Sunday, May 22, 2016

Report on 2016 Masters Club Grand Prix Races

May 2016. We are in high Spring in Central Indiana; the grass has been mowed a few times, the hanging baskets of impatiens and begonia plants have been hung, the hummingbirds have appeared, and the raspberry patch weeded. We ate our first home-grown strawberry this week. It must be time for the first report on the Masters Grand Prix Standings. We've been to the USATF Masters XC Championship in Bend OR, the 8K Championship in Brea CA and the 10K Championship in Dedham MA; the next race is the Half Marathon in San Diego. The standings still have a large West Coast flavor but there is now a little taste of the East Coast (and Middle America).


Women 40+. In 2015 this category was taken by the Genesee Valley Harriers [GVH] out of Greater Rochester NY, with the Jane's Elite from Southern California in second place.This year Santa Barbara Running and Racing ran at both Bend and Brea, winning both events giving them  a solid lead. Perhaps that signals their intention to run at least one more race, perhaps the Half Marathon at San Diego and/or the Club Cross Championships in Tallahassee. It will be interesting to see how that unfolds. They could certainly give GVH a run for their money.
The Santa Barbara Running and Racing 40+ team with their Team 1st place Award for the USATF 8K Masters Championship at Brea CA [FB photo by C. Abrami]

In the meantime the Atlanta Track Club sent a strong team to the 10K in Dedham and took home 100 points to take over 2nd place.

Team Red Lizard (Portland) the Jane's Elite (So Cal), and the Western Mass Distance Project are tied for 3rdd with 90 points, as each took Team Silver at the one race they have entered so far, Bend for Red Lizard, Brea for the Jane's, and Dedham for the WMDP. Cal Coast TC is hot on their heels in 4th, 10 points back, along with GVH, the 3rd place team at Dedham.
Santa Barbara Running and Racing 200 Atlanta Track Club 100 Jane's Elite 90 Team Red Lizard 90 Western Mass Distance Project  90 Cal Coast Track Club 80 Genesee Valley Harriers 80.
The Jane's Elite 40+ team after the USATF 8K Championship race at Brea.

Women 50+. In 2015 the Athena Track Club (Pennsylvania) and the Genesee Valley Harriers were 1-2, with the B team of Athena in 3rd. There were no teams from this category contesting the 2016 XC championship at Bend. The three teams from Southern California who finished in the top spots at the 8K and the East Coast teams who took top 3 at the 10K share the lead. A Snail's Pace Running Club, Team Runners High, and the Club Ed Running took 1-2-3 in Brea and the Willow Street AC (Greater Albany NY), the Athena TC, and the Atlanta TC were 1-2-3 in Dedham. GVH is settled in 8th place but I expect them to rise as the season progresses.

A Snail's Pace Running Club 100 Willow Street AC 100 Athena TC 90 Team Runners High 90 Atlanta TC 80 Club Ed Running 80.
Runners from the Atlanta Track Club's 40+ and 50+ teams enjoying their medals after the USATF 10 K Championship

Women 60+. Last year GVH took first with 470 points; the Impala Racing team from the San Francisco Bay area finished second with 300 points. The Impala team finished first at Brea and at Club Cross in San Francisco and traveled east to race and win the 5 KM XC at Saratoga Springs.

So far in 2016 Impala has the lead with three first place finishes in three tries, at Bend,  Brea, and Dedham. Starting the season off with 300 points is certainly firing a warning shot at GVH. As they apparently also intend to compete in San Diego they will likely add to their lead. If they travel east for the 5 km XC, as they did last year, they will surely be the favorite for the gold medal, even over GVH. The Southern California club, A Snail's Pace has their points from a 2nd place at Brea and the Central Mass Striders took 2nd at Dedham. The AtlantaTrack Club took 3rd at Dedham and sits in 4th. The GVH team is not on the board this year. I expected to see them at the 10K Championships but they did not enter. I hope this is just a temporary absence and we will see them competing strongly in the second half of the year. The Impala team already has the required 3 races in to qualify for end of the year awards. Impala Racing 300 Central Mass Striders 90 A Snail's Pace Runnning Club 90 Atlanta TC 80.
Runners on the Impala  Racing 60+ team with their Awards after the USATF 10K Championship

Women 70+. A Snail's Pace entered a W70 team this year in the USATF 8K Championship at Brea. That gives them the early lead. Last year no teams in this category made the minimum 3 races required to qualify for prizes. Will any W70 teams have greater Grand Prix aspirations this year? There is no sign of it so far. A Snail's Pace 100.

Men 40+. In 2015 the Atlanta Track Club and the Cal Coast Track Club battled all year with Atlanta pulling away with a second place at the 12K Championships in November and coming in ahead of Cal Coast at Club Cross in December. Pennsylvania's TNT International took third.

This year Cal Coast has 180 points in the books already with a 3rd place at Bend and a 1st at Brea, 10 more points than their total last year at this time. Atlanta's Kristian Blaich missed Brea with an illness and then his hip flexor acted up to keep him away from Dedham as well. So a weakened Atlanta team is still in 2nd but the 4th in Brea and the 3rd in Dedham were not what they were hoping for at the start of the season.  It will be interesting to see which races Cal Coast and Atlanta choose to compete in. Last year they went head-to-head at the 15K in Tulsa and at Club XC with Cal Coast coming in ahead at Tulsa and Atlanta at Club Cross. So far Cal Coast has the edge with the superior finish at Brea. Another wrinkle is that Blaich turns 50 this year. Will he continue to compete on the M40+ team or will he sometimes join the M50+ group in the second half of the year?

It should be a fascinating race between Cal Coast and Atlanta again this year.

The powerful Bowerman Track Club from Oregon won the USA XC Championship at Bend but in recent years they have only competed for the Club Grand Prix  at that race and Club XC. If that continues to be the case, they are no threat as they would not have the minimum number of events to contest the Grand Prix. That is also true of the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) team which won the 10K at Dedham. They are tied for third but are unlikely to be there at the end of the year. The Central Mass Striders, the Santa Barbara Running and Racing Club, and A Snail's Pace Running Club took 3rd in Dedham, Bend, and Brea respectively. But none of those teams have been inclined to travel enough out of their area to really contest the Club GP. TNT, who has been willing to travel a bit, took 6th at Dedham so is on the board with 55 points.
Cal Coast Track Club 180 Atlanta Track Club 150 Boston Athletic Association 100 Bowerman Track Club 100 Central Mass Striders 90 Santa Barbara Running and Racing 90 A Snail's Pace Running Club 90.
Cal Coast TC 40+ Team Enjoying Their USATF 8K Championship at the Brea Classic [photo-Paul Carlin]

M50+. Last year this was the most hotly contested division. The Genesee Valley Harriers (GVH) and the Playmakers Elite/New Balance teams wound up with 470 points each. Playmakers Elite had the tie breaker due to better head-to-head performances at Flint, Syracuse, Alexandria and San Francisco with GVH prevailing at Boulder. The Atlanta Track Club finished in 3rd with the Cal Coast Track Club not far back in 4th.

 This year Cal Coast has taken the early lead with wins at Bend and Brea. The Bowerman Track Club took 2nd at Brea but they have not been inclined to participate in Championship Road Races so are unlikely to contend for the GP Championship. At Dedham it was the Greater Springfield Harriers (GSH) taking first place points. That may not be very important in the GP race unless GSH is more inclined to travel as a Team than they were last year. Perhaps more significant is the fact that GVH is now on the board, finishing 2nd. The Atlanta Track Club which may also contend, finished in 4th. Atlanta missed Ken Youngers who has been one of the mainstays of the 50+ team in recent years, but ran into injury problems last year. If he can return to action healthy it will help Atlanta's chances.If the Playmakers Elite are going to contend again this year, they will need to make Flint, Syracuse, Tallahassee (October), Tulsa and Tallahassee (December) count; there will likely be little room for error.

Atlanta will be an interesting club to follow this year. Youngers, like Blaich, will transition up to the next age group later this year. Will he run with the 50+ team or the 60+ team in the fall? There are a lot of moving parts for Atlanta. If Blaich moves up to the 50+ team and Youngers stays, that gives them a powerful 50+ team. But if Blaich stays with the 40+ team then perhaps Youngers would move up in the fall and give Atlanta a more powerful 60+ team. It will also depend on exactly who is running for the Atlanta 60+ team (see below). Rob Arsenault of Cal Coast has indicated their intent to contest at least five M50+ events this year. They have two wins in the books; if they contest and win 3 more, they are guaranteed of at least a tie for 1st. But that's a tall order. Playmakers and GVH both return the same strong crew from last year so they should make a run at the GP win again. Last year Playmakers came on strong in the second half of the season and perhaps that is their plan again. And all of these teams are on the lookout for talent so one never knows when a team might show up with a speedy new runner. Cal Coast TC 200 Greater Springfield Harriers 100 Bowerman TC 90 Cal Coast 'B' 90 GVH 90 Dirigo RC 80 Atlanta TC 70
Cal Coast TC 50+ Team After their Win at the USATF 8K Championship [Photo-Paul Carlin]
M60+. Last year the Boulder Road Runners, the Genesee Valley Harriers and the Ann Arbor Track Club had a terrific contest. The Boulder Road Runners came out on top in a very close contest. Ann Arbor was very banged up over the second half of the season so faded from contention as the Shore Athletic Club almost caught them for 3rd. Boulder edged GVH 470 to 460 to take the GP Team 1st.

Although somewhat banged up, Boulder, even without John Victoria, is nonetheless in front with a 2nd at Bend, a 3rd at Brea and a win at Dedham. But Cal Coast is not far behind due to wins at Bend and Brea. GVH is 3rd in the Club GP 60+ race due to a 3rd at Bend, with Mark Rybinski not at his best, and a 4th at Dedham, without Rybinski.  Cal Coast 'B' and the Shore AC took 2nds at the 8K and 10K respectively to tie for 4th in the GP race at this point. Ann Arbor and the Atlanta TC are far below the strength they had in 2014 but are at least on the board with a 5th and 6th place finish respectively at Dedham. The Boulder RR team already has the 3 races they need to qualify for an end of the year award.
Boulder Road Runners 270 Cal Coast TC 200 GVH 150 Cal Coast TC 'B' 90 Shore AC 90
Boulder Road Runners 60+ Team After Their Victory at Dedham this Year

M70+. Last year it was a close battle all the way with  the Shore AC pulling away with victories at the 5 KM XC, the 15K and the 12K Championships. The Atlanta Track Club was only 30 points back at the end of the year, followed by the Ann Arbor Track Club in third.

The Atlanta TC got the early jump this year with a first at Bend and a third at Dedham. One of their main rivals, Shore AC got on the board with a 2nd at Dedham. But the Ann Arbor TC will not make its debut until the San Diego Half Marathon in June. Doug Goodhue, Ann Arbor's leader the last two years and his reliable 2nd runner, Monte Piliawsky, have been too banged up to compete. So even though they have added a couple of strong runners, they could not mount a challenge at Dedham. The Tamalpa Runners, from the San Francisco Bay area, took 1st at Brea with their powerful 1-2 punch of Len Goldman and Hans Schmid. They have entered a team at San Diego so it is possible they will get enough races in to qualify for an award at the end of the year. But it is unlikely they will compete in enough races to seriously contend for a top GP medal. Club Ed Running took a 2nd at Brea but they are even less likely to compete in other USATF Championship races.
Atlanta TC 180 Tamalpa Runners 100 Club Ed Running 90 Shore AC 90 Florida Track Club/West 80.

M80+. No teams competed and finished in 3 events, the minimum needed to qualify for awards. That is likely to be the case again this year. The San Diego Track Club fielded an 80+ team at Brea and they took first. They are the leader but need 2 more finishes before they qualify for a GP Award.
San Diego Track Club 100.

Next up will be the first 2016 report on the Individual Grand Prix contests.

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