Thursday, August 30, 2018

Masters Road Mile Champions Crowned as Records Fall at HAP Crim Festival of Races--Recap 1-Records, Overall Races and Age-Grading



August 28 2018. FLINT MICHIGAN – On the Friday evening before their signature 10 Mile Road Race, the HAP Crim Fitness Foundation stages the Michigan Mile, which hosts the USATF Masters 1 Mile National Championships. Rain held off, so nearly perfect conditions prevailed for an outstanding evening of racing—70 degrees, 60% humidity, with winds 7-8 mph, under partly cloudy skies. The top performances of the evening were turned in by Philadelphia’s Doreen McCoubrie, and Ohio’s Jeannie Rice. McCoubrie, a former Nittany Lions distance runner ran 5:33 [net time], lowering the pending 55-59 American Record for the Mile by 12 seconds! McCoubrie noted after the race, ““I have always loved the Mile!” 


McCoubrie’s achievement seems incredible, but Rice, at age 70, improved on the best pending American mark for Women 70-74 by the better part of two minutes! She sprinted away from the line and darted over the pavement, running 6:37! [net time]
Jeannie Rice established a new American record for the 1 Mile and age-graded at 100.73% in winning the 70-74 National Championship [Photo Credit: Carter Sherline Frog Prince Studios--See End of story for link to his site]

Background on the Masters Road Mile Record. Net times may be used for Masters Records. Other times listed in this recap are Gun Times. The Road Mile was approved for American Record eligibility some time ago. In the interim, Andy Carr, the USATF Records guru, with the help of the Masters LDR Executive Committee, has been assembling the fastest mile times of the last few years on courses known to be record eligible. Many Road Miles are not record eligible because they are straight shots, and many are slightly downhill. The usual requirements for no more drop than 1 meter per kilometer and separation of start and finish no more than half the distance are part of the requirements for record eligibility. All of the fast times which were found have been listed as pending on the Masters Records page at: http://www.usatf.org/statistics/records/masters_roadLDR.asp. Click on an age division to view the pending 1-mile marks. Presumably the fastest pending times as of the USATF Annual Meeting in December will be submitted for approval as the initial Masters Road Mile Records. McCoubrie and Rice moved to the head of the 55-59 and 70-74 lists to be submitted as initial Road Mile Record Holder. Interestingly, McCoubrie also tops the 50-54 list with her 5:18 at the Liberty Mile in Pittsburgh in 2013.

Overall Race

The Women toed the line at 6:30 pm to contest the Overall National Championship; the runners who were likely to contend for the win included Melissa Gacek, Doreen McCoubrie, Tammy Nowik, Marisa Sutera Strange, Lisa Veneziano, and Molly Watcke. 

Gacek, a two-time qualifier for the Olympic Marathon Trials, finished 3rd in 2016 and 2nd last year. Would this be her year to move up to first? McCoubrie is the senior member of this pack but is the only one who, coming into this race, already had a top Mile Mark in contention to be the initial American Record! Nowik is a two-time defending Champion from 2015 and 2016. She faltered last year but has been running closer to her 2016 capabilities this year. Strange, only a year MCoubrie’s junior, has dominated the 50-54 age division and won her share of Overall titles in the last few years. She finished 2nd here to Nowik by a mere second in 2016. Always dangerous, Strange had an uncharacteristic outing in the 5K Masters Championship in Atlanta a week earlier. Which Marisa Strange would show up this week, the perennial contender for the Overall win or the one who was apparently just running for the team last week? Veneziano is a local favorite, hailing from the small town of Fenton, just outside of Flint. Veneziano finished 16 seconds out of first in 2015 and inched closer in 2016, finishing only 12 seconds back. In 2017, she went the other way, finishing over half a minute back. Would she bounce back in 2018 or continue to struggle with the up-front pace? Watcke, a former University of Michigan All American and Big Ten Conference Champion at Track and Cross Country, was the favorite. She finished 2nd in the 5K Masters National Championship the previous weekend in 18:07.

Those six fleet-footed athletes took off and had formed a tight and fast pack at the front within the first 200 meters. 
The Horn sounds and they are off! The three athletes bunched in the middle forefront of the picture are overall contenders, from right to left, Tammy Nowik, Melissa Gacek, and Lisa Veneziano [Photo provided by M. Gacek]

Approaching the first gentle left turn at about 400 meters, Watcke threw in a surge that no one could match. She established separation and held it all the way to the finish line, winning in 5:25. 
Molly Watcke heads to the finish line with a big lead at the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships! [Photo Credit: Carter Sherline Frog Prince Studios--See End of story for link]

The rest of the pack held together up a gentle slope and over a bridge to the halfway point. Shortly after there is a left turn and another uphill section of about 80 meters. Gacek threw a surge in at that point and achieved some separation from the rest of the pack, but did not drop them entirely. In the last 300 meters McCoubrie was able to move across the gap toward Gacek. But then Gacek spied the finish line, and kicked. She had just enough left to hold McCoubrie off.

Melissa Gacek, all smiles as she sprints for Second Place at the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships. [Photo Credit: Carter Sherline]
Gacek claimed 2nd in 5:33, one second ahead of McCoubrie. That gave Gacek another silver medal to go with the one she earned last year and the bronze the year before. She has quite a collection from Flint! McCoubrie had to set an American Record to make the podium! 
Doreen McCoubrie putting the hammer down to claim the final podium spot and establish a new American Road Mile Record for Women 55-59 [Photo Credit: Carter Sherline]

Nowik, Strange, and Veneziano followed in that order, with a mere second separating the three of them. 
Competition! Tammy Nowik has a step on Lisa Veneziano [left] and Marisa Sutera Strange [center] as they close out the race at the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships. [Photo Credit: Carter Sherline]

Despite missing out on the podium, all three runners finished strong, showing they had largely regained the form that had recently eluded them--last year, for Nowik and Veneziano, and last week for Strange.

In her post-race comments, Watcke congratulated all of her fellow competitors and praised USATF for its commitment to the HAP Crim Fitness Foundation in bringing positive economic impact to the City of Flint as it seeks to emerge from its long-running water catastrophe. Gacek also praised the other athletes, noting, "Knowing the competition was so  strong, I told myself I would have to be ready and fight hard. Once I got ahead of the chase pack into 2nd place, I just kept digging hard to the finish!"
Molly Watcke 5:25   Melissa Gacek 5:33   Doreen McCoubrie 5:34


The Men went off 15 minutes later. There no returning or past Mile Champions on the Men's side; a new champion would be crowned. The main contenders included: Alan Black, Charles Novak, Chip Owens, Philip Potvin, Tim Rieth, Chuck Schneekloth, and Sam Teigen. Black was the most intriguing entry. In 2014 and 2015 he was the top runner on the Atlanta Track Club, landing on the podium at the 2014 Club Cross Country Championships and Masters 5 km Cross Country Championships, as well as the 2015 Masters 10K Championships. By 2016 Black's name no longer appeared in the list of top runners at any National Masters Championships. That extended through all of 2017 and the first half of 2018. Black ran well on the track in the spring, cracking a 4:37  to win the Atlanta Track Club's All-Comers Meet. Black finally appeared on the roads at the 5K Masters National Championship in Atlanta the week before this event.  Black ran well but was not able to crack the podium, finishing 9th, a minute behind the winner. But I learned after the race that Black had encountered some sinus/throat issues during the race that had an effect. Would there be issues in the Mile or could he run flat out for the win? Novak had finished 6th in 2015, a year when the field was loaded. Now three years older and wiser, could he fare better? His prep had gone well; he ran 4:49 at the Akron 1 Miler at the end of June and two weeks later cracked out a 4:41 at the Liberty Mile in Pittsburgh. A local runner from Ann Arbor, Potvin had finished 7th last year and was looking to move up. Rieth had the distinction of having the fastest recent Mile Run, a 4:42 at the Graveyard Downhill Mile. Whether he could run that fast if a race was not downhill and did not involve scary graveyards is an open question. Schneekloth has been chasing one of the top Masters Milers in the Country, Mark Williams, for the past month. At the 800 and 1500 meter events in the Masters Outdoor Championships, Schneekloth finished right behind Williams in 2:02.57 and 4:17.3. And he repeated that on the roads the weekend before this race, recording a 4:44.6 at the Midland Mile. Races from the 8K to the Half Marathon are more of Teigen's sweet spot but he is game and has had a terrific season. He finished 4th at the 8K Masters National Championships, 3rd at the 10K, and 6th at the Half Marathon. Can Teigen's strength bring him onto the podium? 


A few seconds into the 2018 National Masters Road Mile Championship race! Matt Yacoub [foreground] got off to a typical Cal Coast fast start--Immediately behind him, his head barely visible, was Alan Black. To Black's right, were the other 4 main contenders, next to Black, in sunglasses with white frames, Chuck Schneekloth, next his teammate also in sunglasses, Sam Teigen, just in front to Teigen in the lime singlet, Charles Novak and to the far left of the picture in the maroon singlet, Tim Rieth [Photo by Carter Sherline]

Alan Black surged early, establishing separation from a large chase pack within the first few hundred meters. 
Alan Black enjoys a commanding lead as he sprints towards the Finish Line at the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships. [Photo Credit: Melissa Gacek]
Leading the chase pack were: Charles Novak, Philip Potvin, Tim Rieth, Chuck Schneekloth, and Sam Teigen. Black held his lead all the way to the tape, winning by 4 seconds in 4:43! 
 
Alan Black takes the win in style at the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships. [Photo Credit: Carter Sherline]
With just 200 meters to go, and the finish line looming ahead, Novak made a desperate surge and it was just enough to carry him to the 2nd place finish in 4:47, 
Charles Novak has the separation he needs as he closes on the finish line at the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships. [Photo Credit: Carter Sherline]

two seconds ahead of Schneekloth in 3rd and Teigen in 4th, awarded the same time. 
Charles Novak trying to pull away from Chuck Schneekloth and Sam TeigenGarden State Teammates, with Tim Rieth in hot pursuit-200 meters to go at
the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships. [Photo Credit: Melissa Gacek]

Rieth and Potvin finished 5th and 6th. 

Black enjoyed his first National Masters Championship and perhaps his best outcome since the Masters Race at the 2014 Club Cross Country Championships when he took the Bronze Medal overall in a field of nearly 600 runners. Black's post-race comments were that he had been aiming for a podium finish but found himself in the lead and gave it all he had to hold the lead. He was literally 'running scared.' He was especially grateful to have the win after years of off and on injuries. What a great 'comeback story'-inspiring!

This was also a sweet return for Novak, now aged 50; he did not get Gold, but a Silver Medal beats a 6th place finish by a wide margin. Schneekloth, in his first try at the title, nearly pulled it off; his strong run led to a podium finish on this National Championship stage!
Alan Black 4:43   Charles Novak 4:47   Chuck Schneekloth 4:49
 
[Note: I am reporting the official times. If these times seem slow, there are two potential reasons: (1) the course is technical, with several turns and bends and has several meters of elevation change although from Start to Finish there is little change; and, on this occasion, (2) most runners indicated that according to their GPS watches, the times were 3-4 seconds slow. I would not normally give much credence to the claim, but there was widespread agreement among runners, and I have great respect for many of them whom I know well. They would not typically voice such a concern. I can verify that the winner, Black, posted his race on Strava and his GPS recorded it as 
  • 1.01 mi
  • Pace
    4:38 /mi
  • Time
    0h 4m]
Age-Grading

As noted above, Jeannie Rice and Doreen McCoubrie set American records for their respective Age Divisions. 
Jeannie Rice grimaces as she surges all the way across the finish line to capture the top Age Grade mark on the day and set the American Record for the Road Mile for Women 70- 74.[Photo by Carter Sherline]

Not surprisingly they were at the top of the Women's age grading podium with 100.73% and 96.90%. Marisa Sutera Strange, 55, landed back on the podium again; her 5:39 graded to a 94.17%. Prize money goes 5 deep so Lisa Veneziano, 53, and Suzanne Cordes, 58, pocketed some age-grading coins, based on their 5:39 and 6:05, age grading at 91.68 and 91.18 respectively.
Suzanne Cordes of the Impala Racing Team enjoying the recognition for her outstanding Age Grade and Age Division performances at the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships. [Photo Credit: Carter Sherline]

Sixth and seventh went to the overall winner, Molly Watcke and Mary Richards, with 88.61 and 88.27. [For the Men, if the official times are, in fact, too slow, then the age-grading scores reported here are too low; the age-grading scores are based on the official times.]

Alan Wells, 55, came up from Orlando, Florida to claim the top age grading prize; his 4:58 grades to 88.98. 
Alan Wells strides ahead of his rivals, headed for the Age Grading Victory at the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships. [Photo Credit: Melissa Gacek]

Charles Novak, 50, was quite close with his 4:47 grading to 88.67. Ken Youngers, 62, closed out the podium with his 5:20 meriting an age grade score of 88.03%. Just off the podium but still in the money were Roger Sayre, 60, and Doug Goodhue, 76, with their 5:15 and 6:24 to age grade at 87.86 and 86.69. Sayre also took 4th place at the 5K Championships six days prior to these championships. Goodhue is another great come-back story. he was a regular at the top of the age-grading competition for over a decade, but a series of off and on injuries derailed him from 2015 through to the beginning of this year. Even during those years, if he was healthy for a couple of months he would work his way up to the top 15 or so, but then a re-injury would kick in. 
Doug Goodhue [white singlet] powering to the finish right behind two much younger runners, Jerry Colwell [blue singlet] and Mike Spencer [red singlet] at the 2018 USATF Masters National Road Mile Championships. [Photo by Carter Sherline]

It seems only fitting to see Goodhue in the top 5; if he can stay healthy, there is little doubt the 'Silver Bullet' will be atop the Age-Grading podium at a National Championship in the near future. Just out of the money in 6th and 7th were Chip Owens, 51, and the overall winner, Alan Black, with 86.68 and 85.78.

Terrific competition led to exciting races--more to come soon with Age Division and Team Races

Photograph Notes: Thanks to Meilissa Gacek for making her I-phone photos available and for sending me the photo of the start of the Women's race. Photos like that one of the start were made freely available by the HAP Crim Fitness Foundation (along with the advertising). Finally, the vast majority of the shots above were provided to me by Carter Sherline of Frog Prince Studios. He has many more shots posted; check them out at his site:
https://frogprincestudios.smugmug.com/Running/August-2018.

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