Friday, April 3, 2015

USATF Masters LDR Individual Grand Prix Standings-Women--Commentary

April 3 2015. The initial set of standings for women and men in the 2015 USATF Masters Individual Grand Prix [IGP] are posted at:


W40. In 2014, ten women qualified for an award in this category by running in at least 2 USATF IGP events. Melody Fairchild [CO] dominated the category by running in 5 events winning 2, and finishing 2nd in 3 others. Three events were enough for Sonja Friend-Uhl [GA]to finish comfortably in second, again relying on firsts and 2nd places. After that, it was pretty tight. Sheri Piers [ME] and Melissa Senal [NY] had 200 points each but Piers took 3rd as her two races were both winning efforts. After that there were only 15 points total separating 5th from 9th place.

This year Fairchild is off to a good start again, with a 1st place age group finish in the USA XC event.

Melody Fairchild [W40], in hot pursuit of Colleen DeReuck [W50], at the USA Masters XC Championships in Boulder CO on February 7 2015
That leaves her tied with Cassandra Henkiel [TX] who took the title at the Brea 8K. Last year at this time, Fairchild  already had 285 points, scoring in the Half Marathon in Melbourne, FL and the Brea 8K, in addition to her finish at the USA XC. The half marathon was moved this year so that was unavailable but Fairchild did not compete in the Brea 8K this year. Last year Fairchild made 2 trips east; if she is willing to do that in 2015, she could take the IGP again. But Henkiel may have something to say about that. Last year she took 4th at Dedham and 9th at Bethlehem to finish 10th in the IGP.
Cassandra Henkiel (L), Overall Masters Winner and W40 winner at the 2015 USATF 8K Masters Championships in Brea CA on Feb 22 2015 .[photo: Thuc Tran]

Henkiel is already over two-thirds of the way toward last year's total. Club Cross in San Francisco is, no doubt, part of her plans. But if she can add the 15K at Tulsa, which is not far from her home base of Texas, and one or two trips east, she can be in contention for the top spot. Joanna Zeiger [CO] is currently in 5th place with 90 points. That is identical to her finishing spot last year, when she took 3rd at the USA XC championships and later took 2nd place at the Marathon championships in the Twin Cities. Will she be content with the same strategy this year or will she decide to travel once or twice more? Tulsa is not far from Oklahoma so the 15K would seem to be a reasonable option. And why not Club XC at the end of the year? Last year Friend-Uhl did not race until the fall; that may not be enough for a 2nd place IGP finish this year.

W45. All of the contenders in this group last year ran just two races. Terri Rejimbal [FL] won two races, one in her home state of Florida, and one in Oklahoma, winning both. As there are no races in Florida this year, she will have to travel some to be in contention for 2015. Cindy Abrami [CA] and Kirsten Leetch [CA] were 15 and 20 points back respectively. Abrami competed only at Boulder and Brea but Leetch, missing Boulder, showed a willingness to travel when she matched her 2nd at brea with a 4th at Club Cross in Bethlehem PA.

This year there are already four runners with two events under their belts. In 2015, Tania Fischer [CA] who ran only at Club Cross in 2014, has already run 2 races, winning at Brea and finishing 2nd at the USA XC meet, for 195 points. She must surely be planning on running Club Cross again as it is on the west coast.
Tania Fischer (L}, 3rd place overall Masters and 1st in W45 age division at the 2015 USATF 8K Masters Championships in Brea CA on Feb 22 2015. [photo: Thuc Tran]

And Leetch is keeping pace with her, finishing 6th at the USA XC and 4th at Brea, for 160 points. Kathleen Cushing-Murray [CA] can make it interesting as she too will, no doubt, compete in San Francisco at Club  Cross. She is currently tied for 2nd with Leetch, off of a 4th place finish at Boulder and a 7th at Brea. Abrami, so far, has only her 3rd place finish at Brea, leaving her back in 7th place. She is a quality runner but it is not clear how much she is willing to travel from her home base. It appears this category will be more competitive this year.

W50. In 2014, seventeen women from this category completed the requisite two events, making this the most active group on the women's side. The two Athena Track Club teammates, Doreen McCoubrie [PA] and  
Doreen McCoubrie, finishing strong at the National Club Cross Country Championship December 2014 in Bethlehem PA.

Marisa Sutera Strange [NY] went head to head, with McCoubrie completing 5 events, amassing 480 points to outpace Sutera Strange who only fit in 4 for 400 points.

Marisa Sutera Strange winning the W50 division of the USA 5 km Masters Cross Country championships at Carmel IN on Nov 8 2014 [photo: Andy Martin, Exclamation Services]
Runners from the Mid-Atlantic states dominated this category last year with runners from PA and NY taking 3rd through 7th in the IGP. Julie Hankin [PA] accumulated 335 points over 4 events to claim 3rd.

Last year's IGP podium finishers from this group will apparently wait, again this year, until the 10K in Dedham MA (at least) to start their quest for the Grand Prix win. So far this year, the leaders are Colleen DeReuck [CO] and

Colleen DeReuck, leading the pack in the midst of the race at the USA Masters XC Championships in Boulder CO on February 7 2015
Kathleen Phair [CA] with wins at Boulder and Brea respectively. Last year none of the west coast runners actively pursued the IGP title so a wait and compete strategy worked well for the easterners. It will be interesting to see if any of the western runners will take advantage of the extra races on the west coast to mount a more active challenge.Up to this point there is no indication of that, as all runners have only 1 race in so far.

W55. In 2014, seven runners competed in two or more events each. Carmen Ayala-Troncoso [TX] competed in 3, taking home 3rd place honors at Brea, with wins at Dedham and Bethlehem to total 290 points and the IGP top prize. Christine Kennedy [CA] took 2nd last year but has moved up to the W60 group. Andriette Wickstrom [IA] took 3rd by competing in the Marathon at the Twin Cities and the 5 km XC at Carmel IN. But it appears that Wickstrom has also moved up to W60.

None of the three leaders from last year appear in the IGP standings yet. And those who are at the top at present, did not compete in two events last year. Delicia Litt [CO]
Delcia Litt, stepping out smartly in the middle of the race at the USA Masters XC Championships in Boulder CO on February 7 2015

and  Suzanne Morris [CA]took 1st in Bouldeer and Brea respectively to tie for 1st so far with 100 points. And Nancy Simmons [CA] and Meredith Mills [CA] are tied for 3rd in the IGP with seconds at Boulder and Brea respectively. No one has competed in more than one event so far this year. That means Ayala -Troncoso could still mount a rush to the lead starting, perhaps , with the Dedham race. At the moment this category appears to be wide open to new blood at the top. Based on the evidence thus far, if any of the good runners sets their aim on competing in 3-4 races, there is a good chance they can wind up on the Individual Grand Prix podium.

W60. In 2014 eleven runners in this category competed in the necessary 2 events to qualify for an award.Kathryn Martin [NY] competed in the most events, 6, and won all of them, giving her a perfect 500 point score. Coreen Steinbach [NY] won almost every race that Martin did not, amassing 460 points over 5 events. Two other New Yorkers, Sharon Moore and Cindy Ingalls, competed in 4 events to finish 3rd and 4th respectively. Martin competed in Boulder and Florida last year as well as in the east and Midwest but the others restricted themselves pretty much to the east and Midwest; Moore did venture as far west as Tulsa to join Martin in the 15K contested there.

In 2015, Martin is off to a similar start as last year in that she ran the USA XC (and won) but skipped Brea.
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]

The only difference is that in 2014 she ran and won the Half Marathon in Melbourne FL. The race has been moved this year and is expected to be contested in San Diego at the end of May. If so, Martin can get back on track with her 2014 pace by racing there. On the other hand, an injury forced her to miss Flint, Syracuse and Carmel races last year so she may figure she can easily pick up 5-6 races without another west coast trip. Christine Kennedy [CA], new to the age group, is tied with Martin, thanks to her 1st place finish at Brea.
Christine Kennedy, being congratulated at the Awards Ceremony on her New American 8K Record by Don Lein, USATF Masters LDR Chair--at the 2015 USATF 8K Masters Championships in Brea CA on Feb 22 2015 [photo: Thuc Tran]

In past years, Kennedy has only competed in a couple of USATF races and that would seem to be a reasonable prognosis this year. She is focused on becoming the first woman 60 years of age or older to break 3 hours in any marathon. Apparently she has decided to forego Boston and focus on the Chicago marathon in the fall. In the meantime, she can pursue her other goal of breaking as many W60 Masters records as possible. She already has the 8K in her pocket from Brea. She just ran 19:11 at Carlsbad, missing Martin's record by 4 seconds. That may encourage her to run the 5K championships at the Syracuse Festival of Races, known for its fast course. Still it seems unlikely Kennedy would run enough USATF events to seriously challenge Martin and Steinbach if they run as many events as last year.  Another wrinkle is that Andriette Wickstrom [IA] and Elizabeth Cooney [MA]who finished 3rd and 4th in the 55-59 category last year will move up sometime this year into the 60-64 group.

W65.  In 2014 31 runners competed in this category but only 4 competed in the requisite 2 events to be award eligible. Sabra Harvey [TX], a 5K record-setter in 2014, took first easily by racing and winning 3 events. JoAnne Rowland [CA] also took first in the events she raced, but she only raced in two events. With two additional races west of the Mississippi perhaps she will consider increasing her participation at championship events. Susan Gustafson [MA] who took a 2nd and a 3rd in her two events was not too far back with 185 points.

So far this year, Rowland is the only runner from the 2014 GP podium to be in the standings. Running and winning at the 8K at Brea, as with last year, ties her for the early lead. This year she is tied with Laurie Rugenstein [CO] who took first at Boulder. Tied for third are Sandi Wiebe [CO] and Irene Herman [CA], who took 2nd place at Bouder and Brea respectively. It will be interesting to see if Rowland chooses to increase her participation this year to take a shot at the top spot. Edie Stevenson [CO] who competed in the 60-64 group last year, will move up to this group sometime this spring or summer. She could be a formidable competitor but, unlike last year, Stevenson did not compete at Boulder this year. Will she compete at Dedham this year as she did last year? Here's hoping the difficulty she had with injuries earlier in her running career have not popped up again.

W70.  In 2014, twenty runners competed in this age group; five participated in 2 or more events. The top three all competed in 5 events as teammates. Ellen Nitz, Shirley Larsen, and Janet Wallen all run for Playmakers Elite/New Balance of Lansing MI. Nitz typically led the trio across the finish line, garnering 455 points to take the GP crown. Larsen and Wallen battled it out with sometimes one and sometimes the other prevailing. In t he end, Larsen eked out a narrow victory, 415 to 405 points. And their triumph was almost short-circuited by the fast closing rush of Ruth Thelen, also of Playmakers Elite/New Balance, who moved up to this category late in the year and started leading the group across the finish line. She wound up with 380 points. With Nitz moving up to the 75-79 category this summer, it appears that 2015 should belong to Thelen, Larsen and Wallen.

The early lead, however, goes to Anita Gonzalez [CO] and Norma Thomas [CA], the victors at Boulder and Brea, with Betty Valent [CO], who took 2nd at Boulder, holding the third GP position with 95 points. At this point there is no reason to think these western runners are interested in competing for the GP crown against the Michiganders but time will tell.

W75. Eleven runners competed in this age group in 2014 but only three entered the two events needed to become award-eligible. Madeline Bost [NJ] competed in three events, finishing 1st, 2nd, and 6th to take the GP crown with 270 points.

The celebrated runner, Libby James [CO] took first at Boulder and at Syracuse; those two events gave her 200 points and a 2nd place tie with Heide Moebius [NY] who landed firsts at Alexandria (12K) and at Bethlehem's Club Cross competition.

So far in 2015 it looks like 2015 is as good a guide as any. James again won in Boulder and neither
Libby James saunters home with a strong win in the Women's 75-79 age group at the USA Masters XC Championships in Boulder CO on February 7 2015

Bost nor Moebius have yet competed. The major difference will be that Nitz is also moving up from the 70-74 age group to contend for this groups GP prize.

W80. In 2014 three women competed in this age group but only Edna Hyer [NY] competed in two events. Her first place finish at Dedham (10K) and second place finish at Syracuse (5K) gave her 195 points and the GP crown. So far in 2015, as in the early part of 2014, no one has competed in this age group. So the best prediction at this point is that Hyer may well take the group again.

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