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 Watch—Tom 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 Imagesemail@example.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, firstname.lastname@example.org]|
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.]
[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
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.
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.
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.