Friday, November 21, 2014

Masters Records Fall at .US National 12K Road Championships

November 18 2014. The Neustar .US National 12K Road Racing Championships were held on Sunday, November 16, 2014 in Alexandria, Virginia. Normally the big excitement is on the winners of the race and while that is important, a number of records, overall and age group were smashed. It was a cold, cold, subfreezing day in the nation's capital. But that did not deter the runners--a pair of gloves here, a jaunty hat and colorful socks there and they were off to the races. Our focus is on masters runners but in this case we have to look first at the Women's Open Elite race.

Three-time Olympian, Jen Rhines, is now 40 and already has the 10K Masters record in her possession. She is fleet enough to still run in the Open Elite race but her time is eligible for the Masters record even though she is not eligible for any Masters prizes. Former Olympian, Colleen DeReuck, held the record at the start of the day. Ten plus years ago, on May 2nd, in Spokane, Washington, DeReuck set a time of 40:48 which had stood up against a number of assaults over the years. At 7 am the open elite women sped away from the line to test their mettle on the road. Molly Huddle prevailed overall but Jen Rhines got her record; we will remember that long after the frost is just a faint memory.
Jennifer Rhines, about to cross the line and claim her new 12K Masters record in 40:31at the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on November 16 2014 [photo:Facebook, Clay Shaw]

With time to spare, Rhines crossed the finish line triumphantly in 40:31! This gives Rhines two Masters records, with more to come, no doubt, over the coming year.

The Masters Men's race itself was a triumph for Michael Wardian of Arlington, Virginia, who came across in 38:24 for the overall Masters win.

Michael Wardian, speeding to the finish line to win the masters crown at the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on November 16 2014 [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
For the women, it was Perry Shoemaker, of Vienna, Virginia racing to the line in 42:54, running a minute and 23 seconds faster than her winning time last year. That's a big improvement in one year-- Cheers for Shoemaker!
Perry Shoemaker (left) takes the overall women's race while Tom McCormack (right) lowers his own record for men 60 and over. At the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on November 16 2014 [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

The course layout is different but it is unlikely the course itself could account for more than a small fraction of that improvement.

And although the main show was Rhines's assault on the overall masters record, the race was graced by another former Olympian, and Olympic gold medalist, Joan Benoit Samuelson, from Freeport, Maine. She did not disappoint. The Women's 55-59 age group record was held by Christine Kennedy at the start of the day. She also set her record on May 2nd in Spokane, Washington, but only 4 years ago. Anyone who knows Kennedy knows that is not likely to be a soft record. One of the most decorated Masters runners of the past few years, Kennedy is one who is pushing  the envelope for masters women runners. Nonetheless, if the clock can be believed, Samuelson stormed across the line in 46:27, nearly two minutes under Kennedy's record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson's record-breaking 12K at the  .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on a frigid  November 16 2014 [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

At the age of 57, Samuelson carried a 6:14 pace per mile across the nearly 7 and a half miles of a 12K, a pace that many a younger runner would be envious of.

One other record was broken on the women's side. The decorated Master's runner, Kathryn (Kathy) Martin, of Freeport, NY set the record last year for women over 60 and this year improved on that record.She just eclipsed 49 minutes last year with a 48:59 and nipped that by another 5 seconds to lower the mark to 48:54, a fine grandmotherly pace of 6:34 per mile. And she has one more year in the age group to lower it even further.
Kathy Martin, putting on the brakes after crossing the finish line with a new 12K record in hand at the  .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on November 16 2014 [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]

 Earlier this year, Martin broke Shirley Matson's 10K record from 2002 so it has definitely been another record-breaking year for Martin.

On the men's side we had two record setters, Tom McCormack of Jonesborough, Tennessee and Doug Goodhue of Milford, Michigan. Not only did they establish records but they also went 1-2 in the Age-Grading championship. [See below.] With temperatures below freeing, records were not necessarily the first thing on McCormack's mind, After all, he already held the record by virtue of his excellent race last year, his first on the roads for a national masters championship, in 43:04. McCormack was mainly focused on running a good race and turning back all contenders for the age group gold medal. That he was able to do, winning his division by over a minute. But McCormack was surprised and delighted to learn that he had also lowered his previous record by nine seconds. The time of 42:55 will be a little bit tougher a challenge for runners to come.

Doug Goodhue, on the other hand, was a bit more focused on the record. Last year he had apparently set the 12K record for those aged 70-74 with a time of 49:20. At least that is what we all thought. However it turned out that the great Illinois Masters runner, Warren Utes, had run a 48:57 12K when he was 75. So that, at the very least, tarnished the record in Goodhue's eyes. If he could run just a little faster this year, he woul dnot only have the 70-74 age division record, he could claim that it was the fastest 12K time for a runner 70 years and older. As it turned out, Goodhue had one of his strongest races in recent years, racing past his 49:20 of last year, racing past Utes's 48:57 from 1995, to arrive at the finish line in 48:38, a 6:32 per mile pace at the age of 72-not bad at all!

Age-Grading. Just a reminder that age-grading is a procedure that rates times for masters athletes according to how good they are relative to the best possible race time in the world for an athlete of that sex and age. If the best possible time for a given athlete is rated at 40 minutes flat and the athlete runs 50 minutes flat, the age-grade is 80% because the best possible time amounts to 80% of the time actually run. If the athlete had run the race in 40 minutes, the age grade would have been 100%.  A time 85% or above is considered 'national class'; 90% or above rates the title, 'world class.'

Women. Not surprisingly the record breakers fared well in this competition. Kathy Martin and Joan Samuelson went 1-2 with age grades of 101.21% and 97.89% respectively. Martin keeps pushing back the boundaries of what sixty plus year old women are thought to be capable of. She, Christine Kennedy, and Joan Samuelson  are setting challenging records that women coming up will strive to match. Heide Moebius, age 76, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania finished in 1:05:01 for a grade of 94.09%. Sixty-six year old Alice Franks crossed the line in 57:04 to net a 90.72%. After that, one of the younger generation and the overall winner, Perry Shoemaker, finally crashed the party. Not only did she win, she can claim a 'world class' performance, grading at 90.19%.

Women's Age-Grading Medalists at the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on  November 16 2014-From left, Perry Shoemaker 5th,Alice Franks  4th, Heide Moebius 3rd, Joan Samuelson 2nd, and Kathy Martin 1st.  [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
Men. The top 5 male age-grading performances were all world class.Four of the five make regular appearances on the circuit but they made room for a fellow who may be a regular inn the future, but, like McCormack last year, came into Alexandria relatively unheralded. Rick Becker of Selah, Washington, celebrated his recent 60th birthday all over again by clocking a 44:16 (5:57 per mile pace) world class time, rated at 91.25%. He just beat out Eric Stuber of Lansing, Michigan, who took the 50-54 crown in 41:04 (5:31 per mile pace), to rate at 91.06%. The indomitable Ken Youngers took the 55-59 division in 42:46 for a 92.80% age-grade.
Men's Age-Grading Medalists at the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on  November 16 2014-From left, Eric Stuber 5th, Rick Becker 4th, Ken Youngers 3rd, Doug Goodhue 2nd, and Tom McCormack 1st.  [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
As mentioned above, the class was topped off with Doug Goodhue, the silver bullet from the wolverine state, at 93.63%, and Tom McCormack, the fleet Irishman from the East Tennessee foothills of the Smoky Mountains, headed the class at 94.99%.

In a soon to follow post I will report on the individual age division winners and the results of the team competitions. But in the meantime:

Hats off to the record breakers, Rhines, Samuelson, Martin, McCormack and Goodhue!

And three cheers for the age-grading winners, world class athletes, one and all.

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