August 24. The race takes place tomorrow evening, Friday August 25 in Flint Michigan. New National Champions will be crowned and that includes teams. Teams also accumulate points toward the Club Grand Prix title.. Here’s a quick reminder, that in USATF Masters Road races, the scoring is the sum total time for the first three runners for each team. So, unlike in XC, time is everything, place is secondary, and displacing plays no role.
My caveat on the preview-- What I do here is review which teams won last year, who is entered this year and a ‘best guess’ as to how the teams will do. It is tough enough to forecast the individual races without knowing current fitness; it is that much harder to figure out team contests. Nonetheless, here we go!
[BTW, this Team preview is dedicated to Reno Stirrat, who encouraged me enough so I figured it was worth a couple of late night efforts. Thanks, Reno!]
Last year the podium consisted of Cal Coast Track Club, Patient Endurance, and TNT International.
This year entrants are the same except that Patient Endurance has both an A and a B team. If runners go according to form, Cal Coast [Cushing-Murray, Gardiner, Stanley, and Yacoub] should gain another strong win, with a team time down under the 14:10 minute mark. Neither of the Patient Endurance squads should be able to break 15 minutes but both should come in under 17:00. Their A team [Fahey, Green, Preiss] should take the silver medal with a time under 16:30, followed by the B team [Hofman, Larsen, Menovcik], perhaps around 15:45 or so. TNT has two strong runners in Kareem and Kyle Lanier, but it looks like TNT may end up just off the podium. They will acquire 70 points toward the Club Grand Prix contest though.
Cal Coast Track Club, Patient Endurance ‘A’, Patient Endurance ‘B’.
Last year the podium consisted of: Patient Endurance, the Genesee Valley Harriers, and Playmakers Elite/New Balance.
This year it is the same teams except that Playmakers Elite has not yet identified a 40+ team but the Athena Track Club has. Patient Endurance should have the speed they need to repeat but it should be closer as GVH appears to be stronger than last year and Athena appears to be stronger than last year’s Playmaker Elite team. Patient Endurance has the same team as last year except no insurance. If any of their top 3 have an off day there is no one to fill in and they could fall a long way. Nonetheless I pick Patient Endurance [Kessler, Larusso, Nowik] for the win; they are likely to crack 17 minutes as a team again this year. I have GVH [Daggs, Senall, Tyler, Webster] for 2nd. Webster should be able to run around 5:30. If Senall and Tyler can match or improve on their times of last year, the team will come in probably between 17:10 and 17:15. Athena [Bellaire, Kassens, Swan] will not be far off but from what I see, it appears it will be tough for them to break 17:30 which leaves them predicted for third. TNT International will likely finish just off the podium again, but will gather important points in the Club Grand Prix contest.
Patient Endurance, GVH, Athena Track Club.
Last year it was a head-to-head with just two teams, the Genesee Valley Harriers and the Playmakers Elite/New Balance. But what a tussle; in the end only four seconds separated the team scores with Playmakers prevailing, 15:23 to 15:27.
We have twice as many teams entered this year with the Atlanta track Club and the Cal Coast track Club adding to the excitement! Playmakers are the defending Champions and I would love to dub them the home town heroes and make them the favorites despite the strong added challenges. This team race should be a doozy! Playmakers Elite [Barnett, Bussard, Hammond, Lambrecht, Stuber] is lacking one of their top 3 from 2016 in Ruben Henderson, who is rehabbing, but they have Dave Bussard back from 2015; he ran two seconds faster than Henderson that year. Add that all up and if Barnett and Stuber can replay last year’s race, Playmakers can be in between 15:20 and 15:25. GVH is also missing one of their top 3 from 2016, Joseph Mora, who came in 1 second behind Mike Nier’s 5:05. Neither Riccardi nor Van Kerkhove are quite as fast as Mora over the shorter distances but will give it everything they have. Still, breaking 15:40 would take strong runs from GVH’s top three. The Cal Coast TC [R. Arsenault, Bowles, Vermeulen] result is hard to predict. Arsenault is coming off of rehab; this is apparently his first race back. I do not know about Vermeulen’s fitness but I do know he has no race results in athlinks this year so he is not coming into the event race sharp. Bowles ran a 5:16 mile last June. Let’s suppose he does that again. Vermeulen ran 4:30 and very nearly took home the Overall masters win. Last year he ran 4:39 to finish 2nd. Let’s suppose he runs 4:40. Then there is Arsenault; if he were not rehabbing, I would expect a race under 5, possibly as strong as 4:45. But given the uncertainties let’s put him in at 5:00. That gives them a 14:56. Even if Arsenault and Vermeulen each run 10 seconds slower than given here, they have enough of a gap to claim the gold. What about Atlanta [Dundas, Haertl, Spencer, Strickland]? Jeffery Dundas is a heck of a runner when he’s on, but like many of us, has had an up and down last couple of years, as he searches for health and fitness. His mot recent 10K is a minute slower than his effort 2 years earlier in the same race but his 4 miler in July was a minute faster than he ran in the same race two years earlier. So which Dundas will show up? Let’s see if we can count him as a 5:10. Haertl ran 5:05 here last year. Let’s say he can do that again. Strickland has run a 5:06 mile this year but his strong time in Club XC last December suggests he can maybe go a little faster. Let’s suppose he hits 5:00. That would give them 15:15 which would be enough for them to challenge for gold if a couple of the Cal Coast guys are a little off. Or they could be beaten for the Silver by Playmakers if I am being too optimistic about Atlanta...or if Playmakers Elite really runs strong to defend the Michigan turf! GVH has to have everything break their way to get on the podium.
Cal Coast Track Club, Playmakers Elite/New Balance, Atlanta Track Club
Last year the podium consisted of: Athena Track Club, Playmakers Elite/New Balance, GVH.
Athena and GVH are back this year but not Playmakers. There is a new challenger though, the New Balance Tampa Masters Racing Team. The Athena Track Club’s 50+ team [Jasper, Pangburn, Strange] is the favorite. Given Jasper’s recent performance on the track and assuming Pangburn and Strange can run about as last year, Athena should take the gold medal in this age division and might well break 17:30. As long as Tampa New Balance [Allen, Cooke, Hinz] is not too slowed by injuries, they should claim silver. Allen missed some training earlier this year due to injuries and Cooke has been managing an Achilles problem. Still, if it is a good day, they could well crack 18:00 as a team and might get under 17:45. Either should be good enough to claim Silver. GVH [Bischoff, Hayden, Pirnie, Smith-Hanna] looks to have a stronger team this year than last but even if they can improve from last year’s 20:00 to down around 19:00 that will not enable them to challenge for Silver; it looks like the Bronze medal. But GVH does have an extra runner for insurance; should either Athena or New Balance run into difficulty, they have no fall-back.
Athena Track Club, New Balance Tampa, Genesee Valley Harriers.
Last year Ken Youngers and Kirk Larson led Atlanta to victory, with Vasan Neovakul providing a critical 6:00 effort as the third scoring member. Ann Arbor claimed 2nd off a solid team effort where their top 4 runners came in between John Tarkowski’s 5:58 and Eduardo Matsuo’s 6:05. A depleted GVH team claimed the bronze with Bill Beyerbach, Mike Reif and an injured Mark Rybinski jogging the mile in a little over 8 minutes to ensure a score and the Club Grand prix points that went with it.
This year is another story. The race should be even closer; it will certainly be more hotly contested. Atlanta [Larson, Learned, Neovakul, Youngers]comes in as the favorite, with their same team as last year. But between last year and this, Youngers had surgery and is on the comeback trail. He cannot be counted on for a 5:32 this year. His peachtree time was a minute and a half slower this year so let’s say he can run 5:45 this year, and that Larson repeats at about 5:47. Neovakul can probably not run 6:00 this year as he has struggled with some injuries. It is likely but not certain that Learned will be their 3rd runner as he has been running very strong this year. Let’s count on him for a 6:05. If so, that gives them 17:37. Ann Arbor [Hayes, Matsuo, Pratt, Tarkowski, Young] is also back with much the same team; there is one important exception. Young is a new member fo the team; he ran 5:34 last year unattached. Let’s suppose he can run a 5:34 again. If any two of the other 4 Ann Arbor athletes can run about 6 flat, that would give them 17:34, but Hayes and Tarkowski have been battling injuries for a couple of years so it is not certain. Still, Tarkowski has run two mile race sin that vicinity so he should be safe. Paratt and Matsuo have been focusing on longer races so their fast twitch muscles are not race-tested. But like last year at least one of them should come in around 6-6:05. So 17:34-!7:39, right with Atlanta, seems likely. GVH [Beyerbach, Clinefelter, Radford, Reif]should be stronger this year; they have not asked Rybinski to jog the course. Radford ran 5:37 last year; let’s count on that. Clinefelter ran about a minute slower than Radford in the 10K at Dedham and 42 seconds slower at the 8K in Virginia Beach so let’s count on him for a 5:46. And let’s suppose Beyerbach runs the same as last year, 5:43. That gives them 17:06, faster than Atlanta and Ann Arbor, at least on paper. Mike Reif is running better than last year should one of the first 3 falter, and could well crack 6:30.
There are two new teams this year and both are strong. Shore AC [Dollard, Leddy,Linell, Stirrat] will hope this is one of Stirrat’s ‘on’ days. He has had some issues this year but it appears he should still be able to come in pretty close to 5:40. Kevin Dollard should also crack 6:00, perhaps 5:55 and then both Leddy and Linnell could well come in right round 6:00. That gives them 17:35, right with Atlanta and Ann Arbor. Finally we get to the Boulder Road Runners [Bell, Frisby, Hubbart, Spale], the strongest team if all are on their game. Frisby is running for Club Grand Prix points if any of the top 3 have an off day. The ‘Big 3’ of Bell, Hubbart, and Spale have led them to victory numerous times in the last year. Bell ran 5:27 here two years ago. Let’s count him for 5:30. Ordinarily I would put Spale and Hubbart both a little faster than Bell, maybe 5:25’s. Spale’s last couple of 5K to 10K races have been off in time. But then he cracked off a 5:13 in the Pearl Street Mile on the 16th of August so I guess he is ready to roll? Let’s count Spale for 5:20 and Hubbart for 5:25. That would give them 16:15 and a handsome win!
Boulder Road Runners, GVH, Shore AC
Last year Atlanta and Impala went head to head and Atlanta took the gold medal by a minute. The same two teams are back this year, but with slightly different personnel. Cynthia Lucking sustained a bike injury lately so she has been replaced with Elizabeth Unislawski. Atlanta [Ozell, Richards, Taylor, Unislawski] should be able to run right around 21;00 again if Ozell, Richards, and tayor can match last year’s times.We’ll say 21:13. Impala should have a faster team than last year but both Donna Chan and Jo Anne Rowland are coming back from injury. So what seems probably. First let’s count on Miller-Robinett for another 6:40. Chan’s recent 5K’s have been about a minute and a half slower than last year’s so let’s count on her for a 7:45. Rowland ran a 7:06 in 2014 but let’s just count on her for a 7:30 as she is rounding into condition. Anderson ran 8:23 last year, good insurance. So the impalas may break 22:00 but it looks unlikely they can go fast enough to challenge for gold if the Atlanta runners are all on their game. It looks like Atlanta should take first pretty handily with the Impalas getting 2nd and plenty of Club Grand Prix points.
Atlanta Track Club, Impala Racing Team
Last year Przemek Nowicki led the Shore AC to victory by about a minute over the Atlanta Track Club, who benefitted from their usual balanced effort. A weakened Ann Arbor Track Club, with Doug Goodhue out injured, Paul Carlin under rehab and jogging the course, took 3rd, thanks to the strong efforts of Philip Kroll and Malcolm Cohen.
The same teams are back this year but with different personnel at different levels of fitness. Shore AC [Nolan, Nowicki, Smith] is probably the favorite again although Nowicki will probably not run as fast as last year. He ran 6:43 last year but this will be his first race back from dealing with a hamstring injury (except for a race over in Europe). I will put him down for 7:00. Smith ran 6:56. I will count him for 7:00 also. That leaves Nolan who has not run here before. He ran a 5:50 at the Fifth avenue Mile but that is a fast course. His 5 mile and 5K times are not so impressive. Still he must be strong at the middle distances. I will put him down for a 6:05. That would give them 20:05. Last year they won with 20:53. The Atlanta Track Club ‘A’ team [Benedict, Carter, Patterson, Shaffer, Williams] includes Patterson and Williams, two of their top three from last year. Frank White is not entered. But let’s count on Patterson and Williams to match their 7:15 and 7:23 from last year. Benedict and Carter should both run faster than Patterson. Let’s count them as 7:00 and 7:05. If so, that gives Atlanta 21:20, over half a minute faster than their 2nd place effort last year. Finally Ann Arbor [Carlin, D. Cohen, M. Cohen, Goodhue, Kroll] comes in with a stronger team. Carlin, yours truly, is far on the rehab road and hopes to run close to 6:00. Let’s count him as 6:05. Goodhue is not as far along on his rehab. Based on a recent outing, let’s count him as 6:55. David Cohen loves the longer races, especially the marathon, but he did run a 7:17 mile this year. Let’s count him for 7:20. That would give Ann Arbor 20:20. If all run as forecast (highly unlikely! Smile), that gives Shore the win, followed by Ann Arbor, followed by Atlanta.
Now all of the teams can go out tomorrow evening and prove me wrong--Best of Luck to you all!