Saturday, December 23, 2017

New Masters Age Division Champions Crowned at 2017 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

December 20 2017. Weather conditions were tough on Saturday, December 9th at 9 am, with 24 degree temperatures and 10-11 mph winds. There was no snow but a 14 degree wind chill is no fun, especially on an open XC course like the one at Masterston Station Park in Lexington, Kentucky. But as the old saying goes, when the going gets tough, the Masters Athletes get going! And go they did! Focused mostly on the Team Championships in the offing, it is also true that the top runners in each age division were eyeing their potential rivals, hoping to claim the victory or at least be on the age division podium. The 40-59 year old men contested their divisions over a 10km race course, with the 60 and up men covering an 8K course. The women, regardless of age, contested their contests over a 6km course.

40-44 In the preview I picked Club NW's Janet McDevitt to repeat as Age Division winner, despite the difficulties that presents in the last year of an age division. Two comparative newcomers, Margaret Brennan, 40, and Brennan Liming, 41, of the Bull City Track Club, were also identified as contenders, along with Julie Mercado, a strong regional runner who has tested herself at USATF Masters Track Championships but never at XC or on the road. That may change in the future. Looking back to the 2016 Masters Outdoor TF Championships in Michigan, her 1500 Meter victory in 4:56, coming in 6 seconds ahead of Melissa Gacek, who finished 2nd this year in the Masters Road Mile and 15K Championships, suggests Mercado has potential to make herself known on the roads as well. Liming wasted no time in going to the front, along with 45-49 co-favorite, Kris Paaso. Brennan settled in a few strides back, with McDevitt behind her, running with her old 45-49 rival, Sonja Friend-Uhl. Mercado came next with Kelly Couch tucked in behind, staying close. Based on her road times, I had not thought Couch would be in the top group but she was proving me wrong.

As they headed into the 2nd loop it was still Liming in first but with Brennan right there behind her. It was more than a few strides back to McDevitt who was in danger of losing contact, followed by Couch and then Mercado. In the 2nd half of the last loop, Brennan was able to pull away from Liming. Brennan covered the 1st loop in 11:08 and the second in 11:09 for an incredibly even pacing effort.

Margaret Brennan finishes off a challenging XC race taking first in the 40-44 division at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship
Liming was not able to match her early pacing but that pacing had put her in a position to challenge for the win. Second place, 11 seconds back, was not a bad reward. Couch surprised me even more, not merely by keeping Mercado at bay but by pulling even and then pulling past McDevitt to claim 3rd in the division with a 9 second margin on McDevitt and 25 on Mercado.

Margaret Brennan 22:17     Brennan Liming 22:28     Kelly Couch 22:33

With the first 4 runners in the Men’s 40-59 race overall coming from this age division and 5 of the first seven, it unfolded just like the overall race described in the earlier recap posted on December 13th. The lead pack consisting of David Angell, West Valley Track Club's Neville Davey, John Howell of the Bowerman Track Club, Jorge Maravilla, Davey's teammate, and Howell's teammate, Greg Mitchell hung tight together for the first two loops, except for a brief surge by Davey, Howell and Maravilla that gave them some separation. But that was short-lived as the others closed up to reform the lead pack. No major changes happened until the Davey made his move on the last loop. Howell and Maravilla could not stay with Davey but opened up a gap on the others.

Neville Davey takes the overall and 40-44 title at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship
Up the last hill Howell was able to get away from Maravilla to claim 2nd, with Maravilla holding off a fast closing rush by Angell.

Neville Davey 32:43     John Howell 33:02     Jorge Maravilla 33:07

45-49 This division recap is mostly a replay of the battle between Strava’s Kris Paaso and Atlanta’s Sonja Friend-Uhl for the overall win. Both Paaso and Friend-Uhl ran beautifully paced races; Paaso just had too much for Friend-Uhl on this course on this day. Paaso had a 6 second edge at the end of the first loop and grew that to 19 seconds once she surged with a kilometer to go.
Kris Paaso takes the Overall and 45-49 win at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Friend-Uhl ran 11:12 for her first loop, and 11:11 for her second as she left all other rivals behind. The battle for the final podium spot was between Team Rogue’s Cassandra Henkiel, and Rachel Hopkins, of Sirius Athletics. Hopkins got through the opening 300 meters downhill faster, settling in behind Mercado; Henkiel was a few strides back, running with her 55-59 teammate, Carmen Ayala-Troncoso. By the back of the first 3K loop, Hopkins had about 25 yards on Henkiel but with no other age division rivals between them. Henkiel gradually pulled her back over the final kilometer of the first loop, heading into the 2nd loop with a 1 second advantage. Hopkins fought to stay close over the first part of the loop but Henkiel eventually proved too strong, pulling away to claim the final spot on the podium by 14 seconds.

Kris Paaso 22:04     Sonja Friend-Uhl 22:23      Cassandra Henkiel 23:09 

Cal Coast's John Gardiner, who finished 3rd overall last year, entered as the favorite, followed by Jef Scott who finished 12th overall last year. Others mentioned as contenders included: the Bowerman Track Club's Matthew Farley, Atlanta's Brent Fields, Jonathan Frieder, Derrick Jones, of the Central Mass Striders, West Valley's Charles Mullane, Greg Putnam, Jones's teammate, and Mark Yuen, Mullane's teammate. As it turned out, the doubts about Farley due to a lack of races this fall was borne out by him not running after all. But similar doubts about Yuen were not ratified as Yuen ran for West Valley. Although I was aware of Philippe Rolly and Jason Ryf, I mistakenly thought there would be too many runners ahead of them. By the 2k mark, Gardiner was running in the lead pack along with Scott, tucked in behind Gardiner. Then there was a gap back to the next pack which included Ryf and Rolly. By the end of the first loop, Gardiner and Scott were still part of the overall lead pack; 50 meters back was Rolly with a slight lead on Ryf who had a slight lead on Jones.

Jef Scott wins the 45-49 division at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship
Then it was a similar gap back to Mullane and Frieder, who was not faring as well as he had in several break out road races earlier this fall. The second loop, the first of two 3K loops, saw no change in the top 4 as Gardiner and Scott continued in the lead pack, now well over 100 meters ahead of Rolly who now had 50 meters on Ryf. Fifty meters further back it was Mullane and Yuen and then Frieder, Jones and Putnam another 30 meters back. Scott pulled away from Gardiner over the last kilometer for an 8 second gap at the tape. Rolly was 27 seconds back in 3rd with Ryf in 4th, 28 seconds further back.

 Jef Scott 33:14      John Gardiner 33:22     Philippe Rolly 33:49

50-54 As I noted in the preview, Athena’s Marisa Sutera Strange is the defending age division champion, and age division winner this year at the Road Mile, the 5K, 8K and 10K national championships. She was the prohibitive favorite. The only runner in the division who had beaten her all year was Tania Fischer, of the Janes Elite Racing, at Bend. But that was an unusually difficult course due to the melting snow making the course a slippery mess. Nonetheless, Strange would, no doubt, be looking for her revenge in this first meeting since that race. Fischer’s teammate, Kirsten Leetch, made the podium at Bend behind Fischer and Strange, so could factor in here as well. Liisa Miller, of the Santa Cruz Track Club, who finished 2nd last year, was likely to factor into the podium race as well. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to Aeron Arlin Genet but I could find no races for her in 2017 and only one in 2016, an Open XC race in California. Had I had time to look more carefully at that race, I would have found she had only finished a minute behind Nancy Thomas, who had finished 2nd in the 45-49 division at the 2016 Club XC Championships. The gun went off, Genet sprinted across the field and down the hill, finding herself in the division lead, running just behind the overall leaders. Fischer came next, followed by her teammate, Leetch. . As the race unfolded, Strange started out with her usual steady pace, which often leaves her making up ground during the race. By the time they reached the 2k mark, Genet still had the lead but now it was Leetch in 2nd, about a dozen yards back, with Fischer next and then Strange,with ten yards or so between each of them. Miller was another 25 yards back from Strange. Strange continued to pour it on over the last kilometer of the first loop, crossing the timing mats and heading into the 2nd loop with a 2 second margin on Genet. Leetch was 6 seconds back from Genet and 10 seconds ahead of Fischer. It did not look like this would be Miller’s day as she was still 30 yards back from Fischer. Strange gradually pulled away from Genet, matching her first 11:36 loop with a second one for even pacing and the win.
Marisa Sutera Streange [#1005] leads the Impala's Nancy Thomas and a host of others at the 2K mark of the first loop on her way to the win in the 50-54 division at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Genet showed a lot of grit in keeping the gap from growing more. Strange took the division victory with a 9 second margin as Genet’s 6 second margin over Leetch at the end of the first loop grew to 21 by the end of the race. Leetch had no problem closing out the podium however as neither Fischer nor Miller were able to mount a serious threat over the last 3 kilometers.

Marisa Sutera Strange 23:12     Aeron Arlin Genet 23:21     Kirsten Leetch 23:42

My preview indicated that this divisional field was loaded. Some had done well at National Championship races this year like Atlanta's Kristian Blaich, who won the Age Division at the 8K and 10K and Greater Springfield's Kent Lemme who won the division at the 15K championship; both also had other podium finishes. Others likethe BAA's Peter Hammer, Club NW's Carl Combs, and Mike McManus, running for the HOKA Aggie Running Club. have been known primarily for their performances at Cross Country Championships with only the occasional foray onto the roads. Hammer took the division and almost the overall win at the 10K Championship in 2016 and Combs claimed the division title at the 5K in Syracuse this year. McManus, to his credit, won the Half Marathon divisional championship this year. Cal Coast's Christian Cushing-Murray was aging up from 45-49 but had only been out of rehab and recovery for a few months. And then there was the great Marathon and Half Marathon champion, Tracy Lokken, of Playmakers Elite/New Balance, who had been away from championships for a couple of years, rounding out a very tough field. I gave the nod to Hammer, Combs and Blaich in that order, but was well aware how likely I was to be wrong on one count or another. By the end of the first loop, Hammer had already separated himself from the divisional field as he was in the main chase pack. Lemme was a few seconds back, and then a 10 second gap back to the 2nd chase pack which included Combs and McManus. Cushing-Murray and Blaich were already over 100 meters back and unlikely to factor into the race for the podium. By the end of the 2nd loop, it was still Hammer with a small lead on Lemme, about 5 seconds, and now it was 17 seconds back to Combs and McManus. Hammer kept it up all the way, accelerating over the last 3K loop to finish in 33:37, over half a minute ahead of his closest divisional pursuer.
Peter Hammer was tucked in at the back of this chase pack of 40-49 year old athletes at the end of the 2nd loop; Kent Lemme [far left, white singlet] tries to maintain contact at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship.

Lemme’s torrid pace over the first 7 kilometers took its toll as Combs was able to pull even and then pass Lemme on the final climb to the finish to claim 2nd by a mere 2 seconds. Lemme had 3rd with a 17 second margin back to McManus, followed by Cushing-Murray and Blaich. Lokken finished 9th—not bad for an early trial after recovering from surgery. But look out next year if Lokken makes it all the way back.

Peter Hammer 33:37      Carl Combs 34:15      Kent Lemme 34:17

55-59 I had identified New Balance Tampa’s Trish Butler as the favorite based on her 19:15 5K at Syracuse and thought this might be the follow on to her break-out win as a newcomer to the 55-59 division in Boston at the 5km XC. But first she would have to get past the veteran Hall of Famer, Carmen Ayala-Troncoso, of Team Rogue, who skipped this race last year but took the title in San Francisco in 2015. The Athena Track Club’s Lorraine Jasper, was also likely to be a factor with a strong fall season behind her. She took 3rd behind Ayala-Troncoso’s win, at Syracuse in the (road) 5K, and 2nd behind Butler at the 5 km XC in Boston. Joan Mabe of the Bull City Track Club aged up since last year when her time would have been fast enough to win 55-59. It rapidly became clear that this was not going to be Butler’s day. The gun went off and Butler scooted across the field and down the hill, but the first sign that this might not be Butler’s day was that just ahead of her by the foot of the downslope was Ayala-Troncoso, with Mabe tucked in behind her. Jasper was a few yards back. By the time they reached the 2 k mark, there was little doubt about how things were going as Ayala-Troncoso had stretched her lead to about two dozen yards on Mabe, with Butler perhaps another 40 yards further back, and then it was Jasper. By the end of the first 3K loop, Ayala-Troncoso sailed through with over 50 meters on Mabe, with Butler at least that far back, and Jasper now only a few strides back in 4th. Mabe hung tough over the second loop, running a second faster than Ayala-Troncoso. But that was not enough as Ayala-Troncoso enjoyed her second division victory at Club XC in the last 3 years.
Carmen Ayala-Troncoso [Left] matches strides with 40-44 division contender, Brooke Bray, 200 meters into the 2nd 3K loop at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Jasper threw in a 12:35 to follow her first loop of 12:34 for a very consistent pace and third place behind Mabe. Butler finished off her ‘tough day at the office’ 30 meters back in 4th. Butler is a competitor though, and will use this as motivation—watch out next year!

Carmen Ayala-Troncoso 24:35      Joan Mabe 24:49     Lorraine Jasper 25:09

Nat Larson, of the Greater Springfield Harriers and the 2017 Age Division Runner of the Year for both 50-54 and 55-59, was the odds on favorite to win his first age division Club XC Championship. I had Cal Coast’s Matt Ebiner favored for 2nd but he did not make it to the race after all. I picked his teammate, Ken Ernst, for 3rd, perhaps a bit of a stretch, based on his 4th place finish in 50-54 at Club XC in 2015. He did not race for a while after that and his best recent 5K was 17:09. Still that was nearly a minute faster than he had been running earlier in the year so might signal a strong upward trend. Playmaker Elite's Dave Bussard, Iain Mickle, Roger Sayre,  Thoroughbred Racing's Rick Torres, Twin Cities Running Company's John Van Danacker, and Fred Zalokar all had some recent races to suggest they could make a run for the podium. For some reason I ignored Patrick Billig, Van Danacker's teammate, and Bowerman’s Mike Blackmore. Billig’s 1:24 Half Marathon threw me off; I should have paid more attention to his 58:27 in the Twin Cities 10 Miler. Blackmore has not been a strong Club XC performer in recent years but he improved from 4th at Bend in 2016 to 3rd in the division in 2017. Larson lost no time in racing to the front of the division, taking up his place in the second chase pack. By the end of the first loop, he had over 150 meters on the field. The rest of the field was tight though with only 19 seconds between 2nd and 6th: Van Danacker, Ernst, Blackmore, Sayre, and Billig in that order. It was more of the same on the 2nd loop as Larson stretched his lead to nearly 300 meters. Van Danacker had established a little separation from the others, enjoying 50 meters on the trio of Blackmore, Ernst and Sayre, with Billig now 40 meters further back. Larson roared across the finish line in 34:13, taking first by almost two minutes!
Approaching the 3K mark on the first 4K loop, Nat Larson [#1566, white singlet] tracking 40-44 runners, Ryan McCalmon [#1432] and Ethan Nedeau [#1571], puts a lot of distance on his 50-54 rivals at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Despite his best efforts, Blackmore was not able to get any closer to Van Danacker who took 2nd by 14 seconds. Blackmore took 3rd with Ernst 7 seconds back in 4th, followed by Sayre and Billig.

Nat Larson 34:13     John Van Danacker 36:02     Mike Blackmore 36:16

 60-64 I tabbed Impala Racing's Jill Miller-Robinett as the favorite but after her, mentioned a number of possibilities. In the end I chose Atlanta's Mary Richards and Liberty AC's Alda Cossi as 2nd and 3rd favorites ahead of GVH's Cheryl Guth, Joanna Harper, of Team Red Lizard, Greater Boston's Claire McManus, Guth's teammate, Sharon Moore, and Atlanta's Margaret Taylor, and Cynthia Williams. When the gun fired, Miller-Robinett made her way towards the front of the division pack, but found herself initially trailing Cossi, who was first down the slope to the soccer loop, followed by Moore, Patricia Ford, and Harper. Then it was a few strides back to Miller-Robinett, with McManus and Richards following in that order. By the time they reached the 2k mark of the 1st loop, Moore had the lead, to my surprise, followed closely by Ford and then Harper, with a gap back to Cossi and Miller-Robinett, now side by side. Ford caught me totally by surprise. I had been unable to locate a strong performance coming into the race but clearly this XC course was to her liking. Twenty-five yards further back was McManus, with another 25 or so back to Richards. This was not going to be her day, apparently. Harper surged over the next kilometer, striding by the mat at the end of the first loop in 14:04. Twenty-five meters back was a trio of runners as Miller-Robinett and Ford had closed the gap to Moore. McManus was now a good 40 meters back., and then Cossi. The second loop had the fireworks as Miller-Robinett was now into her stride and gaining on Harper. After a 14:12 opening loop, she had a 14:15 loop for 28:27 and an 11 second margin of victory.
Two hundred meters into the 2nd 3 kilometer loop, Jill Miller-Robinett [#1076] leads her two 60-64 rivals, Patricia Ford blue singlet] and Sharon Moore [#1060] on her way to the division victory at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

 Harper held onto second by just 2 seconds over a fast-closing Ford. Five seconds later it was McManus with a strong late surge that brought her home with a negative split, in 4th. Moore, Richards, and Cossi followed in 5th, 6th, and 7th.

Jill Miller-Robinett 28:27     Joanna Harper 28:38     Patricia Ford 28:40

With the top 10 overall in the Men’s 60+ 8K race all coming from the 60-64 group, the recap published earlier for that race holds for this one. Just to reprise, Club Northwest’s Joe Sheeran went out right from the start to establish a gap by the time they hit the soccer loop for the first time. The anticipated duel between him and Greater Lowell’s John Barbour never materialized as Barbour’s Achilles acted up and forced him from the race. Atlanta’s Ken Youngers and Barbour’s teammate, Matthew Curran, gave chase so the gap would not grow too large to overcome. Sheeran’s teammate, Rick Becker, joined initially by Atlanta’s Mike Anderson and Shore’s Reno Stirrat, took a slightly more measured approach. By the end of the first 4K loop there was little doubt about who would win; Sheeran had over 150 meters on the field. Youngers was looking good with 40 meters over Curran with Becker now just a few strides back. Sheeran never faltered as he finished off the 2nd loop to take the win in 29:29.
Joe Sheeran powers through the end of the first 4K loop on his way to a huge victory in the 60-64 division at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

It was over a minute before the next runner came in. Becker had saved enough for a good closing kilometer which carried him past Youngers into 2nd, with Youngers 6 seconds back in 3rd, vowing to get in more weekly mileage next year. Curran followed in 4th with Anderson 5th.

Joe Sheeran 29:29     Rick Becker 30:32      Ken Youngers 30:38

65-69 The 15K Championship in Tulsa saw a tremendous gathering of top runners in this age division. Sabra Harvey, 2017 Masters Athlete of the Year, Jeanette Groesz, Suzanne Ray, Jeanniie Rice, and Edie Stevenson met to contest the event. On the roads on that day the honors went to Harvey, with Stevenson second, followed by Ray, Rice, and Groesz. Still, Cross Country is a different discipline over a different surface and, in this case, a little over half the distance. Harvey, the defending champion, was the prohibitive favorite, no doubt. Ray and Groesz were picked for the next two spots. Certainly Harvey moved smartly to the front of the division in the opening race across the field and down to the soccer field loop. Seemingly accepting the inevitable, Ray and Groesz, Team Red Lizard teammates, were running together about 20 meters behind Harvey, but comfortably ahead of Impala’s Jo Anne Rowland, running easily, with a big smile on her face, in 4th. By the 2 kilometer mark. Harvey had stretched her lead and Ray was now setting the pace, a few yards ahead of Groesz. By the time they finished the first loop, Harvey had well over a hundred meters on the chase pack of the Red Lizard two—still only 3 seconds apart.
Sabra Harvey [foreground] striding ahead of two runners a dozen years younger, adds to her gap over her 65-69 rivals on the way to the division victory at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Harvey added another 49 seconds to her lead over the 2nd loop while Ray eventually kicked away from Groesz to take 2nd by 40 meters. Two minutes later Rowland, who was focused on the W60+ team battle with the Atlanta Track Club, crossed the line, with her Impala teammate Donna Chan 14 seconds further back. It was, as anticipated, an easy win for Harvey.

Sabra Harvey 26:15     Suzanne Ray 27:46     Jeanette Groesz 27:58

I had James Foster, of the Syracuse Track Club, as the favorite, with Atlanta teammates Kirk Larson and Jerry Learned in 2nd and 3rd. But Foster’s teammate, Theodore Larison was not far back from Learned at the 5K Championships in Syracuse and Boulder’s Richard Katz finished just a half minute back from Learned last year in Tallahassee. Foster went right to work at the front of the group and coming out of the first soccer field loop just before the 1 Mile mark, Foster had about 20 meters on Larson who had a good 40 meters on Larison and Learned who were together, about 10 meters ahead of Katz. By the end of the first loop, Foster had over 100 meters on Larson but Larson enjoyed an even bigger gap back to the three chasers, Katz, Larison, and Learned. It was more of the same on the 2nd 4K loop as Foster extended his lead to win in 33:21 with over a minute margin of victory.
James Foster [blue singlet] running with 60-64 runner, Scott McEntee. Foster was building an early gap on his chief 65-69 rivals on his way to the 65-69 victory at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Larson in turn nailed 2nd with over a minute back to the closest finisher. Katz was able to pull away and establish a 15 second gap over Larison as Katz took 3rd and Larison 4th. Learned finished in 5th just 6 seconds back.

James Foster 33:21      Kirk Larson 34:34     Richard Katz 35:53

70-74 Dianne Anderson, of the Impala Racing team is the defending champion and entered the race as the favorite. Ann Hirn and Margaret Champion were expected to battle for second; based on comparing 5K times, it looked like Hirn had a slight edge. By the time they entered the soccer loop, Anderson had 20 meters on Hirn, with Champion next. By the time they hit the 2K mark, Anderson had doubled her lead over Hirn and now Champion was about 30 yards back from Hirn. By the time they crossed the mat at the end of the first loop, at 3K. Anderson had almost a 150 meter lead over Hirn. Champion was now about 40 meters back. Anderson added to the gap over the 2nd loop, winning in the end by over 5 minutes.
Dianne Anderson [blue singlet] sets the early pace for her 70-74 rival;s on her way to the 70-74 victory at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Even though Hirn ran a negative split, Champion had been holding more in reserve as she ran 46 seconds faster on the 2nd loop, passing Hirn and taking 2nd with 23 seconds to spare.

Dianne Anderson 35:55     Margaret Champion 41:12     Ann Hirn 41:35

 In my preview for this division I picked the Tamalpa teammates, Don Porteous and Len Goldman, who finished 2nd and 3rd to Ron Wells at Club XC last year to go 1-2 this year. Wells was out due to a freak accident in an airline terminal that had nothing to do with running. Dave Glass, who won the last three national championship races, the 5K road at Syracuse, the 5km XC at Boston and the 15K road at Tulsa, was picked for third. I added myself, Paul Carlin, Tamalpa’s 3rd runner, Gene French, and GVH’s Tony Gingello as possible contenders, but only Gingello played a role in the hunt for the podium. Although I knew comparatively little about them, I noted that the Eastside Runners out of Seattle had two possible contenders in Craig Andersen and David Longmuir. When the gun sounded, Longmuir went out hard. By the time they were emerging from the 1st soccer field loop he had nearly 40 meters on Porteous who, in turn, had at least that much on Glass, with Goldman ten meters back, and Gingello tracking him 5 meters further back. By the end of the first 4K loop, Longmuir had over 50 meters on Porteous who had, in his turn, stretched his lead over the three chasers, Glass, Goldman and Gingello. The only thing that changed on the 2nd loop was the distance between the 5 rivals. Porteous ran a gutsy 2nd loop but could not get any closer; Longmuir won the division with almost 40 seconds to spare.
David Longmuir [red singlet] gets the jump on his 70-74 rivals coming out of the soccer fields just before the 1 mile mark on his way to the 70-74 victory at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Glass followed in third another 49 seconds back, but kept Goldman and Gingello at bay as Goldman finished in 4th eighteen seconds back, with Gingello in 5th.

David Longmuir 34:56     Don Porteous 35:35     Dave Glass 36:24

75-79 Local runner, Mary Nagle, was unopposed but would have made any rival who showed up work for a win. She ran 37:12, coming in ahead of a few younger runners.
Tammy Nagle [#1025]  heads out, along with teammate, Katie Yunker, onto the soccer fields in the first 3K loop on her way to the 75-79 division victory at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Mary Nagle 37:12

Even though Atlanta's David Turner had finished 2nd to John Elliott at Club XC in this division in 2016, I thought a bunch of other runners had had stronger years and would overtake him. I picked James Callaway, of Florida Track Club-West, and Denny LeBlanc of Greater Lowell who had both aged up from 70-74 since last year for 1st and 3rd, and Edward Smith, a strong runner for Shore AC, to take 2nd. As it turned out, Smith did not make it to the race after all. But Turner’s teammate, Charlie Patterson, had also aged up from 70-74 and figured to make a run for the podium as well. By the time they hit the 1 mile mark, the contenders were pretty well spread out with Callaway taking a strong lead, followed by Turner, LeBlanc and Patterson separated by smaller gaps than the gap between Turner and Callaway. By the end fo the first 4K loop, Callaway had over 100 meters over Turner who was gamely clinging to a 12 second lead over LeBlanc who had only 4 seconds on Patterson. Callaway pulled away over the final loop to win by over a minute.
James Callaway sets the pace for the 75-79 division through the soccer fields of the first 4K loop on his way to the division victory at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

But the other three got closer as LeBlanc and Patterson both closed on Turner. Turner proved to be a tough competitor as he held them both off to take 2nd by 3 seconds over LeBlanc, with another 5 seconds back to Patterson. That was a tight finish to determine who made the podium!

James Callaway 42:26     David Turner 43:50     Denny LeBlanc 43:53

80-84 Tami Graf, who took the honors in this division in the road 5K National Championship at Syracuse, was unopposed here. With no rivals in sight, she took her time and enjoyed the 6K win in 51:24.

Tami Graf 51:24

Jim Askew, of the Atlanta Track Club, took this division unopposed, clocking 55:39 over the 8K course. This finished off a terrific string on wins at national Championships from August through October.

Jim Askew 55:39 .

Another great National Club Cross Country Championship is in the books. Masterson Station Park in Lexington KY always provides a challenging course. The frigid weather and stiff winds made it a little more so this year. As always though, the runners survived it and will run another day, whether they ran well or not so well. Those who ran well will remember and savor the memory; those who did not have their best day will remember and use it as motivation. Next year’s race is in Spokane Washington on December 8 2018. The next race this year is in Tallahassee Florida on February 3 2018, the USATF Cross Country Championships; there should be stellar fields for both. After that the 2018 road season begins with the USATF National 8K Championships in Virginia Beach Virginia on March 17 2018. Come celebrate St. Paddy’s day at a National Masters Championship with a wicked fast 8K course. Mark your calendars!

Friday, December 15, 2017

New Masters Champions Crowned at 2017 USATF Club Cross Country Championships—Individual, Team and Age-Grading

December 13 2017. There was a chill in the air, a bite to the wind and frost on the ground as the 60 and up male Masters Athletes toed the starting line of their 8K course at Masterston Station Park at 9 am in Lexington KY. The wind chill was 14 degrees F; noses may have been red, but spirits were not dampened.

The first of three Masters races to determine the top clubs in the nation, the runners were also keenly aware that there were individual races to be raced and won. Joe Sheeran, newly elevated to the 60 and up division, intended to go our hard and take his rivals out of the picture. Rick Becker took the Club Cross 60 and up crown in 2015 in San Francisco but could not make the transcontinental trip to Tallahassee last year, and then battled a foot problem that wound up with successful surgery in March. By the fall his training was going well and he felt ready to run his best as he  took on the challenge of the Club XC Championship, typically the largest gathering of Masters Runners each year. John Barbour, was runner-up to Becker in 2015 and to Brian Pilcher last year. Perhaps it would be time for Barbour to take the whole enchilada. After all, he had just in October won the 5km Masters XC Championship in Boston. Ken Youngers, who finished 2nd to Barbour in that race, was presumably on an improving track as he was also on the comeback trail from surgery last winter. Perhaps the extra month of training would leave him primed for a step up.

Becker told me after the race that his Club NW [Pacific Northwest] teammate, Sheeran, had shared his plans the evening before the race. He intended the scorched earth policy of going out hard and daring anyone to try to stay with him. 
Joe Sheeran [#1247] sprints to an early lead at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championships; eventual contenders, Ken Youngers [red singlet] and Matthew Curran [green singlet] staying close

Sheeran executed the plan to perfection, hitting the halfway split in 12:33 with over a half minute gap on his closest pursuer, Youngers, with another ten seconds back to Barbour’s Greater Lowell teammate, Matthew Curran and Becker. What happened to Barbour?, He was in contention in the first mile despite some pain, but had to leave the course. An Achilles injury, sustained just after he won the Masters 5km national championship in October, had flared up. Sheeran poured it on over the 2nd 4K loop, winning by over a minute in 29:29. 
Joe Sheeran blasts across the finish line, winning the 2017 National Club XC Men's 60+ Championship race by 300 yards

The others shuffled their positions as Becker, the 2015 winner in San Francisco, was able to overcome the other two with a late surge, passing Curran with a mile to go 
Rick Becker storms across the finish line to claim 2nd place in the 2017 National Club XC Men's 60+ Championship race

and Youngers in the final 400 meters . 
Ken Youngers claims the third spot in the 2017 National Club XC Men's 60+ Championship race

Youngers and Curran finished 3rd and 4th.

Joe Sheeran 29:29     Rick Becker 30:32     Ken Youngers 30:38

Sheeran and Becker’s 1-2 finish led the way for Greg Beyerlein to cement their team victory by placing 6th in the Team Competition as Club NW’s all important third runner. 
Greg Beyerlein working the course to stay close to his teammates -- He was the final scorer for the winning Club NW team in the 2017 National Club XC Men's 60+ Championship race

Youngers led the way for the Atlanta Track Club [Georgia], backed up by Michael Anderson, back in good form after being in rehab mode over the late spring and summer;
Mike Anderson traverses the course at Masterson Station Park, leading his Atlanta Track Club team to 2nd place in the Men's 60+ race

Phil Richey, another newcomer to Atlanta’s  60’s team nailed the 2nd team place by edging Shore AC’s 3rd runner, Harold Leddy.  That is a tough course for making up ground. Shore’s 1-2 punch of Reno Stirrat And Kevin Dollard was also shaken up a bit when Stirrat experienced a hip flexor flare-up, during warm ups, that made for a very tough run. 
Kevin Dollard, far right, with his teammate, Reno Stirrat, just coming into focus 4 runners back, as Shore AC take the third place team award

Shore [New Jersey] was very happy to make the podium, two points ahead of the 4th place Syracuse Track Club. Without Barbour leading the way, Greater Lowell had to settle for 5th place.

Club NW 9     Atlanta Track Club 20     Shore Athletic Club 34

As the morning proceeded, the cold moderated ever so slightly but the winds picked, up so wind chills were still only in the upper teens for the Masters Women who went off at 10 AM on their 6 km circuit.  In 2015, the last time Kris Paaso participated in Club Cross Country nationals, she competed as an Open athlete. 
300 meters into the Women's Race, Kris Paaso [#1103] and Brennan Liming [#1027] have gone out fast along with Laura Kline. Other contenders like Margaret Brennan [black singlet], Janet McDevitt [orange behind Paaso's right elbow], Kelly Couch [blue singlet behind Paaso's left elbow] and Aeron Arlin Genet [blue singlet behind Kline] are taking a more measured approach to the start.

This year, at age 46, she opted for the Masters Championships and found plenty of competition. At the halfway point, another newcomer to the Masters Championships, Brennan Liming, was matching her stride for stride in 11:06, with Margaret Brennan two seconds back, and last year’s winner and runner-up, Sonja Friend-Uhl and Janet McDevitt respectively, tracking them a few seconds back. Paaso had plenty in the tank though, as she ran a negative split, covering the first 3K loop in 11:06 and finishing at 22:04! When Paaso made her move with a mile to go, it was decisive and no one could go with her as she stretched her lead to 13 seconds by the finish line. 

Kris Paaso strides confidently to the finish line with a 50 meter lead on her closest pursuer at the 2017 National Club XC Championship

Liming may have paid a price for that early speed as first Brennan and then Friend-Uhl, known for her strong finish, moved past.
Margaret Brennan leads Sonja Friend-Uhl [partially obscured] and Janet McDevitt [orange singlet} 200 meters into the 2nd loop, on her way to 2nd place overall

This was Brennan’s first podium finish at Club Nationals but Friend-Uhl’s 3rd consecutive. 
Sonja Friend-Uhl heads to the finish line with a 3rd place finish, with Brennan Liming 15 yards back in 4th

Liming just missed the podium by 5 seconds, followed by Kelly Couch another 5 seconds back, and then McDevitt.

Kris Paaso 22:04     Margaret Brennan 22:17     Sonja Friend-Uhl 22:23

Friend-Uhl had the great satisfaction of leading the Atlanta Track Club [Georgia] to the Women’s 40+ team title, with the help of her able teammates, Irma Betancourt and Kathy Wiegand. 
Iram Betancourt gets a good start on the 2nd and final loop; Kathy Wiegand, her teammate, is in the chase group at the back of the photo

The Impala's Kelly Couch ran  a very steady pace, moving up to 5th overall by the finish, but 3rd in the competition among complete teams. With the help of her teammates, Nancy Thomas and Broke Bray, Impala was able to take 2nd in the team competition. Even though Liming was not able to win the race, she got credit for 2nd place in the team competition with only Friend-Uhl besting her. Last year her Bull City Track Club [North Carolina] made the podium with a tight pack consisting of Alexandra Bigelow, Joan Mabe, and Meredith Bazemore. But they knew that would not be enough this year; they needed someone up front, and that was Liming. Bigelow was their 2nd runner this year;  
Women's 40+ Competitors getting after it at the start of Loop 2-Kathy Wiegand [#1010], Alexandra Bigelow [partially obscured, orange singlet], Nancy Thomas [#1074], Laura Wetz [#1045], and Dena Evans [white singlet, visible between Thomas and Wetz]

Trish Nervo, another new Masters runner, was their third runner in. Even with that added firepower they just cracked the podium, 10 seconds ahead of Club NW, the defending champion, who finished 4th.

Atlanta Track Club 22     Impala Racing Team 25     Bull City Track Club 33

The men’s 40+ 10K race was the final Masters race, going off at 10:45 am, with a ‘balmy’ 22 degree wind chill. The word on the street was that Neville Davey, after finishing 3rd last year, was primed for a winning run at Club XC this year. He had a sub 1:10 Half Marathon earlier in the year, and topped that off with a sub-15 minute 5K a couple of weeks ago. Even though he was tipped as the favorite no one was conceding. A pack of 8 runners sped through the first 4K loop in 13:19: Frankie Adkins, David Angell, Davey, John Gardiner, John Howell, Jorge Maravilla, Greg Mitchell, and Jef Scott. Adkins distinguished himself with a 3rd place finish at the 10K Masters Road Championships in April in 33:01 and then a 32:50 in a 10K in Bowling Green KY in mid-October. Angell has run in every National Championship race this year, winning the 8K and 10K and finishing on the podium in every race but Bend. Gardiner finished 3rd last year and is on track for another great effort his year with a 2nd place finish at Tulsa in 50:03 and a recent 15:32 5K. Howell finished 6th at Tallahassee in 2016 Club XC but finished 2nd at Bend and appears to be running stronger than last year based on his performances in the Stumptown Races in Portland. Maravilla is a newcomer, a recent addition to Davey’s West Valley Track Club team. A marathon and ultra specialist, he was described by Gardiner before the Championships as ‘fit and fast!’ Mitchell finished 2nd last year at Club XC and ordinarily has several other wins at National Championships. He was struggling with injuries in the spring but by this fall, he had some good races in the Stumptown XC series and it looked like he was back, if not all the way, at least most of the way to his usual fitness. Scott finished 12th last year but ran a swift 32:16 10K in Bowling Green in mid-October, coming in 27 seconds ahead of Adkins. 
Lead pack halfway through the first 3K loop-L to R--David Angell, Greg Mitchell, Jef Scott, John Gardiner, John Howell, Neville Davey, and Jorge Maravilla, with Frankie Adkins [black kit] trying to close up the gap.

That pack held together through the first 4K loop. Aaron Price, who won the 5K Masters Overall XC Championship in Boston in mid-October, and David Wertz, who finished 9th at 2016 Club XC, were 5 seconds back from the lead pack and 6 seconds ahead of the main chase pack. About 300 meters into the second loop, Davey and Maravilla threw in a surge, perhaps to test the group, and for a brief period those two and the Bowerman Track Club’s John Howell had a gap on the others. But by the end of the 2nd loop, the pack, had closed up again, except for Adkins, who was now about 50 yards back; Davey was setting the pace, Angell on his right shoulder and the rest of the pack right there. 
Men's 40+ lead pack holding tight at 7K -Neville Davey [#1685], with Jorge Maravilla and Greg Mitchell right behind Davey, John Gardiner [#1470], David Angell [#1635], and John Howell [red singlet], with Jef Scott tucked in behind Howell.

Davey again made a move on the soccer field loops about 400 meters into the final loop but this move was decisive as Howell and Maravilla lost a couple of dozen yards and then a greater distance back to Gardiner, Mitchell, and Scott. By the time Davey was approaching the finish line he had 100 yards on Howell, winning in 32:43, with a big smile at a job well done! 
Neville Davey heads for the finish line and 1st place in the Men's 40+ race at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

Howell was able to kick away from Maravilla up the last hill to take 2nd by 5 seconds 
John Howell, with a strong finishing kick up the last hill, takes 2nd place in the Men's 40+ race at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

as Maravilla, in turn, kicked hard to hold off a fast-closing Angell and claim the third podium spot in 33:07, 
Jorge Maravilla, finishing strong in 3rd place in the Men's 40+ race at the 2017 USATF National Club XC Championship

four seconds ahead of Davey and seven ahead of Scott, with Mitchell and Gardiner following in close order.

Neville Davey 32;43     John Howell 33:02     Jorge Maravilla 33:07

Davey and Maravilla also led their team, the West Valley Track Club [Pacific] to victory over the defending champion Bowerman Track Club [Oregon], who fell to 3rd, as the Boston Athletic Association [New England] claimed 2nd by a mere 7 points! Ably supported by Todd Rose, Charles Mullane, and Mark Yuen, West Valley also had the first complete team to finish. Bowerman had Howell and Mitchell in the top 5,  but the BAA had the tighter pack overall with their first four, David Bedoya, Peter Hammer,  Aaron Price, and Brendan Prindiville finishing within thirty seconds of one another. When Harry Stants came in 30 seconds after Prindiville and just ahead of Bowerman’s 4th runner, that iced the team Silver for the BAA. Joshua Gordon, Ahrlin Baumann, and Orin Schumacher rounded out the top 5 for Bowerman, finishing strong to claim the third podium spot and keep the other teams out fo the medals. They were not closely challenged for the podium, taking 3rd by almost 100 points. It was a terrific competition and the teams will, no doubt, already be thinking about how they can up their game for next year in Spokane!

West Valley Track Club 53   Boston Athletic Association 62   Bowerman Track Club 69

Team Championships were also decided in the Women’s 50+ and 60+ and the Men’s 50+ and 70+ divisions.

In Women’s 50+, the Jane’s Elite Racing [Southern Cal] rode a solid 2-3-5 finish by their top 3, Kirsten Leetch, Tania Fischer, and Kathleeen Cushing-Murray, to a 3 point win over the Athena Track Club [Mid-Atlantic]. It was very tight throughout, with Marisa Sutera Strange taking the top spot for Athena but then Leetch and Fischer next two for the Janes, which was huge. Even though Athena’s Lorraine Jasper was able to edge Cushing-Murray, that clinched it for the Janes. 
Women's 50+ Competitors Judy Stobbe and Kathleen Cushing-Murray [#'s 1124 and 1120] of the Janes Elite Racing battle Amanda King [#1083] of the Liberty AC, and Lorraine Jasper [#1003] of the Athena Track Club

Athena’s 3rd team member, Mary Swan, ran a competitive race but could not keep up with those two. Still she closed the door on Club NW. Kristen Mossman and Gail Hall kept them in contention for 2nd place but Kelly Kruell, a strong XC runner, was not able to match Swan this time. The Genesee Valley Harriers and Atlanta Track Club took the next two spots.

The Jane’s Elite Racing 10     Athena Track Club 13     Club Northwest 28

Team Red Lizard [Oregon] enjoyed a dominant win in the 60+ division as their top 3, Suzanne Ray, Jeanette Groesz, and Joanna Harper, took 1-2-4, with the Atlanta Track Club edging the Impala Racing by a single point for 2nd. The Impala Racing team got their usual strong effort from Jill Miller-Robinett who broke up the top 3 of Red Lizard and gave Impala the first runner finishing for the race for 2nd place. But Atlanta’s Mary Richards and Cynthia Williams were able to run together the whole way until Richards pulled away to come in 4 seconds ahead. But Impala still had a chance at second as Jo Anne Rowland was able to close a bit on Atlanta’s 3rd runner, Margaret Taylor, but did not have enough in the tank to overtake her on the final hill as Taylor closed it out in 30:10, with Rowland thirty yards back. Donna Chan was right behind Rowland. The Syracuse Track Club was only 1 point behind Impala in 4th, with the Genesee Valley Harriers another two points back in 5th. That was one tight team race for 2nd through 5th!

Team Red Lizard 7     Atlanta Track Club 29     Impala Racing Team 30

The Greater Springfield Harriers [New England] also enjoyed a dominant win in Men’s 50+ as their top 3 runners, Nat Larson, Kent Lemme,  and Michael Nahom came in 1-3-6 in the team competition. 
Kent Lemme blasting uphill at the end of the 2nd loop in the Men's 10K Championship, helping the Greater Springfield Harriers to the Men's 50+ Team Championship

With their 4th runner, Mark Hixson coming in 9th and Francis Burdett closing out the scoring for GSH, that gave them a 34 point margin over the Cal Coast Track Club [Southern Cal]. Christian Cushing-Murray was competitive with the GSH runners,  finishing 4th in team competition but the rest of the team, Frederick Herr, Rob Arsenault, Ken Ernst, and their reliable 5th performer on this day, Thomas Schumann, finished compfortably between the leading GSH runners and the chasing runners of the Prado Racing [San Diego-Imperial]. Kevin Zimmer finished 8th to lead the way for prado and for a while, after Matt Sheremeta and Robert verhees came in within a few seconds of each other in 11th and 12th, it looked like Prado might have a chance at an upset 2nd place. But the 4th and 5th runners for Prado, Adam Weiner and Jeff Creighton were not able to keep pace with Ernst and Schumann. They did succeed in keeping Club Northwest off the podium, however, closing out the podium with a 28 point margin.

Greater Springfield Harriers 39    Cal Coast Track Club 71    Prado Racing Team 111

In Men’s 70+, it was the Tamalpa Runners [Pacific] defending their 2016 team win with another dominating performance by their top 3, Don Porteous, Len Goldman, and Gene French 2-3-6. The Eastside Runners [Pacific Northwest] mounted a serious challenge with David Longmuir taking the top spot. But after him, their next two runners, Craig Andersen and Frazer Mann could not keep pace with French. They were able to keep the
Don Porteous [#1315] leading the way for Tamalpa in the Men's 70+ race, with George Braun, of the Boulder Road Runners.

Genesee Valley Harriers [Niagara Association] at bay in the race for 2nd. With a strong challenge from the new Boulder Road Runners 70+ team, the podium was no guarantee for GVH. But the strong performances from Tony Gingello, Keith Yeates, and Jim May, they were able to repel a real challenge from Boulder’s top 3, Dave Dooley, Jan Frisby, and Jeffrey Dumas.

Tamalpa Runners 11     Eastside Runners 18     Genesee Valley Harriers 24


Age Grading indicates the best performers for their age across all age groups. Age-Grading Medals and cash prizes went to the Age-Grading winner in each of the three Championship races. The Overall winner and 2nd place finisher in Men’s 60+ went 1-2 in age-grading as well with Joe Sheeran edging Rick Becker 88.4 to 87.7. 
Joe Sheeran kept it in high gear throughout the race, enabling him to win the Men's 60+ Age-Grading Prize

Top age-grading scorer from the women’s race is 2017 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year, Sabra Harvey, who is, as she suggested in her interview after accepting the recent honor, continuing to push the boundaries with a 95.4%. 
Sabra Harvey, 68, midway through the 1st Loop, on her way to another Age-Grading victory, with Angela Longworth, 50, and Susan Pearsall. 52, trying to keep pace.

Marisa Sutera Strange, from the 50-54 division, finished second with a 90.3%. In the Men’s 40+ race, the top 9 age-grade scores were achieved by those in the 50-54 and 55-59 divisions, with Greater Springfield’s Nat Larson edging his fellow New Englander, the B.A.A.’s Peter Hammer, 91.7 to 90.1.

Nat Larson, 55, in the chase pack, charging up the hill behind Ryan McCalmon [yellow singlet] and Ethan Nedeau [#1571], and ahead of Ian Fraser, all in their early 40's.

Men 60+: Joe Sheeran 88.4     Rick Becker 87.7   Ken Youngers 85.8%

Women: Sabra Harvey 95.4     Marisa Sutera Strange 90.3     Jeanette Groesz 89.5

Men 40+: Nat Larson 91.7     Peter Hammer 90.1     Carl Combs 89.2

The next posting will look at the Age Division races.

Full results are at: 

On Demand videos are available for viewing with a subscription at:

Another great National Club Cross Country Championship is in the books! There was terrific competition and brave racing in every division.  Masterson Station Park in Lexington KY provides a challenging course. The frigid weather and stiff winds made it a little more so this year as there is little shelter from the wind. As always though, the runners survived it and will run another day, whether they ran well or not so well. Those who ran well will remember and savor the memory; those who did not have their best day will remember and use it as motivation.

Next year’s race is in Spokane Washington on December 8 2018. The next race this year is in Tallahassee Florida on February 3 2018, the USATF Cross Country Championships; there should be stellar fields for both. After that the 2018 road season begins with the USATF National 8K Championships in Virginia Beach Florida on March 17 2018. Mark your calendars!