Monday, September 29, 2014

Preview 3 of USATF Masters 5K Championship-Team Competition_Men

September 28, 2014. Earlier previews covered the men's and women's individual races plus a special preview on Jen Rhines's attempt on the American Masters 5K record held by Colleen DeReuck. This preview focuses on the team competitions on October 5th at the Syracuse Festival of Races. There is fierce competition to be the top team in the country or, failing that, at least to beat out a top rival to the podium. Let's look at the men's competitions first, followed by the women tomorrow. For each we go age group by age group. [Preview based on entries as of 8:48 pm EDT on September 28, 2014.]

Just to refresh your memory, in USATF road races, unlike Cross Country, the team competitions, both male and female, are determined by the cumulative times, not points, of the top 3 runners for each team. Each team may enter up to 5 team members. Because it is total time, not a sum of places, there is no issue of displacement by a 4th or 5th runner on one team of another team's scoring runners. The fastest three runners determine the total time for the team. Fourth and fifth place runners provide insurance in case any of the first three falter or are unable to start on race day.

Men 40+. The Atlanta Track Club has ruled this age division for the last two years, winning by over three minutes in 2012 and by over two and a half minutes in 2013. The fall off in performance from 6:41 to 47:27 was primarily due to the absence of the fleet Malcolm Campbell
Malcolm Campbell, winning his second consecutive National Masters Club Cross Country Championship in 2012.

Kristian Blaich proved a very strong performer in 2013 as he finished within 4 seconds of the team's leader, Chad Newton, but it is tough to replace a sub-15:00 runner. 

Kristian Blaich []
Other teams should take note that ATC comes fully loaded this year for M40+ as Campell, Newton, and Blaich are all entered. Although ATC should be able to win the competition this year, it is likely to be a gritty race for 2nd and 3rd. It usually is. In 2012, the Genesee Valley Harriers took 2nd by 27 seconds over the Syracuse Track Club, averaging 16:40 to STC's 16:49. It was even closer in 2013 as the Garmin Runners of New Jersey edged GVH by a mere 3 seconds, an average of 16:42 to 16:43. Not only that, the Willow Street AC out of New Jersey was only 29 seconds. So far, in addition to the ATC, Garmin, GVH, and Willow Street AC are all entered.

Brian Crowley, putting the pedal to the metal in the 2013 Giralda Farms Run [photo by Mark Nyhan]

Garmin has their top three runners, Brian Crowley, MarkWilliams, and Gary Rosenberg returning and have added Mark Zamek, a regular 16:20-16:50 5K performer, to the mix. That is not enough to challenge ATC if their top three are on but it should help in the battle for second. GVH is entered but so far the only team member who is listed is their 4th runner from 2013, Scott Bickham. It will be interesting to see who GVH puts up for the race when they finalize their registration this week. Willow Street's first and third runners, Volker Burkowski and Robert Irwin are entered but we do not know if number two, Derrick Staley, will be back or if there will be a substitute. Could be a tight race for 2nd, third, and fourth.

Men 50+. The Genesse Valley Harriers won this division in both 2012 and 2013, with the Atlanta Track Club second in both years, but the margin is shrinking. GVH won by 1:04 in 51:45 in 2012 and improved their time to  51:19 in 2013. Had they not, ATC would have taken the race as they improved their total time to 51:36, only 17 seconds off the pace. ATC has entered their  top 3 2013 runners already, Gary Droze, Ken Youngers, and Nathan Skipper. 
Gary Droze
Gary Droze, top masters runner at the Gulf Winds Track Club's 2013 Ten Mile Challenge []

And they are joined by Jeffery Dundas who could well be their third runner in and reduce their time still further.
Jeff Dundas took top honors at the 2013 Turkey Day Run   []

And what of GVH? We do not know. They are waiting to enter a team so we have no idea who will be on it.Playmakers Elite/New Balance will be in from Michigan to challenge in this division.
Winner Ron Zywicki, 53 yrs old
Ron Zywicki, winner this year of the 1st annual LaFarge Presque Isle Quarry 5K run []

If Ruben Henderson, Jr., Dan Dixon, Jr. and Ron Zywicki all run up to their potential, PE/NB should have three runners finishing in under 17 minutes which makes them very competitive with GVH and ATC. This should be a barn-burner of a race for the M50+ division team championship.

M60+. A multi-age division power, the Atlanta Track Club took this title in 2012 in a time of 56:50, defeating the 2nd place Green Mountain Athletic Association by over a minute. In 2013, howeer, the Ann Arbor Track Club brought in a new team that was able to wrest the title away from ATC.
Lloyd Hansen from a great article about him overcoming heart disease to become a top runner  []

Ann Arbor's top 3 runners, Lloyd Hansen, John Tarkowski, and Wally Hayes totaled 57:29 to ATC's 58:12. The Genesee Valley Harriers were 27 seconds back in 3rd, with the Shore Athletic Club 27 seconds behind GVH. What's in store this year? The big change is for ATC where they are
now headed by Tom McCormack who burst onto the Masters scene last year as an unaffiliated runner, winning his age group at the US National Road Racing Championships in 43:04 in Alexandria and taking the prize for best age-graded time at 93.79. Since then he joined the ATC and led them to victory at the USATF 10 K championship in Dedham, MA.
Tom McCormack from a feature article in Running Times [ by Ron Campbell]

That is a big advance for the ATC. But Kirk Larson, their lead runner for the past two years is not currently entered. Unless he jumps in within the next few days, that would taker a bit off the edge that ATC gains. Buth there is also some doubt about AATC. 
Kirk Larson, heading for the finish line in cross country []

Their 2nd and 3rd runners from last year, John Tarkowski and Wally Hayes, are entered, along with Terry McCluskey who ran the Twin Cities marathon last year but ran an 18:07 two years ago. His more recent 5Ks have not been that fast but if he can come close to matching his 2012 result he will be an ample replacement for Lloyd Hansen should he not enter this year. If Hansen jumps in too, that will give Ann Arbor a formidable team; Hansen ran a blazing 18:28 last year and has been running stronger than ever this year. GVH has not entered yet so all we can say is that they are likely to be competitive.Shore AC has entered and likely has a new lead runner in Reno Stirrat. Still unless there is a major surprise it should not be enough to get them on
Reno Stirrat, one of 31 people to run a sub-3 hr Marathon for 5 consecutive decades []

the podium. There is still a little uncertainty about the exact make-up of teams in the division but like the 50+ this too should be a race full of interest.

M70+. In 2012 this division belonged to the Clifton Roadrunners of New Jersey with a team time of 71:20, outdistancing the Shore AC by over 4 minutes and the Ann Arbor TC by 7 minutes.
Doug Goodhue pictured in one of his other roles as a Race Director of the 2013 Dexter to Ann Arbor Run []

But Ann Arbor flipped the division in 2013, winning in 67:05 behind the amazing Doug Goodhue who contributed a sub-20 time to the effort. With Thom Weddle and John Farah both breaking 24 minutes, Ann Arbor took the title by almost 6 minutes, with Clifton finishing 2nd by a minute and a half over Atlanta TC, with the Shore AC another 3 and a half minutes back. Ann Arbor is back this year with both Goodhue and Farah entered, but not Weddle.  
Dr John Farah
John Farah in a story about the Boston Marathon []

But Wally Herrala is entered for Ann Arbor; he is mostly running triathlons and longer events but has run one 5k under 24 minutes and one just over within the last year or so.  As of now Atlanta TC has not entered a 70+ team but Shore AC is likely fielding a stronger team, in part because Przemyslaw Nowicki, who broke 22 minutes last 
Przemyslaw Nowicki (3rd from left) with other members of victorious M60+ team at USATF 2013 5K XC []

year, has moved up to the Shore AC's 70+ team.So if all goes according to form this division should go to Ann Arbor, with Clifton and Shore doing battle for 2nd and 3rd.

M80+. This division has been a battle ground between Belle Watling AC of New York and the Syracuse Charger TC. Belle Watling won by almost 3 minutes in 2012 but Syracuse turned the tables in 20:13, winning by 11 minutes. So what does 2014 hold? The Syracuse Chargers have already entered and two of their first three runners, Wally McRae and David Rider, are there.
Fritz Schlereth, ultra marathoner with 100+ marathons to his credit []

But if their 2nd runner from last year, Fritz Schlereth is not back, that could cost the team several minutes. Belle Watling has not entered yet but we hope they will jump in this week with their usual competitive team. Ann Arbor TC is a new entrant in this division but so far have only one runner, Jon Desenberg, entered so we cannot judge if this will be a strong challenger or not.

But Desenberg has recently been running under 30 minutes for 5K's so if joined by reasonably comparable runners, Ann Arbor could be a real threat. For this division we'll have to wait and see who is actually entered by race time. Syracuse could well be the class of the field but Ann Arbor may challenge and, as of now, Belle Watling is the dark horse. Look for a quick update later this week when the late entrants are known.

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