Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fast Times at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Road Championship--Recap Part II

March 25 2017. Part II concludes the coverage of the Masters 8K National Championship Races within the Towne Bank 8K, one component of the Shamrock Marathon Weekend at Virginia Beach. The focus is on the 60-64 Age Groups and up and the Team Competition. After those two major components, I list all of the Elite Performance Medal Winners and provide my extra tabulations tracking overall Race Winners and Age-Grading Winners through the Championship season.

The Age Divisions for 60 and up included the top Age-Grading performance for both Men and Women, one Near Record performance, the Age Group with the most finishers, and the second closest 1-2-3 finish, with only 34 seconds separating 1st and 3rd.

AGE DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIPS

W60. The key figures in this division were the top 60's runners for the Atlanta Track Club and the Impala Racing team. Mo Bartley, the Impala's Ace and the favorite for the division title, took it out strong, hitting the 2 mile mark 6 ticks over 14, while her teammate, Jill Miller-Robinett, was a bit more conservative, crossing the mat in 14:41, but still with a 14 second margin over Mary Richards of Atlanta. Atlanta had a pretty tight unit as Richards's teammates, Margaret Taylor and Cynthia Williams, were only 5 and 8 seconds behind her. At that point it looked like perhaps the 3 Atlanta teammates could work off of one another to close on the two Impalas. But that was not to be. Bartley kept up her scorching pace through the entire race and Miller-Robinett accelerated, dropping her 7:21 two-mile pace to 7:11 for the final 3 miles.

Mo Bartley sprinting for the finish at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Bartley stretched her margin over Miller-Robinett to 37 seconds while Miller-Robinett opened up a gap of nearly a minute and a half  to Richards.
Jill Miller-Robinett striding towards the finish line and a Silver Medal at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Richards ran very steadily though, claiming the 3rd podium spot 23 and 40 seconds respectively aead of her teammates, Taylor and Williams.

Gold: Bartley   35:23    Silver  Miller-Robinett  36:00   Bronze  Richards  37:27

M60. Last year Brian Pilcher bettered the current American 5K record at Syracuse, and the 1/2 Marathon, 25K and 30K records on the way to tying the Marathon record at the Chicago Marathon. I thought he would have no trouble taking down the 8K record on a flat, fast course at Virginia Beach. But then I heard in January that he had a foot injury serious enough that he could not run at all. Before it had healed enough to run it was almost 5 weeks. That threw his training off; he ran some dust-buster 5000 meter races on the tracks in the mid-17's. Impressive results for any other 60 year old, but Pilcher would typically be well under 17 if he were in peak condition. It looked like Pilcher would still dominate the race; the only question was whether he had a realistic shot at Norm Green's 28:07, set on almost the same course at Virginia Beach 24 years ago. The battle for the remainder of the podium would be fierce, with Dan Spale and Kyle Hubbart of the Boulder Road Runners seeking to hold off GVH's Gary Radford and Pete Gibson of the Colonial Road Runners. Two others who might be described as 'Dark Horses' were Reno Stirrat and Stephen Chantry. Stirrat would ordinarily be well up into the mix but he lost some fitness last year due to a freak foot injury and then having to deal with a heart issue that came up. In the end it was just a question of losing training time and fitness but we know it takes longer to get the fitness back once it goes away. When the 8K race was in Williamsburg VA, Chantry competed and measured up pretty well. In 2012 he lost to Pilcher but cracked 30 and beat Gibson; the next year he was a bit over 30 and lost to both Pilcher and Gibson but beat Radford. But he took some time off to deal with family matters so he also was on the comeback trail.

When the horn sounded, Pilcher was in the front row, wanting a clear path to the front in his quest for the record; he knew he needed to cross the 2 mile timing mat in 11:20 or less to be on track for the American Record. Pilcher was off like a shot, leaving the rest of the M60 field well behind as he fell in with the top M45 runners. He passed the 2 mile mark in 11:16--so far so good, but would he have his usual staying power?
Brian Pilcher kicking it home at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

The rest of the contenders followed Gibson who hit the 2 mile mark in 12:03. Radford crossed in 12:09 with Chantry a few strides back and Stirrat a few more strides back, followed by a gap of 8 seconds back to Spale and Hubbart who had a game plan of negative splits. Pilcher had little room for error; with only a 4 second bulge, he would have to nail 5:41 splits the rest of the way. In the end it was too much for his given fitness on the day as he came up 7 seconds short, claiming the Gold Medal in 28:14. The record would have to wait for another day. After maintaining a 6:11 pace for the first two miles, Spale was ready for some serious sub-6 miles to bring it home. Heading up the Boardwalk he passed all 4 of the others and brought it home in 2nd, averaging 5:53 per mile over the final 2.97. Hubbart upped his pace also but not as dramatically and he was patient, first passing Stirrat and Chantry and then settling in behind Gibson as they took the 180 onto the Boardwalk and the final half mile. Gibson still had a few meters on Hubbart when they passed the Neptune Statue at 31st Street. But when Hubbart unleashed his closing kick, Gibson had no answer. He had run a tough, gutsy race but Hubbart claimed the Bronze medal by 7 seconds. Radford was also able to close in on Gibson but could get no closer than the final 3 second margin. A little further back, Chantry and Stirrat were locked in a terrific duel. Stirrat passed Chantry on the Boardwalk and Chantry tucked in  a few strides back.
Reno Stirrat (R) with a slim lead over Stephen Chantry (L) between miles 3 and 4 at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Crossing back to Atlantic it was still Stirrat and Chantry and so it remained after the 180 turn and most of the way down the Boardwalk. But in the end Chantry was able to turn on superior speed and power past Stirrat for a final margin of 4 seconds. 1-2-3 was not that close but 3-4-5 sure was, with only ten seconds separating Hubbart, Gibson and Spale--and then the battle between Chantry and Stirrat was icing on the cake! Thrilling stuff from a near record to close, close finishes--Wow!

Gold: Pilcher   28:14    Silver  Spale  29:49   Bronze  Hubbart  30:07

W65. This was the only division other than M60 where there was any chance fo a record and this was probably still a long shot. Marget Betz ran 35:00 in 2001 and that is still the currently approved record on the books. Edie Stevenson ran 35:49 last year on the more challenging 8K Championship course at Brea CA. She could probably run 10-20 seconds faster; it was probably asking too much to think Stevenson could crack 35, but it would be interesting to see. Because the 8K is 4.97 miles, not 5, the record pace is slightly over 7 minutes. Stevenson would need to hit the 2 mile mark in 14:05 and maintain that pace the rest of the way. Stevenson has been one of the top Age Graders for te last 6 Championships so she pretty much had the Gold Medal wrapped up. Breaking the record was not one of Stevenson's goals. She was sensibly focused on running a fast time that would allow her to win the age Division and score well on Age-Grading. That suggested a negative split rather than tearing away from the starting line, chasing a 14:05 two-mile split. Stevenson crossed the timing mat in 14:34. Now that she was in the flow of the race she could continue her acceleration. Even so she had a margin of over 50 seconds on the 2nd place runner, Delaware's Diane Kukich. Stevenson raised her pace steadily, averaging 7:02 per mile after the 2 mile mark. She passed lots of runners in lower age groups and clocked a 35:25. Stevenson had no record but she achieved her goals, winning the Age Division and tallying the top Age-Grade score in the Championship.

Edie Stevenson driving towards the finish line at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Favored to finish 2nd, it appeared Kukich would have no problem as she had over a minute lead on Virginia's Kathleen Doswell in 3rd at the 2 mile mark. Kukich ran a steady pace; that enabled her to finish within 3 minutes of Stevenson and three minutes ahead of her closest pursuer in the Division.
Diane Kukich cruising toward the finish line at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Doswell ran 41:30 at Brea last year to claim 3rd and it appeared that GVH's Cindy Ingalls, coming off an injury year, would have difficultly staying with her. Still, in 2015 Ingalls was running times in 5K's and 10K's that suggested she might be able to break 41 in an 8K. A steady pace of 8:21 would net a 41:30 and that might be enough to capture the Bronze Medal. Doswell was definitely game, crossing the 2-mile timing mat in 16:27. But Ingalls was by no means giving up, crossing only 9 seconds back, carrying a sub-41:30 pace. Last year Doswell had the conditioning to hold a sub-41:30 pace, but not this year. As they headed up the Boardwalk, Doswell found the pace too fast to maintain and Ingalls gradually closed on her and passed. Ingalls claimed the Bronze Medal in 41:34, with a 30 second margin over Doswell who had to settle for 4th this year.

Gold: Stevenson   35:25    Silver  Kukich  38:19   Bronze  Ingalls  41:34

M65. Had knee surgery in December not intervened, Tom Bernhard would have been favored to take a run at Joe Fernandez's American 8K record of 29:41.With his training interrupted, Bernhard was not even sure he should still be favored. Doug Bell, of the Boulder Road Runners, and Houston's Peter Mullin, both formidable opponents, were entered. Bell took top honors at Club XC at the end of 2016 but neither Bernhard not Mullin were entered. In the 5K at Syracuse, a healthy Bernhard took top honors with Mullin 2nd and Bell 3rd. In the 10K earlier in the year, Bell took honors over Mullin at the 10K. But perhaps the trajectory favors Mullin somewhat. Kirk Larson, the mainstay of the Atlanta TC team, might also factor in but that is a tough group to compete with.

The horn sounded and the three took off like a shot with Larson a bit more conservative. Bell crossed the 2-mile mark in 12:16 with Bernhard nine seconds back and Mullin right on Bernhard's heels. Larson was running his own race, hitting the timing mat in 12:48, a pace he could sustain for a time he would be proud of. Mullin observed after the race that on the Boardwalk, Bernhard was able to catch and pass Bell. Mullin watched to see if Bell would be able to hang with Bernhard. When Bell could not do so, Mullin felt he had a chance. By maintaining a steady pace, Mullin was able to gradually pull up even and then pass Bell.
Tom Bernhard with Peter Mullin (background orange shirt) about to turn off the Boardwalk onto Atlantic Avenue between miles 3 and 4 at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

In the end, Mullin had the Silver Medal and a 28 second margin of victory.
Peter Mullin bringing it home to claim the 65-69 Silver Medal at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Bell averaged 6:28 per mile over the final 2.97 and the final mile was probably slower than that. Despite some back stiffness, Bell kept it going, for his team, claiming 3rd. Larson came in 22 seconds later in 4th with a time he was very happy with.

Gold: Bernhard   30:38    Silver  Mullin  30:57   Bronze  Bell  31:25

W70. I had more trouble predicting this division than any other. I had Dianne Anderson, of the Impalas, and North Carolina's Suzanne Gibson as co-favorites. I had few doubts about Anderson who has run strongly for the whole last year and at the Bend OR XC this year. But I was basing my prediction for Gibson on 2015 results. Gibson encountered some difficulty during the race that prevented her from competing at the level projected.  The other difficulty I encountered was that Kathleen Jefferson, who entered a predicted time of 50:00, might have been a podium contender but I could find no results to substantiate the prediction. I thought she might battle New Mexico's Irene Terronez for the bronze medal. Anderson moved off from the starting line at a brisk pace, with Jefferson a few strides back. Anderson hit the 2-mile mark in 18:09 with Jefferson 13 seconds back and Terronez, aiming for a strong negative split, 1:20 behind Jefferson.
Edie Stevenson [L], Mo Bartley [C], Kathleen Jefferson [R] -Gold Medalists in the 65-69. 60-64, and 70-74 Divisions respectively at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Gibson did not hit the 2-mile mark until 10:17, a sign that she may already have been encountering some difficulty. Two photos show her walking along the Boardwalk, one of them in conversation with a J&A official. Clearly she had a serious difficulty before she hit the  3 mile mark. She did persevere however and later photos show her jogging across the finish line. With Gibson out of the running, local runner, Judith Robertson would now factor in the race.She crossed the timing mat 4th, a minute and a half behind Terronez.  Anderson, in the meantime, as she headed up the Boardwalk, found her earlier pace a little too fast to maintain. Jefferson slowed too but not by much; she was able to gradually close the gap to Anderson, pass and establish a gap of her own. In the end it was Jefferson in first;
Kathleen Jefferson between miles 3 and 4 at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Anderson came across in 2nd 25 seconds later. Terronez's acceleration carried her to the Bronze Medal but she was not able to threaten Anderson's Silver.
Dianne Anderson on the Boardwalk heading for Mile 3 at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Robertson was unable to challenge Terronez.

Gold: Jefferson   45:54    Silver  Anderson  46:19   Bronze  Terronez  47:10

M70. Among the runners entered in thsi division, GVH's Jim May had the most consistent results last fall. He bettered Ann Arbor TC's Paul Carlin (yours truly), Jan Frisby, of the Boulder Road Runners and Arizona's Richard Kutzner in the 5K at Syracuse and at Club XC beat Frisby, me, and the other main contender, California's Gene French. Marc Bloom, who recently moved up from the 60+ Shore AC team to the 70+ team could also factor in. The two times in 2013 and 2014 when May and Bloom met in National XC Championships, May came out on top in close races. But Bloom has not competed in any other recent National Championships so it is a little bit hard to judge current fitness. When the horn sounded, I moved off smartly but so did May. After a quarter mile, May eased into a lead of a few strides. After the first mile, May started to pull away a bit more and I judged that I did not have the fitness to go at that pace. May crossed the 2-mile timing mat in 14:00, with me  11 seconds back. French was only 7 seconds back of me at that point, but it was 17 back to Kutzner with Bloom right on his heels. Frisby, was 9 seconds back from Bloom.On the Boardwalk, May upped his pace for a bit as I briefly lost sight of him. But I did not slacken my pace and was looking up ahead to find runners I could try to pass, one advantage of running in a community race with lots of competitors. French was having the same problem with me that I was having with May; I was slowly slipping away from him. But he was putting space between him and his pursuers. When we cut over to Atlantic Avenue just before the 4 mile mark, I caught sight of May again, quite a ways ahead,  but thought perhaps I was gaining on him. When we swung around 180 onto the Boardwalk again, May still had probably 100 meters on me. I closed it up a little
Heading towards the Finish Line, Paul Carlin trying hard to catch the leader at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

but could not get close enough to really challenge. May ran a gutsy race and hung on to the end to claim the Gold Medal with perhaps a 60 yard margin of victory;
Jim May claims the Gold Medal in the Men's 70-74 Division at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

I took Silver, followed by Gene French with the Bronze Medal.

Gold: May   35:01    Silver  Carlin 35:14   Bronze  French  35:35

W75. I had this division as a tight battle between Joanne Markley, the Mom of Amy, the 'A' of J&A Racing, and Judy Stewart. Madeline Bost, the steady runner from New Jersey and the 2014-2016 3-time W75 Grand Prix winner, was likely to take 3rd. The prediction proved right but the battle was not as close as I had anticipated. Both Markley and Stewart had good days, running faster than their best 2016 times at 8K. Markley was much, much faster, crossing the 2-mile timing mat in 20:24, and had a 2 minute lead on Stewart at that point. She kept pretty close to that pace the rest of the way, claiming the Gold Medal in 50:48, over 6 minutes faster than she ran on this same course in 2016!
Joanne Markley captures the Gold Medal in the Women's 75-70 Division at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Stewart also did a nice pacing job to finish in 56:27, a minute faster than she ran in Richmond VA in 2016. Bost, as expected, came across 3rd to capture the Bronze Medal and the 90 Individual Grand Prix points that go with it. As Bost herself puts it, "I am not the fastest in the division but I love to race and I am persistent. I keep hoping some of my Age Division peers will compete in the three events needed to compete for a Grand Prix award."

Gold: Markley   50:48    Silver  Stewart  56:27   Bronze  Bost  1:04:50

The Markley's, Tom and Joanne with their daughter Amy, the 'A' of J&A Racing and the Shamrock Marathon at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

M75. This would be a dust-up between David Turner of the Atlanta TC and the Clifton Road Runners competitors, Tony Fiory and Matt Lalumia. I expected a close race but, as in W75, did not get it. South Carolina's Tom Markley, the father of Amy, the 'A' of J&A Racing, jumped in at on site registration on Friday and made the race for the podium just a little more interesting. Lalumia had an off day and was not really in the mix but Phillip Kroll, from the Ann Arbor TC had a good day and was in the hunt. When the horn sounded, Turner made it clear he was on his game. I had thought a 43 minute effort might well win it. Turner was leaving nothing to chance as he coasted over the 2-mile mat in 16:33, a pace that, if maintained, would put him closer to 41 than 43. Fiory was prepared to run faster than 45 but not that much faster, as he crossed the mat in 17:20, worrying that he had maybe gone out a little too fast. On the plus side, he had a minute and a half on Kroll, his closest pursuer. Kroll, in turn, had 45 seconds on Markley. Markley's plan was to start out easy and steadily increase his pace if he felt good. There was no stopping Turner; not only did he maintain the pace, he upped it over the final 2.97, to clock 41 minutes flat-a super performance! Fiory did slow a bit over the second portion of the race so he lost another 2 minutes to Turner but, more significantly, did not lose any time to his closest pursuer.
Tony Fiori approaches the final quarter mile at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Markley found the Boardwalk to his liking as he gradually accelerated his pace. After averaging 9:40 per mile for the first two miles, he averaged 9:10 per miel for the final 2.97. That acceleration moved him closer and closer to Kroll and by the time Markley swung around the 180 onto the final stretch of the Boardwalk, he no doubt had Kroll's M75 in sight.
Tom Markley closing in on the finish at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

But Kroll did not fade, kept his pace going, and finished 11 seconds ahead of Markley, in third.
Phil Kroll headed for the Bronze Medal int he Men's 75-79 Division at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

And Markley had a very fine 4th place finish in a National Championship

Gold: Turner  41:00    Silver  Fiory 44:08   Bronze  Kroll  46:21

M80. There were only two entrants in this division but they made a good race out of it. I had the Atlanta Track Club's Jim Askew as the favorite based on a faster 10K in the recent past. On the other hand, Duane Lougee of Norfolk had a home course advantage. More of a long distance guy, Lougee had not run the 8K recently but before he turned 70 he ran the Shamrock Marathon each year and after he turned 70 typically ran the Half Marathon. The 8K would be almost a sprint by comparison. He would be able to last but would he find the speed he needed? Askew went out a little faster as one might expect, hitting the 2 mile mark in 17:43. But Lougee was not finding that pace too much of a strain as he was only 9 seconds back. Like the tide, he rolled along, eventually passing Askew and building a 30 second cushion, to take the Gold Medal.
Duane Lougee headed for the Gold medal in the Men's 80-84 Division at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Both ran great! Lougee had the better time; Askew, a year older, had the better Age-Grade score.

Gold: Lougee  44:36    Silver  Askew 45:11

TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS

W40+. The Colonial Road Runners attempted to defend the home turf against the Shore AC of New Jersey and TNT International  from SE Pennsylvania.TNT's Marilyn Gregory and Shore's Christine Hill were in a tight race to give their team the initial edge. Hill took that race 34:50 to 34:53. Susan Hagel came across next for the Colonial Road Runners but had given up 2 minutes to the other teams. When Shore's Susan Stirrat and Mary Orazem each came in ahead of their counterparts on the Colonial and TNT teams it was all over.  Shore took 1st place and Colonial was too deep for the TNT team.

1st Place   Shore AC (Christine Hill, Susan Stirrat, Mary Orazem, Leslie Nowicki) 2:00:32
2nd Place  Colonial RR (Susan Hagel, Christine Schaffner, Barbara Biasi)  2:03:52
3rd Place  TNT International (Marilyn Gregory, Joy Oakey, Nancy Latsch, DaBeth Manns,
        Gina Lanier)  2:06:54

M40+. The Atlanta TC, the Willow Street AC, and TNT International challenged the home team, Colonial RR, in this division. The  initial scoring favored Atlanta and Willow as Kristian Blaich finished 12 seconds ahead of Willow's Jake Stookey but they both finished 2 minutes ahead of Colonial's Keith Schumann with TNT's lead runner, Kyle Lanier, further back.
Kyle Lanier [L] and Kareem Lanier [R] of TNT International's M40+ Team after the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Atlanta got a boost when Brent Fields was the first #2 runner to finish but Willow Street's 2nd and 3rd runners, Volker Burkowski and Robert Irwin both finished before Atlanta's 3rd runner so the matter was in doubt for a bit. If Brad Salvens did not finish within a minute of Irwin, the first place finish would be Willow Street's. But Slavens was up to the challenge, finishing just 40 seconds after Irwin, securing first place for Atlanta. Willow Street enjoyed 2nd and the Colonial RR were able to stay just ahead of TNT to nail down third place with a total margin of 7 minutes back to TNT. With just 23 seconds between the top two teams, this was the closest team race of the day!

1st Place   Atlanta TC (Kristian Blaich, Brent Fields, Brad Slavens)  1:23:36
2nd Place   WSAC (Jake Stookey, Volker Burkowski, Robert Irwin)  1:23:59
3rd Place  CRR (Keith Schumann, Kevin White, Devin Lockard)  1:30:11
Atlanta Track Club M40+ and M50+ Teammates [L to R-Kristian Blaich, Rob Blasiewicz, Michael Anderson, Mark Graves, Brent Fields, and Brad Slavens] after the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

W50+. The Athena TC brought out the star power for this event. With Marisa Sutera Strange the top 50's runner and Doreen McCoubrie, the top W55 runner, their opponents, the New Balance Tampa Masters Racing team and the Genesee Valley Harriers, would have their work cut out for them. And that is not even mentioning Mary Swan, their third runner, who ran 19:55 at Syracuse to take first in the Women's 55-59 Division last October. For a while it looked as thought NB Tampa might not be able to field a full team as their top runner, Trish Butler, could not make it. But with the addition of Leslie Hinz to their core runners, Susan, 'Lynn' Cooke and Michelle Allen, they would field a strong team. And they would need it; the Genesee Valley Harriers, had sent an able squad as well. Athena took all of the mystery out of the contest by claiming the top 3 spots. Their total team time was the fastest of the day across all of the Women's teams!
No pre-race jitters here-New Balance Tampa before the race (L to R. Leslie Hinz, Lynn Cooke, Michelle Allen) at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

GVH showed they would have to be taken seriously as their #1, Kathleen Hayden, came in nearly a minute ahead of NB Tampa's 1st Runner, Cooke.
Kathleen Hayden [L] and Carol Bischoff [R] of the Genesee Valley Harriers after the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Would GVH be able to pull off an upset? The answer came soon and it was decidedly negative, Allen followed Cooke across the finish line ten seconds later and then Hinz ended all doubt by finishing a minute later but 18 seconds ahead of GVH's #2 runner.

1st Place   Athena TC (Marisa Sutera Strange, Doreen McCoubrie, Mary Swan) 1:33:00
2nd Place  NBTM (Lynn Cooke, Shelly Allen, Leslie Hinz) 1:40:25
3rd Place GVH (Kathleen Hayden, Carol Bischoff, Maureen Bischoff, Colleen Magnussen, Gail Geiger) 1:43:49
Carol Bischoff [L] and Maureen Bischoff [R] of the Genesee Valley Harriers after the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach


M50+. With Mark Hixson, Kent Lemme, and Nat Larson running for the Greater Springfield Harriers, the question was not whether they would win or not but by how much. And indeed those were the first three runners to finish, and had the fastest team score of the day across all divisions! GVH sent a strong 50+ team with their reliable veterans, Mike Nier, Dale Flanders, and John Van Kerkhove. They ran really well and took the next three spots. That gave GVH 2nd place. The first real battle was for third as the Colonial RR and the Atlanta TC were closely matched. Gregory Dawson drew first blood for Colonial, finishing in 30:05, twenty seconds ahead of Atlanta's Rob Blaskiewicz. Blaskiewicz was followed closely by Michael Anderson just 8 seconds later. In Road Race scoring, every second counts! Seven seconds later it was Robert Whitaker of Colonial. ATC's Mark Graves finished 8 seconds later, with Colonial's #3, Michael Hulett 7 seconds back from Graves. What a tight finish! If this had been XC where scoring is by finishing position, Graves's finish would have given Atlanta a 1 point win. But it was road race scoring where the finishing times of the top 3 runners are added up. That gave the third place finish to Colonial with just a 6 second separation--or 2 seconds per runner--Wow!

1st Place  GSH (Kent Lemme, Mark Hixson, Nat Larson) 1:20:41
2nd Place  GVH (Mike Nier, Dale Flanders, John Van Kerkhove) 1:26:24
3rd Place CRR (Gregory Dawson, Robert Whitaker, Michael Hulett, Dan O'Brien, Bill Russell) 1:32.0 
 
W60+. The Atlanta TC, along with last year's Grand Prix winners, the Impala Racing Team out of the San Francisco Bay area, and GVH all had their eyes set on victory. With Impala's Donna Chan out with an injury, there was a definite opening for the other teams. Dianne Anderson is usually Impala's insurance 4th runner. Now she would definitely be one of their three scorers and it is tough to compete with runners 7-8 years younger. Mo Bartley and Jill Miller-Robinett got Impala off to a strong start with Bartley finishing first in 35:23 and Miller-Robinett 37 seconds behind her in 2nd.
Mo Bartley (L) and Jill Miller-Robinett (R) Before the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach 

That gave them a great start but then the next 3 runners to finish were all from Atlanta, Mary Richards, Margaret Taylor, and  Cynthia Williams, finishing between 37:27 and 38:07.
Atlanta Track Club Women's 60+ Team [L to R; Cynthia Williams, Trenice Mullis-Dubow, Mary Richards, Margaret Taylor, and Cynthia Lucking]

That tight finish meant the Impalas would need Anderson to break 43, a tall order, and not to be as she came in at 46:19. But that was only 3 minutes behind GVH's #3 runner; Jeanne Herrick. With the gap created by the Bartley/Miller-Robinett lead over GVH's #1 and 2, Sharon Moore and Cindy Ingalls, Anderson's time was close enough. Impala got 2nd and GVH 3rd. That made Impala happy--2nd place and 90  Club Grand Prix points was a good return on their investment in the East Coast trip.

1st Place Atlanta TC (Mary Richards, Margaret Taylor, Cindy Williams) 1:53:24
2nd Place Impala Racing (Mo Bartley, Jill Miller-Robinett, Dianne Anderson)
3rd Place GVH (Sharon Moore, Cindy Ingalls, Jeanne Herrick)



M60+. With 6 teams (including GVH 'B') this was the division with the most complete teams competing. The Boulder Road Runners showed up with their 'Big 3',  Doug Bell, Kyle Hubbart, and Dan Spale, and two insurance runners in Mark Donelson and Bruce Kirschner who would not be far back if any of the top 3 faltered. The Colonial Road Runners had quality at the top in Stephen Chantry and Pete Gibson, and a solid 3rd runner in James Toano, with . The Shore AC team is always dangerous with Reno Stirrat leading the way. But Stirrat might be a tick off of his peak because of time lost last fall. He ran 30 flat at Brea last year but that might be out of reach now, even on a faster course. Kevin Dollard is the new #2 and Harold Leddy and Scott Linnell provide solid backup for 3rd and 4th. GVH has Gary Radford as an able leader and Kevin Clinefelter a close #2. But without Mark Rybinski or another runner of that stature, the drop off to #3 is perhaps too much to be competitive. Kirk Larson of Atlanta TC is running great these days and Jerry Learned seems to have put the worst of his injuries behind him again. but without a Ken Youngers or a Tom McCormack, it is tough for the team to compete at this level. The Ann Arbor TC 60's team, a staple of the 60's competition until 2 years ago, has struggled in 2015 and 2016; they did not make the trip. Spale and Hubbart came in 1-2 for Boulder;
Pete Gibson chugging for the finish line with Kyle Hubbart in hot pursuit at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

Pete Gibson, the top runner for Colonial, lost 25 seconds to Spale and Radford lost 28. Chantry came in 23 seconds later for Colonial but still lost 30 seconds to Hubbart. Stirrat finished a strong race, only 6 seconds behind Chantry, getting Shore AC on the board. Sixteen seconds later GVH had its 2nd runner in when Clinefelter finished. But then Bell came in for Boulder and it was all over. He beat the #3 runners for all other teams by 2 minutes. But there was still a tough battle between Colonial, Shore, and GVH for 2nd through 4th. When Shore's #2 Dollard came in , Shore was about 2 minutes behind the first 2 runners of Colonial and a minute back from GVH. Shore's Leddy was the first #3 runner in apart from Bell but when Colonial's Toano came in 23 seconds later that meant Colonial had their 2nd place finish. Shore would have to hope that GVH's 3rd runner did not come in for at least a minute. GVH's insurance runner, 70 year old Jim May, was their 3rd scorer and did not come in within a minute of leddy. That gave 3rd place to Shore but GVH was happy that May had been there to help them secure 70 points for the Club Grand Prix race.

1st Place  BRR (Dan Spale, Kyle Hubbart, Doug Bell, Mark Donelson, Bruce Kirschner) 1:31:21
2nd Place  CRR (Pete Gibson, Stephen Chantry, Janes Thornton, Robert Williams) 1:34:18
3rd Place Shore AC (Reno Stirrat, Kevin Dollard, Harold Leddy, Scott Linnell) 1:35:59


W70+. Hat's off to the 70+ women of the Colonial Road Runners. This is the first W70+ team I can remember seeing since starting to attend these Championships in fall of 2013. Of course I may have missed a prior one; let us just say that it is rare. Unopposed, they claimed the Gold Medal after their third runner crossed the finish line, and collected 100 points toward the Club Grand Prix. If they can compete in two more Championships, they would be almost assured of winning the Club Grand Prix Championship for this division.

1st Place Colonial Road Runners (Kathleen Jefferson, Judy Stewart, Nancy Blount, Suzanne Gibson) 2:46:56

M70+. Atlanta TC 'A' and 'B' and three other teams, the Ann Arbor TC, the Clifton Road Runners, and the Shore AC contested the team 70+ Championship. In years past, Atlanta has had depth but has not often had enough runners close to the top of the group to take the team prize. In terms of the Club Grand Prix, they have finished 2nd to Ann Arbor in 2014 and second to Shore AC in 2015 and 2016. They are gunning for the top spot this year.  In years past Ann Arbor could rely on Doug Goodhue for two minutes or more in a cushion at the top of the board and Monte Piliawsky for solid support. But they have been hobbled by injuries for the last year and a half. Shore AC rode the talents of its trio of Przemyslaw Nowicki, Ed Smith and JL Seymore last year to 3 team championships and the Club Grand Prix title. But Seymore almost retired from running last year and Nowicki has hamstring problems right now; they are not at their strongest.
Przemek Nowicki [27078] with his teammate, JL Seymore on his left shoulder, heading for the finish line at the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

The Clifton Road Runner athletes are now mostly over 75 and have a heck of a good time racing but do not worry much about where they finish in the team race. Atlanta's depth in this race was impressive. They figured to have 7 athletes who could break 43 minutes  and they fine-tuned the rosters so they had an excellent shot at taking the top two spots with their 'A' and 'B' teams. Ann Arbor's Paul Carlin might give them a 3 minute cushion at the top and Marc Bloom almost as much for Shore AC. But Ann Arbor as a team would not have the support to contest a tightly packed Atlanta team or two. Phillip Kroll and Malcolm Cohen are steady runners who prefer longer distances where speed is not so critical. And Ann arbor had no insurance. Cohen was going into the race with a hamstring issue as well. If he could not finish then Ann Arbor would come up empty. It is uncertain whether Shore AC could challenge Atlanta. If Nowicki were healthy enough to run around 40 minutes, Shore could certainly take 2nd from Atlanta's 'B' team but perhaps not defeat the 'A' team. As expected, Carlin took first for Ann Arbor and Bloom came in about a minute later for Shore. But then, after a 2 minute wait, it was all Atlanta for a while. Curtis Walker, Joe Carter,  and Sam Benedict all came in within a 2 minute span for the 'A' team and then the first Atlanta 'B' tea athlete, David Turner, followed closely by Charlie Patterson, the 4th 'A' runner. Shortly thereafter William Shaffer and Frank White finished for the 'B' team and then waited to see how the rest of the Shore and Ann Arbor teams came in. Neither Shore nor Ann Arbor had the fitness levels necessary to deny Atlanta the top two spots. So Atlanta is in the driver's seat, at least for now in the Club Grand Prix. Their A team has 200 points and their B team has 90. Shore has 80 and Ann Arbor 60. Clifton had a darned good time and enjoyed finishing ahead of Ann Arbor. Cohen of Ann Arbor was happy because his hamstring actually loosened up a bit during the run and felt better as the run went along.

1st Place Atlanta TC 'A' (Curtis Walker, Joe Carter, Sam Benedict, Charlie Patterson) 1:57:20
2nd Place Atlanta TC 'B' (David Turner, William Shaffer, Frank White, Jin Askew, Andrew Sherwood) 2:05:43
3rd Place Shore AC (Marc Bloom, John Kuhi, Prezemyslaw Nowicki, JL Seymore) 2:07:26

ELITE PERFORMANCE MEDALS

Age-Grading is the statistically-based procedure developed by Alan Jones [http://www.runscore.com/Alan/AgeGrade.html] using the data base of Ken Jones on World Best Performances [http://www.arrs.net/] to provide a level playing field for awarding excellent running performance across all ages of Masters Runners. A World's Best is projected for each single year of age and commonly run distance (both road racing and track but the road racing procedure gets much more use). If the World's best for a given distance and age is 40 minutes and your time is 44 minutes, then your age grade is (roughly) (40/44)*100 or 90.91%. If your time is 48 minutes, your age grade is (40/48)*100 or 83,3%. [This is just an intuitive explanation. For technical details see Alan Jones's site.] This is the second year that USATF Masters LDR Committee is awarding Elite Perfomance medals to all athletes who achieve the standards: WORLD CLASS--90% and above (Gold); NATIONAL CLASS--85%-89.99% (Silver); and NATIONAL CLASS--80% - 84.99% (Bronze).

Because the Age-Grading Results were not available for the Awards ceremony, these medals will be mailed out within the next week or two to the following Athletes:

GOLD: Edie Stevenson, Marisa Sutera Strange, Doreen McCoubrie, Susan Cooke, Laura Bruess, Mary Swan

Brian Pilcher, Nat Larson, Kristian Blaich, Mike McManus, Kent Lemme

SILVER: Margaret Sloan, Perry Shoemaker, Lesley Hinz, Mo Bartley, Jill Miller-Robinett, Diane Kukich, Kathleen  Hayden

Mark Hixson, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Mullin, Philippe Rolly, Doug Bell, Dan Spale, David Angell, Stephen Chantry, Kyle Hubbart, Reno Stirrat, Pete Gibson, Jean-Christophe Arcaz, Gary Radford, Kirk Larson, John Van Kerkhove, Mike Nier

BRONZE: Michelle Allen, Janet McDevitt, Mary Richards, Karyl Sargent, Cynthia Lucking, Margaret Taylor, Michelle Brangan, Cynthia Williams, Kathleen Doswell

Kevin Clinefelter, Michael Anderson, Jerry Learned, Dale Flanders, Kevin Nickodem, Steve Speirs [GBR resident may not win awards], Robert Whitaker, Jake Stookey, Brent Fields, Timothy Riccardi, Paul Carlin, Paul Jones, Michael Bailey, Richard Jennings, Keith Schumann, John Hirschberger, Jim May, Kevin Dollard, Richard Kutzner, Mark Donelson, Derek Miller, Gene French, Volker Burkowski, Harold Leddy, Gregory Dawson, Rob Blaszkiewicz


SPECIAL FEATURES

These are my unofficial tabulations for 'mythical' awards that are not currently offered by USATF--perhaps some day.




OVERALL WINNER GRAND PRIX (for the Masters Grand Prix Circuit)
Recall that those who finish in the top 5 overall positions in the race earn points--10-6-4-2-1. 

The top 3 last year were:


1.  John Gardiner Cal Coast Track Club
2. Kevin Castille
3. Gregory Mitchell  Bowerman Track Club  


1.  Sonja Friend-Uhl Atlanta Track Club
2. Marisa Sutera Strange Athena Track Club
3. Janet McDevitt  Club Northwest



After the First Two Events of 2017, the USATF  XC Championship in Bend OR and the USATF 8K Championship in Virginia Beach, the standings are:

MEN
David Angell 12 Jacques Sallberg 10 John Howell 6 Phillippe Rolly 6 Kristian Blaich 4 John Gardiner 4 Jake Stookey 2 Kent Lemme 1 Gregory Mitchell 1


WOMEN
Melody Fairchild 10 Perry Shoemaker 10  Janet McDevitt 6 Grace Padilla 6 Marisa Sutera Strange 5 Tania Fischer 4, Doreen McCoubrie 2, Susan Hay 2,  Mary Swan 1


AGE-GRADING Individual GRAND PRIX (for the Masters Grand Prix Circuit)

Recall that those who finish in the top 5 overall age-grading positions in the race earn points--10-6-4-2-1

 After the First Two Events of 2017, the USATF  XC Championship in Bend OR and the USATF 8K Championship in Virginia Beach, the standings are:

MEN. 
Brian Pilcher 10 Jacques Sallberg 10 Nat Larson 6  Joe Sheeran 6 Kristian Blaich 4 Pete Magill 4 Matthew Farley 2 Mike McManus 2 John Gardiner 1 Kent Lemme 1

WOMEN. Marisa Sutera Strange 12 Edie Stevenson 10  Tania Fischer 4 Doreen McCoubrie 4 Susan Cooke 2 Jeanette Groesz 2 Laura Bruess 1 Kirsten Leetch 1

***************************************
All photos above by Marathon Foto unless specified otherwise. [Available for free download at: http://www.shamrockmarathon.com/race-info/photos/]





















































































































































 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fast Times at the USATF Masters 8K Road Championship--Recap Part I



March 22 2017. VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA – The rain held off and the USATF Masters 8K Championship went off with nearly 8,000 Towne Bank 8K Runners lined up behind the Masters Athletes on Saturday, March 18th. Except for the 10 mph winds, the conditions were good, with temperatures in the upper 40’s under cloudy skies. Runners raved about the course and the general setup of the race, with many hotels within a few blocks of the Start and Finish. The Yuengling Shamrock Weekend proved a great host for our Championship.

This first recap article will cover the contest for Overall Winner and  the top Age-Grading athletes along with the Age Groups from 40-44 through 55-59. The second part will cover the age groups from 60-64 and up along with the Teams Competition. 


The contenders for the Overall Championship were no strangers to the podium. Perry Shoemaker of Vienna, Virginia, with back-to-back wins at the USATF 12K Masters Championship in 2014 and 2015, was one of the favorites. Her Masters victories at the Cherry Blossom and Army Ten Mile Runs last year showed that she is still one of our fastest Masters Runners.  Janet McDevitt, winner of last year’s 5K Championship at Syracuse and runner-up at the Club XC Championships in Tallahassee, was co-favorite. One who would push them all the way is Marisa Sutera Strange, who won the 2016 Masters 10K Championship at Dedham in 36:48, and finished on the podium at the 1 Mile Championships in Flint and the 5K XC Championships in Tallahassee. Strange's Athena Teammate, Doreen McCoubrie, made her first appearance at a USATF Masters Championship since she finished 2nd in the W50 10K Championship in 2015 in 40:59. At 55, it is rare indeed to be competitive for overall wins at national championships. But one can hardly ignore a runner who competed in the Olympic Marathon Trials at the age of 46 and ran 2:48:29!

Shoemaker roared off from the starting line, hitting the 2 mile mark in 11:37 with a 12 second lead over McDevitt who had, in turn, 22 seconds on Strange. McCoubrie was another 22 back from there. Turning onto the Boardwalk just after the 2 mile split, it looked like the race was maybe already settled. That did turn out to be the case for the win, as Shoemaker ran a pretty even pace, slowing by only 3 seconds per mile over the last 60% of the race.

Perry Shoemaker solidly in the lead at the Old Coast Guard Station 3.5 miles into the race


But the race for second tightened up considerably. Strange must have seen McDevitt's lead on her shrinking. Strange ran a strong negative split, averaging 5:59 per mile, 7 seconds per mile faster for the last 3 miles.  McDevitt, having the dreaded 'off day' was struggling as she averaged 6 seconds per minute slower after the split. In the end, McDevitt had just enough left in the tank to eke out a 2 second victory over Strange, taking 2nd in 29:54 to Strange's 29:56.
Janet McDevitt, sensing that someone might be closing in on her, sprints for the tape with a quarter mile to go.

Strange closed strongly after her conservative start, reporting that she ran her last mile in 5:49 by her watch!! McCoubrie ran a game race, speeding up over the final 3 miles but she could not close on the podium bunch and finished just off in 4th with a time of 31:10--an excellent return to the Championships!
Gold: Shoemaker 29:10     Silver:  McDevitt 29:54    Bronze: Sutera Strange  29:56


David Angell, third place finisher last year in both the 5K and 15k Masters Championships, employed the same tactics, powering to the 2 mile mark in 10:19 with 16 seconds on Philippe Rolly and 18 on Kristian Blaich. Jake Stookey and Kent Lemme were locked in a battle 14 seconds behind Blaich. Angell finished strong claiming his first Masters title in 25:24. 
David Angell captures his first Masters title, first across the finish line at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship


Rolly was not able to close on Angell at all but was able to speed up more than Blaich over the second portion of the race, finishing 2nd in 25:51. 
Philippe Rolly claims the Silver Medal at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Even Blaich ran a slightly negative split; while he lost ground to  Rolly, he kept most of his lead over Stookey and Lemme. All 5 of them were flying up the Boardwalk at sub-5:20 per mile pace! Blaich claimed the last podium spot at 26:19 with Stookey and Lemme in 4th and 5th at 26:31 and 26:34.

Gold: Angell 25:24      Silver:  Rolly 25:51     Bronze: Blaich 26:19



Age-Grading Prize Money went 5 deep. Colorado’s Edie Stevenson, 67, led the way. Her 35:25 scored an Age-Grading percentage of 95.11. Stevenson has not delivered less than a World Class performance in any of her last 6 National Championship appearances, from Brea in February of 2016 through this race-astounding consistency!  She had two Age-Grading gold medals and two 2nd place finishes; she is off to another great start this year. 
Edie Stevenson strides confidently toward the finish line where she had the fastest Age-Grade Score in the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Another age-grading luminary is Marisa Sutera Strange, 53, who ran 29:56 for 93.65. Last year Sutera Strange had a 3rd and two gold medal age-grading performances; this year she will have at least one 2nd place finish in the mix.  
Starting conservatively and finishing with a blistering kick, Marisa Sutera Strange again makes the Age-Grading Podium at a USATF Masters Championship, the 8K this time.

Doreen McCoubrie, 55,had a successful return to the Championship circuit, finishing off the age-grading podium with 31:10 for 92.19.  
Doreen McCoubrie with a successful return to the USATF Masters Grand Prix circuit, nailing a podium finish in the Age-Grading competition in the 8K at Virginia Beach

Susan Lynn Cooke, 58, ran 32:57 for a 90.54, 
Susan 'Lynn' Cooke finishes strong to capture 4th in the age-Grading Competition at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Competition at Virginia Beach [Photo by Dave Allen]

just edging Laura Bruess, 56, whose 32:09 graded at 90.46. 

Laura Bruess [L] tracking her husband, Rick Bruess [R] as she heads for the finish at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship
1st: Stevenson 95.11      2nd:  Sutera Strange 93.65      3rd: McCoubrie 92.19  
4th: Cooke 90.54      5th: Bruess 90.46
  
The Men also went 5-deep. Topping the list and earning $500 was Californian, Brian Pilcher, 60, who ran 28:14 for a 92.33. Pilcher, despite coming off a 5 week layoff earlier this winter, was able to come within 7 seconds of the American Record. Like Stevenson and Sutera Strange, Pilcher, when healthy, is typically near the top of the age-grading results. 
Brian Pilcher heads for the finish line at the USATF Masters 8K Championship, just missing the American Record for Men 60-64 by 7 seconds, and topping the age grading contest

Nat Larson, 54, who is also a regular in the list of age-grade winners, ran 27:04 for 91.38;  
Nat Larson, M50, leading Paul Jones, M40, as he cruises to a 2nd place age-grading finish at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Kristian Blaich, 50, completed the podium with a 26:19 for 90.94. This was his second consecutive world class performance since returning from injury last fall but his first age-grading podium since the 12K Championship in Alexandria in November 2015. 
 
Kristian Blaich heads onto the Boardwalk at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship on hs way to a podium finish in the Age-Grading Competition

The tough Cross Country runner from NYC, Mike McManus, showed he is no slouch on the roads as he nailed the 4th best age-grade score at 90.61. 
Mike McManus striding up the Virginia Beach Boardwalk on his way to a top-5 Age-Graded finish at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Larson's Greater Springfield Harriers teammate, Kent Lemme, 
Kent Lemme, high-stepping it, as he cruises up the Boardwalk past mile 3 on his way to a top-5 Age-Grading finish at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

took 5th with 90.09.

1st: Pilcher 92.33      2nd:  Larson 91.38      3rd: Blaich 90.94 
4th: McManus 90.61      5th: Lemme 90.09



AGE GROUP CONTESTS. The first place finishers in each of the groups discussed below are National Champions and earn a National Championship patch along with an appropriate medal and a cash prize.

W40. Janet McDevitt, who finished 2nd overall took this age group by a large margin. She crossed the 2-mile mat in 11:49 with nearly a 1 minute lead on local VB runner, Teresa Allman. Jeanette Boyd, of Union City PA came across next in 13:30 with Marilyn Gregory, also from the Keystone state 28 seconds back. Gregory had the most even pace overall but all of the gaps grew over the last 2.971 miles as McDevitt won the division by over 2 minutes. Allman, in turn, had almost a two minute gap on Boyd. 
Michelle Allman shows off her red, white and blue strides on the way to a Silver Medal finish in the Women's 40-44 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

The race for 3rd was closest but Boyd landed the Bronze Medal wit ha half minute lead.

Gold: McDevitt 29:54     Silver:  Allman 32:29    Bronze: Boyd  34:22

M40. The Gold and Silver medals in this age group went to the overall winner, David Angell, and the runner-up, Philippe Rolly. Richard Jennings, from the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, made things interesting as he hung tight on Jake Stookey from the Clifton Park TC in NY. Stookey crossed the 2 mile marker in 10:51, with Jennings in 10:53. Once they turned onto the Boardwalk for the final 3 miles, Stookey found a slightly higher gear and gradually pulled away from Jennings, 
Jake Stookey, makes the most of his alternative footwear as he strides toward a 3rd place finish in the M40 Division at the
2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

taking 3rd eventually by 27 seconds.

Gold: Angell 25:24      Silver:  Rolly 25:51     Bronze: Stookey 26:31

W45. Perry Shoemaker, the Overall winner, captured the division crown with nearly 3 minutes to spare. She had over a minute lead at the 2 mile mark as New Jersey's Michelle Brangan crossed the timing mat at 12:42 with a 27 second lead over GVH's Melissa Senall. New Jersey's Christine Hill, running a carefully paced race, was next at 14:01. Brangan eventually stretched her lead over Senall to nearly two minutes and even though Senall slowed somewhat over the remainder of the race course,it was not enough to allow Hill to close any of the gap. 
Michelle Brangan heads to the finish line, claiming the Silver Medal in the W45 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

It was unusual to see Senall running without her 40+ GVH teammates. Last year it was GVH's W60 team that was snake-bit and missed almost the entire year of championships. Let's hope that the GVH 40's team is able to make most of the rest of the 2017 Championship season. 

Gold: Shoemaker 29:10     Silver:  Brangan 32:04    Bronze: Senall  33:58

M45.  Most of the top runners in this division were competing for team rather than individual glory, Brent Fields for the Atlanta TC, Volker Burkowski for the Willow Street AC and Keith Schumann for the Colonial Road Runners. But they were also gunning for the M45 title. Schumann took it out the  hardest, sustaining a 5:29 per mile pace through the first 2 miles, turning towards the Boardwalk at 10:58. He had almost a 20 second margin on Fields and Burkowski who had 5 seconds on Pennsylvania's Derek Miller. The pace proved too fast for Schumann who slowed significantly over the last 3 miles while Fields was able to quicken his pace, close the gap and pass. Miller kept his steady pace going on the Boardwalk as he followed Burkowski. Just before cutting back over to Atlantic Avenue at about 3.75 miles in, Miller made a decisive move past Burkowski. He was gaining on Schumann but Fields was pulling away. Fields held to a 5:32 pace over the final 3 miles to finish with over a half minute gap back to 2nd.
Brent Fields heading to victory in the M45 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Despite slowing over the last three miles, Schumann was able to hang tough and close it out to take 2nd. Miller tried his best but could not narrow the gap any more than the 9 seconds that remained at the end. Burkowski hung tough all the way but wound up another 9 seconds back in 4th.

Gold: Fields 27:44      Silver:  Schumann 28:16     Bronze: Miller 28:25

W50. It is hardly a surprise that the Athena TC's Marisa Sutera Strange dominated this age group as she finished 3rd overall. Even though she started conservatively, Strange had a 22 second lead within the group when she turned toward the Boardwalk at 2 miles. GVH's Kathleen Hayden came across next in 12:33, with a 23 second gap back to New York's Karyl Sargent. Michelle Allen, of the New Balance Tampa Masters Racing team crossed the timing mat in 13:18, 22 seconds back from Sargent. As noted earlier, Strange accelerated substantially over the last 3 miles of the race in her successful run to the overall podium. She won the group by over two minutes. Hayden slowed somewhat over the last 3 miles as the early pace took its toll. But her closest pursuer, Sargent, slowed even more so; Hayden was never challenged and took second by a wide margin. 
Kathleen Hayden strides confidently up the Virginia Beach Boardwalk on her way to a W50 Silver Medal at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship
Allen, by maintaining her steady, early pace, was able to gradually close the gap to Sargent, pass her and establish a strong gap in taking the Bronze Medal. 
Michelle Allen heading to the finish line in third place for the W50 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Competition at Virginia Beach
Sargent kept it going, though and claimed 4th  with over a minute back to her closest pursuer.

Gold: Sutera Strange 29:56      Silver:  Hayden 32:04     Bronze: Allen 33:07

M50. Five of the fastest M50 runners in the country signed up for this race. Mark Hixson, Kent Lemme and Nat Larson, of the Greater Springfield Harriers, were taking on the Atlan ta Track Club's Kristian Blaich and Mike McManus of the HokaNJNY Track Club. Blaich and McManus took it out strong as noted in the coverage of the overall race above, hitting the 2 mile mark in 10:37. Hixson Lemme and Larson were more conservative, crossing the mat from 10:51 to 10:52 as a group and heading onto the Boardwalk, hoping to keep the front-runners in sight. Lemme accelerated enough to catch and pass McManus for 2nd while Hixson and Larson ran a steady pace, finishing 25 and 26 seconds behind McManus who claimed the third spot in the race. 
A Happy Bunch After the Race--Four of the top 5 Finishers in the M50 Competition [L to R: Kristian Blaich, Nat Larson, Kent Lemme, and Mark Hixson] at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

This group not only contributed 4 of the top 5 age-grading performances, it was the closest age group from 1st to 3rd with only 19 seconds separating 1st and 3rd.

Gold: Blaich 26:19      Silver:  Lemme 26:34     Bronze: McManus 26:38

W55. The Athena TC's Doreen McCoubrie, mindful of the overall race and the team competition set out at a conservative pace, with her eye on running a negative split. She crossed the 2 mile mat in 12:33; her teammate, Mary Swan, tracked her, about 16 seconds back. The Athletics Boulder runner, Laura Bruess, here on her own account, crossed next 13 seconds back and with an 8 second gap on Susan 'Lynn' Cooke of the NB Tampa Masters team. Margaret Sloan, a member of the Athena TC team but running on her own in this race, crossed 9 seconds back from Cooke. [Note: USATF Masters LDR rules normally require that no more than 1 runner on a team can be from outside that team's association.] McCoubrie ran the negative split she was hoping for, stretching her lead over her teammate to 45 seconds. Swan slowed slightly over the last 3 miles but matched Bruess's pace, keeping her 13 seconds back. 
Mary Swan surges up the Virginia Beach Boardwalk heading to a Silver Medal finish in the W55 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Try as she might, Cooke could not keep up her early pace but still finished strongly in 4th place, 48 seconds back from Bruess and 27 seconds ahead of Sloan. Just as M50 was the strongest group among the men, this was the strongest group for the women, with 3 of the top 5 age-grade winners from this group and a top 1-2-3 finish separated by less than a minute.

Gold: McCoubrie 31:10      Silver:  Swan 31:55     Bronze: Bruess 32:09
  
M55. This group featured a tight race for 1st and 2nd between Jean-Christophe Arcaz and GVH's John Van Kerkhove and an equally tight race for the final podium position between the Atlanta TC's Michael Anderson and Robert Whitaker of the Colonial Road Runners. Team and individual glory were up for grabs. Except for the Baltimore-Washington AC;s Arcaz, who was the sole representative of his team , the other 3 teams named were in a dogfight for the M50+ team crown. Arcaz and Van Kerkhove ran the first two miles stride for stride, both crossing the timing mat in 11:40. Whitaker was 3 seconds ahead of Anderson when he crossed the mat in 12:07. In both cases, one of the runners made their move when the time came and the other athlete could not match it. Van Kerkhove broke away from Arcaz to take 1st with a narrow 6 second margin. 
John Van Kerkhove heads off the Virginia Beach Boardwalk nearing the 4 mile marker on the way to the M55 Gold Medal at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Anderson pulled even and then pulled away to gap Whitaker by 7 seconds at the finish and claim the final podium position.

Gold: Van Kerkhove 29:06      Silver:  Arcaz 29:12     Bronze: Anderson 30:33 


That is it for the USATF 8K Championship Recap, part 1. The final part will cover age groups 60 and up plus the team competition, plus a few odds and ends.
 

And by the way, next up on the Masters Grand Prix circuit is the USATF Masters 10K Championship at Dedham MA on April 30th. That will be followed one week later, on May 7th, by the USATF Masters Half Marathon Championship in Orange County, outside of Los Angeles CA. Make your plans now.

Note: All photos above, except where specifically noted otherwise, are by Marathon Foto-http://www.shamrockmarathon.com/race-info/photos/