Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Preview of 2015 USATF Masters 8 Kilometer Championship at Brea CA

January 19 2015.

Brea CA – Last year marked the inaugural year of the USATF Masters 8 Kilometer championships being held in Brea California in February. They return on Sunday February 22 2015. This is the second stop on the Masters Grand Prix and the first road race of the year. The race also constitutes a stop on the USATF Southern California Grand Prix circuit. Not only are bragging rights at stake, but there are points towards the Grand Prix championships, individual and team, $10,000 in prize money, medals for the winners and, for the first time, performance medals to all finishers who crack the 80% age-grading barrier to get a ‘national class’ time or better. Detailed information on the race can be found at:
Online registrations are accepted through February 19 at midnight; on-site registration is offered Friday evening [2/20] and on Saturday [2/21] during the day.
To enter the race, either online or on site, please see:

Despite a late designation as the new 8 K Championship site, the 2014 race attracted over 200 Masters runners to the USATF starting line. This year the list of entrants has already surpassed last year’s total and they are headed toward 275. Included among those are some renowned runners; there are likely to be some dandy races to start the road racing season and Christine Kennedy should have a good shot at the American 8K record for women 60-64.

Some of the more illustrious Masters runners participating include:

Doug Goodhue. Milford Michigan, Ann Arbor Track Club
National Masters Champion, and US Masters Record Holder  
9 times USATF age group Masters Runner of the Year, including the last 8 years in succession.
US 10K record for Men 70-74--40:22; US 12K record for Men 70-74--48:38

Christine Kennedy. Los Gatos California, Team Runcoach
National Masters Champion, Masters Runner of the Year, and US Masters Record Holder
USATF Women’s Masters Runner of the Year in 2011 & 2012, USATF age group Masters Runner of the Year in 2013 & 2014
US 15K record for Women 55-59—59:51

Pete Magill. South Pasadena California, Cal Coast Track Club
National Masters Champion, Masters Harrier of the Year, and US Masters Record Holder
USATF Masters Harrier of the Year 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013; USATF 2-time age group Masters Runner of the Year
US 5K road record for Men 50-54--15:05; US 10K record for men 50-54--31:11

Tom McCormack Jonesborough Tennessee, Unattached
National Masters Champion, Masters Runner of the Year, and US Masters Record Holder
USATF Masters Runner of the Year in 2014;
US 5K road record for Men 60-64—16:58; US 12K record for men 60-64—42:55

Brian Pilcher Ross California, Tamalpa Runners
National Masters Champion, Masters Runner of the Year, and US Masters Record Holder
USATF Masters Runner of the Year 2012, 2013; USATF age group Masters Runner of the Year 2009-2011

Record-breaking Attempt? Christine Kennedy appears to have no close challengers. Her announced goal this year is to become the first woman 60 years or older to run a sub-3 hour marathon. She will make her first attempt on April 20th in Boston; she ran 2:47:44 last April. This should be an easy fitness check for her. Last year she ran the Gate River Run (mid-March) as one of her fitness tests and broke the master’s record for women 55-59. The course at Brea is challenging so one would not ordinarily line it up for a record-breaking attempt, but Kennedy must at least have it at the back of her mind. She fully intends to break the Women's 60-64 records at as many distances as possible this year. The Women’s 60-64 US record for 8K is 32:20. Last year Kennedy ran 31:10 on this course so the record is well within her grasp.
Christine Kennedy in 2012 Carlsbad 5000
Christine Kennedy [Image by Victor Sailer/Photo Run] Running Times October 29 2014


Overall. There should be a dandy of a race for the Men’s 40-44 age group and the overall championship. Gregory Mitchell, from McMinnville Oregon and the Bowerman Track Club has a rematch with unattached runner and former Olympic caliber steeplechaser, Jacques Sallberg. They met on February 7th at the USA Cross Country Championships over the same distance, although with different terrain and altitude. Sallberg took the measure of Mitchell by surging in the last mile of the race to win the championship by 15 seconds. Christian Cushing-Murray, from Santa Ana and the Cal Coast TC, was the 2nd place finisher last year, despite his elder statesman status in the 45-49 age group. If his fitness is where it was last year, he should be a good bet for the podium again.
Jacques Sallberg (#225) tracking a few yards off of Greg Mitchell's pace as they lead the pack toward the finish line at the USA Masters Cross Country Championships at Boulder Colorado on February 7, 2015

Men's 40-44. Last year it was Mitchell, Jaime Heilpern from San Francisco and the Asics Aggies, and John Gardiner from Rancho Santa Margarita and the Cal Coast TC, on the Men's 40-44 podium. But Heilpern has moved up to the next age group, Men's 45-49 so the way should be clear for Gardiner to land on the podium again. Gardiner has a solid USA Cross Country Championship race under his belt already; he finished 20 seconds closer to Mitchell at Boulder than he did last year here at Brea. Mitchell and Sallberg should battle for this age group win.

Men's 45-49. Last year it was Christian Cushing-Murray winning by 25 seconds over Andrew Duncan, from Las Vegas, followed by Carl Combs, of Chaney WA. The gold and bronze medalists are back but as of today, not Duncan. But the wild card is Heilpern. Cushing-Murray was on fire last year, finishing 2nd overall and beating Heilpern by a half minute. Heilpern came in just 11 seconds ahead of Combs last year so it could be a real thriller in this class as well in the battle for 2nd and 3rd. If Cushing-Murray is fit, the age group race is no contest.
Christian Cushing-Murray, winning another Masters title at the Carlsbad 5000

Men's 50-54. In 2014 it was Jeff Ambos, Iain Mickle, and Kevin Broady, with only 19 seconds between first and third. It should be noted too that the 2nd place finisher, Mickle, was the 2014 age group Runner of the Year. So far only Broady is entered but there are two other worthy contestants who did not enter last year. One is mentioned above, Pete Magill, of South Pasadena and the Cal Coast TC; the other is Francis Burdett, all the way from Worcester, Massachusetts. 
Rusty Snow, #239, Francis Burdett, #104 (M50), and Paul Thompson, #250, leading the chase pack right behind the overall leaders at the USA Masters Cross Country Championships at Boulder Colorado on February 7, 2015
Burdett has just moved up to this age group and he ran like the wind to take the age group win at the USA Cross Country Championships two weeks ago. He finished in the top 15 overall and bested Magill by nearly a minute. But Magill has a history of difficulty at altitude and he should be way stronger on his home turf. Even if Ambos and Mickle stay away it should be a hotly contested race.

 Men's 55-59. Brian Pilcher would ordinarily be the heavy favorite in this group, but he was hampered by an injury for most of 2014 and is just coming out of comeback mode. Pilcher ran an incredible 1:14:45 at the Kaiser Half Marathon on February 1st, age-grading at over 96%. But then at the USA Cross Country Championships a week later, the altitude at Boulder apparently held him back. So he is looking for his first national championship of the year. 
Brian Pilcher (#5232) on his way to a 1:14:45 at the Kaiser Half Marathon on February 1 2015 [photo: Facebook]

And he has a worthy challenger in Joe Sheeran, who burst onto the USATF Masters scene last fall with strong wins in this age group at the national championships at Tulsa (15K), Carmel Indiana (5K Cross Country), and Bethlehem Pennsylvania (USA Club Cross Country 10K). 
Joe Sheeran, Club Northwest, in the orange singlet, right behind the lead pack at the USA Masters 5 km Cross Country Championships at Carmel IN on Nov 8 2014 [photo: Andy Martin, Exclamation Services]

Last year John Loftus of Laguna Beach CA had his way in this group winning by a minute and a half, but is not signed up this year. Keith Witthauer from Apple Valley and the Cal Coast TC nailed third last year and may be as good a bet as any to ease onto the podium this year as well. Although Bill Enicks from Signal Mountain TN, just moved into this age group and may give Witthauer a real fight. But the race is a bit short for Enicks who  took 4th last year in the half marathon championship (1:19:14) for men 50-54 and won the marathon championship for men 55-59 in the Twin Cities .

Men's 60-64. Rick Becker of Selah Washington and Club Northwest is back to challenge Tom McCormack in the Men’s 60-64 contest. Fresh off a victory at the USA Cross Country Championships in Boulder, Becker will try to stay with McCormack longer than he did at the 12K championships last November when he finished a strong second to McCormack’s record-breaking performance.  

Men's Age-Grading Medalists at the .US Nationals 12 K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia on  November 16 2014-Tom McCormack, far right, 1st and Rick Becker, 2nd from left, 4th--joined by from left, Eric Stuber 5th, Ken Youngers 3rd, and Doug Goodhue 2nd.  [photo: USATF, Marlene Van den Neste]
McCormack ran a local 5K tune-up race on Valentines Day, winning the overall race into a stiff wind in 17:50. So it appears he is ready to race. The only one of last year's top three who is currently entered is Dale Campbell, from Huntington Beach and Cal Coast TC. Campbell, by the way, is also the Race Director at Brea and Chair of the USATF Masters LDR Athlete's Advisory Committee, a very busy guy! He is a favorite to make the podium. Tom Bernhard, from Castro Valley CA,who was 4th last year and Reno Stirrat, a Jersey Boy, running for the Shore Athletic Club, who took 3rd at the 5K road championships last October and 2nd at the National Club Cross Country Championships in December will both offer strong challenges

Men's 65-69. Last year's podium included Lloyd Hansen, from Salt Lake City and the Ann Arbor Track Club, Paul Carlin, from Indianapolis, and Gary Patton from Rock Rapids Iowa. Patton is not entered but the other two are. Carlin, however, is still coming back from a hamstring tear and not fully fit; he is using this as a fitness test on the way to the Boston Marathon in 2 months time. That would seemingly leave it wide open for Hansen, the 2014 age group Masters Runner of the Year. 

Lloyd Hansen (#150) leading the male 65-69 runners, with John Roeske (#223) a few strides back in orange at the USA Masters Cross Country Championships at Boulder Colorado  on February 7, 2015
But there are two worthy challengers. One is Ignacio Jiminez, from Goleta CA, just moved up from the 55-59 age group. Last year his time was 17 seconds faster than Hansen's at this race, finishing 2nd in the 60-64 group. At the USA Cross Country Championships 2 weeks ago, Hernandez surged past Hansen just before the finish for a 1 second victory. 
Ignacio Jimenez in hot pursuit of Lloyd Hansen and John Roeske early in the race at the  USA Masters Cross Country Championships at Boulder Colorado  on February 7, 2015

So it appears they are really close in fitness right now. Another athlete may also factor into the rush for the podium. Ronald Wells, of the San Diego TC. Last year he ran several 5K's in under 20 minutes and one in 18:57! In 2012 he was third in his age group in the Masters LDR rankings. He appears to excel at  the shorter races, like 5K, which may mean Hansen and Jiminez have a slight edge in this 8K race, but Wells is definitely a wild card.

Men's 70-74. Doug Goodhue has not been challenged in his age group for years but an outstanding runner from an earlier era, Jan Frisby, Grand Junction Colorado and the Boulder Road Runners appears to be ready.  
Doug Goodhue, sprinting to the tape for another win! At the USA Masters 5 km Cross Country Championships at Carmel IN on Nov 8 2014 [photo: Facebook]

Frisby has been fighting lower leg and foot injuries over the last few years. But he was a regular age group Runner of the Year 20 years ago and garnered several national championships in 2012 and early February 2013 before another injury set in. He now appears to be recovered from his latest injury that kept him out for most of 2014. He won his age group handily at the USA Cross Country race in Boulder a couple of weeks ago. 
Jan Frisby, #134, establishing the early lead on his Men's 70-74 competitors, running easily along with Wally Hayes of the Ann Arbor Track Club , #153 - at the USA Masters Cross Country Championships at Boulder Colorado  on February 7, 2015
 It will be fun to watch and see if he can challenge Goodhue in a race closer to sea level. This will be Goodhue’s first race of the year and the winter snow and cold of Michigan can make early fitness a real challenge. Goodhue has been looking forward to more competitive races and may finally get his wish. 

Dick Chimenti of Twain Harte CA, and Monte Piliawsky from Southfield MI and the Ann Arbor Track Club duked it out for 2nd and3rd last year, with Chimenti running 5 seconds faster than Piliawsky. They should be back at it again but perhaps the winner makes the podium and the loser not this time; there's a little more on the line.

Men's 75-79. Last year it was Joe Razo from Alhambra CA winning handily. Bu tthen the next thrfee runners finished within 17 seconds of each other. In the end it was William Thompson of L.A., followed by John Brennand from Santa Barbara, with Bill Dodson of Mountain Veiw CA finishing just off the podium. Razo and Thompson are back.  Razo should repeat at the top but will anyone battle Thompson for second?

Men's 80-84.  In 2014, Allen Warren of Newport Beach CA took first by a country mile, defeating Al Ray of Diamond Bar CA, in a time of 46:07. This year Warren has a new challenger, Bob Rice of Team Runners High (Long Beach CA). With a couple of sub-30 minute 5K's last year it appears Rice is the one to beat this year.

 Overall. Last year's podium was Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, of Oakland CA, Melody Fairchild, from Boulder CO, and former Olympic triathlete, Julie Ertel from Irvine CA. last year only six seconds separated the first two with Ertel coming in about a minute back. Ertel is the only one of the three to return, making her the initial favorite. 
julie ertel
Julie Ertel competing for Team USA in the 2008 Olympic triathlon in Beijing [photo: Delly Carr/ITU]

Tania Fischer, running easily in the early stages of the USA Cross Country Championships at Boulder CO in early February.
Who else from last year's race is back who might challenge? Cindy Abrami, from Santa Barbara, finished 4th overall last year in winning the 45-49 age group, and finishing 11 seconds back from Ertel. After Abrami would be Kristen Leetch, from Redondo Beach CA and the Jane's Elite Racing, who finished 6th overall. So, at first glance it looks like Ertel, Abrami, and Leetch. But we know that this year Leetch brings along teammate, Tania Fischer, from Santa Monica, who beat Abrami by 46 seconds at the 2014 Club Cross Country championships in December and by over a minute and a half at the USA Cross Country Championships two weeks ago. 

That should put her in contention with Ertel for the win. Finally, Kathleen Cushing-Murray, from Santa Ana CA, finished midway between Leetch and Fischer two weeks ago. So it looks good for Fischer and Ertel to be battling for the gold. It should be a tight race between Abrami and Cushing-Murray for third but if either Fischer or Ertel falter, they could be challenged.

Women's 40-44. Given that Lewy-Boulet and Fairchild are not back, it appears the age group is wide open for Ertel. The only possible challenger would be a newcomer; the other strong runners returning are in the 45-49 age group. Cassandra Henkiel who ran for Team Rogue, from Texas, in the 2014 Club Cross Country Championships, finished only a half minute behind Fischer in that race.

Cassandra Henkiel, 2nd runner in for the triumphant Team Rogue, winner of the Women's 40+ Masters national Club Championship in Bethlehem, PA December 2014.
So Henkiel provides a challenge but if  Ertel  has the same fitness as last year, she should be up to that challenge. An unattached runner, Tere Zacher, has run a 1:20 half marathon and a sub-38 minute 10K so she could be in the hunt as well. 
Tere Zacher striding with purpose [photo at]

A final newcomer is Sharon Lemburger, running unattached. A 39 year old Sharon Lemburger, from Stamford CT  ran a 1:20 half marathon in Philadelphia in 2012, passing the 10K mark in 36:16. If that is the same Lemburger, she too could be a factor. 

Women's 45-49. The preview for the Overall race above pretty much previews the 45-49 age group as well. It should be: Fischer, Abrami, and Cushing-Murray in that order, at least among the return runners.  There appears to be at least one newcomer who may be in the mix. One of the unattached runners is Monica Ross. If this is the Monica Ross from Anchorage AK, she would be a threat. That Ross ran a sub-29 minute 5 mile race a couple of years ago and ran 1:24 in the Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

Women's 50-54. Kelle Taylor, from Los Angeles, ran a strong race last year to take this age group crown by almost 30 seconds. But Debbie Richardson and Carmen Ayala-Troncoso had a real battle for second,with a mere 4 seconds separating them at the finishing tape.But the only one entered from last year's podium at this time is Richardson. That leaves it open for Sue Davis, Costa Mesa CA, who finished 4th last year just 17 seconds off the podium. Another possible threat comes from Mary Thane, who took her age group in the Lilac Bloomsday (12K0 run last year in 51:52.
Mary Thane, 2nd from left, entrants in the USATF Master's 1500 Meter Run at the Outdoor T & F Championships[photo: USATF]

Women's 55-59. Last year the group was dominated by Christine Kennedy who won by more than 2 minutes. That overshadowed a fine performance by Debbie Lee of Trabuco Canyon CA who came in a half minute ahead of the 3rd place finisher, Suzanne Morris, of Long Beach.  
Debbie Lee competing at nationals in Sacramento [Photo: Socal Track Club]

Kennedy has moved up to the next group but Lee and Morris are both back to vie for the championship of this age division. Elizabeth Sponagle, of Laguna Niguel CA, has moved up to the next age group. It appears to be a wide open race for the third spot on the podium this year.

Women's 60-64. This is Christine Kennedy's show. If she is anywhere near her typical fitness level, the Master's 8 kilometer record of 32:20, just set last year by the renowned Master's runner, Kathy Martin of Northport NY, will be under siege. As noted above, Kennedy ran 31:10 on this challenging course last year. In fact, if Kennedy breaks the national road record and sets the course record at the same time, the course record might last longer than the national record. Sponagle, who moved up from the 55-59 division should have a clear shot at the 2nd place medal.  Suzanne Ray, from Jacksonville OR, who won the division last year is not entered but Donna Chan, from San Francisco's Impala Racing team, is, and should have a very good shot at landing on the podium.

Women's 65-69. JoAnne Rowland destroyed the competition in this division last year, winning by a margin of nearly 7 minutes, and she is back to try to repeat. The 2nd and 3rd place finishers from last year have not entered but two new challengers are in the mix. Irene Herman, of the Impala Racing Team of San Francisco raced in the 60-64 division last year. She should push Rowland  a bit more than last year's group but Rowland still has a large gap to play with. Of the racers entered so far, Herman should take second and the favorite for a third place medal is the Shore AC's Bunny McDonnell.

Women's 70-74. Last year Norma Thomas, Moreno Valley CA, had this age group all to herself and so far this year it is the same. Thomas is a strong runner; her time last year age graded as world class. And she received an age group Honorable Mention in the end of the year rankings appearing in Running Times. Maybe her presence is scaring off the competition? I hope this group gets a few more competitors; it would be a shame for the 2nd and 3rd place medals to go unclaimed.

Women's 75-79. Last year there were no entrants in this age division but this year the local club, A Snail's Pace, has two of their members entered--Hooray for the Snail's Pace! Pat Herr and Dorothy Strand will compete for the Championship! They ran the race last year but had not entered the USATF National Championship part of the race. They finished 1 second apart and both won their age group. But the world turns, people grow one year older, and now they are in the same age group. So that final 50 meters may determine the winner this year!



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