October 18 2021. This past Sunday, 270 Masters athletes finished the three races at the 2021 edition of the Masters 5 km National Championships. No one had competed in a Masters National Cross Country Championship since January 2020. The runners were eager to enjoy another exciting day of turf running on a delightful fall day. Although a bit windier than ideal, it was sunny, with temps in the upper 50's to low 60's. Apparently it had rained some the night before; the course condition was good. There was some tall grass that was wet and some muddy spots that were mostly avoidable. Let us consider the races in the order they transpired; Men's 60+ went off at 10 AM, followed by Men's 60+ at 10:45, and Women at 11:20.
This recap covers Overall, Age-Grading & Age Division Championships.
|Start of the Men's 60+ Race with L to R Rick Lee, David Litoff, Dan King, Ken Youngers, and George Buchanan All photos by Michael Scott unless otherwise specified|
After reading the recap, scroll down for a few extra photos from Around the Edges by Todd Straka.
MEN 60+ 94 finishers From the best evidence I could assemble, I had John Barbour, Dan King, Mark Reeeder, Chuck Shields, and Ken Youngers forming the lead pack. I also suggested that Rick Lee should be included in that bunch but for his tough Boston Marat6hon effort 6 days previously. Though I did not know his current fitness, thought David Westenberg might have a chance at the podium. I did note that there were doubts about Barbour and Reeder's fitness coming into the race, and that proved to be the case. I did identify Joseph Mora as a potential factor in the M60 division but did not translate that into the overall race. I missed David Litoff and Robert McCormack. Once things got under way it was clear that King, Shields, and Youngers would be up near the front, but Barbour and Reeder would not be with them. Instead it was Litoff, Mora and McCormack. King told me after the race that he ran strategically, as his team was out for the win. Also, because of Dad duties in Colorado on Saturday, he needed to take a 'red-eye' into Boston the night before the race. Nonetheless, he felt good; he went out relaxed and tried to run with the leaders. He ran with McCormack for the first mile and a quarter, noting that McCormack is a 'strong guy who runs the hills well.'
|Robert McCormack L and Dan King R leading the Men's 60 and Up Race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston |
In the middle of the 2nd mile, there was a downhill. King stretched it out there and got some separation. After that he tried to stride along, but keep something in reserve in case he was challenged in the final quarter mile. As it turned out, he was able to keep a good gap back to McCormack and then to Mora once Mora moved up late in the race. King got the win in 18:57, with Mora 30 meters back, and McCormack ten meters further back. McCormack was followed across the line by Lee, who had apparently recovered pretty well from the Marathon. Mora had finished 2nd to Lee at the 12 km; this time he was 2nd to another record-breaker, King. That was a pretty impressive performance over two months-2 national championships, 2 silver medals! Litoff, Youngers and Shields followed in order.
|David Litoff #1504, Joseph Mora #1505 and Ken Youngers attempt to chase down the two leaders midway through the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston |
Litoff did well in his first national championship since January 2015 in Boulder CO. Youngers was the only runner 65 and up to finish in the top ten overall. Shields had his usual strong outing, finishing well inside the top 10, Westenberg and Michael Salamone had a sprint to the finish which Salamone won by a whisker; they both clocked 20:17!
|Dan Kingbreaks the tape to win the Men's 60 and Up National Overall Championship at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston |
King summed up his views of the course, "The course was great, a nice mix of grass and trail, a
little up and down, and very spectator friendly. I like how it looped around
the starting area a few times. The weather was cool and a little breezy, perfect for XC." It was another impressive outing for King who has been shredding the record book on the track for the last year or so!
Dan King18:57 Joseph Mora 19:06 Robert McCormack 19:11
|Start of the Men's 40 & Up Race- John Poray takes it out hard with Brock Butler taped left hamstringright behind in the 40-59 race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
MEN 40+ 91 finishers For this race the top contenders looked to be David Bedoya, Brock Butler, Scott Leslie, John Poray, Aaron Price and T.J. Unger. I hedged my bets by including Jason Holroyd, Donal O'Sullivan, Matthew Waggoner, and Todd Wetzleben as athletes who could break onto the podium on a good day. I missed giving Chris Garvin a mention. Garvin explained that his plan was to run a comfortable pace for the first mile and then begin to compete.
|Chase Pack-In order front to back, Chris Garvin, Brock Butler, Scott Leslie, Matthew Carter, Jason Holroyd midway through the 40-59 race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
After the end of the opening straightaway, Garvin moved to the back of the lead pack. By the start of the second mile, he was moving up through the field and by the time they hit Bear Cage Hill, was in third behind his teammate, Unger and up in first with a bit of a gap, Poray.
|John Poray leading by 30 meters midway through the race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston |
Garvin gradually closed in on Poray as they headed into the Wilderness loop, passing him just before the 3 mile mark. Up to that point, Poray had followed his plan perfectly. As he recorded later in Strava, "Once the pace chilled, I tried to break away. My idea was to get up that hill during the 2nd mile, recover, then fly down the hill on the other side, and take it home. But I got caught!"
"Taking the lead at that point was a deeply uncomfortable feeling for me," wrote Garvin, "I'd never won a XC race in my life, including high school. My racing strategy usually involves kicking by people in the final stages; I hated the idea of being the one with a target on my back the rest of the way. Nevertheless, I'd made my move and now needed to make it stick; I did my best to keep my foot on the pedal after passing the leader. The footsteps eventually faded and I started getting reports from fans on the growing lead. I was still in disbelief that I might win the race as I rounded the field toward the finish, but the lead somehow stuck." Garvin took the win in 16:22, with Poray 80 meters back and Unger another 25 meters back.
|Chris Garvin claims the Overall win in the Men's 40-59 race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston |
Nine seconds after Unger crossed the line, the chase pack of seven came across the line in close order, with just a little over ten seconds between 4th and 10th: Todd Witzleben, Matthew Carter, Matthew Waggoner, Jason Holroyd, Brock Butler, Scott Leslie, and Aaron Price. The top two, Garvin and Poray, were both new to Masters LDR National Championships. They entered with a bang. What a powerful debut! Everyone hopes to see more of them to come as they battle for Overall wins at other championships. Unger has finished just off the podium at other National Championships like the 10K at Dedham in 2019; it was good to get onto the podium this time. Witzleben apparently had a strong kick moving past two runners with 800 meters to go and then another four in the final 400 meters. Waggoner added a 6th place finish today to his 3rd at the 12 km a month ago. His teammate, Butler, who won the 12 km overall, tweaked his hamstring a few days after that race. He was happy to finish in the top ten and help his team. Carter, Holroyd, and Price provided a strong 5-7-10 finish to anchor the B.A.A.'s team aspirations. Leslie led the way for the Central Mass Striders.
Garvin summed up the great day, "This was just one of those rare magical days when the legs feel great, the strategy works out, and things seem to fall perfectly into place. If you line up this same group of runners 10 more times, I don't win a single iteration." It is a win to savor.
Chris Garvin 16:22 John Poray 16:40 T.J. Unger 16:45
|Start of the Women's Race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
WOMEN 85 finishers The list of top contenders included Lorilyn Bloomer who took the Overall title at the last national XC Championship before Covid hit; Kelly Couch, who took 6th at the 2019 Club Cross Championships at Lehigh Univeristy; Kasie Enman, winner of the Loon Mountain race in July and a 3-time Olympic Marathon Trials participant, Ginger Reiner, who won this same race in 2017; Maggie Shearer, a 2-time podium finisher in previous XC contests and the 2nd place finisher at the 12 km Championship in Highlands NJ a month previously; and Marisa Sutera Strange, the overall winner at the 2019 USATF XC Nationals in Tallahassee. Jessica Smith came in under the radar. I did not find out that she had run a 1:17:34 Half Marathon in March and a 34:56 10K in February until after the race. Karolyn Bowley apparently registered online just before the deadline and I missed entering her into my spreadsheet. Had I know she was entered, I would have included her. She ran 37:12 at the Lone Gull 10K and 57:44 at the Boston Tune up 15K. Bowley also finished 2nd overall at the 2019 10K national masters championships in Dedham. I knew about Michelle Rohl in terms of the track, but did not realize what a strong Cross Country runner she would be. Once folks started to settle out after the start, Enman and Shearer ran stride for stride for the first half of the race.
|Maggie Shearer L and Kasie Enman matching strides at the front, midway through |
As Enman explained later, "The plan was to make a move up and over the top of Bear Cage Hill to try to create a little distance on anyone around me. Then put in a prolonged series of surges in the Wilderness Loop each time there was a bend in the trail. I wanted to break visual contact; I don't have much of a finishing kick on the flats. Honestly, I felt pretty stiff and heavy-legged coming off Bear Cage Hill, so it got a little ugly trying to put in those surges in the Wilderness, but I managed to follow the plan. People out cheering were telling me I had a decent gap; I just tried to keep my form together and hope it was enough. I couldn't see what was going on behind me. I was really happy to look back after crossing the line and see Jess Smith, my old Middlebury teammate, coming through in 2nd!" Enman clocked 18:20 for the win. Smith must have kicked past Shearer in the final stretch, taking 2nd by 2 seconds! Shearer had the satisfction of her 2nd podium effort in as many national championship outings this year. Bloomer had the edge over Rohl and Bowley in the early going, with a gap from them back to Braley.
|Chase Pack--Lorilyn Bloomer, with Michelle Rohl and Karolyn Bowley in hot pursuit, at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
Rohl and Bowley must have moved past Bloomer at some point; Braley got closer and closer and was able to pass Bowley in the last few hundred meters. Despite her best efforts, though, Braley could not outkick the Women's 55-59 American Record holder in the 800 and 1500 meters!
|Michelle Rohl L holds off Jill Braley to claim 4th Overall in th eWomen's Race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston Photo By Todd Straka|
Rohl, Braley and Bowley finished 4th through 6th with just 3 seconds separating them! Bloomer, Brett Ely, Christina Seremetis, and Kelly Couch rounding out the top ten.
|Kasie Enman wins the Women's overall Championship at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
Enman pointed out with pride that she, Smith and Couch had all been teammates at Middlebury. That must have been a fun reunion!
Kasie Enman 18:20 Jessica Smith 18:35 Maggie Shearer 18:37
AGE GRADING The age-grading exercise rates everyone's time against the projected world's best for their age and gender. The resulting percentage should not be confused with a percentile. An athlete who earns a 90% age grade is 90 percent as fast as the world's best; they are undoubtedly in the top one-tenth of one percent of all runners of that age and gender. USATF recognizes the top age-graders in each race with a national championship medal. Age-grading is figured on the basis of road racing statistics. As the cross country turf is generally more challenging terrain than the roads, age grade scores tend to be lower.
Men 60+ The top five in this division was a permutation of the Overall results. Dan King 85.23 added this title to his Overall win, even though he ran strategically. Ken Youngers, the elder statesman among the top overall finishers, moved up into second just a few hundreds of a percentage point behind King.
|Rick Lee between the leaders and the Main Chase Pack midway through the Men's 60 & Up Race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston--On his way to a top 5 Age Grading finish|
Robert McCormack closed off the podium, followed by Joseph Mora 60 83.10 and Rick Lee 60 82.17.
Dan King 62 18:57 85.23% Ken Youngers 65 19:30 85.07 Robert McCormack 61 19:11 83.46
Men 40+ This division's age grading was dominated by the 50-somethings as they took the top 9 spots. As in so many other Cross Country Championships over the last few years, Nat Larson 89.83 was at the top of the board by a large margin.
|Nat Larson, 59, #1698 keeping pace with two 40-something runners, Erik Johnson L and Brian Cullinan #1612 on his way to the Men's 40-59 Age Grading Championship at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
Tim Harte was only able to get within a few percentage points of Larson, but it was tight and then tighter as one moved down the list.
|Tim Harte, 53, on his way to a Silver Age Grading Medal in the Men's 40-59 Race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
Kenneth Barbee was within a percentage point of Harte and just edged Mark Callon 53 85.60 by a tenth of a percentage point to close off the podium. Alan Evans 58 84.95 kept Michael Nahom 54 17:48 out of the top five by just 0.18 percentage points.
Nat Larson 59 17:31 89.83% Tim Harte 53 17:16 86.68 Kenneth Barbee 57 18:03 85.71
Women Not surprisingly, Michelle Rohl 90.10, who finished just off the overall podium at the age of 55, took top honors. Her Greater Philadelphia teammate, Marisa Sutera Strange, who has often been found at the top of the age grading podium, finished 2nd just a percentage point and a half back.
|Marisa Sutera Strange, 58, on her way to a 2nd place in Age Grading Overall in the Women's Race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
Strange had a similar margin over Karolyn Bowley, who led Suzanne LaBurt 58 85.71 by a little over a percentage point. This was LaBurt's 2nd consecutive age grading finish in the top 5. Loraine Jasper 60 85.50, celebrating a new age division, capped the top 5.
Michelle Rohl 55 19:21 90.10% Marisa Sutera Strange 58 20:23 88.58 Karolyn Bowley 52 19:23 86.94
AGE DIVISION NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
In Cross Country especially, the quest for individual honors is often secondary to team glory. Some of the Age Division winners, those typically in the first half of the 10-year team divisions, lead their team to victory or a podium finish. Others, often in the second half of the ten year division, are often depth runners for their teams. All are National Champions.
MEN 60 AND UP RACE
M60-64 The overall summary above captures the division race quite well. King, Mora and McCormack are all in this division so finish 1-2-3.
M65-69 The preview listed John Barbour, George Braun, Brian Cummins, James Foster, and Ken Youngers as likely candidates for the podium. Reno Stirrat got a mention but with the caveat that it was probably too early in his comeback to expect a podium finish. It turns out that Kevin Dollard, Stirrat's Shore AC running partner was also in the mix. Youngers was running with the lead pack from the beginning,
|Ken Youngers claims the Men's 65-69 National Championship at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
but Cummins, by the 2nd loop, had established himself in 2nd, with Foster, Dollard, Stirrat and Barbour strung out behind. Cummins stayed in front of the others the whole way to grab 2nd place honors, a minute and a half behind Youngers. Foster was not able to hold Dollard, Stirrat and Barbour at bay as they passed him and held their positions taking, in the end, 3rd, 4th and 5th, separated by only 15 seconds.
|James Foster L with a few strides on Reno Stirrat midway through the Men's 60 & Up Race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
Dollard was happy to land on the podium. Stirrat celebrated a continuation of his return to form. To finish just ten seconds off the podium at this stag of his comeback was a real confidence booster. Barbour is used to being at the front of this division, especially in Cross Country, but he, too, is on the comeback trail and was, no doubt, happy to be in the hunt, running for his Greater Lowell team. Foster was, no doubt, thinking that things will go a lot smoother once he ages up to the 70-74 division around Thanksgiving of this year. The 70-74 gang will be on the watch for him at Tallahassee!
Ken Youngers 19:30 Brian Cummins 20:59 Kevin Dollard 21:17
M70 The chief contenders in this division were thought to be Doug Bell, Kirk Larson, and Jerry Learned. Keith Yeates was mentioned as having a chance at the podium. As it unfolded, Carl Mohr and Hank Schiffman played a role as well. Bell, who ran for the Boulder Road Runners and Larson and Learned, who ran for Atlanta were at opposite ends of the starting line. Learned took it out hard at the start but by the time they cleared the field and headed up into the narrow section, Larson had passed his teammate. He was looking for Bell but did not see him. Presumably Bell was not far back. On the 2nd loop, around 2 km into the race, Bell passed Larson and established a 20 meter lead.
|Doug Bell leading the Men's 70-74 Division, with Kirk Larson background ready to make a move midway through the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
That continued until they hit Bear Cage Hill and Larson, who runs hills well, closed to a few strides, but once over the top and down on the far side, Bell stretched out his lead again. Once they were coming out of the wooded section called, "The Wilderness", Larson again started to close on Bell. With a kilometer to go, Larson decided he had enough in his legs for one big push; that meant he had to be patient and not move past Bell too soon. With 100 meters to go, Larson was just a few strides back from Bell with a couple of 60-64 guys between them. Larson swung to the left and with 60 meters to go, unleashed his full kick! He had the element of surprise; momentum was in his favor. Bell had no answer at that point; Larson sped to a five second victory.
|Kirk Larson on his way to victory in the Men's 70-74 Division at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
Through the second loop, Learned was running a few strides behind Larson, with a good 40 meters on Mohr, with Schiffman another 20 meters back. Yeates was about 50 meters back at that point. Learned was not able to keep pace with Larson and Bell, falling about 70 meters behind. He had third place with a good margin of safety, as he had a 40 meter gap back to Mohr and Schiffman. Schiffman almost caught Mohr as they were given the same time, 23:11! As far as I know, this is Larson's first Cross Country National Championship; he earned his first road championship in 2019. Larson is on a roll and looks forward to a strong 2022 season. Bell had some injury problems in 2019 but has found good form again. The M70 crew will need to watch out for him!
M75 Dave Glass took this division at the 12 km in New Jersey and he seemed a good bet to repeat. Ezequiel Garcia who finished 2nd in New Jersey would try to tighten things up. Jim May had a good outing at the New Balance Falmouth 7 Miler from earlier in the summer. Jan Frisby finished 5th in New Jersey; he had some work to do to be ready for a podium challenge but it seemed potentially within reach. Frisby's Boulder Road Runner teammate, Gary Ostwald, would challenge as well. May took it out hard. By the 2nd loop he had 10-15 meters on Glass, who had 25 meters on Garcia.
|Jim May leading the Men's 75-79 Division midway through the race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
Frisby was another ten meters back, with Ostwald, running a few strides back from Frisby. Glass eventually passed May with authority, building a hundred meter lead by the finish. Garcia hung tough all the way, denying Frisby as much as a taste of maybe getting second with a strong finish. Frisby was 40 meters back when Garcia claimed 2nd. Ostwald stayed with his teammate the whole way, finishing 5 seconds back in 4th; May got 5th place ten seconds later. Glass got his 2nd consecutive win in his new age division.
|Dave Glass #1585 , about to overtake George Braun as Glass heads for the Men's 75-79 Win at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
Can he make it three in a row? Tallahassee should be his toughest challenge yet. Garcia showed he is a consistent performer who will have to be reckoned with. Frisby seems to be on his way to fitness. Watch out if he keeps coming!
Dave Glass 23:41 Ezequiel Garcia 24:17 Jan Frisby 24:30
M80 Top contenders included Bill Borla, an Age Division Runner of the Year in 2003 and 2005, Roland Cormier, who took top honors at the 12 km in Highlands NJ, his new Shore AC teammate, Stan Edelson, with a 28:04 5K to his credit from April, and Philip Pierce who clocked 51:43 in a July 5-Miler. Tony Fiory who finished 3rd to Cormier in NJ, appeared to have an edge on Borla. But the proof is in the race. Edelson quickly established himself as the athlete to beat in this division. By the 2nd loop he had 50 meters on Cormier who, in turn had 50 meters on the 3rd place runner, Fiory.
|Stan Edelson on his way to winning the M80 Division at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
It was 20 meters back to Borla and another 10 back to Pierce. At that point, Edelson and Cormier looked solid for 1-2 but the final podium spot was still up for grabs. Edelson continued to build his lead over the last half of the course, enjoying well over 100 meters on Cormier when he finished in first. Cormier had 200 meters or more on Fiory,
|Roland Cormier on his way to 2nd Place in the Men's 80-84 Division at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National XC Championship in Boston|
who was able to hold Borla and Pierce at bay, taking 3rd with a 29 second margin over Borla; Pierce was never able to close on Borla but held firm in 5th.
Stan Edelson 30:47 Roland Cormier 31:41 Tony Fiori 33:02
MEN 40 AND UP RACE
M40 The recap of the overall M40-59 race provides the detail for this division.Chris Garvin, John Poray, and T.J. Unger went 1-2-3 overall and in this division.
M45 The main contenders appeared to be: Jonathan Bishard who clocked a sub 1:15 HM at Grandma's in 2019 and a 34:23 10K this January; Timothy Gavin, who had a nice outing at the 2019 10K championships, finishing a bit behind Donal O'Sullivan. O'Sullivan clocked a 35:02 at the Lone Gull 10K this September. Holroyd ran 20 seconds faster than O'Sullivan at Lone Gull and finished 11th in the division at the Lexington KY Club Cross in 2017. That suggests he knows how to run XC! Ryan Davenport, Erik Johnson, and Ryan Twomey would all try to make it interesting. Holroyd and O'Sullivan tried to keep pace with their 40-44 teammates, Carter and Price so as to have a tight team-pack for the team race. By the second loop they were still in contact, with O'Sullivan tracking Holroyd's footsteps. Bishard was 20 meters behind O'Sullivan, Johnson was forty meters behind Bishard, and Gavin 30 behind Johnson, with Twomey and Davenport a good way back. Bishard was able to get past O'Sullivan oer the second half but could not close on Holroyd who crossed the finish line in first with a gap of 70 meters back to Bishard.
|Jason Holroyd wins the Men's 45-49 Division at the|