Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Age Division Contests [40-44 through 55-59] at the USATF Masters 5K Championships in Syracuse-Competition Like Crazy!

October 9 2017. Over 280 runners entered the USATF Masters 5K Championships hosted by the Syracuse Festival of Races. Uncooperative hamstrings, ill-timed stress fractures, illnesses, and family responsibilities kept a few folks away but those who turned up were determined to compete for their teams and/or for individual glory and, of course, to make their rivals sweat! In many cases the divisions went 20 deep and were of high quality--just see how close some of the races were!

The men went off at 8:50 am; the women's race started an hour later. As noted in earlier posts, the weather was nearly ideal, very little wind and upper 40 degree temperatures with mostly cloudy skies.

Note: Splits were in terms of net (chip) time while places were based on gun time.


40-44. David Angell, 2nd in this division last year and 3rd overall, was favored to win. He won the overall Masters Championships in the 8K and 10K earlier this year. Christopher Shaw, Jr. who took 6th here last year and Jake Stookey, who took 4th overall in the 8K championship at Virginia Beach, were also expected to contend. Paul Jones was also thought to have a shot at the podium.  Once Ethan Nedeau entered, he was moved ahead of Stookey on the list of likely podium contenders. He ran a 16:22 in the CVS Downtown 5K a couple of weeks before Syracuse and had also finished 4th overall at the 2015 10K Masters Championship. I underestimated the super middle distance runner, Mark Williams, thinking he did not have a shot at the podium.

Stookey most likely sustained some kind of injury prior to the race as he took it easy, running 21:27 with even splits. Presumably his score was potentially critical for the Willow Street AC 40+. As expected, Angell had no trouble gapping the field, hitting the halfway mark with an 18 second lead on Shaw., Jones, Nedeau and Williams, in that order. Shaw gained three seconds back on Angell over the last 2.5K; that was not enough to put much of a dent in Angell's lead but it did serve to pull him well ahead of the other pursuers.
David Angell (white singlet, in foreground) building his lead as he battles the Open Runners at the 2017 USATF Masters 5K Championship at the Syracuse Festival of Races

Angell had 16 seconds on Shaw, but Shaw had over 20 seconds on the third place finisher. Jones was not able to sustain his early pace and slipped back as Nedeau surged past him to claim 3rd in 16:16. Jones was 8 seconds back with Williams finishing 5th in a speedy 16:33.

David Angell 15:37          Christopher Shaw, Jr. 15:53          Ethan Nedeau 16:16

The Women's portion of this division was as discussed in the reprise of the Overall Competition posted on October 7th, except that Cassandra Henkiel is in the 45-49 division and Marisa Sutera Strange is in the 50-54 division. Sascha Scott took it out hard, building up a gap of 5 seconds on Christy Peterson by the halfway mark, and then holding on for dear life over the last kilometer as Peterson cut inexorably into her lead. In the end, the race course ended just before Peterson could close the last few yards, with Scott taking the division (and Overall) crown by a single second!
Sascha Scott breaks the finishing tape as she wins the USATF Masters 5K Championship, Overall and for Women 40-44, at the 2017 USATF Masters 5K Championship at the Syracuse Festival of Races

Peterson's duel with Scott pulled her well clear of the rest of the field. Renee Tolan, who had such great recent success with Road Miles in Pittsburgh and at the USATF Masters Championship in Flint Michigan, had tried to maintain contact early on but by the halfway point had fallen 7 seconds back. At that point she had 8 seconds on Larsen, but found her pace flagging. But Larsen, too, had found the early pace a bit challenging and, try as she might, could close in on, but could not catch Tolan, who clinched 3rd in 18:18 with Larsen only a second back. So two races within this race were settled by a single second, the race for gold and the race for bronze-some competition!

Sascha Scott 17:50          Christy Peterson 17:51          Renee Tolan 18:18

45-49. In the Women's race I had Sonja Friend-Uhl running away with the division, not realizing she had organized her fall schedule of racing differently than the past couple of years. With that correction, I felt Cassandra Henkiel of Team Rogue in Austin TX, had the times to turn her age division bronze from last year into 2017 gold. Brenda Hodge's sub 41 10K in September made her the favorite for 2nd. I gave Hodge the edge over late entrant Dianne Deoliveira, who had recent 5K's in the mid-19:30's. Annabelle Broadbent could contest for the podium if any of those above faltered. Henkiel and Hodge quickly sorted themselves into the top and 2nd spots, separated by a 15 second gap when they hit the halfway mark, with Henkiel at 8:59. But Hodge had also separated herself from the rest of the field, leaving Deoliveira in 3rd another 15 seconds backAll three of those runners broadened the gaps over the second half of the race, with Henkiel claiming the victory in 18:09, with Hodge in 2nd 47 seconds back, and Deoliveira in 3rd, 27 seconds ahead of Kristin White, with Tara Smith 8 seconds back just off the podium.
Cassandra Henkiel claims the Women's 45-49 National 5K Championship at the 2017 USATF Masters 5K Championship at the Syracuse Festival of Races

Cassandra Henkiel 18:09          Brenda Hodge 18:56          Dianne Deoliveira 19:22

As expected, Kevin Castille ran away with this division at the same time he was dominating the overall field in the Men's race. He won the division by 1:20. Based on his performances in the Masters 10K championship in Dedham and the Utica Boilermaker 15K this summer, I had projected Derrick Jones for a strong 2nd place finish.. But I had not reckoned with the speed and determination of Jonathan Frieder and Greg Putnam. I belatedly added Frieder to the list of possibles and a threat to Putnam but seeing Jones throwing surge after surge at David Angell at Dedham had made me a believer. I argued that Jones would beat them both. And I had ignored Jonathan Frieder's brother, Elliott.who was a late registrant. He finished only a second behind his brother last year here, and had run two strong 10 milers in the spring. But then he ran nor made her the favorite for 2nd. I thought perhaps thing for a couple of months, a 17+ 5K on the 4th of July, nothing else in the summer until a 2:53 Marathon in late August. Had he not followed that with a 16:36 5K in mid-Summer, I would have worried about a niggling injury.

As noted, Castille won in 14:29. How did the first half go for the rest of the  division field? Jonathan Frieder threw down a sub-8 1st half by 9 seconds, with Putnam nine seconds back, and Jones and brother E. Frieder stride for stride in 8:02.  Had I been at the halfway mat, I probably would have said, watch out guys, Jones will have a terrific 2nd half today. But I would have been wrong. J. Frieder was a beast, tossing in another sub-8 minute 2.5K to claim 2nd in the division in 15:49. Putnam could not threaten him as much as he tried to close down., Putnam had more than enough for everyone else, claiming third in 16:03. And not only was E. Frieder able to stay with Jones, he kicked away for a 2 second edge at the tape to get the 4th place in the division.
Kevin Castille building his lead on the way to victory, both overall Masters, and for Men 45-49 at the 2017 USATF Masters 5K Championship at the Syracuse Festival of Races

Kevin Castille 14:29          Jonathan Frieder 15:49          Greg Putnam 16:03

50-54. Once Carl Combs entered, I made him a slight favorite over Kristian Blaich. Combs trailed Blaich by 6 seconds last year but this year had no posted race results after the end of April. Combs, by contrast, had a few 5K's over the spring and summer in the low 16 minute range. I figured that even if Blaich was not nursing an injury he was not race tested and Combs was. In my final preview I made Kent Lemme the favorite to close out the podium. He finished a half minute behind Blaich at the Masters 10K championship at the end of April but, like Combs, had some early summer 5K's in the low 16's. I did not pick him ahead of Blaich but thought it might be close.I had Brian Crowley, Michael Kent, Mike Nier, and John Stadtlander battling it out for a chance at the podium should any of the other three falter. At least in this case, it looks like race-tested is better than race-rested. Combs Kent and Lemme hit the halfway mark in 7:59 with Blaich 7 seconds back. At least Blaich had 6 seconds on his closest pursuer,Crowley. Combs had just a little more in the tank for the second half of the race, crossing the finish line with a 4 second margin of victory! 
Carl Combs [orange singlet] captures the Men's 50-54 National 5K Championship at the 2017 USATF Masters 5K Championship at the Syracuse Festival of Races

Kent had perhaps extended himself a bit too much in trying to stick with Combs and Lemme, as Blaich was able to pass him and open up a gap of ten seconds by the end of the race. Crowley finished another 9 seconds back.

Carl Combs 15:52          Kent Lemme 15:56         Kristian Blaich 16:06

It was tough to pick the Women's race because the usual favorite, Marisa Sutera Strange might have been nursing a hamstring injury, which kept her out of the Road Mile Championships at the end of August. Would she just be a little slower or would she be taking it relatively easy, by her standards, to avoid aggravating an injury? Based on that uncertainty I made Katherine Wolski the favorite based on her 18:30's 5K's this summer. I figured Laurel Park might be next with her recent 5K's in the mid 19 minute range, followed by Lori Kingsley with a 19:22 5K and a 40:50 10K to her credit. I gave Trish Butler who finished 2nd in the division last year just an outside chance at the podium because this was her first race of the year after an injury sustained in late 2016. Strange ended the suspense when the gun went off; she was indeed not up to her usual level as she lagged back from the overall race leaders, but not that far back. She would not compete for a top spot in the race overall but she was still the tops in this division. She hit the halfway mark in 18:25 with a 6 second bulge on Wolski. Wolski had7 seconds on Kingsley and Butler was another 9 seconds back. Nothing changed much in the 2nd half except the gaps kept widening. Strange defended her 2016 title with an 18:25 clocking. 
Marisa Sutera Strange displays her fierce determination to reach the finish line first at the 2017 USATF Masters 5K Championship at the Syracuse Festival of Races -She is the Women's 50-54 National 5K Champions

Wolski nailed second place 14 seconds back. Kingsley claimed the last podium spot twenty seconds later. Despite the lack of race fitness, and tis being her final race in 50-54 division, Butler made a very credible showing, finishing only 16 seconds off the podium. That is not what she is used to, so watch out for her at the Masters 5km XC where she may well be the 55-59 division favorite.

Marisa Sutera Strange 18:25          Katherine Wolski 18:39          Lori Kingsley 18:59 

55-59. In my preview I picked Doreen McCoubrie to win. She has been running very well this year with Age Division 1st place finishes at the 8K and the Half Marathon. Unfortunately for that pick, McCoubrie was not able to compete due to family responsibilities. In my updated preview, I had Lorraine Jasper, Hall-of-Famer Carmen Ayala-Troncoso, and Mary Swan in that order. Jasper has been running very strong this summer, winning her age group at the USATF Masters Road Mile Championship and also running well on the track. Ayala-Troncoso had finished 2nd last year to Swan and Jasper seemed to be running better this year than Swan. On the other hand, had I looked at 10K times, Ayala-Troncoso had faster 10K times this past summer than Jasper had for her last 10K, which was the National 10K Masters Championship at the end of April. Swan was the defending age division champion and had run well in the spring, although not quite as well over the summer.I identified other potential podium players as Eileen Brennan-Erler, Laura Bruess, Susan 'Lynn'  Cooke, and Beth Stalker. I should have given more weight to Ayala-Troncoso's demonstrated 10K endurance and, perhaps, the fierce competitiveness needed to generate the kinds of performances to get elected to the Masters LDR Hall of Fame.

In any case, Ayala-Troncoso tore away from the starting line as if she had something to prove, and had a 15 second lead by the halfway point. A pack of 5 rivals crossed the halfway mat, hoping against hope that Ayala-Troncoso would pay the price for a 9:34 first 2.5K. Bruess, Jasper and Stalker, Cooke and Brennan-Erler passed the halfway point within 6 seconds of each other. Their hopes were realized as Ayala-Troncos ran the second half in 10:13, 39 seconds slower than her first half. But their hopes to catch her were dashed, as none of them could manage to close any ground on the leader. Brennan-Erler did the best, and she merely matched Ayala-Troncoso's 2nd half time. Ayala-Troncoso stormed across the finish line in 19:47, eleven seconds faster than in 2016 and over 20 seconds ahead of her nearest rival.
Carmen Ayala-Troncoso crosses the finish line with no rivals for the Women's 55-59 crown within 20 seconds of her at the 2017 USATF Masters 5K Championship at the Syracuse Festival of Races

We hear a lot about negative splits being the way to go, but the positive split strategy worked for the Champ this time! By clocking a 10:13 second half, Brennan-Erler was able to move from sixth up even with Jasper and then past her, taking 2nd by 2 seconds. Jasper clocked 20:11 for 3rd with Stalker, Bruess, and Cooke finishing in 4th through 6th with only 11 seconds separating them. I had this pegged as one of the most competitive divisions and it certainly turned out that way with 2nd through 6th separated by only 14 seconds!

Carmen Ayala-Troncoso 19:47          Eileen Brennan-Erler 20:09          Lorraine Jasper 20:11

Nat Larson, who broke the American 5K Record two weeks before this race, was the heavy favorite and he did not disappoint. He ran faster by a second than the posted 16:07 American Record co-held by Vic Heckler and Brian Pilcher. Among the rest, I had forecast a tough race between many strong runners. In the end I made Casey Carlstrom and Daniel King, two runners who prefer the trails and cross country turf to the roads, the 2nd and 3rd favorites. After that I noted that last year only 3 seconds separated Fred Zalokar, Gary Droze, Matt Ebiner, and Jeff Haertel. And I suggested Jonathan Kline had an outside shot at the podium because he was close to Droze at the 10K Championships and turned in a 17:33 5K over the summer. The front end of this division was not as close as I had thought it would be but the middle was very tough. That Larson took first by 48 seconds was not a big surprise.
Nat Larson, 55 (white singlet, number starting with 45), running with Kristian Blaich, 51,(red singlet), Michael Kent, 52 (#548), Christopher Shaw, 42 (#635) and an open athlete, building a lead on his 55-59 peers at the 2017 USATF Masters 5K Championship at the Syracuse Festival of Races

But I was surprised that Ebiner moved out from the crowd. Twenty seconds behind Larson at the turn, Ebiner was 4 seconds ahead of his two closest pursuers, King and Monks. Then it was 6 seconds back to Kline, with Leaman and Haertel 8 seconds further back and then Carlstrom biding his time 4 seconds behind them. Carlstrom was the only one who would run a negative split and it allowed him to move up from his 8th position at the turn. Ebiner did not come close to a negative split but he maintained his pace well enough that he claimed second place with 25 seconds to spare. Monks lost time to Ebiner but had just enough in the tank to hold off a fast closing Carlstrom by 2 seconds. King had a slow enough 2nd half that I worry some niggling injury may have cropped up during the race, as he faded from a tight 4th to 7th. Leaman closed to within two seconds of Kline, who finished in 17:23, but could not catch him. King was 9 seconds back with Haertel another 12 seconds back. Was this race competitive? 3rd through 7th was separated by only 12 seconds and the competition did not stop there. Just 8 seconds separated Haertel, Steven Blostein, John Cico, Droze, and Zalokar, who took 8th through 12th!

Nat Larson 16:06          Matt Ebiner 16:54          Steve Monks 17:19

Terrific competition was the rule at these championships! The runners will remember and ell stories of the last 5k championship at Syracuse. But make no mistake, the chance to compete with fields liek this will bring these athletes out again in a different place. Tomorrow is another day, and if the last may not rise all the way to first, there is plenty of opportunity to improve your position, sometimes all the way to first on the right day.

More age division recap to come and teams too!

Photo Credits
Finish Line photos by Bob Brock Images--:bobbrockimages.com or
Race Course photos by Amir Findling--https://www.flickr.com/photos/19453214@N00/page1

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