Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fast Times at the USATF Masters 8K Road Championship--Recap Part I

March 22 2017. VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA – The rain held off and the USATF Masters 8K Championship went off with nearly 8,000 Towne Bank 8K Runners lined up behind the Masters Athletes on Saturday, March 18th. Except for the 10 mph winds, the conditions were good, with temperatures in the upper 40’s under cloudy skies. Runners raved about the course and the general setup of the race, with many hotels within a few blocks of the Start and Finish. The Yuengling Shamrock Weekend proved a great host for our Championship.

This first recap article will cover the contest for Overall Winner and  the top Age-Grading athletes along with the Age Groups from 40-44 through 55-59. The second part will cover the age groups from 60-64 and up along with the Teams Competition. 

The contenders for the Overall Championship were no strangers to the podium. Perry Shoemaker of Vienna, Virginia, with back-to-back wins at the USATF 12K Masters Championship in 2014 and 2015, was one of the favorites. Her Masters victories at the Cherry Blossom and Army Ten Mile Runs last year showed that she is still one of our fastest Masters Runners.  Janet McDevitt, winner of last year’s 5K Championship at Syracuse and runner-up at the Club XC Championships in Tallahassee, was co-favorite. One who would push them all the way is Marisa Sutera Strange, who won the 2016 Masters 10K Championship at Dedham in 36:48, and finished on the podium at the 1 Mile Championships in Flint and the 5K XC Championships in Tallahassee. Strange's Athena Teammate, Doreen McCoubrie, made her first appearance at a USATF Masters Championship since she finished 2nd in the W50 10K Championship in 2015 in 40:59. At 55, it is rare indeed to be competitive for overall wins at national championships. But one can hardly ignore a runner who competed in the Olympic Marathon Trials at the age of 46 and ran 2:48:29!

Shoemaker roared off from the starting line, hitting the 2 mile mark in 11:37 with a 12 second lead over McDevitt who had, in turn, 22 seconds on Strange. McCoubrie was another 22 back from there. Turning onto the Boardwalk just after the 2 mile split, it looked like the race was maybe already settled. That did turn out to be the case for the win, as Shoemaker ran a pretty even pace, slowing by only 3 seconds per mile over the last 60% of the race.

Perry Shoemaker solidly in the lead at the Old Coast Guard Station 3.5 miles into the race

But the race for second tightened up considerably. Strange must have seen McDevitt's lead on her shrinking. Strange ran a strong negative split, averaging 5:59 per mile, 7 seconds per mile faster for the last 3 miles.  McDevitt, having the dreaded 'off day' was struggling as she averaged 6 seconds per minute slower after the split. In the end, McDevitt had just enough left in the tank to eke out a 2 second victory over Strange, taking 2nd in 29:54 to Strange's 29:56.
Janet McDevitt, sensing that someone might be closing in on her, sprints for the tape with a quarter mile to go.

Strange closed strongly after her conservative start, reporting that she ran her last mile in 5:49 by her watch!! McCoubrie ran a game race, speeding up over the final 3 miles but she could not close on the podium bunch and finished just off in 4th with a time of 31:10--an excellent return to the Championships!
Gold: Shoemaker 29:10     Silver:  McDevitt 29:54    Bronze: Sutera Strange  29:56

David Angell, third place finisher last year in both the 5K and 15k Masters Championships, employed the same tactics, powering to the 2 mile mark in 10:19 with 16 seconds on Philippe Rolly and 18 on Kristian Blaich. Jake Stookey and Kent Lemme were locked in a battle 14 seconds behind Blaich. Angell finished strong claiming his first Masters title in 25:24. 
David Angell captures his first Masters title, first across the finish line at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Rolly was not able to close on Angell at all but was able to speed up more than Blaich over the second portion of the race, finishing 2nd in 25:51. 
Philippe Rolly claims the Silver Medal at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Even Blaich ran a slightly negative split; while he lost ground to  Rolly, he kept most of his lead over Stookey and Lemme. All 5 of them were flying up the Boardwalk at sub-5:20 per mile pace! Blaich claimed the last podium spot at 26:19 with Stookey and Lemme in 4th and 5th at 26:31 and 26:34.

Gold: Angell 25:24      Silver:  Rolly 25:51     Bronze: Blaich 26:19

Age-Grading Prize Money went 5 deep. Colorado’s Edie Stevenson, 67, led the way. Her 35:25 scored an Age-Grading percentage of 95.11. Stevenson has not delivered less than a World Class performance in any of her last 6 National Championship appearances, from Brea in February of 2016 through this race-astounding consistency!  She had two Age-Grading gold medals and two 2nd place finishes; she is off to another great start this year. 
Edie Stevenson strides confidently toward the finish line where she had the fastest Age-Grade Score in the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Another age-grading luminary is Marisa Sutera Strange, 53, who ran 29:56 for 93.65. Last year Sutera Strange had a 3rd and two gold medal age-grading performances; this year she will have at least one 2nd place finish in the mix.  
Starting conservatively and finishing with a blistering kick, Marisa Sutera Strange again makes the Age-Grading Podium at a USATF Masters Championship, the 8K this time.

Doreen McCoubrie, 55,had a successful return to the Championship circuit, finishing off the age-grading podium with 31:10 for 92.19.  
Doreen McCoubrie with a successful return to the USATF Masters Grand Prix circuit, nailing a podium finish in the Age-Grading competition in the 8K at Virginia Beach

Susan Lynn Cooke, 58, ran 32:57 for a 90.54, 
Susan 'Lynn' Cooke finishes strong to capture 4th in the age-Grading Competition at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Competition at Virginia Beach [Photo by Dave Allen]

just edging Laura Bruess, 56, whose 32:09 graded at 90.46. 

Laura Bruess [L] tracking her husband, Rick Bruess [R] as she heads for the finish at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship
1st: Stevenson 95.11      2nd:  Sutera Strange 93.65      3rd: McCoubrie 92.19  
4th: Cooke 90.54      5th: Bruess 90.46
The Men also went 5-deep. Topping the list and earning $500 was Californian, Brian Pilcher, 60, who ran 28:14 for a 92.33. Pilcher, despite coming off a 5 week layoff earlier this winter, was able to come within 7 seconds of the American Record. Like Stevenson and Sutera Strange, Pilcher, when healthy, is typically near the top of the age-grading results. 
Brian Pilcher heads for the finish line at the USATF Masters 8K Championship, just missing the American Record for Men 60-64 by 7 seconds, and topping the age grading contest

Nat Larson, 54, who is also a regular in the list of age-grade winners, ran 27:04 for 91.38;  
Nat Larson, M50, leading Paul Jones, M40, as he cruises to a 2nd place age-grading finish at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Kristian Blaich, 50, completed the podium with a 26:19 for 90.94. This was his second consecutive world class performance since returning from injury last fall but his first age-grading podium since the 12K Championship in Alexandria in November 2015. 
Kristian Blaich heads onto the Boardwalk at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship on hs way to a podium finish in the Age-Grading Competition

The tough Cross Country runner from NYC, Mike McManus, showed he is no slouch on the roads as he nailed the 4th best age-grade score at 90.61. 
Mike McManus striding up the Virginia Beach Boardwalk on his way to a top-5 Age-Graded finish at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Larson's Greater Springfield Harriers teammate, Kent Lemme, 
Kent Lemme, high-stepping it, as he cruises up the Boardwalk past mile 3 on his way to a top-5 Age-Grading finish at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

took 5th with 90.09.

1st: Pilcher 92.33      2nd:  Larson 91.38      3rd: Blaich 90.94 
4th: McManus 90.61      5th: Lemme 90.09

AGE GROUP CONTESTS. The first place finishers in each of the groups discussed below are National Champions and earn a National Championship patch along with an appropriate medal and a cash prize.

W40. Janet McDevitt, who finished 2nd overall took this age group by a large margin. She crossed the 2-mile mat in 11:49 with nearly a 1 minute lead on local VB runner, Teresa Allman. Jeanette Boyd, of Union City PA came across next in 13:30 with Marilyn Gregory, also from the Keystone state 28 seconds back. Gregory had the most even pace overall but all of the gaps grew over the last 2.971 miles as McDevitt won the division by over 2 minutes. Allman, in turn, had almost a two minute gap on Boyd. 
Michelle Allman shows off her red, white and blue strides on the way to a Silver Medal finish in the Women's 40-44 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

The race for 3rd was closest but Boyd landed the Bronze Medal wit ha half minute lead.

Gold: McDevitt 29:54     Silver:  Allman 32:29    Bronze: Boyd  34:22

M40. The Gold and Silver medals in this age group went to the overall winner, David Angell, and the runner-up, Philippe Rolly. Richard Jennings, from the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, made things interesting as he hung tight on Jake Stookey from the Clifton Park TC in NY. Stookey crossed the 2 mile marker in 10:51, with Jennings in 10:53. Once they turned onto the Boardwalk for the final 3 miles, Stookey found a slightly higher gear and gradually pulled away from Jennings, 
Jake Stookey, makes the most of his alternative footwear as he strides toward a 3rd place finish in the M40 Division at the
2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

taking 3rd eventually by 27 seconds.

Gold: Angell 25:24      Silver:  Rolly 25:51     Bronze: Stookey 26:31

W45. Perry Shoemaker, the Overall winner, captured the division crown with nearly 3 minutes to spare. She had over a minute lead at the 2 mile mark as New Jersey's Michelle Brangan crossed the timing mat at 12:42 with a 27 second lead over GVH's Melissa Senall. New Jersey's Christine Hill, running a carefully paced race, was next at 14:01. Brangan eventually stretched her lead over Senall to nearly two minutes and even though Senall slowed somewhat over the remainder of the race course,it was not enough to allow Hill to close any of the gap. 
Michelle Brangan heads to the finish line, claiming the Silver Medal in the W45 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

It was unusual to see Senall running without her 40+ GVH teammates. Last year it was GVH's W60 team that was snake-bit and missed almost the entire year of championships. Let's hope that the GVH 40's team is able to make most of the rest of the 2017 Championship season. 

Gold: Shoemaker 29:10     Silver:  Brangan 32:04    Bronze: Senall  33:58

M45.  Most of the top runners in this division were competing for team rather than individual glory, Brent Fields for the Atlanta TC, Volker Burkowski for the Willow Street AC and Keith Schumann for the Colonial Road Runners. But they were also gunning for the M45 title. Schumann took it out the  hardest, sustaining a 5:29 per mile pace through the first 2 miles, turning towards the Boardwalk at 10:58. He had almost a 20 second margin on Fields and Burkowski who had 5 seconds on Pennsylvania's Derek Miller. The pace proved too fast for Schumann who slowed significantly over the last 3 miles while Fields was able to quicken his pace, close the gap and pass. Miller kept his steady pace going on the Boardwalk as he followed Burkowski. Just before cutting back over to Atlantic Avenue at about 3.75 miles in, Miller made a decisive move past Burkowski. He was gaining on Schumann but Fields was pulling away. Fields held to a 5:32 pace over the final 3 miles to finish with over a half minute gap back to 2nd.
Brent Fields heading to victory in the M45 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Despite slowing over the last three miles, Schumann was able to hang tough and close it out to take 2nd. Miller tried his best but could not narrow the gap any more than the 9 seconds that remained at the end. Burkowski hung tough all the way but wound up another 9 seconds back in 4th.

Gold: Fields 27:44      Silver:  Schumann 28:16     Bronze: Miller 28:25

W50. It is hardly a surprise that the Athena TC's Marisa Sutera Strange dominated this age group as she finished 3rd overall. Even though she started conservatively, Strange had a 22 second lead within the group when she turned toward the Boardwalk at 2 miles. GVH's Kathleen Hayden came across next in 12:33, with a 23 second gap back to New York's Karyl Sargent. Michelle Allen, of the New Balance Tampa Masters Racing team crossed the timing mat in 13:18, 22 seconds back from Sargent. As noted earlier, Strange accelerated substantially over the last 3 miles of the race in her successful run to the overall podium. She won the group by over two minutes. Hayden slowed somewhat over the last 3 miles as the early pace took its toll. But her closest pursuer, Sargent, slowed even more so; Hayden was never challenged and took second by a wide margin. 
Kathleen Hayden strides confidently up the Virginia Beach Boardwalk on her way to a W50 Silver Medal at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship
Allen, by maintaining her steady, early pace, was able to gradually close the gap to Sargent, pass her and establish a strong gap in taking the Bronze Medal. 
Michelle Allen heading to the finish line in third place for the W50 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Competition at Virginia Beach
Sargent kept it going, though and claimed 4th  with over a minute back to her closest pursuer.

Gold: Sutera Strange 29:56      Silver:  Hayden 32:04     Bronze: Allen 33:07

M50. Five of the fastest M50 runners in the country signed up for this race. Mark Hixson, Kent Lemme and Nat Larson, of the Greater Springfield Harriers, were taking on the Atlan ta Track Club's Kristian Blaich and Mike McManus of the HokaNJNY Track Club. Blaich and McManus took it out strong as noted in the coverage of the overall race above, hitting the 2 mile mark in 10:37. Hixson Lemme and Larson were more conservative, crossing the mat from 10:51 to 10:52 as a group and heading onto the Boardwalk, hoping to keep the front-runners in sight. Lemme accelerated enough to catch and pass McManus for 2nd while Hixson and Larson ran a steady pace, finishing 25 and 26 seconds behind McManus who claimed the third spot in the race. 
A Happy Bunch After the Race--Four of the top 5 Finishers in the M50 Competition [L to R: Kristian Blaich, Nat Larson, Kent Lemme, and Mark Hixson] at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

This group not only contributed 4 of the top 5 age-grading performances, it was the closest age group from 1st to 3rd with only 19 seconds separating 1st and 3rd.

Gold: Blaich 26:19      Silver:  Lemme 26:34     Bronze: McManus 26:38

W55. The Athena TC's Doreen McCoubrie, mindful of the overall race and the team competition set out at a conservative pace, with her eye on running a negative split. She crossed the 2 mile mat in 12:33; her teammate, Mary Swan, tracked her, about 16 seconds back. The Athletics Boulder runner, Laura Bruess, here on her own account, crossed next 13 seconds back and with an 8 second gap on Susan 'Lynn' Cooke of the NB Tampa Masters team. Margaret Sloan, a member of the Athena TC team but running on her own in this race, crossed 9 seconds back from Cooke. [Note: USATF Masters LDR rules normally require that no more than 1 runner on a team can be from outside that team's association.] McCoubrie ran the negative split she was hoping for, stretching her lead over her teammate to 45 seconds. Swan slowed slightly over the last 3 miles but matched Bruess's pace, keeping her 13 seconds back. 
Mary Swan surges up the Virginia Beach Boardwalk heading to a Silver Medal finish in the W55 Division at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Try as she might, Cooke could not keep up her early pace but still finished strongly in 4th place, 48 seconds back from Bruess and 27 seconds ahead of Sloan. Just as M50 was the strongest group among the men, this was the strongest group for the women, with 3 of the top 5 age-grade winners from this group and a top 1-2-3 finish separated by less than a minute.

Gold: McCoubrie 31:10      Silver:  Swan 31:55     Bronze: Bruess 32:09
M55. This group featured a tight race for 1st and 2nd between Jean-Christophe Arcaz and GVH's John Van Kerkhove and an equally tight race for the final podium position between the Atlanta TC's Michael Anderson and Robert Whitaker of the Colonial Road Runners. Team and individual glory were up for grabs. Except for the Baltimore-Washington AC;s Arcaz, who was the sole representative of his team , the other 3 teams named were in a dogfight for the M50+ team crown. Arcaz and Van Kerkhove ran the first two miles stride for stride, both crossing the timing mat in 11:40. Whitaker was 3 seconds ahead of Anderson when he crossed the mat in 12:07. In both cases, one of the runners made their move when the time came and the other athlete could not match it. Van Kerkhove broke away from Arcaz to take 1st with a narrow 6 second margin. 
John Van Kerkhove heads off the Virginia Beach Boardwalk nearing the 4 mile marker on the way to the M55 Gold Medal at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championship

Anderson pulled even and then pulled away to gap Whitaker by 7 seconds at the finish and claim the final podium position.

Gold: Van Kerkhove 29:06      Silver:  Arcaz 29:12     Bronze: Anderson 30:33 

That is it for the USATF 8K Championship Recap, part 1. The final part will cover age groups 60 and up plus the team competition, plus a few odds and ends.

And by the way, next up on the Masters Grand Prix circuit is the USATF Masters 10K Championship at Dedham MA on April 30th. That will be followed one week later, on May 7th, by the USATF Masters Half Marathon Championship in Orange County, outside of Los Angeles CA. Make your plans now.

Note: All photos above, except where specifically noted otherwise, are by Marathon Foto-

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