Wednesday, December 21, 2016

USATF Club Cross Country Championship-Recap 2--Age Grading and Age Groups

December 18 2016. On Saturday, December 10, in Tallahassee the skies were clear and the temperatures unseasonably frosty. Those from the north were philosophical; after all it was colder and snowier where they came from. Those from warmer climes felt a little cheated; they had bargained for decent temperatures and a fine XC course. They got the 2nd but not the first. The course had a very wide start at the top of a field; as the runners advanced there was a slight funnel effect but not enough to bunch runners up. This part had short grass. After passing the eventual finish line about 500 meters into the race, runners sweep up a gradual rise, bend to the left and come out on a flat portion past the 1 K mark. Shortly thereafter the course bends to the left and then it heads down into the wooded portion of the course. This part is apparently made of crushed oyster shell although it feels like any path with gritty little stones in it.The course winds through the woods, mostly downhill but then a little up and down and then eventually after the 2K mark, runners have the one hard hill on the course whre they climb back up almost level with the start. Here the runners are again in the open, running over short grass down to either begin another loop or to finish the race. That is the basic 3K loop; there is also a short 2K loop that sends runners to the left just before the 1K mark, cutting off about a kilometer of the basic loop. The women run 2 basic loops for 6K; the 60+ men run 2 basic loops, followed by a short loop for 8K; and the 40+ men run 2 basic loops followed by two short loops for 10K. The mercury was right at freezing when the women were warming up for the 8 am start of their race. At least the winds were calm, but there was definitely frost on the grass. The temperature had climbed to the upper 30's by the time the 60+ men went off at 8:45. But itwas windier too at about 5 mph so the wind chill was still only 35 degrees. Still every little bit helps and many runners felt like hats and gloves were unnecessary. Finally the 40+ men went off at 9:45 with the thermometer reading a balmy 45. Again with winds up to 6 mph now, the wind chill was 42.

In recap number 1, posted on December 15, I covered the first runner across the line, the overall winner in each of the 3 races. Here I will cover Age-Grading and Age Groups. Age-Grading provides a way of comparing the relative performance of runners of different age groups. The time for each runner is associated with the world's best time for that runner's age and sex. An age-grade of 90% for a 62 year old male means (roughly) the runner is running  90% as fast as the World's Best for a 62-year old male. The closer to 100, the better the Age Grade.

Age Grade Contests. The top age grade performances for Women this year in Masters LDR and XC Championships were turned in by Sabra Harvey, Libby James, Kathy Martin, Edie Stevenson, and Marisa Sutera Strange. James and Stevenson were not competing in this race. Among the other three, Martin had the strongest age grade, followed by Harvey, followed by Strange. Trish Butler and Lynn Cooke had an age-grade 2nd and 3rd place, respectively, at the 5 km Masters XC and Lorraine Jasper had 3rd Age Grade in the 1 Mile Road Race. But it would be a lot to expect them to challenge for the podium. Just as Harvey upset Martin in the Age group contest, she also had the edge in Age Grade. Strange ran strong too, nailing down 3rd place, less than a percentage point ahead of Butler who had to settle for 4th.

Harvey 97.1%     Martin 93.5     Strange 90.1
Sabra Harvey (red hat) on her way to the best Age Graded Performance at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]
Top Age Grade performers for those entered in the Men's 8K this year came from Brian Pilcher, who had the top age grade in the 5K, 10K and 15K this year, and John Barbour, who had the 2nd best Age Grade score last year in Club XC. John Barbour had a top Age grade at the 2015 Club XC Championship in this age group. Doug Bell got the 4th best Age-Grade for 60+ men in the 10K at Dedham and the same in the 5K at Syracuse. Bell's teammate, Dan Spale, had 4th best age grade for 60+ men at Tulsa in the 15K. As noted in the post on the top finishers in the race, Barbour, who is 62 to Pilcher's 60, was able to hang with Pilcher until he final few hundred meters when Pilcher pulled away to win by 7 seconds. Staying that close meant that Barbour was able to keep Pilcher from claiming his 4th straight age grade title.
There is a hint of a smile as John Barbour approaches the finish line knowing he has the top Age Grade for Men 60+ at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Bell got the better of his teammate, Spale, in claiming third place by more than a percentage point. A newcomer to the USATF Masters Grand Prix circuit, Dave Blankenship, came in 4th, edging Spale by 3 one hundredths of a percentage point.

Barbour 89.4%     Pilcher 88.0     Bell 87.1

The 10K also had a super set of Age-Graders. Kevin Castille took top honors at San Diego in the Half Marathon, probably his favorite distance, and top honors among those 40-59 at the 5K in Syracuse. Nat Larson finished 2nd among all age-grades at the 10K, 5K and 15K but in only one of those races did a current 40-59 year old beat him and that runner is not entered. Peter Hammer  finished right behind Larson at Dedham and was 4th best Age Grader among the 40-59 year olds at last year's Club XC. Pete Magill returns to national championship competition and cannot be overlooked. The last two XC races he ran were at Bethlehem PA in 2014 where he finished 3rd in age-grading right behind Hammer and in the USA XC Championships in Boulder in 2015 where he was the 4th place age-grader. Carl Combs had the 2nd best Age Grade at Bend and finished 5th at the stacked 5K race in Syracuse. Kerry Barnett looked to be a little more of a long shot; he had the 7th best age grade among M40+/M50+ runners in the 1 Mile Road Race at Flint and had the 9th best Age Grade for the groups in the 5K at Syracuse. In the end, it was Magill who had the legs for the best Age Grade, taking the crown with a half percentage point to spare.
Pete Magill, 55,(1282)  leading a pack with Kristian Blaich, 50 (on Magill's right elbow), Eric Stabb, 48 (1220), and Nat Larson 54 (1349). Magill Won the Men's 55-59 Gold Medal and Had the Top Age Grade  at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Larson collected his 4th 2nd place this year, besting Castille by less than half a percentage point. Hammer ran well but had to settle for 4th, a percentage point back. Barnett surprised many by running a terrific race and finished 5th Age Grading less than a percentage point behind Hammer. Combs had an off day by his standard but still claimed a top 10 Age Grade.

Magill 91.66     Larson 91.2     Castille 90.8

Congratulations to these top Age-Grading Competitors! They are the elite of our Masters Runners.



40-44.  As usual, the tale of this age group was already told inthe coverage o the Overall contest for the Women's 6K. Club Northwest's Janet McDevitt and GVH's Heather Webster who took 2-3 overall, finished 1-2 in this group with the 5th place overall finisher, McDevitt's teammate, Camille Shiflett, in 3rd. That coverage did not indicate how well Nancy Ellis of the Tacoma City Running Club and Athena's Alice Kassens ran in finishing 4th and 5th. Ellis was only a couple of seconds back from Shiflett when the pack passed the 1K mark. She fell a few more seconds off the pace in the second kilometer but then maintained that gap for the whole rest of the first lap and well into the 2nd. Eventually around the 4K mark, the gap up to Shiflett started to grow over ten seconds. But Ellis hung tough and finished in 4th only 16 seconds off the podium, with Kassens another 14 seconds back.
Janet McDevitt, Club Northwest, wins the Women's 40-44 title at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

McDevitt 22:37     Webster 22:55     Shiflett 23:06  

45-49. The overall winner, Atlanta's Sonja Friend-Uhl, took the title in this age group with nearly a minute to spare while the Impala's Nancy Thomas, who finished 6th overall, had no problem nailing down 2nd with over a minute back to the 3 closest chasers, Deborah Fletcher, Rachel Hopkins, and Caren Mangarelli.
Sonja Friend-Uhl surging towards the Women's 45-49 title along wit hthe Overall Win at the2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Clay Shaw, posted on Facebook]

Hopkins could only stay within 10 seconds of Thomas through the first kilometer but she already had 14 seconds on her closest rival, Mangarelli.
Rachel Hopkins heading for a bronze medal in the Women's 45-49 group at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Both of those gaps grew in the course of the race so Hopkins took 3rd with a half minute gap back to Mangarelli, who had a half minute on Fletcher.

Friend-Uhl 22:15     Thomas 23:07     Hopkins 24:13

50-54. As the top 3 in this group finished 4th, 7th and 8th overall, again the tale of this group is the tale of the overall race, plus one. The overall tale noted that Santa Cruz's Liisa Miller went out fast and had 3 seconds on Athena's Marisa Sutera Strange by the first kilometer, with Southern Cal's Katherine Wolski right off of Strange's elbow. What I did not recount is that Kathleen Cushing-Murray, of the Jane's Elite, was right off of Miller's elbow. Cushing-Murrray stayed right there the whole first loop. At that point she was in 2nd, 1 second behind Miller and with 4 seconds on Strange and 6 on Wolski. Even after Strange surged to control the age group by the 4K mark, Cushing-Murray seemed to be heading for the podium with 7 seconds on Wolski. With 1000 meters to go, Strange surged up  the last hill and was away but Miller was only 2 seconds ahead of Cushing-Murray and Wolski was still 7 seconds back. Strange claimed the gold with ten seconds to spare, a dominant victory in the end!
Marisa Sutera Strange nails down the Women's 50-54 victory with a definitive closing sprint at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

As the chasers broke into the open out of the wooded part, no matter how hard she pushed, Cushing-Murray could not close on Miller. But once she reached the flat portion at the top, leading to the downhill slope to the finish,Wolski found her kick and it carried her past Cushing-Murray and almost up to Miller!
Katherine Wolski outlasts Kathleen Cushing-Murray for the Bronze Medal in the Women's 50-54 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Wolski claimed third by a single second over Cushing-Murray--Wow, what a race!

Strange 23:00     Miller 23:10     Wolski 23:13

55-59.  I saw this as a contest between the two Athena Track Club teammates, Lorraine Jasper and Mary Swan and the New Balance Tampa runner, Susan 'Lynn' Cooke. Margaret Sloan's 2nd place in the Masters 5 km XC caught my attention as did Paula Jones and Patrice Combs, who were 4th and 5th at Syracuse. Somehow I overlooked Amanda King, who took 2nd at the USATF New England XC Championships and ran 43:03 at the 10K Championship in Dedham. Give her a challenge and she rises to it.  Despite my picking her two Athena rivals to finish ahead of her, Cooke raced right to the front and had 8 seconds on Jasper, her closest pursuer, by the time they passed the 1K mark before turning and heading into the wooded section. King was 4 seconds back from her with Sloan just behind. They maintained those positions through the wooded section and when they passed the Finish line chute with one lap to go, Cooke had 9 seconds over Jasper, with Sloan and King matching stride for stride another 17 seconds back. Swan, on an off day, was another 16 seconds back.
Lynn Cooke cruising toward the Gold medal in the Women's 55-59 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

As they headed up slope and then around to the left on the flat, the gap between the two leaders came down to 6 seconds and Jasper may have has some hope of closing. But once they headed down slope into the woods, Cooke was able to re-establish the gap; it was back up to 11 seconds with a thousand meters to go. Up the hill and out into the open area, try as she might, Jasper could not gain enough ground. In the end it was Cooke with a 9 second win. Jasper came on strong at the end for the 2nd place.
Lorraine Jasper striding toward the Silver Medal in the Women's 55-59 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

What about the final podium position? King and Sloan were still going stride for stride at the 4K mark. But once into the wooded portion, the gap started to grow as Sloan pulled away from King, an 8 second gap at the 5K mark growing to 14 by the finish.

But King knew she had put up a real fight and made Sloan work for her bronze medal.And Cooke let me know after the race, with a twinkle in her eye that she had upset my prediction.Another hard fought race!

Cooke 24:51     Jasper 25:00     Sloan 25:36

60-64. The Impala's Mo Bartley was the heavy favorite in this group. After that it was a little more doubtful. I gave a heavy weight, in the end, to the 2015 Club XC results which showed So Cal's Debbie Lee, the unattached Claire McManus, and the Impala's Jill Miller-Robinett finishing in that order with a minute between the first two and 17 seconds between the next two. I did note that Miller-Robinett had had a stellar autumn of running and maybe I should have taken more note of the fact that Lee and McManus were in a different group last year, 55-59, so may not have gotten the attention of Miller-Robinett's competitive instincts. I also knew that Atlanta's Mary Richards had run some strong 5K's and had finished only 10 seconds back from Miller-Robinett at the 1 Mile at Flint, but I thought Lee and McManus had an edge on her.  

Indeed it was Bartley's show. By the kilometer mark, she had 12 seconds on Lee and a half minute on the rest of the field. She poured it on the rest of the way and won with a huge margin, almost two minutes!
Mo Bartley, adding to her lead with every stride over the frosty turf, on her way to the Women's 60-64 Gold medal at the
2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Although Lee was not able to run with Bartley, she was away smartly at the gun and by the kilometer mark had an 18 second gap on Miller-Robinett, with Richards and, to my surprise, Atlanta's  Cynthis Lucking, close behind.Lee held her lead at 18 seconds through the 2K mark but after that Miller-Robinett began to steadily chip away at the lead, leaving Richards behind to strive with Lucking. When they passed the finish chute heading int the 2nd loop, Miller-Robinett had cut Lee's lead to 11 seconds, still substantial but, no doubt, Miller-Robinett could look up the slope and feel she had Lee in her sights. She had chipped another 3 seconds off by the time they entered the wooded back loop. From there Miller-Robinett really accelerated, cutting off huge chunks of Lee's lead! With 1000 meters to go, Miller-Robinett was right on Lee's heels. Up the last tough hill and down the grassy slope to the finish, Miller-Robinett had found another gear and cruised to 2nd place with a 10 second gap to Lee.
Jill Miller-Robinett generating almost enough kinetic heat to keep herself warm in the early going over frosty turf-headed for the Women's 60-64 Silver Medal at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

And even though Lee was somewhat spent, she hung on gamely to claim third place with a three second margin over the fast closing Richards. Lucking finished in 5th, another 9 seconds back.

Bartley 26:42     Miller-Robinett 28:13     Lee 28:23

65-69. This was one of the most tantalizing match-up's of the day. Kathryn 'Kathy' Martin has been Harrier of the Year many, many times and was fresh off a record-breaking 5K run at the USATF 5K Championships at Syracuse, where she broke 20 minutes. At the recent World Athletics Championships in Perth Australia she had entered the Cross Country race and 5 events on the track, including the Steeplechase. Too ambitious? Maybe but Martin is a Hall of Famer; she set new world records in the 5000 meters and 2000 meter steeplechase and brought home 4 gold and two silver medals. The only shortcoming was that she was not able to prevail in two short events, the 800 and 1500 meters, where her Team USA teammate, Sabra Harvey defeated her, earning a new world record in the 800. Some pundits opined that Martin was better at the longer distances and Harvey excelled at the shorter ones. Others felt that perhaps Martin had taken on too many events, wore down and only lost to Harvey because of that. They felt Martin would have no trouble beating Harvey on her favored turf when each was just running the one event. Still others worried there might be lingering effects of a Perth overload. In any case, there was much attention focused on the 65-69 race between Martin, the 2013 and 2015 Masters Long Distance Runner of the Year (ROY), and Harvey, the 2016 Award ROY winner. Atlanta's Nonie Hudnall and the two GVH runners, Jeanne Herrick and Cindy Ingalls were the favorites to battle for the last podium position.

The duel between Martin and Harvey started out looking like the classic case of a runner with a strong kick sticking with a front-runner who lacked the strong kick, knowing they could kick past in the end. At the 1 kilometer mark, Martin was leading but Harvey was tucked in right behind. As they headed down into the wooded loop it was as if Martin sensed Harvey there and knew she needed to put a gap on her. She had her 5 second gap by the 2K mark. Then it was up the hill and down the long slope past the finishing chute and Martin had 7 seconds on Harvey. Which way would it go?
Kathy Martin, [#1076] ahead of a 40's runner, leading the field in the Women's 65-69 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]
In years past we would have expected Martin to continue to steadily pull away over the 2nd lap but Harvey is a very strong runner; could she keep the gap there and then sprint past in the end? As it turned out, that was the high point for Martin; Harvey accelerated up the hill and had taken 4 seconds off of Martin's lead by the time they headed into the wooded back loop for the 2nd time. Harvey then bided her time, closing to 2 seconds with 1000 meters to go. Again it was up the tough hill and down the long, gentle slope but this time it was not Martin padding her lead, but Harvey emerging into the open and powering away from Martin. It was a tremendous duel; the final margin of 16 seconds belies the closeness of the race.
Sabra Harvey winning the Gold medal in the Women's 65-69 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

I salute these two terrific champions who went head to head, giving it everything they've got. I look forward to their competitions in the races to come in 2017.

And what of the final podium spot? Ingalls had an off day; it was a contest between Hudnall and Herrick. In the event, it was all Hudnall; she had 12 seconds on Herrick in the first kilometer and built her lead steadily throughout the rest of the race. Hudnall claimed third decisively, a minute and 47 seconds ahead of Herrick.

Harvey 25:26     Martin 25:42     Hudnall 31:09

70-74. Dianne Anderson came to help her Impala team but also took home the gold medal in this group, unopposed, but with a fine time.
Dianne Anderson finsihing off the first loop on her way to the Women's 70-74 Gold Medal at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Anderson 34:53

75-79. Madeline Bost ran solo in this division as well, claiming the gold medal and the Individual Grand Prix title in the same race.
Madeline Bost finishing her Women's 75-79 Gold Medal win at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Bost 49:07



40-44. As the coverage of the overall race makes clear, Kevin Castille, in his last year in the group, devastated the field, romping to victory with the rest of the field barely in sight.
Kevin Castille wins the Master's Men's 10K Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Greg Mitchell (1259) and John Gardiner (1275) Pulling Away from Neville Davey in the Masters Men's 10K at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]
Bowerman's Gregory Mitchell and Cal Coast's John Gardiner completed the podium. Just off were West Valley's Neville Davey and Christopher Mutai, of 1st Place Sports, in 4th and 5th.
Neville Davey (black singlet)bearing Down on Christopher Mutai heading to the finish of the Masters Men's 10K at
the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Castille 31:29     Mitchell 32:43     Gardiner 32:54

45-49. Although I was pretty good about identifying the main contenders, I had no luck in predicting the eventual winners in this very competitive field. My picks for 1-2-3 came in 10th, 7th and 14th. In addition to Tim Van Orden of the Central Mass Striders, I identified three others of the 7 actual contenders: Bowerman's Matthew Farley, Derrick Jones, unattached, the BAA's Keven O'Neill, and Atlanta's Eric Stabb. I entirely missed Cal Coast's Steven Frisone, perhaps relying too much on the 8K Championship at Brea where he finished 8th in his age group, but perhaps on an off day. I could find no recent results for Sandu Rebencuic, of the Greater Springfield Harriers; he was the overall winner of the Mayor's Cup Cross Country race in Boston 15 years ago when he was 32 but that is hardly enough to project a top finish. Jones, a newcomer to USATF Masters events , but with top finishes at the Cooper River Bridge 10K and the Boilermaker 15K, went out like he was the class of the field, establishing a six second gap on Farley and Rebencuic in the first kilometer. Frisone, O'Neill, Stabb and Van Orden followed 5 seconds back in a bunch. Jones continued to build his lead through the wooded back loop and after they emerged into the open and passed the starting chute to begin loop #2, he had 11 seconds on Farley and Rebecuic, with Van Orden six seconds further back, followed closely by O'Neill and Stabb, with Frisone 10 seconds back. As they headed up the slope toward the 4K mark, Rebencuic upped the pace, with Farley hanging on, and was rewarded by a 4 second reduction in Jones's lead. They felt it behind as well; Van Orden was now 8 seconds back with O'Neill on his shoulder and Stabb a few seconds back. Frisone continued to track them about 10 seconds back. Rebencuic was relentless through the back loop, cutting Jones lead to 4 seconds by the 5K mark, continued to press up that last tough hill and onto the open ground and down past the finishing chute again. Now he had a 2 second lead; Jones had not slacked his pace but Rebencuic had cranked it up! Farley was still sticking like glue to Rebencuic, 3 seconds back, right up on Jones. O'Neilll and Van Orden now faced an 11 second gap up to the leading trio, but they had 5 seconds on Stabb and 7 on Frisone who was finally starting to find some of the early leaders coming back to him.
Tim Van Orden leading the 2nd Chase Pack, including Kristian Blaich (red singlet) and Nat Larson (white singlet behind Blaich) in the Masters Men's 10K at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

The first half of the short loop found Farley passing Jones to tuck in right behind Rebencuic again; Jones was hanging tough just a couple of strides back. O'Neill and Van Orden were still ten seconds back; Frisone had passed Stabb and was only six seconds back from Van Orden. They bypassed the finishing chute one last time to start the last short 2k loop.

Rebencuic's continuing pressure resulted in a 4 second gap back to Farley, who, in turn, had an 11 second gap back to Jones, who was still hanging onto 3rd place. O'Neill and Van Orden were now only 6 seconds back, with 5 seconds back to Frisone and Stabb, who had rallied nicely.With a kilometer to go Rebenuic had a 9 second lead on Farley and no one was going to catch him.
Sandu Rebencic (white singlet) leading Mike Galoob (1243) and Peter Hammer (1244) in towards the finish of the Masters Men's 10K at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

But Farley had no worries for 2nd either as the chasers were struggling, now 18 seconds to the rear. Jones and O'Neill were running 3-4 with 8 seconds back to Van Orden, who had Stabb and Frisone right on his heels. Rebencuic closed out strongly for an 18 second margin of victory. Though he could not match Rebencuic's ferocious pace, Farley nonetheless distanced himself from the rest of the field, claiming 2nd by 17 seconds. O'Neill was able to kick away from Jones and hang on for the last podium position as Frisone and Stabb surged past Jones in the final 400 meters. Van Orden, spent by his efforts in the middle of the race, came in 9 seconds later. A very tough race; now we know what a class runner Sandu Rebencuic is. perhaps we will see him more regularly at USATF Championships in the future.

Rebencuic 33:27     Farley 33:45     O'Neill 34:02

50-54. With this race I had all of the main contenders identified, with the exception of Mark Hixson, of the Greater Springfield Harriers who surprised me by being in contention for the podium. The contenders I identified were:  Atlanta's Kristian Blaich, Club Northwest's Carl Combs, the BAA's Peter Hammer, Springfield's Nat Larson and his teammate, Kent Lemme. When the gun sounded, Hammer moved out smartly but the rest of the field was in close. As they passed the 1K mark just before heading into the wooded back loop, Hammer had Larson right on his shoulder, with Blaich, Hixson and Lemme striding along right behind. Combs was 5 seconds back. Was this just a measured start for Combs or was it a sign of an off day? By the end of the first loop we had our answer. Hammer had pulled away to an 8 second lead but the chase pack was still tightly bunched and they were about 12 seconds ahead of Combs. Combs would ordinarily be right with Larson and Blaich so it seemed something was not quite right. Over the next loop Hammer extended his lead but the pack stayed tight 16 seconds back with Lemme showing the first signs of struggle as he now faces a 3 second gap to the chasers. Hammer built his lead the rest of the way and won the group handily.
Peter Hammer (1244) Running with the 40+ Gang as He Claims Victory in the Men's 50-54 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

The third short loop showed no change among the chasers, Blaich, Hixson and Larson as they continued stride for stride. Who would break first? Lemme was now 9 seconds back and, despite having an off day, Combs was now only 6 seconds back from Lemme.With a kilometer to go the three chasers were locked in step as they all recorded the exact same time at the 9K mat, and Combs was now even with Lemme. Larson had the best kick, edging Blaich by 2 seconds for 2nd with Blaich edging Hixson by 3 seconds. Combs, not surprisingly passed Lemme, who had the consolation of knowing he had pressed the pace and tried to stay with the chase group.
Carl Combs (1306) Heading for the Finish Line at the Masters Men's 10K at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Combs, even on an off day, showed that he belonged among the top 50+ runners in the nation. Hammer dominated the group no doubt but the three chasers, Larson, Blaich and Hixson distinguished themselves with a very hard fought duel for the podium.
Hammer 33:28     Larson 34:05     Blaich 34:07

55-59. For this group I had the top 4 but underestimated Kerry Barnett of Playmakers Elite/New Balance. Cal Coast's Pete Magill was the odds-on favorite to win. Club Northwest's Michael Smith had finished 3rd last year so looked good to make the podium. Dirigo RC's Pete Bottomley had finished 5th in the 50-54 group at the 10K Championship in Dedham before he aged up. Had he been in the 55-59 group only Mark Reeder and Brian Pilcher would have beaten him; that looked like pretty good credentials. Barnett has been running very strong this autumn and seemed to be getting stronger each race. Magill went off like a bullet when the gun went off, leaving the field in his wake, 11 seconds back by the 1K mark. Then it was Bottomley, Barnett and Smith 2-3-4, separated by a few strides. Magill built his lead steadily throughout the race, taking the age group gold by well over a minute. And it was not Smith's day; despite his best efforts, Bottomley and Barnett kept pulling away. But which of the two B's would have his way. On the back loop, Bottomley pulled away ever so slightly from Barnett, 5 seconds at the 2K and then 6 seconds when they passed the finish line chute for the first time. By the 5K mark toward the end of the wooded portion Bottomley was 7 seconds ahead, but that was the high water mark. By the time they finished the 2nd loop, Barnett had cut a couple of seconds off of the lead. But that gap held through the first kilometer of the 1st short loop. But once they entered the woods, now for the 3rd time, Barnett hit the accelerator and by the end of the loop, had closed to within a second of Bottomley. As they headed up the slope and around the flat portion, Barnett puled even and then passed, but Bottomley held on.
Kerry Barnett Driving for Home and the Silver Medal in the Men's 55-59 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

But in the end Barnett was not to be denied as he pulled away, first by a few strides and then crossed the finish line with a 5 second gap to Bottomley-well raced by both of them.

Magill 34:13     Barnett 35:37     Bottomley 35:42

60-64. I thought this would go to Tamalpa's Brian Pilcher by a mile; at the beginning of October he broke the US 5K record and a week later tied the Marathon record and on his way, broke the Half Marathon, 25K and 30K records. I knew Greater Lowell's  John Barbour had stuck with Rick Becker most of the way last year at Club Cross and only lost out in the final 200 meters. But, as strong a runner as Becker is, he has not yet broken any records in the age group. But when Pilcher heard I was predicting him to win it easily, he replied, "It's John Barbour and it's Cross Country-you saw what he did last year with Becker. He's gonna push all the way!" And who would be competing for third? Boulder's Dan Spale has run really strong this autumn; at the 15K Championship in Tulsa, Spale was second behind Pilcher. Other contenders included GVH's Mark Rybinski on the comeback trail from injury,his teammate, Gary Radford, who has also had a strong autumn including a 2nd place finish at the Masters 5K XC, and Mark Richtman, Pilcher's teammate, who is one of the top Trail Runners in the Bay Area. When the gun went off, Pilcher surged forward but Barbour found his shoulder and established himself there; they had 9 second so n the field by the 1K mark and the gap kept growing throughout the race. There was the race for first between Pilcher and Barbour and the race for third between Radford, Richtman, Rybinski and Spale. Those four were a tight chase pack at the 1K mark. Throughout the race it was as if Pilcher and Barbour were connected by a short tether; sometimes Pilcher had a stride on Barbour and sometimes Barbour had a stride on Pilcher,
Brian Pilcher (blue headband) and John Barbour match stride for stride on their way to a 1-2 Finish in the Men's 60-64 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

but neither could break the other and so it went through the first loop and the second loop and most of the third Coming up the last hill they were still even but once they crested the hill, ran along the flat and saw the slope down to the finish line, Pilcher used his famous kick to pull away from Barbour and record the win. Like last year, Barboour took second after an epic duel, but this year the gap was 4 seconds instead of 6. What a race!

The 4-runner chase pack was intact through the 2K mark but once they reached the end of the first 3K, where they passed the finish line chute, Spale had 4 seconds on the others.
Dan Spale on his way to an impressive Bronze Medal performance at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Pushing up the slope, Spale grew that to 8 seconds by the 4K mark. Spale steadily pulled away from the other chasers , claiming 3rd, with a half minute margin. Radford, Richtman and Rybinski were locked in a race within the race. Even if they could not make the podium there were team goals and individual bragging rights at stake.  They were dead even at the 5K, 6K and 7K mats so it would come down to the final sprint. Rybinski managed the fastest turnover and kicked to 4th place with a 2 second margin over Radford who had a mere second over Richtman.

Pilcher 29:37     Barbour 29:41     Spale 30:33

Doug Bell (orange) heading for the Men's 65-69 Gold Medal, with Mark Richtman (on his elbow) heading for a Men's 60-64 6th place and Mark Rybinski (GVH) eventual 4th place finisher in the Men's 60-64 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

65-69.  Bowerman's Doug Winn is the defending champion who defeated Boulder's Doug Bell by a half minute at the 10K Championship in Dedham in April. These two great runners have a long history of meeting each other in Masters races with the honors sometimes going to Winn and sometimes to Bell. Would Bell get back on top this time or would Winn make it two in a row? And who else might surprise? I thought Atlanta's Kirk Larson or GVH's Doc Rappole might be a factor but I missed Santa Cruz's David Blankenship and Syracuse's Dave Foster. The only results I could find for a David Blankenship of the right age were some 40 minute plus 5K's; apparently I did not find the right Blankenship. With Foster I may have put too much emphasis on his 27th place finish at Club XC last year. He must have been running hurt. Bell started out like he believed it was his turn to be champion; by the 1K mark he had 6 seconds on Foster and 9 on Winn, with Blankenship tucked in between those two. Neither Larson nor Rappole got close enough to the chase group to factor into the race for the podium. It turns out Bell was right. He ran a great race; it was not Winn's day.' Bell was up by almost 20 seconds at the 2K mark and never looked back. He claimed the win with a 50 second margin of victory. But Blankenship, Foster and Winn were giving it their all in a tight chase pack to see who would get the remaining spots on the podium.
Doug Winn (red singlet) racing toward the Silver Medal in the Men's 65-69 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

They were dead even at the end of the first 3K loop and it stayed that way through the first 2K of the second 3K loop. By then Blankenship was tucked in behind Winn and there was a small gap back to Foster. By the time Winn and Blankenship surged up the hill and emerged into the open at the end of the 2nd loop, Foster was now 9 seconds back and the gap was growing. Blankenship hung on gamely but at the back of the short 3rd loop, a small gap emerged and then once they got to the top of the last hill and headed for the finish, it was Winn claiming 2nd with a 7 second margin over Blankenship.

Foster finished 4th 24 seconds back from Blankenship

Bell .31:37     Winn 32:27     Blankenship 32:34

70-74. The Silver Bullet, Doug Goodhue, of the Ann Arbor Track Club, took the title at the 5K Masters XC in Tallahassee in November, his first National Championship race of the year after battling pesky injuries most of the year. When Goodhue is running, even if not fully fit, it is hard to pick against him. He won Age Group Runner of the Year an unprecedented 8 years in a row from 2007 through 2014. He would have his work cut out for him though; a slew of strong runners from the West Coast were descending on Tallahassee. Len Goldman, the defending champ, and his new Tamalpa teammate, Donald Porteous, were going to be tough. Porteous has been running right with Goldman this autumn. Ron Enos, who finished 2nd to Goldman last year at Club XC is back and his Florida Track Club West teammate, Ronald Wells has been running some very fast 5K's this fall. And let's not forget Jim May, GVH's stellar road ace; he finished 3rd at the 5K championship in Syracuse. I thought Boulder's Jan Frisby might also factor as his fitness seemed to be improving over the last month or so. I (Paul Carlin) did not expect to factor in, despite finishing well ahead of Frisby at the 5K in Syracuse, because I had some setbacks after that, missed a number of workouts and just plain lacked fitness. Wells set off smartly with the gun; May was on his heels, Goldman a few strides back, followed closely by Goodhue and Porteous. The 3rd Tamalpa runner, Gene French, was 10 seconds back. Frisby was back a fair piece and I was even further back; neither of us factored into the hunt for the podium. By the 2K mark in the wooded section Wells had opened up a 6 second gap back to May; Goldman and Porteous were running a stride or two back from May. Goodhue was starting to struggle with the pace dropping off by 8 seconds. No doubt that old pesky injury was troubling him. After they crested the hill and emerged into the open area at the end of the first loop, Wells had pushed his lead to 14 seconds and it did not look as if anyone was going to head him.
Ronald Wells heading for the Gold medal in the Men's 70-74 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

He added to  the lead further throughout the race and eventually claimed victory with almost a minute to spare. What a performance! The 3-runner chase pack was still tight at that point.
Donald Porteous (white singlet) leading rivals Doc Rappole (1562) and Jim May (partially obscured by Rappole) as he heads for the Silver Medal at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

By the time they entered the wooded portion of the 2nd loop, May was struggling, 6 seconds back from Goldman and Porteous who were still matching stride for stride. Goodhue was clearly struggling now, clearly not his day; he was unable to finish that loop. By the time they hit the bottom of the hill, the two Tamalpa aces had 14 seconds on May and it looked like it would be a California sweep with the only question being the order. And that's the way it unfolded, with the two runners tight over the last loop. Porteous had the better kick at the end and claimed the 2nd spot by 4 seconds over his teammate, Goldman, who was delighted with his third place finish amidst this very tough bunch of runners.
Len Goldman (white cap) striving with Jerry Learned; Goldman earned the Bronze Medal in the Men's 70-74 while Learned was 8th in the Men's 65-69 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

May hung tough after those two had pulled away; he claimed 4th 50 seconds back but still 14 seconds ahead of French who surprised many with his excellent 5th place effort.

Wells 34:04     Porteous 34:59     Goldman 35:03

75-79. It looked like a race for the gold between Potomac Valley's John Elliott and Atlanta's David Turner, with Atlanta's Andrew Sherwood favored to take the 3rd spot over Ann Arbor's Phillip Kroll. In the event, Elliott went out handily, establishing an early lead and had a 20 second gap on Turner by the end of the first loop. He grew the margin the rest of the way,claiming the gold medal with well over  minutes to spare.
John Elliott building a big lead in the Men's 75-79 Race, on his way to the Gold Medal at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

After Turner came in, it was 4 and a half minutes before the next competitor finished. But who was it, Sherwood or Kroll? The bronze medal race was actually the closest contest within this age group. Kroll ran much faster over the first 2 loops and had built up a 90 second lead over Sherwood by the 4K mark. Somehow almost a minute of that lead vanished over the next kilometer as Sherwood was only 37 seconds back from Kroll by the 5K mark. It got 20 seconds closer due to a minor mishap at the end of the second loop. Kroll notes that the volunteer who was supposed to direct him away from the finishing chute to finish the 3rd short loop, failed to do so. He wound up in the finishing area, realized that was wrong and returned to the course; but he had lost momentum, if not the lead. The 37 second led had shrunk to 17 seconds!
Phillip Kroll heading for the Bronze Medal in the Men's 75-79 Race at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Luckily Kroll was able to regain his momentum, pushed the lead back up to 37 seconds with a kilometer to go and claimed the bronze medal with 43 seconds to spare. Elliott showed once again that he is one of the strongest runners in the 75-79 category. Turner had an off day but still left the rest of the field far behind.

Elliott 42:38     Turner 45:00     Kroll  49:31 

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