson 87.77 to 87.74. I will favor Larson to find that extra .04 of Age-Grading and reverse the order with Bernhard this year; Larson faces a very competitive field in the 50-54 group and that may push the pace.
Pilcher, Larson, Bernhard. 

After James who are the favorites? Last year Deborah Torneden finished second to Sabra Harvey while Andriette Wickstrom finished fifth. Both are back and will be in the mix. In 2014 Melody Fairchild bested both Torneden and Wickstrom but will she be at the top of her game? This is her first major outing on the roads this year since giving birth in March; her main focus has been on her coaching and youth development enterprises. Fiona Bayly, who cracked 90% at the USATF 5K Championships despite coming off a hard 10 Miler a week earlier, could also deliver a podium-worthy performance. She will have to get by Edie Stevenson, who has landed on the Age-Grading podium on all of her efforts so far this year and bested Bayly by almost 2 percentage points in Syracuse. When Jo Anne Rowlands has been at the top of her game, she has regularly cracked 90%. But a month ago she was still not back all the way yet.
James, Stevenson, Bayly.



Runners By Age Divisions

For the Age Divisions 40-44 through 50-54, please see the first installment of the  preview.

55-59

Men. The great marathoner, Fred Zalokar, is the favorite. Zalokar has won his age group at the Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, and New York City Marathons on his way to achieving the feat at all the Major World Marathons. Someone convinced him he needs Tokyo too. That must be next on his list. [He also did it at Rotterdam and L.A. but I do not think those qualify.] He took this age group at the USATF Half Marathon Championships in San Diego in 1:16:28. Zalokar will be pushed by Matt Ebiner who finished 9th here last year and 3rd in the 50-54 group in 55:58. Should either of those falter, William ‘Hugh’ Enicks will be right behind ready to push past. Enicks too is dropping down in distance but has his sights on an Individual Grand Prix crown. He has a 50 point lead now and even a 3rd place finish would pad that a bit. Enicks is no slouch-he ran 1:20:22 for the Half Marathon Championships at San Diego and was only 9 seconds behind Zalokar and 5 seconds behind Ebiner at the 5K Championships at Syracuse.
Zalokar, Ebiner, Enicks.

Women. There are three very competitive runners here, Laura Bruess, Terri Cassel, and Deborah Torneden. Torneden is the defending Overall Masters Winner; she also took the 50-54 Age Division crown in 1:01:34. She is the favorite but Bruess and Cassel can definitely run with her. Torneden ran a 39:35 10K in August. Her times this year have been about a minute off her times last year. Bruess has speed as well as quality but she may not match Torneden at endurance; we shall see. Bruess won her age Group at the Bolder Boulder in 40:07. That compares favorably with Torneden’s performance because the Bolder Boulder is a tough course at altitude. She also took her age group in a blazing 19:07 at the Carlsbad 5000. Cassell is a terrific runner but the hometown favorite will have a tough time hanging with those two. Still we need ot remember that Caseel ran 1:04:53 in this race in 2014 when it was very hot; her time that year was 90 seconds faster than Torneden’s but 3 minutes slower than Torneden’s 2015 time. Cassel also has a 1:28:51 time at the Gerry Bjorklund Half marathon at grandma’s to win the 50-54 age group. That is roughly equivalent to a 1:02:30 15K so she should be right with Torneden this year. Like the Men’s 50-54 group this will be one to watch!
Torneden, Bruess, Cassel.


60-64

Men. Brian Pilcher, in his record-breaking attempt, is at the top of the list. He ran 55:43 here in Oct 2014, the year of the uncomfortably hot conditions but Pilcher was also on the comeback trail from losing most of 2014 to a hamstring injury and not anywhere near full fitness. His 5K in Syracuse that year was 17:27; this year it was 16:38. Pilcher has a 58:47 10 miler this year and when he broke the marathon record on Oct. 9th overcooked, by his own admission, the first part of the race. On the other hand he did finish the race and set a record. His 15K time was 54:36 in that race, only 16 seconds off of Norm Green’s 15K record of 54:20. If Pilcher can break the record on this challenging, hilly course 20 days after breaking the Half Marathon, 25K, 30K, and Marathon records it would be absolutely incredible. We will talk about it for years to come! There are a number of excellent runners in the field and if Pilcher is successful, they will brag about finishing on the podium in the same race. Three of the Boulder Road Runners, who are in Tulsa primarily for the Team race, also have a great shot at a podium finish. Heath Hibbard ran 31:30 at the national 8K championship in Brea CA and 38:47 at the 10K Championship in Dedham MA. By age-grading standards, that is equivalent to a 15K in 59:15. Of course the Dedham course was not as hilly as this one is. Still, Hibbard has some pretty hefty hill cred--He won his age group this year at the Pike’s Peak Marathon ascent in 3:20:52. His teammate, Kyle Hubbart, is no slouch either. He ran the Bolder Boulder, a tough course at altitude, in 38:49 and ran the Platte River Half Marathon in 1:25:41 and the Denver Half Marathon 2 seconds slower. That’s roughly equivalent to a 1:01:11 but the 10K time is equivalent to sub-60. But he’s got pretty good speed too off of an 18:18 at the 5K in Syracuse. The third member of the trio, Dan Spale ran a terrific 30:37 at USA XC in 2015 in Boulder. This year he was 1st runner aged 60 and over at the Bolder Boulder in 38:41 and also has 1:23 to 1:26 Half Marathons to his credit. All three of these guys could break 60! Perry Forrester and John Holcomb of Cal Coast, will try to throw a monkey wrench into the works. Forrester ran 32:51 at Brea in the 8K but had a nifty 1:25:45 Half Marathon in San Diego. Holcomb was running dead even with Hibbard at the 8K. But his 1:27:07 at the Half Marathon Championship at San Diego (downhill overall) suggests he may have trouble staying with Hubbart and Spale in the 15K. Their compatriot, Keith Witthauer, more of a 5K to 10K specialist, ran 1:29: 53 at San Diego so probably won’t figure in this 15K race for the podium. I’ll put the pressure on the Boulder runners and say it’s theirs to lose. But how to choose two among those three even?
Hubbart, Hibbard, Spale.

Women. Andriette Wickstrom, from Storm Lake Iowa, finished 2nd here last year in this division  with a 1:08:07. She also has a number of half marathons in 1:38 to 1:44. Finally she has already run a 1:14:02 10 mile run and a 1:08:16 15K this year. The Impala racing Team’s Jill Miller-Robinett is a fine runner, with a bronze W60 medal from the 5K Championship at Syracuse.  But it looks like she will meet her match in Wickstrom. Miller-Robinett is here mainly to help her team to a Clb rand Prix victory and will be delighted to also go home with an individual Silver medal.

65-69

Men. Tom Bernhard, fresh off a record-breaking run at the National 5K Championship in Syracuse, will probably be happy with an age division win and, if possible, an age-grading prize. Last year, Boulder’s John Victoria shadowed Bernhard most o fghte way until Bernhard eventually broke away. Despite his success here last year and his likely gold medal again, it is fair to say that this distance is a stretch for him. His next record attempt is more likely to be in the 5K to 10K range. Another facet militating against a record here is the same as for all runners; this is a hilly and challenging course, designed for great races but not for great times. Finally the 15K record for 65-69 year old men is tough, less than a minute slower than the 60-64 record. Bernhard would have to beat the 55:16 record of Clive Davies, a tall order even on a flat, fast course. Nonetheless, Bernhard is the one to beat and it does not look like anyone can test him this year. Victoria is still nursing injuries incurred late last year. Wally Hayes, one of the strong runners for the Ann Arbor Track Club, is not quite in the same class. He, like others is here primarily to help his team. He should go home with an individual Silver Medal, as well, for his efforts.

Women. This field consists of Edie Stevenson, from Boulder Colorado and two of the Impala Racing Team from the San Francisco Bay area, Jo Anne Rowland and Maggie Fillmore. Rowland is a very strong runner, often in contention for Age-Grading honors and always a threat for the top spot in her age group. She took age group gold at the USAF XC championship in Bend Oregon, Silver at the 8K and Half Marathon Championships and a Bronze at the 10K in Dedham MA. Stevenson, however, has been on fire this year and a model of consistency on the roads, winning this age group and earning an age-grading medal at National Championship events from 5K to the Half Marathon. It is likely she will add this 15K race to her collection of wins. But Rowland will make sure she earns it. Fillmore, racing for team glory, will pick up the bronze medal as a nice extra treat from the race.

70-74

Men. In the absence of the great lions of the Men’s 70’s group, Doug Goodhue and Jan Frisby, the favorite is probably Richard Kutzner, based on his victory at the Half Marathon Championship in San Diego in 1:40:37. He also ran a 1:41:46 at America’s Finest City Half Marathon. A 1:41 Half Marathon is about equal, in age grading for a 72 to a 15K in 1:10:55.  Some would argue for the Ann Arbor TC’s Paul Carlin (that’s me) on the basis of a win in the 10K at Dedham in 42:19 and beating Kutzner by 24 seconds at the 5K Championships in Syracuse 4 weeks ago. Also I took 2nd here last year in 1:10:58.  That is a fair assessment and may prove to be right. I was out for 4 months between Dedham and Syracuse, running very little and doing lots of Physical Therapy. In an effort to regain as much base as possible, I may have overdone it. Certainly I strained my adductors and had to shut down training for a week. They did eventually recover however, and I was able to run a decent 6.5 mile training run earlier this week so we shall see. It looks like it could be a close race if the Half Marathon equivalency is about right. It is a shame Przemek Nowicki could not make the race; he beat me by 6 seconds last year. It would have been a great 3-way race! The Cohen ‘Brothers’ of Ann Arbor TC, David and Malcolm,  will vie for the third spot if my adductors hold up and the hammy does not reassert itself. David Cohen has the stronger results at the Half Marathon this year and the 15K in 2015, where he took 3rd in 1:18:05. It is only fair to put the pressure on me rather than Kutzner. This prediction will give him some incentive for an ‘upset.’
Carlin, Kutzner, D. Cohen

Women.  Irene Terronez of Rio Rancho, New Mexico is the sole entrant. Last year the honor belonged to Judy Bomer. Terronez has to finish the race to claim the Gold medal. She will surely feel her effort was worthwhile.
Terronez.

75-79

Men. Fay Bradley is the Defending Champion; he won here last year in 1:23:11. He defeated his only rival, Shore Athletic Club's Roland Cormier, by 7 seconds; it was a real shootout! Perhaps it will be the same this year except that Bradley has a new challenger, Phillip Kroll of the Ann Arbor Track Club. He ran 1:24:08 in the70-74 age group last year but this is his new age group. Kroll finished 3rd in his new Age Group in the USATF Half Marathon Championship in San Diego in 2:04:41. It looks like another nail biter.
Bradley, Kroll.

80-84

Women. Libby James, as noted in Preview #1, is going after the US 15K record for Women 80-84. She is heavily favored to bring it down by a minute or two and, in the process, win the Age Division. This is the first year here at the USATF 15K Championship in Tulsa that we have had any competitors in the Women’s 80-84 division. Not only do we have a competitor, we have two. How about that? While not quite in the same record-breaking class of Libby James, Tami Graf is, nonetheless a solid competitor who races frequently. This fall she has run in a Street Mile, two 5K’s, one the national championship in Syracuse, an 8K and a 10 Miler. She finished 2nd to James in the National Championship and ran 2:10:43 in the 10 Miler.
James, Graf.


Teams

Men 40+. This race looked like a runaway for the Cal Coast Track Club until Christian Cushing-Murray was forced to scractch with an injury. It now looks a lot tighter. The OK Runner Elite team is nto that far off. Gardiner should be in first. But he only came in a minute ahead of OK's top runner, Jason Butler, last year. If Cal Coast's 2nd and 3rd runners, Craig Magness and MJ Stanley run their normal race, Cal Coast will still be in handily for the win. Magness has a sub-1:15 Half marathon and Stanley a sub-1:20. OK's Joseph Mitro and Jason Hatfield have not broken 1:20 in recent half marathons but they have been close.
Cal Coast TC, OK Runner Elite.

Men 50+. This race should also go to Cal Coast. But it will be a Kansas City/Lincoln Nebraska shoot out for 2nd and 3rd. Cal Coast's Rob Arsenault ran 53:20 here last year and has a 1:17:13 Half marathon. Their likely 2nd runner, Matt Ebiner, ran 55:58 here last year. Cal Coast's Thomas Schumann has a 1:23 half marathon and Vincent Lowder a 1:30. It appears that most of the KC Smoke and LRC Racing are on the long side of 1:25 half marathons.Arsenault, Ebiner and Schumann  should claim the top 3 spots. The Smoke's John Borthwick has a 1:26+ Half and Keith Long a 1:28+ Hlaf. It looks Like LRC's Brian Kelly can run with Borthwick and LRC's Brett Daugherty can run with Long. The race may well come down to whether the Smoke's John Blaser can stay ahead of LRC's Kerry McDermott and Kevin Burke.
Cal Coast TC, KC Smoke, LRC Racing.

Men 60+. This one should be a real showdown. the Boulder Road Runners have brought a strong team down out of the Rockies to confront the current Grand Prix leaders, the boys from the West Coast, the Cal Coast TC  (who else?). It looks like Cal Cost has an uphill climb, based on Half Marathon times. For Boulder, Dan Spale runs 1:23 to 1:26 and Kyle Hubbart has two 1:25 and change Half Marathons. I cannot find a Half marathon for Heath Hibbard but he runs a heck of a 10K; he took 4th in a loaded age group right behind Rick Becker, John Barbour and Reno Stirrat in 38:47. Plus he won his age group at the Pike's Peak marathon ascent. So he will be right in there I imagine with Spale and Hubbart. Their insurance runner, Bruce Kirschner is no slouch at the longer distances either. He ran 1:03:44 at this race last year. For Cal Coast to get it done, Perry Forrester has to stay with Spale and Hubbart, while John Holcomb would have to raise his game a bit to at least not be far off. Finally Keith Witthauer who prefers shorter distances, will have to find this course more to his liking than the Half marathon course in San Diego where he came in just under 1:30. It is a lot to ask!  The Ann Arbor Track Club does not have the horses to run with those two teams this year. But Michael DuCharme, Wally Hayes and Aaron Pratt are all strong runners and will not be far off the pace.
Boulder Road Runners, Cal Coast Track Club, Ann Arbor Track Club.

Women 60+. The Impala Racing Team of Maggie Fillmore, Jill Miller-Robinett, and Jo Anne Rowland is unopposed. As long as all three finish, they have o worries and take the Gold Medal.
Impala Racing Team. 

Men 70+. The Ann Arbor Track Club team composed of Paul Carlin, David Cohen, Malcolm Cohen and Phillip Kroll, is unopposed. If at last three of their number finish the race, they win the division. It should be fun.
Ann Arbor Track Club. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

2016 USATF Masters 15K Championship-Preview 1—Records, Overall, Age Divisions 40-44 through 50-54



October 23 2016.  Heath Aucoin, Race Director at the Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run has attracted a terrific crew of Masters Runners to contest the 2016 USATF 15K Championships on October 29th. This is the largest Masters field in the four years this race has been hosted by Tulsa and probably the highest quality as well. [All previews and predictions, offered in the spirit of fun, in this article are based on entrants as of October 24 2016. This article will be updated to include the higher age groups and any late online entrants.]

Record WatchTom Bernhard, 65, Libby James, 80, and Brian Pilcher, 60, each broke the National 5K record for their respective age group at the USATF Masters 5K Championship on October 2nd. The following week, Pilcher also broke the Half Marathon, 25K, 30K and Marathon marks for Men 60-64.
The surest bet is that Libby James will take down the 15K record for Women 80-84. That record is 1:29:01 by Hedy Marque in 1998. 
 
Libby James (yellow) cruising to a new American 5K Record for Women 80-84 at the 2016 USATF 5K Masters Championships in Syracuse NY [Photo by Gavin Liddell]
James ran the Bolder Boulder, Colorado’s tough 10K race, in 55:06 this past May, suggesting a 1:26-1:27 15K is probably within her grasp.
The only question for Pilcher is the turnaround time from his Marathon on October 9th. Pilcher has always been known for fast recovery but this is asking a lot. The record he is chasing is Norm Green’s 54:20. Pilcher crossed the 15K mark in his Marathon record-breaking run in 54:36. 
 
Brian Pilcher on his way to a New American 5K Record for Men 60-64 at the 2016 USATF 5K Masters Championships in Syracuse NY [Photo by Gavin Liddell]
But that was a flat, fast course, although admittedly on his way to a Marathon; Tulsa in 2016 is hilly and a challenge. And, as noted, it is only 20 days since he ran that Marathon. It would be another amazing accomplishment to get the record in Tulsa.
Tom Bernhard faces a bigger challenge. His sweet spot in races is the 5K to the 10K. A 15K is a challenge for him at any time and two things work against him getting the record. One is the course itself. Last year he was in a tight age group battle with John Victoria of the Boulder Road Runners and won the race in 59:19. The record he is chasing is one of the toughest to break. Set by the incredible Clive Davies in 1981 at 55:16, it would be astounding if Bernhard could get that on the hilly Tulsa course. 
 
Tom Bernhard about to cross the Finish Line and a new American Record for men 65-69 at the 2016 USATF 5K Masters Championships at Syracuse NY [Photo by Bob Brock Images/rhbrockj11@me.com]
He might well return next year if the Tulsa Run returns to its river course and have a better chance at the record.
Start of the 2015 USATF 15K Masters Championship at the Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run [Photo by Float Media Productions, floatmp@gmail.com]

Overall Race

Men. This is a strong field. Greg Mitchell, the 2014 Champion from McMinnville Oregon in 48:30, will be going up against three main challengers. Mitchell is the favorite. But he had some injury issues in the late spring, took some time off, and this is his first big race since then. If he is at the top of his game, it will be tough to beat him, but if he is off even a bit, the others will surely press him for the win. 
Greg Mitchell leading the Masters Field at the 2016 USATF 8K Championship in Brea CA  in February [FB post] 

 John Gardiner, who finished 2nd to Timothy Martin last year in 50:53, is having one of his best years and should not be overlooked. Gardiner won the Masters 1 Mile Road Championship this year and finished 2nd in the Masters Half Marathon and Masters 5k Championships. Two other runners deserve mention, David Angell, a newcomer to the Masters ranks and Christian Cushing-Murray. Angell celebrated his 40th birthday by chasing Gardiner around the Masters 5K Championship course in Syracuse on October 2nd, finishing in 15:20 to Gardiner’s 15:13. Angell also has some good long runs in recent history. He ran 54:43 in the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Festival 10 Mile in April and last October ran 1:09:30 in the Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. Cushing-Murray, who finished 3rd here last year in 51:31 and finished 3rd Overall in the National Masters Half Marathon Championships in San Diego in 1:11:06, will be in the hunt as well. Watch out for his closing speed; he won the Masters Race at the Carlsbad 5000 this year in 15:11! 
[News Flash 10/26/16 I just learned that Cushing-Murray is out with an injury.]
Gardiner, Angell, Mitchell.

Women. The Women’s field is also loaded. The 2014 Masters Champion, Melody Fairchild, who won here in 54:53, is back and faces some new challenges. This is the Boulder Colorado resident’s first big race since giving birth to baby boy, Dakota, this past March. Since then she has focused her energy on coaching and youth development. Still she is Melody Fairchild who has won big races ever since she was one of the top High School Cross Country runners in the country. 
Melody Fairchild taking first at the 2014 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa.[photo:Defining Moments (Oklahoma City, OK): David Prentice and Michael Mayberry]

Her main challengers are Melissa Gacek, from White Bear Lake Minnesota and New York City’s Fiona Bayly.  Gacek this year has been the Masters Winner of the Medtronic 1 Mile Run in the Twin Cities in 5:26.6 and the Masters Winner of the 5th 3rd River Bank [25K] Run in Grand Rapids MI in 1:39:28. Her long run credentials also include the Masters Silver Medal at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth MN in 1:22:45. Bayly has run four half marathons in less than 1:24 this year, along with a 1:01:40 New Balance Bronx 10 Mile Run Masters win. Her fastest half marathon this year was her Masters win at the Brooklyn Half Marathon in 1:21:31. If any of those three have an off day, others who might figure in include Christy Peterson, Jennifer Pfaff, and Terri Rejimbal.
Fairchild, Bayly, Gacek.

Runners By Age Divisions

40-44

Men. In addition to the Virginian, David Angell, California’s John Gardiner and Oregon’s Greg Mitchell, all mentioned in the Overall Race preview above, two other runners have to be considered real threats for an Age Group podium finish. 
John Gardiner (R) and David Angell (L) battling for a podium finish at the 2016 USATF 5K Championships in Syracuse NY [Photo by Gavin Liddell]

Oklahoma’s Jason Butler has finished just off the podium in 4th the last two years, in 52:53 in 2014 and in 51:58 last year. He has a 2:32:57 Marathon and a 1:29:10 25K this year. Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Butler. Gardiner’s teammate, Craig Magness, won Masters Division in the Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon in 1:13:45 and could also push the leaders. Other strong runners in this age division include Ohio’s Joey Hanna and Oklahoma’s Jason Hatfield and Joseph Mitro.
Gardiner, Angell, Mitchell.

Women. The top two spots on this Age Division podium should go to Melody Fairchild and Melissa Gacek, consistent with the preview of the race to be the Overall Masters Winner. [Fiona Bayly is in the 45-49 division.] 

Melissa Gacek [R] trying to close the gap on eventual winner, Tammy Nowick, at the USATF 1 Mile Road Championships [Photo by Run Michigan/Dave mcCauley/photos.runmichigan.com]

Three other athletes will be pushing each other for the bronze medal. Pennsylvania’s Christy Peterson finished only 10 seconds behind Bayly at the USATF 5K Masters Championship in Syracuse 3 weeks ago. She also clocked a 1:26 at the RnR Philly Half Marathon. Jennifer Pfaff, of Chicago, ran a 1:28:09 Half Marathon at the Indy Mini Marathon and was the 2nd masters finisher at the Soldiers Field 10 Miler in 1:06:06. Phoenix Arizona resident, Kristina Pham prefers the long runs. She was the outright winner of the Dam Good Run (40K Trail Run) in April in 3:32:47 and has participated in 50K and 54K trail runs this year also.
Fairchild, Gacek, Peterson.

45-49

Men. One of the mainstays of the Cal Coast Track Club, Christian ‘Cush’ Cushing-Murray will contend for the Masters podium overall. He is the favorite to take the Age Division Gold. He took the Age Division crown last year on the way to a 3rd place finish overall in this Masters race in 51:31. 

Christian Cushing-Murray heading for 4th place Overall at the 2016 USATF 8K Masters Championships at Brea CA [Photo by Selbyphotography.com]

He had the same placing at the National Masters Half Marathon Championship in San Diego in 1:11:06. His teammate, Michael J. ‘M.J.’ Stanley, should claim the Age Group silver on the basis of his 1:18:26 at the USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships in san Diego. One of the few ‘Razorbacks’ entered, Jonah Tanui should find a clear path to the bronze medal. He has run a 3:09 Marathon and a 10K in 38:13 this year. Tulsa’s Rickey Wilson is also entered but has no race results I can find. I guess that makes him a ‘dark horse’ in the race. [With Cushing-Murray out injured, it looks as if the likely order of finish shoulld be amended to: Stanley, Tanui, Wilson]
Cushing-Murray, Stanley, Tanui.

Women. One of the favorites for the overall podium, Fiona Bayly of New York City, should take the Age Division crown easily. 
Fiona Bayly leading the chase pack of Marisa Sutera Strange (L) and Sonja Friend-Uhl (R) at the 2016 USATF Masters 5K Championships at Syracuse NY [Photo by Gavin Liddell]

Tampa’s Terri Rejimbal would ordinarily be pushing her every inch of the way. But she is just rounding into shape after losing months to an injury. Rejimbal has run a 15K in 1:05:16 five weeks ago and a 1:04:45 three weeks ago to get ready for Tulsa. But she will probably not be able to match her 2014 1:01:45 in this race nor is she close to the fitness she had when she was the Masters Winner at the Gasparilla Half Marathon in February in 1:24:29. Tulsa’s Liz Boyer should take third; she ran a local 5K in 22:04 this past August.
Bayly, Rejimbal, Boyer.


50-54

Men. Three of the athletes in this race could well be pushing the front-runners for the Overall Championship. It will be a heck of a race to sort out 1st through 3rd in this Age Division; the main contenders are: California’s Rob Arsenault, Nat Larson from Massachusetts, Texas’s James Jackson, Jr. and Arizona’s Ricardo Maldonado . It is hard to pick a favorite. 
Rob Arsenault bringing it home in the 2016 USATF 8K Masters Championships at Brea CA [Photo posted on FB by Leon Laub]

It is tough to pick anyone beating such strong runners as Arsenault and Larson but Jackson may have the edge based on his performances in March of this year. Jackson has not been on the Masters circuit before this. But four days before the race he turns 50 and is ready to make the most of his new age group status. Jackson, from Denton Texas, won the Masters portion of the K of C Fort Worth Memorial Day 15K in 54:08 and was second overall and the Masters Winner at the Waco, Texas Bearathon (Half Marathon) in 1:14:24 in March. [The race is on Baylor’s Campus, hence Bearathon.] The Bearathon bills itself as the “Toughest Half Marathon in the State of Texas.’ And one other thing-the week before that he was the Masters winner of the Fresh 15K in 51:13. Those results definitely give Jackson some ‘street cred’ for the 15K. And one last note, he finished 5th overall here in that uncomfortably hot Masters race in 2014 in 53:56. Larson recently bested Arsenault at the National Masters 5K Championship, 15:57 to 16:06. But that’s only 9 seconds! 
Nat larson headed for the finish at the 2016 USATF Masters 10K Championships at Dedham MA [Photo by Scott Mason]

Arsenault bested Larson on this course in 2015 to finish 5th in the Masters race in 53:20, with Larson 16 seconds back in 6th. Will Arsenault get his revenge from the race at Syracuse or will Larson get revenge for last year’s defeat here? And can Jackson break up that duo?  It will be fun to find out. If either of those has an off day, Maldonado is a long distance specialist who is dropping down to the 15K, and could be a factor. A regular at the Boston Marathon, he finished 7th in his age group this year in 2:47:57 and ran the Army Ten Miler in 58:19.
Jackson, Larson, Arsenault.

Women. It should be a tight battle between Mary Alico of McKinney Texas and Californian, Kathleen Cushing-Murray, of the Jane’s Elite Racing Team. Alico was the Age Group winner at the Bolder Boulder in 40:47 in May and finished 4th Overall in 1:25:35 in the Tour des Fleurs 20K in Dallas in mid-September. Alico also won the Masters portion of the Fresh 15K in Tyler TX in March in 1:02:42. Cushing-Murray finished second here last year in 1:07:04. This is a tough course; if the Fresh 15K is pretty flat, their two 15K times may not be as far apart as they look at first glance. Cushing-Murray definitely has a chance at the first spot. 
Kathleen Cushing-Murray heading for the Age Group Silver Medal at the 2016 USATF 8K Masters Championships at Brea CA [Photo by Selbyphotography.com]

She also clocked a 1:28:00 Half Marathon at the USATF Championships in San Diego.  Debra Carlson of Edmond Oklahoma and Gail Geiger of New York will fight it out for the bronze medal. Carlson should have the edge based on her 3:37 Boston Marathon, two half marathon times of just under and just over 1:40.
Alico, Cushing-Murray, Carlson.