Friday, February 3, 2017

2017 Masters Grand Prix Kicks Off with USATF XC Championships in Bend Oregon

February 03 2017. A strong field of Masters Runners is braving the snow and ice to converge on the River's Edge Golf Course in Bend Oregon this Saturday. The forecast has improved during the week. A possible 3-5" of snow on Thursday was revised to 1-3". The ice pellets for Friday are now only forecast for a couple of hours in the late morning, early afternoon and then rain, giving way to clouds in the evening and overnight into Saturday. So the course may be a bit soggy but other than that, it looks like a typical day for a Cross Country race. The Masters Women go off at 10 AM with a predicted temperature of 41 degrees; the 12 mph winds make for a wind chill of 34. It may be a single degree warmer for the Masters Men who go off at 10:45-toasty!

The Women's field is much deeper this year, with about 50 entries compared to 16 last year. It is excellent to see so many of the age divisions being fully contested--It should b e a highly competitive race!

In the race to be first across the finish line, the top 5 women from last year are all back: Grace Padilla, Cindy Abrami, Sonya Wilkerson, Jennifer Anderson, and Desa Mandarino. To defend her championship, Padilla will have to fend off challenges from Melody Fairchild and Marisa Sutera Strange.
Grace Padilla raced to a big lead on the very first loop in 2016. [Photo by Michael Scott]

Fairchild finished 2nd to Colleen DeReuck in the 2015 edition of this race in Boulder CO. Fairchild returned to racing at the USATF 15K Road Championships in Tulsa OK last October after taking time off for baby, Dakota, and focus on her training/coaching activities with the Boulder Mountain Warriors. At that time her fitness was a little off her best. But her 2nd best is still pretty darn fast! It will be interesting to see how she fares; the course should suit her very well given her background in Mountain Running for Team USA.
Melody Fairchild taking 3rd place in the 15K at Tulsa in 2016 [Photo by the Tulsa World]

Strange won last year at Dedham in the Road 10K, was 2nd overall at the 1 Mile Championship in Flint and 4th overall at both the 5K in Syracuse and at Club XC in Tallahassee. Padilla was the first Masters runner across the line at the Southern Cal XC Championships in November so her fitness should be good. Abrami focused in the fall on her swimming of 1000 meters to a mile. It will be interesting to see if that has helped her XC racing.
Cindy Abrami (foreground) and Sonya Wilkerson chasing Padilla at the 2016 USATF XC Championships in Bend [Photo by Michael Scott]

I will go with Fairchild for the win but with Strange, Padilla and Abrami not far off the pace.
Marisa Sutera Strange finishing strong at the 2016 Club XC Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

In addition to Wilkerson, Anderson and Mandarino, newcomers this year who might factor in include: Sarah Barber and Allison Nuxoll of the Boise Betties, Oiselle's Sally Bergesen and Jennifer Federov, unattached.

  Fairchild        Strange         Padilla  

Age Grading
 The top age-graders last year were: Jo Anne Rowland, Cindy Abrami, Kelly Kruell, Grace Padilla and  Sonya Wilkerson. But Strange was the top Age-Grading Woman Runner at the 10K Championships in Dedham and the 1 Mile in Flint. She took 3rd at both the 5K and Club XC Championships. Rowland would need to be at the top of her game to defeat strange. Kathleen Cushing-Murray has been running stronger and stronger as 2016 unfolded and by the time of Club XC was running a pretty fair Age-Graded time, only a few percentage points behind strange. She could factor into the standings as well.
Strange                   Rowland                   Cushing-Murray

Age Divisions

Women 40-44. Fairchild should take the division as the top contenders for the overall title are all in other divisions. Her main competition should come from Sarah Barber and Allison Nuxoll of the Boise Betties, and their teammate, Jennifer Anderson. Were it not for Anderson finishing 4th last year in this race, it would be hard to rank her this high. It is tough to find good information on her races. Barber and Nuxoll both have consistent sub-20 5K's at least.
Fairchild     Nuxoll    Barber

Women 45-49. Padilla and Abrami should take 1-2 in this division. Wilkerson could certainly push them; she finished only 20 seconds behind Abrami last year. Sally Bergesen of Oiselle has a 19:28 5K to her credit, and her teammate, Sarah Lesko, finished less than a minute behind padilla at the 2015 Club XC Championships.
Padilla          Abrami          Bergesen

Women 50-54. The top 3 runners in this division appear to have all run at the Club XC Championships in Tallahassee. There the order of finish was Marisa Sutera Strange, Kathleen Cushing-Murray, and Tania Fischer. Kirsten Leetch, who finished about a minute behind Fischer in the 2015 edition of Club XC when Fischer was running strong, could also factor into the race for the podium.
Strange          Cushing-Murray          Fischer
Kathleen Cushing-Murray (far left) tracking Marisa Sutera Strange (right in bright gloves) at the 2016 Club XC Championships [Photo by Michael Scott]

Women 55-59.  Four runners will contend for the podium in this division: Gail Hall, Kelly Kruell, Amy McVee and Betsy Miller. At Club XC this past December, Hall had a 30 second edge on Kruell. Hall also ran a recent 21:54 5K which suggests that both Hall and Kruell have an edge over McVee who has run a recent 5K in 27:04 and a 10K in 57. Miller is harder to predict because most of her recent runs are XC or trail. She has a 22:50 5K XC race for example. That seems pretty comparable to a high 21's road 5K (although that depends on the nature of the course as well).

I will go out on a limb and give the edge to Miller with Hall and Kruell right with her. It could be quite the race!
Miller          Hall          Kruell

Women 60-64.  This division should belong to the defending Champion, Jill Miller-Robinett. None of the others were in the race last year but appear to be a little behind Miller-Robinett in terms fo race results. Joanna Harper ran head-to-head with Miller-Robinett in the 2015 Club XC Championships; Miller-Robinett had a 3 minute margin over Harper at the finish.
Jill Miller-Robinett winning her division at the 2016 USATF XC Championships in Bend [Photo by Michael Scott]

Lynelle Paulick has a Brea 8K time that is about a minute faster than Harper's. So Miller-Robinett should still be ahead of Paulick. Team Red Lizard's Suzanne Ray could make a race of it. She has 3 recent half marathons with times ranging from 1:39 to 1:46. The low end of that range suggests she should be pretty competitive. She also has a 45:56 10K which is better than Miller-Robinett's time at the 10K Championships in Dedham last year, although that may have been an off day for Miller-Robbinett.
Miller-Robinett          Ray          Paulick

Women 65-69. Defending Champion, Jo Anne Rowland will have to fend off a rival she presumably knows well, Sharlet Gilbert. Both are from the San Francisco Bay area. They met at the 2015 Club XC Championships at San Francisco. They were in different age groups that year but Gilbert had the edge on time, 28:46 to 29:08.
Jo Anne Rowland enjoying her victorious run last year at Bend [Photo by Michael Scott]

That is close enough however that one cannot view it as definitive. It should be quite the duel! Red Lizard's Jeanette Groesz ran a 22:10 5K in 2013 and a 7:12 mile run this year. She could also make things interesting.
Rowland          Gilbert          Groesz

Women 70-74. This is the one age division this year where the entrant, Dianne Anderson is literally in a class by herself. Anderson is a very strong runner and would have a good shot at winning at most other women in this age group had they shown up to contest the matter. She won the 2016 Masters Grand Prix for this age group, taking wins at both the 5K in Syracuse and at Club XC in Tallahassee.


The top 4 finishers from last year are all registered to run. Jacques Sallberg will defend his title, as he renews his rivalry with Gregory Mitchell. Mitchell has the edge in their road race meetings but Sallberg will be going for his 3rd straight victory over Mitchell at the USATF Cross Country Championships.
Jacques Sallberg pulling away for the victory at the 2016 USATF XC Championships in Bend [Photo by Michael Scott]

Mitchell took a USATF Championship title last year at the 8K, and finished 2nd at the 15K and Cub Cross Country Championships. In addition to John Howell and Oscar Baumann, who finished 3rd and 4th last year, John Gardiner may also contend. Gardiner took titles at the 5K and 15K road races last year and finished right behind Mitchell at the Club Cross Country Championships. Nicked up last year, he was not a factor; it should unfold differently this year.
Greg Mitchell, not far back in 2nd at the 2016 USATF XC Championships at Bend [Photo by Michael Scott]

It will also be interesting to see how relative newcomer, David Angell fares on a tough Cross Country course. 
David Angell (left) trying to maintain contact with John Gardiner at the 2016 USATF 5K Championships at Syracuse [Photo Credit::Gavin Liddell]

Last year he took 3rd in his first try at a national Masters Championship in the 5K road championship at Syracuse and matched that result at the 15K in Tulsa.
Sallberg          Mitchell          Gardiner

Age Grading
The top Age-Grade scorers from last year who are returning are Carl Combs and Jacques Sallberg, who finished 2nd and 3rd.Christian Cushing-Murray who was 6th last year could factor in, but he was nicked up at the end of last year and missed some training so it is not clear how sharp his fitness will be.
Carl Combs (orange singlet) leading Christian Cushing-Murray, taming the course and taking 2nd Age-Grading Honors [Photo by Michael Scott]

It seems more likely though that two top age-graders who were not present here last year will crack onto the podium. Joe Sheeran was the 2nd age-grader at the 2015 edition of the Club XC Championships and Pete Magill took the honors at the 2016 edition this past December in Tallahassee.
Magill          Combs          Sheeran

Age Divisions

M40. All of those mentioned in the Overall discussion above are from the 40-44 age group so that analysis applies here.

Sallberg          Mitchell          Gardiner

M45. The top 3 returning runners are Christian Cushing-Murray, Matthew Farley and Liam Collins. Ordinarily I would pick then in that order but, as noted above, Cushing-Murray may be slightly off the top of his form. Others who could factor in include Jonathan Stiles who bested Farley by half a minute in the 2015 edition of Club XC. But Farley had an advantage of almost a minute at the 2016 edition in Tallahassee.Chirstopher Knorzer was only 5 seconds behind Collins last year so he could be a factor but I have not been able to find any race results for him since that race, which makes it a bit more doubtful.
Farley          Collins          Cushing-Murray

M50. The top 2 from last year are back. Last year Carl Combs dominated in the division, taking the title by over a minute. Rob Arsenault was able to finally shake Mike Blackmore, taking 2nd by 19 seconds. Blackmore aged up to the M55 division this year.  
Rob Arsenault [#1279] surging towards the finish at the 2016 USATF Club XC Championships in Tallahassee [Photo by Michael Scott]

Thomas Schumann, who finished 6th here last year looks to be the best among the other contenders. He had a much faster time at Club XC in 2015 than Sid Sullivan and John Clifford, a faster time at the 8K championships in Brea that Bob Brisco and a faster 2016 Club XC time than Michael Stearns.
Combs          R. Arsenault          Schumann

M55. Michael Gorriaran took the title last year with Steven Kollars in 2nd and Richard Punches in 3rd. All three are back but the division is much tougher this year; they will need to elevate their game considerably to make the 2017 podium. Michael Blackmore who moved up from the M50 group ran 3 minutes faster than Gorriaran last year and should come in ahead of him.
Michael Gorriaran winning the M55 title at the 2016 USATF XC Championships in Bend [Photo by Michael Scott]

But there is one runner who might come in ahead of Blackmore, mentioned in the Age Grading section.  
Pete Magill (blue singlet) leading a large chase pack into the finish of the 2016 Club XC Championships where he took the Age-Grade honors [Photo by Michael Scott]

Pete Magill won the division at Club XC a month ago. Although his time there of 34:13 does not necessarily seem out of reach for Blackmore. It should be a real battle. And Joe Sheeran, who finished 2nd at Club XC in 2015 in San Francisco, should not be far off. At that race, Blackmore had the faster time.
Magill          Blackmore          Sheeran

M60. Rick Becker who took this division by two minutes last year, will not be running unless he is a last-minute onsite entrant. But GVH's Mark Rybinski and his teammate, Gary Radford, are back to do battle with Cal Coast's John Holcomb and Keith Witthauer.

Mark Rybinski headed for 2nd place in the M60 division at the 2016 USATF XC Championships in Bend [D. Arsenault in background] (Photo by Michael Scott)

At Club XC this past December Rybinski and Radford came in over a half minute ahead of Holcomb and over a minute ahead of Witthauer. That makes them the favorites. And I will make Rybinski the overall favorite due to trajectory. He missed much of the summer with an injury, hamstring maybe, and was in recovery mode for much of the fall. If he has continued to build fitness over the winter, he should take the division.Radford was only 2 seconds back from Rybinski so he should take 2nd and, on a given day, is capable of winning it.
Rybinski          Radford          Holcomb

M65. Last year's winner, Doug Winn, is not back to defend his title but the 2nd place finisher, Ignacio Jimenez, who only finished a minute back from Winn, will try to move up and take the victory.
Ignacio Jimenez heading for 2nd in the M65 division at the 2016 USATF XC Championships at Bend (Photo by Michael Scott)

There was a gap back to Jerry Learned who was 3rd last year. Will a newcomer be able to challenge Jimenez and learned for the podium? Learned has often been banged up at races in the past but grits it out and races anyway. So prior times are not always a good guide. If he is feeling healthy he is a tough competitor. Still, John Hirschberger, who finished 5 seconds behind learned at the 2015 Club XC Championships, came in almost a minute ahead of him at the 2016 edition this past December. Given that recent result, I will go with Hirschberger for 2nd.
Jimenez          Hirschberger          Learned

M70. Of the three who competed here last year, only the local runner, Paul Caisse, is running again.
Paul Caisse [#593] on his way to 2nd place at the 2016 USATF XC Championships at Bend (Photo by Michael Scott)

It is definitely a deeper field, with 9 entrants and some are formidable. Jan Frisby, who won the 2015 edition of this race in Boulder would likely be the favorite. But he confided in an email that he might not compete in Bend as he wanted to focus on honing his speed to get an 8K PR at Virginia Beach. If he does run, he is the favorite. Frisby broke the US 10K record for M70 in May of 2015 but has been hindered by injuries off and on since then. And then motivation waned for a bit last year. But it seems to be back. Two other runnerswho are in this race had better results in 2017. Gene French came in a half minute ahead of Frisby at Club XC and Richard Kutzner, who is more of a long-distance runner, nonetheless, came in  a half minute ahead of Frisby in the 5K Championships. I overlooked Caisse last year. If either French or Kutzner do, he will make them pay; he is a strong runner on that course in Bend. Douglas Madsen, who is more of a duathlete, might play a role as well.
Kutzner          French          Caisse

M75. Andrew Sherwood took 2nd in the age group last year, finishing behind Ron Mastin. But Mastin did not make the trip this year. Al Swan of the Clifton Road Runners will make an appearance but Sherwood has raced against Swan many times and can typically run faster.
Sherwood          Swan 

No comments:

Post a Comment