Friday, December 15, 2017

New Masters Champions Crowned at 2017 USATF Club Cross Country Championships—Individual, Team and Age-Grading

December 13 2017. There was a chill in the air, a bite to the wind and frost on the ground as the 60 and up male Masters Athletes toed the starting line of their 8K course at Masterston Station Park at 9 am in Lexington KY. The wind chill was 14 degrees F; noses may have been red, but spirits were not dampened.

The first of three Masters races to determine the top clubs in the nation, the runners were also keenly aware that there were individual races to be raced and won. Joe Sheeran, newly elevated to the 60 and up division, intended to go our hard and take his rivals out of the picture. Rick Becker took the Club Cross 60 and up crown in 2015 in San Francisco but could not make the transcontinental trip to Tallahassee last year, and then battled a foot problem that wound up with successful surgery in March. By the fall his training was going well and he felt ready to run his best as he  took on the challenge of the Club XC Championship, typically the largest gathering of Masters Runners each year. John Barbour, was runner-up to Becker in 2015 and to Brian Pilcher last year. Perhaps it would be time for Barbour to take the whole enchilada. After all, he had just in October won the 5km Masters XC Championship in Boston. Ken Youngers, who finished 2nd to Barbour in that race, was presumably on an improving track as he was also on the comeback trail from surgery last winter. Perhaps the extra month of training would leave him primed for a step up.

Becker told me after the race that his Club NW [Pacific Northwest] teammate, Sheeran, had shared his plans the evening before the race. He intended the scorched earth policy of going out hard and daring anyone to try to stay with him. 
Joe Sheeran [#1247] sprints to an early lead at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championships; eventual contenders, Ken Youngers [red singlet] and Matthew Curran [green singlet] staying close

Sheeran executed the plan to perfection, hitting the halfway split in 12:33 with over a half minute gap on his closest pursuer, Youngers, with another ten seconds back to Barbour’s Greater Lowell teammate, Matthew Curran and Becker. What happened to Barbour?, He was in contention in the first mile despite some pain, but had to leave the course. An Achilles injury, sustained just after he won the Masters 5km national championship in October, had flared up. Sheeran poured it on over the 2nd 4K loop, winning by over a minute in 29:29. 
Joe Sheeran blasts across the finish line, winning the 2017 National Club XC Men's 60+ Championship race by 300 yards

The others shuffled their positions as Becker, the 2015 winner in San Francisco, was able to overcome the other two with a late surge, passing Curran with a mile to go 
Rick Becker storms across the finish line to claim 2nd place in the 2017 National Club XC Men's 60+ Championship race

and Youngers in the final 400 meters . 
Ken Youngers claims the third spot in the 2017 National Club XC Men's 60+ Championship race

Youngers and Curran finished 3rd and 4th.

Joe Sheeran 29:29     Rick Becker 30:32     Ken Youngers 30:38

Sheeran and Becker’s 1-2 finish led the way for Greg Beyerlein to cement their team victory by placing 6th in the Team Competition as Club NW’s all important third runner. 
Greg Beyerlein working the course to stay close to his teammates -- He was the final scorer for the winning Club NW team in the 2017 National Club XC Men's 60+ Championship race

Youngers led the way for the Atlanta Track Club [Georgia], backed up by Michael Anderson, back in good form after being in rehab mode over the late spring and summer;
Mike Anderson traverses the course at Masterson Station Park, leading his Atlanta Track Club team to 2nd place in the Men's 60+ race

Phil Richey, another newcomer to Atlanta’s  60’s team nailed the 2nd team place by edging Shore AC’s 3rd runner, Harold Leddy.  That is a tough course for making up ground. Shore’s 1-2 punch of Reno Stirrat And Kevin Dollard was also shaken up a bit when Stirrat experienced a hip flexor flare-up, during warm ups, that made for a very tough run. 
Kevin Dollard, far right, with his teammate, Reno Stirrat, just coming into focus 4 runners back, as Shore AC take the third place team award

Shore [New Jersey] was very happy to make the podium, two points ahead of the 4th place Syracuse Track Club. Without Barbour leading the way, Greater Lowell had to settle for 5th place.

Club NW 9     Atlanta Track Club 20     Shore Athletic Club 34

As the morning proceeded, the cold moderated ever so slightly but the winds picked, up so wind chills were still only in the upper teens for the Masters Women who went off at 10 AM on their 6 km circuit.  In 2015, the last time Kris Paaso participated in Club Cross Country nationals, she competed as an Open athlete. 
300 meters into the Women's Race, Kris Paaso [#1103] and Brennan Liming [#1027] have gone out fast along with Laura Kline. Other contenders like Margaret Brennan [black singlet], Janet McDevitt [orange behind Paaso's right elbow], Kelly Couch [blue singlet behind Paaso's left elbow] and Aeron Arlin Genet [blue singlet behind Kline] are taking a more measured approach to the start.

This year, at age 46, she opted for the Masters Championships and found plenty of competition. At the halfway point, another newcomer to the Masters Championships, Brennan Liming, was matching her stride for stride in 11:06, with Margaret Brennan two seconds back, and last year’s winner and runner-up, Sonja Friend-Uhl and Janet McDevitt respectively, tracking them a few seconds back. Paaso had plenty in the tank though, as she ran a negative split, covering the first 3K loop in 11:06 and finishing at 22:04! When Paaso made her move with a mile to go, it was decisive and no one could go with her as she stretched her lead to 13 seconds by the finish line. 

Kris Paaso strides confidently to the finish line with a 50 meter lead on her closest pursuer at the 2017 National Club XC Championship

Liming may have paid a price for that early speed as first Brennan and then Friend-Uhl, known for her strong finish, moved past.
Margaret Brennan leads Sonja Friend-Uhl [partially obscured] and Janet McDevitt [orange singlet} 200 meters into the 2nd loop, on her way to 2nd place overall

This was Brennan’s first podium finish at Club Nationals but Friend-Uhl’s 3rd consecutive. 
Sonja Friend-Uhl heads to the finish line with a 3rd place finish, with Brennan Liming 15 yards back in 4th

Liming just missed the podium by 5 seconds, followed by Kelly Couch another 5 seconds back, and then McDevitt.

Kris Paaso 22:04     Margaret Brennan 22:17     Sonja Friend-Uhl 22:23

Friend-Uhl had the great satisfaction of leading the Atlanta Track Club [Georgia] to the Women’s 40+ team title, with the help of her able teammates, Irma Betancourt and Kathy Wiegand. 
Iram Betancourt gets a good start on the 2nd and final loop; Kathy Wiegand, her teammate, is in the chase group at the back of the photo

The Impala's Kelly Couch ran  a very steady pace, moving up to 5th overall by the finish, but 3rd in the competition among complete teams. With the help of her teammates, Nancy Thomas and Broke Bray, Impala was able to take 2nd in the team competition. Even though Liming was not able to win the race, she got credit for 2nd place in the team competition with only Friend-Uhl besting her. Last year her Bull City Track Club [North Carolina] made the podium with a tight pack consisting of Alexandra Bigelow, Joan Mabe, and Meredith Bazemore. But they knew that would not be enough this year; they needed someone up front, and that was Liming. Bigelow was their 2nd runner this year;  
Women's 40+ Competitors getting after it at the start of Loop 2-Kathy Wiegand [#1010], Alexandra Bigelow [partially obscured, orange singlet], Nancy Thomas [#1074], Laura Wetz [#1045], and Dena Evans [white singlet, visible between Thomas and Wetz]

Trish Nervo, another new Masters runner, was their third runner in. Even with that added firepower they just cracked the podium, 10 seconds ahead of Club NW, the defending champion, who finished 4th.

Atlanta Track Club 22     Impala Racing Team 25     Bull City Track Club 33

The men’s 40+ 10K race was the final Masters race, going off at 10:45 am, with a ‘balmy’ 22 degree wind chill. The word on the street was that Neville Davey, after finishing 3rd last year, was primed for a winning run at Club XC this year. He had a sub 1:10 Half Marathon earlier in the year, and topped that off with a sub-15 minute 5K a couple of weeks ago. Even though he was tipped as the favorite no one was conceding. A pack of 8 runners sped through the first 4K loop in 13:19: Frankie Adkins, David Angell, Davey, John Gardiner, John Howell, Jorge Maravilla, Greg Mitchell, and Jef Scott. Adkins distinguished himself with a 3rd place finish at the 10K Masters Road Championships in April in 33:01 and then a 32:50 in a 10K in Bowling Green KY in mid-October. Angell has run in every National Championship race this year, winning the 8K and 10K and finishing on the podium in every race but Bend. Gardiner finished 3rd last year and is on track for another great effort his year with a 2nd place finish at Tulsa in 50:03 and a recent 15:32 5K. Howell finished 6th at Tallahassee in 2016 Club XC but finished 2nd at Bend and appears to be running stronger than last year based on his performances in the Stumptown Races in Portland. Maravilla is a newcomer, a recent addition to Davey’s West Valley Track Club team. A marathon and ultra specialist, he was described by Gardiner before the Championships as ‘fit and fast!’ Mitchell finished 2nd last year at Club XC and ordinarily has several other wins at National Championships. He was struggling with injuries in the spring but by this fall, he had some good races in the Stumptown XC series and it looked like he was back, if not all the way, at least most of the way to his usual fitness. Scott finished 12th last year but ran a swift 32:16 10K in Bowling Green in mid-October, coming in 27 seconds ahead of Adkins. 
Lead pack halfway through the first 3K loop-L to R--David Angell, Greg Mitchell, Jef Scott, John Gardiner, John Howell, Neville Davey, and Jorge Maravilla, with Frankie Adkins [black kit] trying to close up the gap.

That pack held together through the first 4K loop. Aaron Price, who won the 5K Masters Overall XC Championship in Boston in mid-October, and David Wertz, who finished 9th at 2016 Club XC, were 5 seconds back from the lead pack and 6 seconds ahead of the main chase pack. About 300 meters into the second loop, Davey and Maravilla threw in a surge, perhaps to test the group, and for a brief period those two and the Bowerman Track Club’s John Howell had a gap on the others. But by the end of the 2nd loop, the pack, had closed up again, except for Adkins, who was now about 50 yards back; Davey was setting the pace, Angell on his right shoulder and the rest of the pack right there. 
Men's 40+ lead pack holding tight at 7K -Neville Davey [#1685], with Jorge Maravilla and Greg Mitchell right behind Davey, John Gardiner [#1470], David Angell [#1635], and John Howell [red singlet], with Jef Scott tucked in behind Howell.

Davey again made a move on the soccer field loops about 400 meters into the final loop but this move was decisive as Howell and Maravilla lost a couple of dozen yards and then a greater distance back to Gardiner, Mitchell, and Scott. By the time Davey was approaching the finish line he had 100 yards on Howell, winning in 32:43, with a big smile at a job well done! 
Neville Davey heads for the finish line and 1st place in the Men's 40+ race at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Howell was able to kick away from Maravilla up the last hill to take 2nd by 5 seconds 
John Howell, with a strong finishing kick up the last hill, takes 2nd place in the Men's 40+ race at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

as Maravilla, in turn, kicked hard to hold off a fast-closing Angell and claim the third podium spot in 33:07, 
Jorge Maravilla, finishing strong in 3rd place in the Men's 40+ race at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

four seconds ahead of Davey and seven ahead of Scott, with Mitchell and Gardiner following in close order.

Neville Davey 32;43     John Howell 33:02     Jorge Maravilla 33:07

Davey and Maravilla also led their team, the West Valley Track Club [Pacific] to victory over the defending champion Bowerman Track Club [Oregon], who fell to 3rd, as the Boston Athletic Association [New England] claimed 2nd by a mere 7 points! Ably supported by Todd Rose, Charles Mullane, and Mark Yuen, West Valley also had the first complete team to finish. Bowerman had Howell and Mitchell in the top 5,  but the BAA had the tighter pack overall with their first four, David Bedoya, Peter Hammer,  Aaron Price, and Brendan Prindiville finishing within thirty seconds of one another. When Harry Stants came in 30 seconds after Prindiville and just ahead of Bowerman’s 4th runner, that iced the team Silver for the BAA. Joshua Gordon, Ahrlin Baumann, and Orin Schumacher rounded out the top 5 for Bowerman, finishing strong to claim the third podium spot and keep the other teams out fo the medals. They were not closely challenged for the podium, taking 3rd by almost 100 points. It was a terrific competition and the teams will, no doubt, already be thinking about how they can up their game for next year in Spokane!

West Valley Track Club 53   Boston Athletic Association 62   Bowerman Track Club 69

Team Championships were also decided in the Women’s 50+ and 60+ and the Men’s 50+ and 70+ divisions.

In Women’s 50+, the Jane’s Elite Racing [Southern Cal] rode a solid 2-3-5 finish by their top 3, Kirsten Leetch, Tania Fischer, and Kathleeen Cushing-Murray, to a 3 point win over the Athena Track Club [Mid-Atlantic]. It was very tight throughout, with Marisa Sutera Strange taking the top spot for Athena but then Leetch and Fischer next two for the Janes, which was huge. Even though Athena’s Lorraine Jasper was able to edge Cushing-Murray, that clinched it for the Janes. 
Women's 50+ Competitors Judy Stobbe and Kathleen Cushing-Murray [#'s 1124 and 1120] of the Janes Elite Racing battle Amanda King [#1083] of the Liberty AC, and Lorraine Jasper [#1003] of the Athena Track Club

Athena’s 3rd team member, Mary Swan, ran a competitive race but could not keep up with those two. Still she closed the door on Club NW. Kristen Mossman and Gail Hall kept them in contention for 2nd place but Kelly Kruell, a strong XC runner, was not able to match Swan this time. The Genesee Valley Harriers and Atlanta Track Club took the next two spots.

The Jane’s Elite Racing 10     Athena Track Club 13     Club Northwest 28

Team Red Lizard [Oregon] enjoyed a dominant win in the 60+ division as their top 3, Suzanne Ray, Jeanette Groesz, and Joanna Harper, took 1-2-4, with the Atlanta Track Club edging the Impala Racing by a single point for 2nd. The Impala Racing team got their usual strong effort from Jill Miller-Robinett who broke up the top 3 of Red Lizard and gave Impala the first runner finishing for the race for 2nd place. But Atlanta’s Mary Richards and Cynthia Williams were able to run together the whole way until Richards pulled away to come in 4 seconds ahead. But Impala still had a chance at second as Jo Anne Rowland was able to close a bit on Atlanta’s 3rd runner, Margaret Taylor, but did not have enough in the tank to overtake her on the final hill as Taylor closed it out in 30:10, with Rowland thirty yards back. Donna Chan was right behind Rowland. The Syracuse Track Club was only 1 point behind Impala in 4th, with the Genesee Valley Harriers another two points back in 5th. That was one tight team race for 2nd through 5th!

Team Red Lizard 7     Atlanta Track Club 29     Impala Racing Team 30

The Greater Springfield Harriers [New England] also enjoyed a dominant win in Men’s 50+ as their top 3 runners, Nat Larson, Kent Lemme,  and Michael Nahom came in 1-3-6 in the team competition. 
Kent Lemme blasting uphill at the end of the 2nd loop in the Men's 10K Championship, helping the Greater Springfield Harriers to the Men's 50+ Team Championship

With their 4th runner, Mark Hixson coming in 9th and Francis Burdett closing out the scoring for GSH, that gave them a 34 point margin over the Cal Coast Track Club [Southern Cal]. Christian Cushing-Murray was competitive with the GSH runners,  finishing 4th in team competition but the rest of the team, Frederick Herr, Rob Arsenault, Ken Ernst, and their reliable 5th performer on this day, Thomas Schumann, finished compfortably between the leading GSH runners and the chasing runners of the Prado Racing [San Diego-Imperial]. Kevin Zimmer finished 8th to lead the way for prado and for a while, after Matt Sheremeta and Robert verhees came in within a few seconds of each other in 11th and 12th, it looked like Prado might have a chance at an upset 2nd place. But the 4th and 5th runners for Prado, Adam Weiner and Jeff Creighton were not able to keep pace with Ernst and Schumann. They did succeed in keeping Club Northwest off the podium, however, closing out the podium with a 28 point margin.

Greater Springfield Harriers 39    Cal Coast Track Club 71    Prado Racing Team 111

In Men’s 70+, it was the Tamalpa Runners [Pacific] defending their 2016 team win with another dominating performance by their top 3, Don Porteous, Len Goldman, and Gene French 2-3-6. The Eastside Runners [Pacific Northwest] mounted a serious challenge with David Longmuir taking the top spot. But after him, their next two runners, Craig Andersen and Frazer Mann could not keep pace with French. They were able to keep the
Don Porteous [#1315] leading the way for Tamalpa in the Men's 70+ race, with George Braun, of the Boulder Road Runners.

Genesee Valley Harriers [Niagara Association] at bay in the race for 2nd. With a strong challenge from the new Boulder Road Runners 70+ team, the podium was no guarantee for GVH. But the strong performances from Tony Gingello, Keith Yeates, and Jim May, they were able to repel a real challenge from Boulder’s top 3, Dave Dooley, Jan Frisby, and Jeffrey Dumas.

Tamalpa Runners 11     Eastside Runners 18     Genesee Valley Harriers 24


Age Grading indicates the best performers for their age across all age groups. Age-Grading Medals and cash prizes went to the Age-Grading winner in each of the three Championship races. The Overall winner and 2nd place finisher in Men’s 60+ went 1-2 in age-grading as well with Joe Sheeran edging Rick Becker 88.4 to 87.7. 
Joe Sheeran kept it in high gear throughout the race, enabling him to win the Men's 60+ Age-Grading Prize

Top age-grading scorer from the women’s race is 2017 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year, Sabra Harvey, who is, as she suggested in her interview after accepting the recent honor, continuing to push the boundaries with a 95.4%. 
Sabra Harvey, 68, midway through the 1st Loop, on her way to another Age-Grading victory, with Angela Longworth, 50, and Susan Pearsall. 52, trying to keep pace.

Marisa Sutera Strange, from the 50-54 division, finished second with a 90.3%. In the Men’s 40+ race, the top 9 age-grade scores were achieved by those in the 50-54 and 55-59 divisions, with Greater Springfield’s Nat Larson edging his fellow New Englander, the B.A.A.’s Peter Hammer, 91.7 to 90.1.

Nat Larson, 55, in the chase pack, charging up the hill behind Ryan McCalmon [yellow singlet] and Ethan Nedeau [#1571], and ahead of Ian Fraser, all in their early 40's.

Men 60+: Joe Sheeran 88.4     Rick Becker 87.7   Ken Youngers 85.8%

Women: Sabra Harvey 95.4     Marisa Sutera Strange 90.3     Jeanette Groesz 89.5

Men 40+: Nat Larson 91.7     Peter Hammer 90.1     Carl Combs 89.2

The next posting will look at the Age Division races.

Full results are at: 

On Demand videos are available for viewing with a subscription at:

Another great National Club Cross Country Championship is in the books! There was terrific competition and brave racing in every division.  Masterson Station Park in Lexington KY provides a challenging course. The frigid weather and stiff winds made it a little more so this year as there is little shelter from the wind. As always though, the runners survived it and will run another day, whether they ran well or not so well. Those who ran well will remember and savor the memory; those who did not have their best day will remember and use it as motivation.

Next year’s race is in Spokane Washington on December 8 2018. The next race this year is in Tallahassee Florida on February 3 2018, the USATF Cross Country Championships; there should be stellar fields for both. After that the 2018 road season begins with the USATF National 8K Championships in Virginia Beach Florida on March 17 2018. Mark your calendars!

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