Friday, October 21, 2016

Club Grand Prix Update—Which Teams are Leading Heading into the Last 3 Events?

October 20 2016. Six events are in the books-USA XC Championships in Bend OR, 8K Road in Brea CA, 10K Road in Dedham MA, Half Marathon in San Diego CA, 1 Mile Road in Flint MI, and 5K Road in Syracuse. Three events remain-the 15K Road Championship in Tulsa OK , the 5km Masters XC in Tallahassee and the Club XC in Tallahassee. The Grand Prix Championship in most categories is not locked up. Let’s look at the Club GP; I'll have a look at the Individual GP in the next post. The current Club standings are posted at:

Women 40 and Up. The Genesee Valley Harriers [Rochester NY] are the defending Champions; they took the crown last year with 430 points in 5 events over the Janes Elite Racing with 215 points in 3 events. 
GVH's W40+ Team-Winners of 2015 Club GP (L to R: Erika Dutheirs, Missy Senall, Heather Swarts-Webster, Audra Naujokas-Knapp, Michelle Hays) [Photo by Ron Heerkens Jr //]

This year GVH is in the lead again with 250 points but the race is tighter. The Atlanta Track Club and the Santa Barbara Running and Racing are tied for 2nd with 200 points. The Cal Coast Track Club [Southern Cal] is in 4th with 180 points and TNT International [Philadelphia PA] is next with 175 points. 
Only Genesee currently has met the minimum requirement of scoring in at least 3 events. My guess is that the other 3 clubs all plan on competing at Club XC in Tallahassee, at least, and will, by that participation, achieve the minimum. No other teams have more than one event and so, while they could commit to a run at the GP title yet, seem unlikely to. It would be a surprise if the podium does not come from this group. GVH is in the driver’s seat; if they compete in both XC events in Tallahassee, as seems likely, they need only 160 points to ice the win as long as Atlanta only runs those two events. If Atlanta runs Tallahassee twice and wins both they wind up at 400 points. If GVH runs and gets 3rd or better in both events, they win. The only way for Atlanta to win for sure, without depending on other teams to push GVH down the finishing list at Club XC, is to send a team to Tulsa to bring Atlanta up to 5 events and let them score over 400 points this year. Barring that, it will likely come down to the last event of the year. 
The Atlanta Track Club before the 5K race at Syracuse [L to R: Kathy Allen W60+, Cindy Williams W60+, Laurie Wharton W50+, Holly Ortlund W40+, Stephanie Whitis W40+, Sonja Friend-Uhl W40+, Irma Dennard W40+ [Photo by Katherine Frontino]
 As of today at 9:40 pm Eastern, neither Atlanta nor Cal Coast has entered anyone at Tulsa. GVH has one entrant in the women’s 50-54 category who could be running for either a 40+ or 50+ team; time will tell. It seems likely that neither Santa Barbara nor Cal Coast will wind up competing in more than the two events they have completed already plus Club XC, meaning they will likely top out at 300 points or less. TNT International has 3 events already, showing a willingness to travel. They could well cop the 3rd spot on the podium if they travel to Tallahassee twice; a 4th and a 5th place finish, for example, would give them 130 points for a total of 305. As of today, Atlanta and TNT have at least one individual entered for the Masters 5km in Tallahassee. If neither Atlanta nor GVH compete at Tulsa and if Atlanta wins the Masters 5 and GVH picks up 2nd place points of 90 then if Atlanta can win Club XC it would come down to whether GVH could finish in the top 4 for the win. Atlanta will hold the tie-breaker. It will be interesting to see if either GVH or Atlanta decides, at the last minute, to throw a team into the Women’s 40 and up at Tulsa. Right now, there are no teams entered in that division.

Men 40 and up. In 2015 the Atlanta Track Club won the GP with 460 points on the best 5 of 6 events, followed closely by the Cal Coast Track Club with 430 points from their 5 events. TNT International took 3rd with 285 points in 3 events. Those top 3 are in the mix this year and have seen the Central Mass Striders jump into contention as well. Cal Coast TC leads with 380 points off of 4 events, 
Cal Coast Track Club M40+ Team at 1 Mile Road Championship at CRIM in Flint Michigan (L to R: Jerome Vermeulen, John Gardiner, MJ Stanley) [Photo by Dave McCauley/]

and the Atlanta Track Club is in 2nd with 250 points off of 3 events.
Atlanta Track Club M40+ Team after the race at Syracuse (Tommy Carroll, Kristian Blaich, Victor Breedfeld, Aaron Totten-Lancaster, Brent Fields) [Photo from Facebook]

TNT International follows with 195 from 3 events 
TNT International after the 5K Championship Race at Syracuse (L to R Geoffrey Towell, Michael Latsch, David Ash, and Stephen Jones) [Photo by Katherine Frontino]

and the Central Mass Striders [Worcester MA]have 180 from 2 events. The Striders intend to compete at Club XC for sure so that will give them the minimum requirement on events. It seems likely that TNT International will compete in both the Masters 5 km XC and the Club XC. If so, they could garner enough points in those two to claim the third spot on the podium. It seems the race for first is almost locked up. Cal Coast is sending a strong team to Tulsa. 
As long as they get three runners across the line they are likely to gain 100 points and wind up at 480 even if they would choose not to contest either XC race in Florida. Can Atlanta get to 480? The only way is for them to win all three events, Tulsa and the two XC contests. So it seems Atlanta will have to settle for 2nd if Cal Coast wins at Tulsa. Now that Atlanta is back close to full strength they should have no problem nailing down 2nd.

Women 50 and up. The Athena Track Club [Southeastern PA] and the Genesee Valley Harriers went at it hammer and tongs last year with Athena prevailing in the end with a perfect 500 score to a near perfect 480 for GVH. It is no different this year except that Athena has a more of an edge. They and GVH have participated in the same 3 events with Athena coming out on top each time. As a result, Athena leads 290 to 200. 
Athena Track Club at the 1 Mile Road Championship at CRIM in Flint MI (L to R: Lorraine Jasper, Betsy Stewart, Julie Pangburn, Marissa Sutera-Strange (returning to Athena)) [Photo by Dave McCauley/]

Neither club is entered for Tulsa (yet). If that holds and both put all their eggs in the XC basket, Athena should be able to net 490 points with GVH topping out at 400 max, but with a more realistic projection of somewhere between 350 and 400. The Atlanta TC is in the hunt too but only have 160 points over 2 events so far. They contested Tulsa last year; if they did so again, they would definitely be favored to take 2nd in the Club GP. If not, it depends on them being able to gain 40 points on GVH in the two XC events. That is very possible as they finished 3rd to GVH’s 5th in both the 10K and 5K championships. They currently own the tie-breaker and will still have it if they wind up tied.

Men 50 and up. The Playmakers Elite/New Balance [Lansing MI] and the Genesee Valley Harriers wound up 2015 with 470 points each but Playmakers got the title on the tie-breaker. This was to be a year of change. The Cal Coast TC won the first two events of the year and after the 2nd, Cal Coast’s Rob Arsenault put out a challenge, “We will come to at least 5 events this year and win them all.” The first part of the challenge will have come to pass after Tulsa; the last part has proven harder to deliver. Although to give Cal Coast their due, Pete Magill was coming to Syracuse with his eye on a record but then the old hamstring had different ideas apparently. That made it tougher on Cal Coast and the ferocious competition in Syracuse put an end to their string of victories. But they are likely to start a new string in Tulsa. It will be a treat to see if they can get a new string going. At the moment Cal Coast has a big lead with 380 points in 4 contests. 
Cal Coast Track Club M50+ celebrating their victory at the 8K Championship at Brea (Lto R: Dan Arsenault, Thomas Schumann, Rob Arsenault, Michael Salzman, Jeff Ambos) [Photo posted on FB]

They are followed by GVH with 240 points from 3 events, the Greater Springfield Harriers [Springfield MA] with 200 points in two events, the Playmakers Elite with 190 in 2 events and the Atlanta TC with 140 points in 2 events. Cal Coast is bringing a strong, 4-man team to Tulsa so they will, almost surely have 480 points in hand before XC unless someone comes to challenge with a very strong team at Tulsa. Playmakers won the 50+ title last year at Tulsa but will not contest it this year. Cal Coast will probably go to Club XC. They competed in 2012 Club Cross and have contested each one since then. If they do, it will be their last shot to at least hit the 500 point maximum, not quite as good as ‘winning them all’ but it would be a very nice substitute. Most likely the other 3 teams in the hunt will rely on XC to score their final points of the season. 
2/3rds of Playmakers Elite M50+, posing with USATF's Don Lein (far right) at the 5K Championship Awards ceremony at Syracuse (Dave Bussard [L] and Kerry Barnett [R]) [Photo posted on FB]

Neither Playmakers nor Springfield is coming to Tulsa; important team members have other plans. Atlanta TC sent a Men’s 40+ team last year but did not send a Men’s 50+ team; there is no reason to think that will change. Genesee is in the driver’s seat for 2nd place. Springfield has to make up 40 points in 2 races, a tall order. If they win both, they will have a chance but Playmakers will do their best to spoil their fun. Both teams will hope that other strong teams with no eye on the GP will, nonetheless show up for the glory and fun of Club Cross and be just strong enough to derail GVH a bit. It will be fascinating to see how it all unfolds.

Women 60 and up. Last year the Genesee Valley Harriers took this division easily with 470 points on 5 events. The Impala Racing Team [San Francisco CA] finished 2nd with 300 points from competing in three events. Over the winter, the Impala’s realized that if they had contested a couple of more events they might well have won the Club GP. They decided to compete in more events.  As a result, the Impala Racing Team currently has a commanding lead with 490 points in 5 events. Certainly no one will catch them. 
The Impala Racing TeamW60 with their 1st place plaque from the 8K Championship at Brea CA (L to R: Jo Anne Rowland, Irene Herman, Suzanne Cordes, Jill Miller-Robinett) [Photo posted on FB]

The other surprising thing that happened is that GVH has not contested a single event with a 60+ Women’s team this year; nagging injuries have kept this group of strong Masters runners off the roads this year. We hope to see them at Club Cross and, if not, back on the roads and trails next year. The Atlanta TC is the main competition this year for the Impalas. After a slow start at Dedham, Atlanta has come on strong to earn 200 points in the mile and the 5K. But they will need to do more than simply win the last 2 XC races of the season although that would not be a simple thing to do in any case. That 200 points would give them a total of 480, ten shy of the Impalas. So Atlanta has to go to Tulsa and beat the Impalas to have a shot at the Club GP title. So far there are two Impalas entered. My guess is that they are targeting Tulsa for a win to carry them to 500 points and make it impossible for Atlanta to overtake them. Will Atlanta enter a Women’s 60 and up team at the last minute? And if they do, which team is stronger over 15K?

Twenty-three athletes on various Atlanta Track Club Masters Teams who competed at the 5K Championships at Syracuse L to R: 1st row-Ena Weinstein, Nonie Hudnall, Diana Hinton, Patrice Combs, Irma Dennard, Cindy Wiliams, Holly Ortlund, Stephanie Whitis, Margaret Taylor(?), Sonja Friend-Uhl 2nd row-Tommy Carroll, Kathy Allen, Nancy Stewart, Kirk Larson, Michael Strickland, Jerry Learned 3rd row - Victor Breedveld, Bob Dalton, Matthew Whitis, Brent Fields, Jeff Haertl, Rob Blaskiewicz, Kristian Blaich)

Men 60 and up. Last year was very tight; the Boulder Road Runners took the title with 470 points in 5 events over the Genesee Valley Harriers with 460 points in the best 5 of 7 events. Not far back was the Ann Arbor TC [Ann Arbor MI] with 390 points in 5 events, the Shore Athletic Club [New Jersey] at 360 points from 4 events and the Cal Coast TC with 180 points from 2 events. Like the Impala’s in the Women’s 60 and over, it looks like Cal Coast saw that if they contested the 3 West Coast events, traveled to Syracuse for the 5K Road and to Tulsa for the 15K and maybe (?) Tallahassee for Club Cross, they could challenge Boulder for the 2016 Club GP title. So far Cal Coast has the lead with 390 points in 4 events; Boulder beat them in Syracuse. Boulder has 370 points in 4 events; Cal Coast beat them at Bend and Brea. 
Boulder Road Runners victorious at the 5K Championships at Syracuse (L to R: George Braun, Jan Frisby, Kyle Hubbart, Doug Bell) [Photo posted on FB]

Both clubs have entered strong teams for Tulsa. That shootout could well determine the outcome of the Club GP. Either way, though,the final GP outcome may not be known until the conclusion of Club Cross. Other teams in the hunt include GVH with 300 points in 4 events, the Atlanta TC with 210 points in 3 events, and Ann Arbor with 200 points in 3 events.  
Ann Arbor Track Club M60+ line up with USATF's Don Lein at the Awards ceremony at the 1Mile Road Championships in Flint  (L to R: Wally Hayes, Eduardo Matsuo, Terry McCluskey, Doug Goodhue, Don Lein, Mitch Garner, John Tarkowski, Aaron Pratt) [Posted in FB]

Shore AC has 170 points from 2 events but right now they are more concerned with the well-being of their lead runner, Reno Stirrat, than they are with the GP outcome. After missing the 5K with a freak foot injury that left his foot in a boot, he checked into the doctor with shortness of breath. It turned out to be due to a coronary blockage. It looks like he took steps early enough but any heart issue is a cause for concern. We trust that Reno will lick this with the same grit and determination he brings to his running, and we will see him back competing in the new year if not sooner.
In terms of the race for 3rd, Ann Arbor is hoping to move up a bit by contesting Tulsa. If GVH and Atlanta pass, the 80 points for 3rd could be very useful. It would immediately move them past Atlanta into a tie with GVH for 3rd. But Atlanta has a very strong team entered for the 5 km XC in Tallahassee. Tom McCormack is back and along with Ken Youngers and Kirk Larson provide a very strong1-2-3 punch. 
Atlanta Track Club M60+ victorious at the 1 Mile Road Championship at Flint (L to R Vasan Neovakul, Ken Youngers, Kirk Larson) [Photo posted on FB]

They will be the favorites to capture 100 points if all are reasonably healthy. Although not where he was two years ago, McCormack was running 5K’s in the high 17’s this summer. If they win the last two events, that would give them 410 points; that could move them in front of GVH for third place in the GP. But if Ann Arbor gets 80 points at Tulsa, they can get close but unless they do better at Club Cross than they did at Syracuse, they will top out below 410.

Women 70 and up.  Four teams have won events this year in this division but none have entered a second race. I conclude it is unlikely any team will make the minimum number of 3 required races.

Men 70 and up. Last year this division was tightly contested. The Shore AC won it with 480 points from the best 5 of 7 events, the Atlanta TC finished 2nd with 450 points from the best 5 of 6 events and the Ann Arbor TC wound up 3rd with 440 points on 5 events. The Clifton Road Runners finished just off the podium with 230 points in 3 events. Things are similar this year except that Ann Arbor got off to a slow start for a variety of reasons and did not run their first race until the Half Marathon in June. Shore AC is at the top of the standings with 380 points on 4 events with the Atlanta TC in 2nd with 340 points on 4 events.  
Shore AC at the 2015 Club XC Championships in San Francisco (L to R: Przemek Nowicki M70+, John Kuhi M70+, Reno Stirrat M60+, Ralph Garfield M70+ [Photo posted on FB]

Ann Arbor is in 3rd with 230 points on 3 events. Ann Arbor can tighten up the contest if they are the only team to compete in the 15K at Tulsa. At the moment they are entered but no other 70’s team is. One hundred points there would put them within 10 of Atlanta heading into the 2 Cross Country events. But that will probably not help unless either Doug Goodhue or Monte Piliawsky can come back and participate for Ann Arbor in one or both of the XC races. Both have been working their way out of Physical Therapy. But will either make it in time for this season? If not, Shore and Atlanta should battle for the 1st and 2nd spots. If the intrepid trio of Shore, Przemek Nowicki, Ed Smith and JL Seymore, run solid the rest of the way, they have a slight edge. Atlanta’s Ron Mastin is on the comeback trail; his progress will determine, in part, whether Atlanta can push Shore for 1st.

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