Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2016 USATF 5K Masters Championship at the Syracuse Festival of Races-Preview 1- RECORDS TO FALL

September 28 2016. [Part I] As of today there are 251 [9-28 midday] Elite Masters Athletes entered for the USATF 5K Masters Championships at the Syracuse Festival of Races this coming Sunday, proving once more its popularity among Masters runners. We could be headed to a record number of entrants! Dave Oja and his dedicated staff put on a terrific athlete-centered race. As a result, this could be one of the best in recent years, both in terms of depth and quality. Initially it looked as if six age-group national records might fall. While two late scratches will have an impact we still expect records to fall for both women and men. We look forward to exciting races, both overall and in the age groups, not to mention spirited team competition.

Ten days ahead the weather forecast was favorable, with partly sunny skies predicted. More recently the forecast is a bit patchier. The logo at Weather Underground shows a bit of sun, a bit of cloud and rain beneath, putting the precipitation % at just over 30. On the bright side that means the odds of no rain are 2:1. Even if there is rain it looks like it would be light. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Chances for New US Age Group Records.

Ordinarily when you see the name, Kevin Castille, in the Status of Entries, you figure that means a record-breaking performance could be in sight. But Bernard Lagat put that out of reach for a while to come with his 13:41 at Carlsbad in 2015 and, if that were not enough, lowered it to 13:39 this year. Castille will have to wait until next year to see if he can take down Dennis Simonaitis's M45 record of 14:45. So who will take on the Age Group records? The initial list included Tom Bernhard, Jan Holmquist, Pete Magill, Kathryn Martin, Brian Pilcher and Libby James.

Unfortunately Holmquist and Magill have had to scratch due to injuries which have curtailed their training. Holmquist set the women’s only 5K record at 22:16 in 2014 and lowered it two seconds last year; we were looking to see if she could manage 3 record years in a row. Unfortunately we will have to wait till next year for her next attempt. Magill was returning from a self-imposed exile year of building core fitness, working on books, and his many other running enterprises. His 16:08 at Carlsbad gave us hope that his year off had led to a successful return to form. I hope the current injury is just temporary and that he is soon back pushing the pace in road and cross country races.

A two-time winner of Age Group Runner of the Year awards, Tom Bernhard has his sights set on bettering Bill Borla’s M65 mark of 18:12. That should be well within his range, given his 17:36 last year at this race as a spry 64-yar old. And he has been burning up the roads this year as well. Five days before his 65th birthday he uncorked a smoking fast 17:16 at the Morgan Hill Freedom Fest. Earlier in the year he ran 37:18 at the Marin Memorial Day 10K. And despite being 3 seconds faster at the USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships this year with a 5:18, Bernhard said he thought he was in shape to run even faster.
Tom Bernhard heading for the fine line to take the M60 title at the 2015 USATF 5K Championships in 17:36 [Photo credit: Bob Brock]

As of today, Kathy Martin is not entered but she has often waited until late in the process to register and in a Messenger exchange she did not correct me when I said she seemed to be primed for Syracuse. The 2013 and 2015 Masters Road Runner of the Year, Martin holds the Women’s 60-64 record at 19:04 and is chasing Sabra Harvey’s 20:27 for W65, set on this course two years ago. She ran 19:24 last year so it should be a safe bet. But there is some suspense. Martin’s fitness seems to be just slightly off her peak. Last year she ran the Fifth Avenue Mile in 5:39 but this year it was 5:50. In late August she ran the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K in 20:37. It is advertised as fast but does have a climb in the first mile. My bet is with Martin to take the record; after all, she has had a month to fine-tune her training since that outing.
Kathy Martin headed to victory at the 2015 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco [photo credit: Michael Scott]

2012 and 2013 Masters Road Runner of the Year, Brian Pilcher, takes aim at Tom McCormack’s 16:58, set on this same course two years ago. If he can get it he would hold both the M55 and M60 5K records, a worthy goal to say the least. Seven weeks before his 60th birthday, Pilcher ran 16:52 at the Morgan Hill Freedom Fest 5K. As he is on the comeback trail from a lost 2014 season and much of 2015, one would think he is still improving his fitness. Never one to take the easy path, Pilcher is not focused just on taking the 5K record, he is entered in the Chicago Marathon on October 9th. He is hoping to take down the 2:42:44 M60 Marathon record of Clive Davies which has stood since 1979. That would be some accomplishment. Nonetheless it means Pilcher has been focused on building marathon base rather than honing his 5K speed.  If he could actually take both records, that would provide a song for the ages!
Brian Pilcher headed for the finish line at the USATF 10K Championships in Dedham MA, chalking up another Age Grade 1st place [Photo Credit: Scott Mason]

Libby James has been named Age Group Runner of the Year each of the last five years and is the favorite to take the title again this year. Current holder of the Women’s 75-79 5K records, 23:34 (Women only) and 23:30 (outright), James is trying for the W80 record of 29:23 established by Anne Clarke in 1989. James has run two 5K’s this summer under 25:30, one at altitude and the other at the Freihofer’s 5K in Albany NY a month before her 80th birthday. With four minutes to play with, this seems the most certain of the four age group records to fall. Count yourself lucky if you get to see this legend of Masters Road Running crossing the finish line this coming Sunday.
Libby James competing in the Bolder Boulder 10K [Photo Credit: Gameface Media--appearing in Boulder's]
That's part I of the Preview--the aspiring Record Busters!

Part II will focus on Overall Races and some of the Age group races--hope to post by late evening on Thursday September 29.

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