Friday, June 30, 2017

Reprise of Top Masters Performances in 2017 Boston Marathon

June 30 2017. The biggest running event in the spring and for many runners, the only race that really counts, is the Boston Marathon, run this past April for the 121st time. Although most coverage of the elite field made little of the high temperatures, it was a factor for all but the swiftest Masters Runners. The strong winds from the west of 10-18 mph would help make for fast times but that was offset by temperatures of 71 degrees at the start of Wave One at 10 AM, rising to 74 degrees by noontime. Especially for the older age categories of Masters Runners who started closer to 11 am and did not finish until 3 pm or so, it was a real challenge to finish. Nonetheless there were many outstanding performances. Although the Boston Marathon is a world wide phenomenon, attracting runners from many countries, my focus is on American Masters athletes. So with apologies to the great athletes from the rest of the world, their exploits will not be celebrated here.
The Start at Hopkinton--welcome sign--[Photo: Bob DeChiara-USA Today]

40-44/Overall Masters.

Women. Like the other top women in this division, Dot McMahan, is on the cusp of Masters Distance running. The difference between her and the others is that she has been a  top elite Long Distance Runner for a number of years. Apart from Deena Kastor she is the only woman with two top ten finishes in an Olympic Trials Marathon, in 2008 and 2012. The 2016 Trials experience was another story though, as McMahan finished 35th and wondered if that was the way her running career would end.  But after a strong run at the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, she was energized and looking forward to competing at the Boston Marathon for the first time in 10 years. McMahan, from Oakland MI,  still wanted to be competitive with the Elite Women runners but also wanted to win the Masters title. Initially she thought her main competition would be Blake Russell who won the USATF Marathon Championship in LA in 2015. But Russell, who felt she was well-prepared for a Marathon, had, according to her blog, not prepared well for the first 10 downhill miles of Boston. After experiencing hip discomfort from mile 7 and then hamstring and quad pains, she decided to end the race shortly after the 10 mile mark. McMahan did not know it but at that point, her main competitors for the Masters victory were: Hilary Corno, Kate Landau, and Raquel Stucky. Corno was first across the line last year in 2:48:49; Sheri Piers, of Maine, who finished 2nd to Corno in 2016, was absent in 2017, a rare miss for her.
Dot McMahan [Photo:at]

Landau, of Tacoma WA, actually went out faster than McMahan, with a 5K split of 17:48, 17 seconds faster than McMahan. Her splits at 10K and 15K were 24 and then 19 seconds ahead of McMahan’s times. But that is where Landau’s lead run ended as McMahan hit the 20K split in 1:12:56, with a 24 second lead over Landau. From that point forward the gap just kept getting bigger. McMahan finished in 2:36:28, 14th overall and first Masters.  Landau kept the others at bay,  the 2nd Masters Woman across the line in 2:40:02. The duel to be 3rd in the Masters race was even tighter over the first half of the race with Corno, from Encenitas CA, and Stucky from Wichita KS, running shoulder to shoulder with identical 37:55 10K and 56:53 15K splits. Both runners slowed over the next 5K but Stucky slowed a little more, allowing Corno to enjoy a 3 second gap. Corno worked that up to ten seconds by the halfway point and then proceeded to stretch it out. Corno crossed the finish line in 2:42:16, finishing third in the Masters race, with Stucky coming across 3 minutes later. All four of these terrific Masters athletes turned in National Class times with Age Grades of 89.23% (McMahan), 87.24% (Landau), 86.62% (Corno), and 84.85% (Stucky). Other notable performances in this category were turned in by Maine’s Christine Hein, 2:55:28 (80.69%) and Ohio’s Wendy Marshall, 2:56:41 (80.13%).

Kate Landau with daughter, Grace, after 2014 Tacoma WA St Paddy's Day Half Marathon [Photo at]

Men. Although they are in the same race, I will distinguish between the two [celebrity] Masters Runners who are still competing with Open Elite Athletes, Abdi Abdirahman and Meb Keflezighi, and those who are primarily looking for Masters wins, like the Minneapolis runner, Eric Loeffler, Pocatello Idaho’s Sam Krieg, and Michael Wardian, who seems to run a marathon every other week, and Clint Wells, the 2015 USATF National Masters Marathon champion. Wells and Wardian finished 1-2 last year. Meb and Abdi ran together easily in the main pack for the first 15K, hitting their 5K splits in 15:24, 30:37, and 45:44 but thereafter Meb struggled with the pace as Abdi enjoyed a killer Marathon. 
Abdi Abdirahman at the TCS NYC Marathon [Photo: TCS New York City Marathon-Elsa/Getty Images]

Meb still hit 2:17:00 which is pretty amazing at age 41, age grading at 92.9%. But Abdi cracked a 2:12:45 at age 40, for a 95.24% age grade, to cross the line first among those 40 and over, and 6th overall.Meb was 2nd Masters and 13th overall.
Mike Wardian leaving for his morning commute [Photo-Washington Post-]

For Loeffler, Wardian and Wells, it was similarly tight over the first 10K, as they hit the splits in 16:37 and 33:27, with Krieg just off their pace at 17:07 and 34:07. Between 10K and 15K the group started to sort itself out with Loeffler hitting 15K at 50:15 with 9 seconds on Wardian and 14 on Wells. After that came the classic marathon unwinding as the gaps among those three grew bigger with each passing mile. Loeffler came across the finish line in 2:26:00 with Wardian 1:35 seconds back. The question that remained was whether Krieg could catch Wells. He was 1:05 behind at the halfway point but Wells really struggled after that with Krieg cutting the margin to 26 seconds by the 25K mark and had taken a 56 second lead by the 30K mark. Whatever struggles Wells was experiencing, he put them behind him at that point, reducing the gap to 51 seconds by the 35K split. Then, after two consecutive 5K splits of 19:24 and 19:00, Wells was able to rip off an 18:15 to retake the lead from Krieg at the 40K mark and cruise in with a 2:30:41 and a two minute gap over Krieg.  Wardian, 43, had the top age-grade at 87.63%, with Loeffler 86.60%, Wells 84.48%, and Krieg 82.76%. Other impressive performances in this division included Colorado’s Chaiwat Entrekul, 2:36:47 (80.64%), New York’s Guillermo Pineda Morales 2:37:01 (83.06%), Alaska’s Jerome Ross 2:38:36 (80.26%), and New York’s Knox Robinson 2:38:48 (80.78%).

45-49. Corina Canitz finished 2nd in 2015 and won in 2013 and 2016, but did not defend her title. Instead two Californians and a Floridian toed the line with their sights on a podium finish. Jennifer Baylis and Cindy Lynch sandwiched the Floridian, Lisa Bentley as they sorted themselves from early in the race. They hit the 5K split in 19:15 (Bayliss), 19:44 (Bentley) and 20:43 (Lynch). Each succeeding 5K timing mat registered a bigger gap as Bayliss came across first in 3:00:11 (81.48%), Bentley 2nd in 3:02:23 (82.35%), with Lynch 3rd in 3:06:50 (77.79%).

In 2016 Thomas Goldsby, Jim Koneazny, and Billy Mertens finished 1-2-3. None of those three turned out in 2017 but there were plenty of high-caliber runners vying for the podium. Nine national class performances were clocked in the Men’s race but Iain Hunter, Ulrich (Uli) Steidl, and William Vanos, from Utah, Washington and Florida, separated themselves from the rest. Hunter and Steidl took off from the start, hitting the 5K mark in 16:39 while Vanos was content with a relatively moderate 17:42. Hunter cracked off a 2nd sub-17 5k, crossing the 10K mat in 33:31, with a 20 second lead on Steidl and a full two minutes on Vanos. That pattern continued to the halfway point with Hunter clocking 1:12:17, Steidl 1:45 back and Vanos another minute behind Steidl. But that one minute gap was down from 1:42 at 15K; Vanos was maintaining his sub-18 minute 5K pacing. Hunter continued to click off sub-19 5K’s but Vanos was still under 18 minutes per 5K, getting a little closer to both Steidl and Hunter. At 25K Hunter had 2:14 on Steidl with Vanos only a half minute further back. Between 30K and 35K Vanos was able to pass both Steidl and Hunter. The wheels came off for Hunter as his 18:46 minute split from 25K to 30K was replaced by a 21:37. There was no heading Vanos from there as he won the division in 2:34:40 (85.02%). Hunter righted his ship enough to hold on for 2nd, in 2:37:28 (83.51%) to 2:38:06 (83.18%) for Steidl. Other fine national class performances were turned in by California’s Van McCarthy 2:43:13 (81.23%), Ohio’s Erik Hunziker 2:43:54 (81.58%), Virginia’s Patrick Bell 2:45:27 (80.82%), Issam Krieche, from Massachusetts, 2:45:34 (80.76%), Indiana’s Rodney Sarkovics 2:45:38 (80.05%), and Maine’s Robert Ashby 2:46:22 (81.06%).
Competitors step off the buses in Hopkinton at the Athlete's Village [Photo-Keith Bedford, Boston Globe]

50-54. Susan Loken, Arizona, won this division in 2014 and 2016 and was back to defend her title; Mary-Lynn Currier, Connecticut, who has been on the podium each of the last 3 years, was also in the lineup.  Heidi Schmidt, a newcomer to the division from Missouri, toed the line to challenge for the Women’s crown in this division. Loken took it out hardest, hitting the 5K mark in 20:09, with Currier 17 seconds back and Schmidt another 20 seconds to the rear. Currier ran the second 5K in 21:21, allowing Schmidt to get a few seconds ahead as both were well over a minute behind Loken. Currier never figured in the race after that point, but was happy, no doubt, to be on the podium in 3:05:09 (86.39%). In the meantime, Loken stretched her lead over Schmidt to over two and a half minutes by the halfway point. But then the Marathon started to take its toll on Loken, as the gap fell to 2:11 by 25K and to 56 seconds by 30K. Schmidt sped past over the next 5K and continued on to victory in 2:58:08 (86.42%), with Loken hanging on for 2nd place in 3:03:52 (86.99%). California’s Dolores Valencia  also turned in a fine run with a 3:10:18 (84.05%).

Kenneth Pliska, Tracy Fifield, and Albert Boyce went 1-2-3 in 2016 but none were back this year. But five new athletes competed mightily for the podium in the M50 category. Minnesota’s Douglas Baldwin, North Carolina’s Tim Meigs, Jim Park of Buffalo NY, California’s Jean Pommier, and Michigan’s Rich Power. Meigs and Pommier battled to be first American across the line, with Meigs hitting the 5K, 10K and 15K in 18:53, 37:59 and 57:16, with Pommier a half minute back from the 5K to the 10K. But by the 20K mark, Pommier had pulled even as they both clocked a 1:16:43 split. Pommier then hit the halfway point in 1:20:52 with a 6 second lead. In many cases that is the pattern that would result in the slower starter passing and pulling away from the early leader. But not this time. Meigs regained the lead in the next 4 kilometers and then gradually pulled away to take first in 2:41:48 (84.80%)with Pommier 2nd in 2:44:50 (85.46%). 
Tim Meigs, foreground, running int he 2017 Boston Marathon [Photo:]

In the duel for the final podium spot, Baldwin raced out to a 19:06 5K split with 11 seconds on Power and a minute and a half on Park. By 10K Baldwin had upped his lead over Power to 18 seconds as Park was now 2 minutes back. But by the halfway mark, Power had pulled even as they both crossed the mat within a second of 1:22:46. Importantly Park was now only 1:14 back. Baldwin surged and pulled away from Power over the next 9K, hitting the 30K mark in 1:58:39. He now had a 51 second lead on Power but only 13 seconds on Park who had passed Power. From that point, Park pulled inexorably away to capture the third spot in 2:47:22 (81.98%). Once Power got within 7K of the finish, he found another gear and was able to lay down a sub-20 5k and in the final 2K speed past Baldwin to take 4th by 7 seconds in 2:48:25 (83.64%).  Baldwin (82.84%) was joined by Utah’s Bill Cobler, 2:49:54 (82.91%)in recording a national class age-grading score.
Start of 2016 Boston Marathon Photo: Tim Bradbury-Getty Images]

55-59. Robyn Roybal and Nancy Corsaro, who finished 1-2 last year were back to defend their title. They were among the seven athletes who cracked the 80% age-grading barrier in recording national class times. Nonetheless three of the athletes separated themselves from the others. Maryland’s Cindy Conant, who had finished 2nd in the 50-54 division in 2015, Pennsylvania’s Doreen McCoubrie, and Connecticut’s Heather Knight Pech. Conant took them out in 21:57 with Knight Pech a half minute back and McCoubrie 4 seconds behind her. Conant maintained her edge through to the halfway point where she clocked 1:33:28 with Knight Pech a half minute back and McCoubrie a full minute behind Conant. The next 4K saw Knight Pech pull slightly closer to Conant as McCoubrie lost more ground. But it took Conant 23:39 to cover the ground from 25 to 30K as Knight Pech threw in a sub-23 and McCoubrie started to gain some ground back with a 23:14. Knight Pech poured it on from there, crossing the finish line in 3:10:30 (86.20%) as McCoubrie stayed strong, pulling away from Conant and hitting the line in 3:13:56 (84.68%) as Conant claimed third in 3:14:17 (85.67%), only 21 seconds back. Other national class performances were turned in by California’s Robyn Roybal 3:25:28 (81.0%), Florida’s Terri Swanson 3:29:40 (80.47%), and Sally Reily 3:29:48 (80.42%) and Nancy Corsaro 3:31:08 (81.02%), both , of Massachusetts.
Heather Knight Pech accepting her Award for first place at the 2017 Boston Marathon [Photo at:]

Doug Fernandez was the only one from last year's podium who returned to contest the division. Neither Robert Cipriano, the defending champion, nor Wolfgang Ketterle who finished third, were in the 2017 race. But there was plenty of quality in the field as eleven runners cracked 80% age-grades. Battling Fernandez for the podium were New Jersey’s Beau Atwater, Maryland’s Jeff Duyn, Wisconsin’s Chris Jungkans, and Florida’s Brian Keno. Fernandez put his stamp on the racer right from the outset, hitting the 1st 5K mat in 18:23, already over a minute ahead of his closest American challenger. Fernandez his every split with a lead as he built his winning margin to almost 5 minutes as he won the division in 2:44:52. It looked like Atwater might run away with the race for 2nd place, tossing out a sub-20 first 5k and hitting the 10K in 39:56. But Duyn stayed close through the 1st 5K and was now only 6 seconds back with Jungkans another 45 seconds back and Keno another 25 seconds back from him. Duyn passed Atwater before the 15K split and hit the halfway mark in 1:24:17 with 45 seconds on Atwater, 1:15 on Jungkans and 1:45 on Keno. Jungkans started to struggle at that point, taking 16.5 minutes to cover the next 4K as Keno took only 15:17, passing him and settling only 19 seconds back from Atwater and a little over a minute back from Duyn, now in 2nd place behind Fernandez. Keno was now clocking sub-20 5K’s and that took him past Duyn well before the 40K mark and into the finish in 2nd place among the Americans at 2:49:40 (84.54%). Maintaining a 20:30 5K pace, Duyn took 3rd in 2:51:11 (85.33%), with Atwater 4th at 2:52:09 (86.46%) and Jungkans 5th in 2:54:29 (82.20%). National clas performances were also turned in by Texan, Richard Simonson 2:57:58 (82.84%), Alaskan Tom Bronga 2:58:11 (81.23%), California’s Christopher Montross 2:59:09 (80.79%), Arizona’s Bernie McDonnell 2:59:13 (80.03%), Pennsylvania’s Joseph Haughey 2:59:31 (80.62%), and Colorado’s Kevin J. O’Brien 3:04:52 (80.51%).
The Boston Marathon is renowned for its Enthusiastic Spectators [Photo: Kayana Szymczak-Getty Images]

60-64. Karen Kunz, Sharon Vos, and Debra Hexsel, who formed the 2016 podium, made way for three newcomers. Two New Englanders and a New Yorker squared off in this division. Connecticut’s Cory Benson and Paula Beatty from Massachusetts were challenged by the Empire State’s Dolores Doman who zipped off to a 25:02 5k split, leaving Beatty 40 seconds back and Benson a minute and a half. Doman kept it up for the next 10K, hitting the 15K split in !:16:10 with a minute on Beatty and 2:20 on Benson. But then Doman found she could no longer manage a 5k in less than 26 minutes, and Beatty and Benson both took over 15 seconds out of Doman’s lead over the next 5K. Despite this changing pattern Doman hit the halfway point with well over thirty seconds on Beatty and well over a minute and a half over Benson. But by the 25k mark, Beatty had taken over, imposing a half minute gap on Doman. Then Benson caught and passed Doman between 30 and 35K. In the end it was Beatty first across the line in 3:44:31 (79.51%), with Benson 2nd in 3:45:39 (77.97%) and Doman 3rd in 3:46:14 (77.77%).

On the Men’s side, it was the same as Dave Walters, Brent Smith, and Tom Cali all passed up a chance for two consecutive podium finishes.  In their absence, a New Englander, David Oliver, of Massachusetts took on Joseph Bariyanga of Hawaii, South Carolina’s Dennis Funk, and Michigan’s Michael Young. Young crossed the 5K mat at 20:43 with Funk and Oliver 12 seconds slower, followed by Bariyanga a half minute off of Oliver’s pace. In the next 5K Young built his lead over Oliver to 31 seconds; Oliver had separated from Funk, leaving him another 15 seconds back with Bariyanga trailing by another 9 seconds. Young hit the halfway mark in 1:27:09 with Oliver a minute off the pace. Bariyanga was 7 seconds off of Funk’s pace at the 20K mark but in the next kilometer passed Funk and established a ten second lead by the half marathon mark.Oliver eased closer and closer to Young over the next 10K and then was able to pass between 30 and 35K, switching from 9 seconds behind to 46 seconds ahead. Oliver was still clicking off sub-22 5K splits and Young could not match it. By the finish it was Oliver across the line first in 2:58:23 (84.23%)—sub-3 hours is sweet at age 60. Young just missed that mark, clocking 3:00:34 (83.21%). Bariyanga and Funk had a bit of a duel after Bariyanga pulled ahead at the halfway mark. Funk fought back , passing Bariyanga between 25 and 30K and holding a 14 second lead at 35K. But then Bariyanga found another gear, dropping his 5K time from 22:27 to 21:02; Funk could not match that uptick in pace. Bariyanga took 3rd in 3:02:08 (83.28%) with Funk next at 3:03:14 (82.78%). Two other national class performances were turned in for this age group; Michael Brosilow, of Illinois, ran 3:06:16 (80.66%) and South Carolina’s Gerald Graf crossed the line at 3:11:09 (80.91%).
Everyone's Goal--Heading Up Boylston Street to the Finish Line [Photo: Charles Krupa, Associated Press]
65-69. California’s Sharlet Gilbert returned to defend her title, but no the other two members of the 2016 podium, Robin St. Clare and Karen Durante. New York’s Martha Degrazia and Colorado’s Alyn Park were the principal challengers. Gilbert hit the first split in 23:35 with a lead of almost 3 minutes over Degrazia and over 3 on Park. Park became the primary chaser after the 10K mark when she passed Degrazia. But Gilbert was taking no prisoners, hitting the halfway split in 1:45:56 with a 7 minute lead. Park chipped away at it, pulling within 6 minutes at the 30K mark, within 4.5 minutes at 35K, and was only 1:42 back at 40K. But it was too late; Park took another minute off of Gilbert’s lead in the last 2K but ran out of pavement as Gilbert cashed in the win in 3:47:27 (84.62%). Park’s 3:49:08 (84.00%) was good enough for 2nd while Degrazia’s 3:56:25 (81.41%) took 3rd. Texan Dorothy Rusch just missed the 4-hour barrier, finishing in 4:02:39 (80.58%)  clocking a national class effort. On the men’s side, Pennsylvanian Gene Dykes, in his last year in the age group and winner of the group the last three years, faced a challenge from a newcomer to the age group, Vinnie Kelley of New Mexico. Kelley hit the 5K split in 21:15, enjoying a half minute lead over Dykes, which he held through 10K. The pace started to tell on Kelley after that and Dykes had pulled even by the 15K mark. By the 20K mark Dykes had almost 45 seconds on Kelley and the gap just grew steadily after that. Dykes was first across the line in 3:09:35 (86.66%)  to make it four in a row with Kelley 2nd in 3:17:51 (79.73%). California’s Barry Wallman nailed 3rd with a 3:29:31 (75.29%).
Ben Beach starting his 50th consecutive Boston Marathon in the 2017 edition [Photo: Mary Schwalm, Associated Press]

70-74. Hansi Rigney, who won this group the last three years, aged up to compete in the 75-79 division. Theresa Tattersall, who was right on Rigney’s heels, did not return;Molly Sherwood, who finished 3rd aged up to 75-79. Pennsylvania’s Udon Beidler and Nancy Rollins of Illinois locked horns in the race for the win. Rollins is an old hand at Boston, having finished on the 65-69 podium in 2013-2015. New Jersey’s Joy Hampton took 3rd in 4:33:51 (74.97%) but never really factored into the race for the top two spots. Despite her veteran status, Rollins must have run into problems with the heat late in the race. She sped to an early lead that was easily in keeping with the kinds of times she usually posts, hitting the 5K in 25:50 and the half marathon in 1:57:22. She led Beidler by over 2 minutes at the first plit and by over 7 minutes at the halfway point. Rollins was 7:48 ahead at the 30K mark but then things started to go terribly wrong for her as her 32:47 5K split before 30K was followed by a 35:06 5K split the 5K after 30K. But she still had a 7 minute lead. After a 37 minute 5K split from 35 to 40K, Beidler was now within 2:22 and Rollins was focused on finishing the race.  In the end Beidler had just enough race left to claim the victory by a mere 4 seconds, 4:23:40 (77.86%) to 4:23:44 (77.84%). But I bet Rollins will be back next year to challenge for the win that she missed this year.

Philip Krajewski, Pedro Galva, and Carlo Glotzbach went 1-2-3 last year but were not top contenders this year.  Montana’s John Duffield and Ohio’s Lanny White had quite a duel as North Carolina’s Jeff Morey ran a very even pace to hit the half marathon split in 1:56:12 and finish 3rd in 3:52:01 (71.56%). Duffield took it our faster from the gun, hitting the 1st two splits in 24:45 and 50:04 with a 38 second margin at the 5K but only 12 seconds at the 10K. By the 15K mark White had taken a 4 second lead which he had built to 20 seconds by the 20K split, hitting it in 1:40:24. At this point most observers would see the classic pattern of Duffield having gone out to fast and yielding more and more yardage to White as the race went on but that was not the case. Something had thrown Duffield off perhaps but in any case when they hit the halfway mark, White’s margin had shrunk to 14 seconds. But White righted himself again and built the margin back up to 25 seconds by the 25K mark and then 42 seconds by the 30K split. That looked like it but again the savvy observer would have been wrong. White must have ‘hit the wall’ after 30K, slowing to 28:56 for that 5K as Duffield clocked 28:07 to take back the lead. Duffield was able to stretch it out from there, coming home as first USA citizen in 3:42:10 (74.73%) with White in 2nd in 3:43:31 (74.28%).
[A ‘shout out’ to Al Wieringa, long-time resident of St. Petersburg, FL, but a citizen of the Netherlands, not the US, who was first across the line in 3:29:38 (79.20%).]

75-79. California’s Hansi Rigney, who finished 2nd in the 70-74 group in 2014 and 2015 and won it in 2016 has aged up to the 75-79 group and was looking for a win in her first year in the new age group. New Hampshire’s Jo Ann McCalister and Maryland’s Molly Sherwood provided her main competition. But in truth Rigney was unstoppable on the day. She had 2 minutes on the field by the 5K split and kept widening the margin throughout the race to win, in the end by nearly 10 minutes in 4:53:58 (76.24%). 
Hansi Rigney, training in seaside CA in 2010 [Photo:Orville Myers, Monterrey County Herald]

But McAllister and Sherwood had a back and forth battle. McAllister had her way in the early going, establishing a 24 second gap in the first 5K and widening that to 2 and a half minutes by the Half Marathon mark. But then the wheels came off for McAllister as it took her nearly 36 minutes to cover the next 2.4 miles from the halfway split to the 25K split. That left Sherwood with a 4 minute edge heading towards the 30K mark. McAllister continued to struggle and by the 30K mark the gap was up to nearly 7 minutes. But then a surprising thing happened; manhy runners hit the proverbial wall between 30 and 35K. Not so with McAllister who finally found her sea legs again and dropped her 5K split time by about 6 minutes to pull within 3:16 of Sherwood. Now that McAllister finally got rolling again, she rolled all the way to 2nd place in 5:03:46 (73.78%) as Sherwood claimed the third podium spot in 5:06:37 (73.10%).

Anthony Cerminaro, who won the division in 2013 and 2014, placed 4th in 2015 and 3rd in 2016, had aged up to the 80+ division. Last year’s winner,  West Virginia’s Walter Seamon, was back to defend his crown. Unfortunately for him, John Ouweleen, from Florida, was also back at Boston, aged up to 75-79. Ouweleen won the 70-74 crown in 2014 and 2015 and took 2016 off from Boston to capture age division gold in the London Marathon in 3:22:58. Ouweleen started with his normal pace that would bring him in under 3:30, hitting the halfway split in 1:43:57 with more than a ten minute lead on Seamon. But by then the heat was cooking and Ouweleen’s pace slowed from 8:40 a mile to 9:40 per mile. Nonetheless he was still building his margin which was over 13 minutes at 35K. Ouweleen was either suffering by that point or taking it sensibly easy. Whichever it was, 40 minutes elapsed between the 35K and 40K splits, just under 13 minutes per mile.  That allowed Seamon to close to within 6 and a half minutes. But then Seamon ran out of race course. Ouweleen claimed the victory in what was for him a very slow time of 4:05:41 (73.45%), claiming the victory by 5 minutes over Seamons’s 2nd place effort of 4:10:52 (71.94%). California’s Takuji Kasamatsu, the 2nd place finisher in 2105, ran his own race, claiming the final podium position in 4:13:37 (73.91%).

80+. California’s Katherine Beiers took the title in this division in 2014 through 2016 and was back to win it again. With no opposition all she needed to do was finish. But that was a major accomplishment on this hot day. Her winning time was almost 20 minutes slower than in 2016 but that was probably just due to sensible running. Her 6:04:07 (79.88%) winning time age graded at nearly 80%, quite an accomplishment! And she retained her title as the Oldest Finisher.
Katherine Beiers, Oldest Finisher at the 2017 Boston Marathon [Photo: Runners World-]

Harold Wilson, who finished 1st in 2014 and 2015 and 2nds last year was not present but California’s Samuel Roake was back to defend his title. But Roake had no answer for the speed that Pennsylvania’s Tony Cerminaro, Jr. brought with him in his first year in the 80+ group. Cerminaro had a minute and a half on Roake in the first 5K and the gap just grew bigger and bigger with each passing mile. Cerminaro took the crown in 4:14:10 (77.06%). 
Tont Cerminaro [photo:]

Unfortunately for Roake there was another new speedster contesting the crown, Jack Yoo, of Illinois. Yoo was closer to Cerinaro in the first half of the race and even though he gave ground over the second half still had a comfortable lead over Roake, claiming 2nd in 4:44:39 (74.45%). On such a hot day, Roake was no doubt happy to finish 3rd in 5:29:49 (60.85%), taking 50 minutes longer than in 2016.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mid-Year Update on Individual Grand Prix Standings and End-of-the-Year Prognoses

June 7 2017. The USATF Masters Grand Prix consists of nine Masters National Championship races this year. From January to May we had the USATF (Individual) XC Championships in Bend OR (early February), the 8K Road Championship in Virginia Beach VA (mid-March), the 10K Road Championship in Dedham MA (late April) and the Half Marathon Championships in Newport Beach CA (early May). After a hiatus extending over most of the summer, the Grand Prix resumes with the 1 Mile Road Championship in Flint MI (Friday evening, August 25), the 5K Road Championship in Syracuse NY (October 1), the 5km Cross Country Championship (October 15), the 15K Road Championship in Tulsa OK (October 28), and the USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington KY (December 9). There are two components to the Grand Prix, an Individual GP and a Club GP. In the Individual GP, athletes accumulate points from 5 to 100 in each Championship in which they compete. To win a prize, the athlete must compete in at least 3 events and the athlete’s best 5 scores are summed to give their GP total points. Ties are broken first by a head-to-head comparison and then by number of age group wins. Who is leading the Grand Prix races in each division at the end of the first four events and what is the prognosis for the fall season?

Individual Grand Prix
David Angell (L, with Derrick Jones,) leading the 10K race at Dedham
Men 40-44. The current top 5 include: David Angell (375 pts.), defending GP champion, John Gardiner (190 pts.), Orin Schumacher (160 pts.), Jake Stookey (155), and Joshua Gordon (135). Angell’s large lead is due to his competing at a high level but also to competing frequently in the USATF Masters Championships. He has 4 championships in already; in those 4 races he finished 4th, 1st, 1st, and 3rd. One would expect Gardiner, the defending Champion in this group, to be his most formidable competitor. Gardiner came in ahead of Angell in the two races where they have gone head to head. But Gardiner will turn 45 in September; his points will follow him into the 45-49 category where he will compete for the 2017 GP title, not 40-44. So Gardiner is out of this GP race and in for the M45 GP. Schumacher and Gordon who both run for the Bowerman Track Club will, no doubt, compete in the Club XC Championships and so get the minimum number of races, it seems unlikely based on recent experience that they will compete in enough other championships to have a real shot at Angell. It would be fun to see them try. Running Tulsa and either Syracuse or Boston in addition would give them 5 races. Stookey may well accumulate the necessary number of races to compete but at least so far this year he is not at Angell’s level. One other runner who could conceivably catch Angell is Greg Mitchell, who missed much of the spring season to a hamstring injury. Mitchell won this GP title in 2015 and was runner-up last year when he first struggled with hamstring issues. If Mitchell can recover in time and run most of the fall races, he could catch and pass Angell. He would have to be at his best though, as Angell is a very tough runner. The only other worry on the horizon for Angell would seem to be if Jose Merino would decide to compete in a number of championships this fall. Merino came in ahead of Angell in the Half Marathon but there is no sign yet that Merino is interested in committing to the travel necessary to compete for a GP title.  
Current leaders: Angell 375   Gardiner 180   Schumacher 160
End-of-Year Favorites: Angell, Mitchell, Stookey.

Women 40-44. Last year Melissa Senall and Wakenda Tyler, Genesee Valley teammates, battled with Stephanie Whitis, of the Atlanta Track Club for the Individual GP title as their teams were battling for Club GP glory. At the end of the year, Whitis, in her first year on the circuit, took 2nd, book-ended by  Tyler who won, and Senall, the defending champion, who took 3rd. Strong runners like Janet McDevitt and Melissa Gacek won individual events but only competed in two events, not enough to qualify for a GP prize. So far this year no one in this division has run more than one event. Senall has aged up to the 45-49 division. Tyler and Witis have only competed in one event, the 10K at Dedham, where they finished 6th and 7th respectively. The GP leaders are the winners of the four individual championships: Melody Fairchild (Bend OR-XC), McDevitt (Virginia Beach 8k), Donna Mills-Honarvar (Newport Beach HM), and Ginger Reiner (Dedham 10K). McDevitt among those stands out because last year she cometed both at Syracuse in the 5K and at Club XC. If she would compete in those two events this eyar she would have her 3 events in and would be a contender. Among the 2nd place finishers Holly Ortlund and Heather Webster stand out because they sometimes run for teams that are active on the Club GP circuit so they have twice the incentive to race in a National Championship event. Ortlund, like Whitis, runs for the Atlanta Track Club; last year she ran only the 5K and the year before ran only Club XC so competing in three events would be a first. Webster ran in two events last year, the 5K and Club XC. If she added those two this year to the 10K she has already competed in, she would be a contender for GP honors. Kathy Wiegand in her first full year running for the Atlanta TC Women’s 40+ team could also factor into the race. She took 5th place at Dedham.
Wakenda Tyler, heading to the finish line at Dedham

Current leaders: Fairchild 100   McDevitt 100   Mills-Honarvar 100   Reiner 100

End-of-Year Favorites: Tyler, Whitis, Wiegand [McDevitt? Ortlund? Webster?]

Men 45-49. Because of a tie, the top 5 includes six runners: Steven Frisone, Brent Fields, Volker Burkowski, Brad Slavens, Matthew Farley, and Derrick Jones. But, as noted above, we should add Gardiner to the list; if he runs any races after mid-September he will be automatically advanced to compete within this group. None of the 6 listed will advance to the 50-54 group until after the last race of the year so they are all in the hunt. Gardiner is certainly the favorite to move into this group and take the title; he came in ahead of the current leader, Frisone, in the two races where they competed head to head. Fields, Burkowski, and Slavens will probably all get the three races they need to compete for an Individual GP title. But none of them have been able to stay with Gardiner in races where they have met. Cal Coast’s Michael ‘M.J.’ Stanley took the M45 GP title last year but has only 75 points for his efforts at the HM in Newport Beach this year. He will, no doubt, accumulate more points this year but will be hard-pressed to match Gardiner. Stanley was followed last year by his teammate, Christian Cushing-Murray, who won the title in 2015. Cushing-Murray carried an injury over from 2016 and will graduate to the 50-54 category before the fall season is over. In 3rd last year was Eric Stabb of the Atlanta Track Club. He may figure in the mix this year as well, but he will have to compete in at least 3 events in the fall; he currently has no points on the board.
John Gardiner, seconds after claiming 1st place at the USATF Masters Half Marathon at Newport Beach. [Photo Credit: OC Marathon and HM]
Current leaders: Frisone 195   Fields 180   Burkowski 160

End-of-Year Favorites: Gardiner, Fields, Stanley [Burkowski, Slavens].

Women 45-49. Last year Sonja Friend-Uhl was both the dominant runner in the division and the only runner who competed in the necessary three or more events to qualify for a prize. Friend-Uhl ran and won the 10K, the 5K, the 5 km XC, and Club XC for a 400 point total. She runs for the Atlanta TC and was devoted to their cause in the Club GP race. Many of the women in this division, like the 40-44, have family responsibilities that make travel for Championships a bigger decision. This is especially true because these athletes can compete in a few high-profile non-Championship races as one of the top Masters runners entered [such as Carlsbad, Gate River Run, Freihofer’s 5K, and so on), often earn bigger purses than in our events, and achieve a certain amount of fame. This year the 45-49 division is looking like the 40-44 division. No one has more than one race. Friend-Uhl has focused more on track events and has no GP events in yet this year. That could change in the fall but as yet no one has signaled their intent to run enough events to qualify. The leaders in this division are the winners of the 4 events held thus far: Amy Halseth (Half Marathon), Cassandra Henkiel (10K), Grace Padilla (USATF XC), and Perry Shoemaker (8K). Although she only ran in one championship last year, Henkiel did run inn 3 2015 events, the 8K, the 5K and the 12K. There is no 12K this year but if she would run the 5K, she would need only 1 additional event and the 15K is actually closer to home for the Texas native. GVH’s Melissa Senall seems the runner currently on the board who is most likely to accumulate enough events to win the GP title. She won the 2015 GP title for the 40-44 group and finished third last year. Both years she competed in at least 3 events and it seems likely that she will do so again this year. Sonya Wilkerson, who favors the XC turf over the roads, has the USATF XC event in; if she would compete in Club XC this year as she did in 2015 she would need only 1 more event to qualify.
Melissa Senall (R foreground, with Alice Kessler] racing for the Finish Line at Flint.

Current leaders: Halseth 100   Henkiel 100   Padilla 100   Shoemaker 100

End-of-Year Favorites: Senall [Friend-Uhl?, Henkiel?, Wilkerson?]

Men 50-54. Nat Larson of the Greater Springfield Harriers (GSH), Cal Coast’s Rob Arsenault, and Carl Combs of Club Northwest formed the podium last year with GVH’s Dale Flanders and Mike Nier just off the pace. Francis Burdett, who won in 2015, has been struggling with injuries the last couple of years; this year he has only one race on the board and he ran a far slower pace than his norm. Arsenault started the season off with a bang, picking up 100 points for a 1st place at Bend, but then got injured and is currently mired in 7th. He is sandwiched between Nier and Flanders so it looks like another very competitive year for the Men’s 50-54 GP. Combs got 95 points for a 2nd place at Bend but has not been able to make it to any further Masters Championships. The Atlanta Track Club’s Kristian Blaich finished 6th last year, in part because he lost the spring season to injury. That injury is long behind him and he has piled up the points this spring in an impressive manner with age group wins at Virginia Beach and at Dedham. But it is a tough group at the top of this division; there are only 25 points between the leader, Blaich, Hoka NJNY Track Club’s Mike McManus, and the two GSH teammates, Kent Lemme, and Larson.  As with the earlier age divisions, one of the leaders is off to a new age division however. Larson will age up to the Men’s 55-59 division this summer. In recent years neither Lemme nor McManus has competed in enough events to qualify for a GP award. That may change this year; if so there should be quite a battle this fall among the three current leaders.  
Kristian Blaich, turning onto the Boardwalk at Virginia Beach--3 miles to go!

Current leaders: Blaich 200   McManus 190  Lemme 185

End-of-Year Favorites: Blaich, McManus, Lemme [Arsenault, Nier, Flanders]

Women 50-54. In 2016 Marisa Sutera Strange, of the Athena TC,  entered 5 events and won them all for a perfect 500 score. She won the Grand Prix by 125 points even though the 2nd place finisher, Kathleen Cushing-Murray, of the Jane’s Elite, is a very accomplished runner, taking a first, two seconds and a fourth place in her 4 outings. Third place went to Trish Butler who ran her first event, along with her New Balance Tampa Masters teammates in Syracuse. To wind up in the top three off of less than half of the season was quite an accomplishment. GVH’s Carol Bischoff and Kathleen Hayden took 4th and 6th while Cushing-Murray’s teammate, Kelle Taylor, finished in 5th.

The top of the leader board looks pretty similar this year. Strange tops the list based on her wins in the 8K and 10K and her 3rd place finish in Bend on a slippery course. There is one complication; Tania Fischer is back on top of her game and, as Captain of the Jane’s Elite squad, has competed in two events so far, the USATF XC (6K) and the Half Marathon, and won both. The Jane’s Elite seem intent on challenging for the Club GP and, as a side product, Fischer will be challenging for the Individual GP as well. At one level Fischer currently has the edge in that she won at Bend. Apart from that, Strange and Fischer have not met. Fischer is already entered in the 15K at Tulsa. She and the Jane’s will surely compete at Club XC. Will they get in a 5th event at either Flint or Syracuse or Boston? Strange is on course to get at least 5 scoring events. Cushing-Murray, currently in 3rd, is not far off Fischer’s pace and could also factor in. Butler has been injured this spring and will probably not be able to compete for a top spot. Kathleen Hayden, Butler’s teammate, Michelle Allen, Taylor and Bischoff are all within 40 points of Cushing-Murray.
Marisa Sutera Srange, closing in on the finish line at Virginia Beach!

Current leaders:  Strange 290   Fischer 200   Cushing-Murray 175

End-of-Year Favorites: Strange, Fischer, Cushing-Murray

Men 55-59. Last year William ‘Hugh’ Enicks went after the GP title in this division and had it sewn up with two events to go. This year, he has not entered a Championship and is sitting at zero points. Kerry Barnett, from the Playmakers Elite/New Balance, won through to 2nd place on the basis of three fine runs at Flint, Syracuse and Club XC. He will need to do the same this year as he has not competed in any events yet this year. Last year the Marathon specialist, Fred Zalokar, won the Half Marathon and then rode a 4th place finish in Syracuse and a win in Tulsa to 3rd place in the GP. This year, Zalokar had to settle for 2nd in the Half Marathon, but is otherwise sitting about where he did last year at the same point. GVH’s John Van Kerkhove, with a win at Virginia Beach and a 5th place at Dedham, is currently in the lead. He has a slim lead over James Zoldy who netted a 4th at Dedham and a 3rd at Newport Beach. Timothy Riccardi with a 5th at Virginia Beach and a 7th at Dedham is next in line, not far off, followed closely by Gary Dworkin. Among those who have won events this spring in addition to Van Kerkhove, Kevin Broady and Derrick Staley seem unlikely to enter enough events to be a serious threat. In the past neither has entered more than 1 or 2 Championship events. Peter Magill, who won at Bend could be a real threat, but his Achilles tendon started acting up shortly after the lowered the 8K Record for Men 55-59. If he recovers relatively quickly he could still factor into the GP race this year but the GP will not be a major factor in his decisions about how quickly to return to racing. As mentioned above, it looks like Nat Larson, who is moving up from 50-54 is in the driver’s seat. Once he ages up, in June, he will move into a tie for 2nd in this division but should be favored to win each Championship he enters in the fall.
Nat Larson, closing it out at Dedham with teammate, Kent Lemme, a few strides back.

Current leaders: Van Kerkhove (180)   Zoldy (175)   Riccardi (155)

End-of-Year Favorites: N. Larson, Van Kerkhove, Zoldy [Zalokar, Riccardi, Dworkin]

Women 55-59. GVH’s Colleen Magnussen took the title with 120 points to spare last year. Susan ‘Lynn’ Cooke, who finished 2nd last year, like her NBT teammates, only competed in the 2nd portion of the season. Atlanta’s Mary Sweeney was just 5 points back in 3rd. Athena’s Lorraine Jasper came on strong in the second half of the season to finish 4th,  just ahead of Kelly Kruell who competed in the two West Coast events and Club XC.

So far this year, Cooke is in 5th and Magnussen 7th. Athena’s Margaret Sloan did not compete in a USATF Masters Championship event last year but this year she has competed in three already and has the GP lead off of a 3rd, a 4th, and a 5th place finish. Her teammate, Doreen McCoubrie has celebrated her return to the USATF circuit with a first at Virginia Beach and at the Half Marathon, leaving her with the 2nd most points so far. McCoubrie’s teammate, Mary Swan, finished right behind her in the 8K and Half Marathon, accumulating 190 points and a tie with Laura Bruess, who finished behind those two in the 8K but took the win at Dedham. New Balance Tampa teammates, Cooke and Lesley Hinz, are tied for 5th. Jasper’s fitness is still not what it was in early 2016 but it was good enough for 3rd at Dedham. If her fitness continues to come along and she competes well in the 2nd half of the season, Jasper, currently in 11th, can be a factor in the GP race. The active engagement of Athena and New Balance Tampa in the Club GP gives all of the competitors except Bruess an extra reason to compete in a number of championships. Unless Bruess’s Athletics Boulder team would commit to contending for the GP, she lacks that extra incentive to compete in the USATF Masters Championships. Nonetheless, even without that incentive Bruess has been willing, so far, to make two East Coast trips from her Rocky Mountain home territory. It would be great if she would compete in a few more championships this year and contend for the GP title.
Doreen McCoubrie, triumphant at the Masters HM Championships [Photo Credit: OC Marathon and HM]

Current leaders: Sloan 255   McCoubrie 200   Bruess 190   Swan 190

End-of-Year Favorites: McCoubrie, Swan, Cooke [Bruess?, Jasper, Sloan, Hinz]

Men 60-64. Last year Brian Pilcher stayed healthy enough to score a few points in the spring while recovering from his 2016 injury and smashed his way to 3 victories in the fall along with record-breaking performances. Gary Radford stayed the closest, finishing 2nd with his teammate, Mark Rybinski, finishing third despite various fitness issues. The three Cal Coast teammates, John Holcomb, Keith Witthauer, and Perry Forrester took the next three spots with Rick Becker in 7th.  Becker netted three first place finishes in the spring but did not compete in the fall because of coaching responsibilities. Kyle Hubbart and Dan Spale finished 10th and 14th despite only running in the fall. John Barbour competed in two events and finished 13th.  It looks like Spale and Hubbart can make a run for the GP title in their first full year of running for the Boulder Road Runners.  Despite some foot issues, Pilcher was able to come within 7 seconds of the American Record in the 8K Championship but shortly thereafter noted that the foot had gotten worse and he would be taking time away from running. Becker had foot injuries at the beginning of the year, undergoing foot surgery in early March. Even if he runs well in the fall, the absence of any spring points means he will not be competitive in the GP. Rybinski has battled hamstring and other issues over the last year or so and is now taking time off from racing to try to get a full recovery in. Radford is running as well as ever and will definitely be a factor but so far Spale and Hubbart have the edge in head-to-head races. Despite being one of the stronger runners in the division, it seems unlikely that Barbour will compete in enough championships to factor in the GP. Radford is the current leader and has the edge in head-to-head against the Cal Coast guys. On the other hand, if the Half Marathon result is any indicator, Holcomb is running really well, much better than last year.  If he is still feeling his oats in the fall and the Cal Coast team comes east a few times, he could definitely put pressure on Radford. Radford’s teammate, Kevin Clinefelter is currently in 2nd off of strong finishes in three events. Currently in 7th, Reno Stirrat has been battling a variety of issues over the last year and a half. If he can put those behind him, he will definitely move up in the charts!
Boulder Road Runners M60+ Team at Dedham [L to R-Hubbart, Bell, Spale, Braun] (Photo Credit-USATF-New England)

Current Leaders: Radford 265   Clinefelter 220    Spale 190

End-of-Year Favorites: Spale, Hubbart, Radford [Holcomb, Stirrat]

Women 60-64. In 2016 Jill Miller-Robinett, of the Impala Racing team, competed consistently at the top of the age division. With two wins, two seconds, a third and a fourth place finish, Miller-Robinett won the GP with a margin of more than 150 points. Cynthia Williams and her Atlanta TC teammate, Cynthia Lucking had the same number of points from their 4 races, but Williams got 2nd on the tiebreaker. Their teammate, Margaret Taylor only got three races in and finished 4th. Her teammate, Terry Ozell was 10 points behind in 5th. Honor Fetherston and Nancy Stewart ran well, with Fetherston taking first in the 8K and the Half Marathon and Stewart claiming gold in the 10K and 5K. But neither fitted in the third race needed to qualify for a GP prize. The Impala’s Mo Bartley did almost as well snagging a 2nd at Dedham and a first at Club XC.

This year a lot of those names are towards the top of the leader board but there are some significant changes. The Impala’s have been battling injuries and so, unlike last year, skipped the 10K and Half Marathon.  As a result, Miller-Robinett has only two races in the first half of the year and sits in 2nd, 10 points behind Team Red Lizard’s Joanna Harper. Then comes the Atlanta TC crew, with Taylor tied for 2nd, Mary Richards 5 points back, the two Cynthias, Williams and Lucking, 5 and 25 points, respectively, behind Richards. Susan Stirrat and Sharon Moore, are tied for 7th. Bartley has 100 points from her 8K win but will need a few more races in the fall to factor into the GP contest. Harper, despite her current leading position, may not compete in enough championships to qualify for a prize. In the last two years she has competed in one Championship one year and two the other, both on the West Coast. So she may be done for the year.
Jill Miller-Robinett, heading for the Finish Line at Virginia Beach

Current Leaders: Harper 195   Miller-Robinett 195   Taylor 195

End-of-Year Favorites: Miller-Robinett, Taylor, Richards  [Bartley? Harper?  Lucking, Williams]

Men 65-69. Last year Doug Bell and Peter Mullin battled to the last race of the year. Bell took the early lead, besting Mullin at the 8K and 10K. But then Mullin roared back with 1sts in the Half Marathon and 1 Mile; Bell did not contest those. When Mullin also edged Bell in the 5K it looked like Mullin might win through. But Mullin was not able to compete in the 15K, the final Road Race of the year and generally does not run XC. Bell is a veteran XC country runner and relished the opportunity to finish strong. He even beat his old nemesis, Doug Winn, in Club XC to take 100 points n the final event of the GP and win it by 15 points! Winn either won or placed 2nd in each event he contested but 3 events is not enough for the GP title in this division. Tom Bernhard brought 95 points with him from the spring season of competing in the 60-64, broke the American M65-69 record in the 5K, and won two other events, but 4 strong runs is not enough in this division either. Kirk Larson ran 5 events, finishing somewhere between 2nd and 6th in each one and that was enough to claim 3rd place in the GP. He edged his teammate, Jerry Learned by 15 points for that honor. John Hirschberger competed in only one evnt last year, the Club XC championships. He must have enjoyed the experience. He is back with a new age group and a new purpose. He has competed in all 4 events so far this year and has performed very well, with a 2nd, a 3rd, a 5th, and a 7th. As a result, he is in first place, with Mullin in 2nd. But make no mistake. Mullin is going all out for the GP win. Even though he wanted to compete in the Half Marathon at the World Indoor Games in Daegu, South Korea, he made time to compete in the 8K Championship in Virginia Beach right before he left for Korea. There were three road races in the spring and he ran all 3, edging Bell in the 8K and 10K and winning the Half Marathon again. Mullin will most likely be aiming at the 1 Mile, 5K, and 15K in the fall; but those are also te races that Bernhard is likely to target, meaning that Mullin is likely to score only 95 points, at best, in each of those. Bell will most likely target the 5K, 5K XC, and Club XC. If so, the 5K will be a showdown between the two that may well determine the outcome of the GP race although if Bell wins, the pressure will be on him to deliver the points he needs in the last 2 XC races of the year. Bernhard has 200 points on the 8K and 10K he has competed in this spring. If he runs and wins the 1 Mile, the 5K and the 15K he will have 500 points and will win the GP. If Bernhard wins through then the epic struggle between Mullin and Bell would be for 2nd place, no less of a struggle for that. Unless one or more of these hardy veterans encounters fitness issues, it is unlikely that Hirschberger can make the GP podium. The same is true for Lloyd Hansen, Runner of the Year in this division two years ago. Hansen just turned 69 and it is tough to make the podium in your last year in an age division; that difficulty is compounded by the fact that Hansen is coming back from a sciatic nerve problem that severely reduced his training efforts. The 70-74 division will have to watch out for him next year when he ages up. William ‘Bill’ Dixon, another terrific runner, ages up sometime between May and August of this year. He has shown less inclination to race much on the circuit. In many years he runs only the 5K in Syracuse and the 10K in Dedham, both within driving distance of his home in Vermont. He does occasionally run for his team at Club XC also. When he races he is tough to beat. Even if Dixon does not race in enough events to compete for a top GP prize, he always has an effect on the GP outcome by limiting the points that other competitors acquire in those events. Larson and Learned are both running very well and each is ahead of his point total for last year. They will probably both accumulate over 400 points again. That keeps everyone on their toes. Last year it took 410 points to beat the 4th place finisher; this year it is likely to take more.
Tom Bernhard closing out his winning effort at the Masters 10K at Dedham

Current Leaders: Hirschberger 335   Mullin 290   Learned 245

End-of-Year Favorites: Bernhard, Mullin, Bell [Larson, Learned, Hirschberger]

Women 65-69. One would think that Edie Stevenson who took 4 firsts and a second in 5 starts would have run away with the GP title. Her only loss was at the hands of Kathy Martin’s American Record smashing run at Syracuse. But she won by only 20 points as Jo Ann Rowland had a first, three seconds and a third place. Rowland’s Impala teammate, Donna Chan finished third. Sabra Harvey, Catherine Lempesis, and Kathy Martin all had winning efforts at one of the championships but none entered the three races needed to qualify for a GP prize.

In 2017 things look a little bit different and a little bit the same. Team Red Lizard’s Jeanette Groesz is atop the leader board with wins at Bend and Newport Beach. Stevenson sits in 2nd 5 points back with a win at the 8K and a second to a record-breaking performance in the 10K by Sabra Harvey. In most years, Stevenson would have competed in the Half Marathon Championship and gone head to head with Groesz. But this year, after winning the 8K in mid-March, lowering the listed American record in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in early April, and contesting the 10k Championship on the 30th of April, Stevenson decided it would be pushing her luck to run the HM just 1 week later. GVH’s Cindy Ingalls and Jeanne Herrick have come in right behind Stevenson in the 8K and 10K and now sit in 3rd and 4th respectively. Harvey has a hundred points from her win at Dedham. Last year she competed only at Club XC but in 2015 she ran in the 1 Mile and 15K championships in addition to Club XC. She has already signed up fpr the 15K and has expressed interest in running the 5K at Syracuse. If she would run those as well as Club XC she would certainly be a major factor in the GP race. It will be interesting to see what Groesz does. She, too, is entered at Tulsa. If she runs the 15K and then runs with her Red Lizard teammates at Club XC, she would be in the mix. Rowland and Chan are currently struggling with injuries so it is unclear how much they will be able to compete in the fall.
Edie Stevenson completes another strong run at the Masters 10K Championship at Dedham

Current Leaders: Groesz 200   Stevenson 195   Ingalls 175

End-of-Year Favorites: Stevenson, Ingalls, Herrick  [Harvey?, Groesz?, Rowland?]

Men 70-74. Last year’s main contenders were defending champion, Jan Frisby, Paul Carlin (yours truly), Przemek Nowicki, and Gary Patton. Nowicki and Carlin had finished 2nd and 3rd to Frisby in 2015. Frisby started the season with fitness issues and never got totally on track. As a result he was playing catch-up all year and finished 4th. Patton, a terrific track runner, had competed only in a few road races here and there over the years. But he hatched a plan to give it all he had for a GP victory in his first year in the new age division. He would only have to run in one race longer than 8K. If he raced at Bend (8km XC), Brea (8K road), Dedham (10K road), Flint (1 Mile road), Syracuse (5K road) that would give him 5 races and a definite shot at the title. As it turned out, Patton won at Bend and just nipped me in the final 100 meters at Brea. I came back with a nice win in the 10K at Dedham but Patton chugged in to take 2nd so he was still ahead and 1 up on head-to-head competition. Patton would surely beat me at the mile. The only chance I would have had was to beat him in Syracuse and/or win enough events to outdistance him in points. But I had apparently overdone the training in the run-up to the 10K as a week after Dedham I found I could not run without pain. Three months of Physical Therapy took me out of contention as I jogged at Flint, ran okay at Syracuse but finished far back. When I also struggled at Tulsa, that pulled me out of the 5km XC and gave Nowicki a chance to take 2nd place if he ran well. He did; Nowicki took 2nd and I got 3rd for the second year in a row. Patton, of course, took first by 30 and 35 points respectively.

This year I am also in recovery mode but I vowed to take it more gradually this year. So far that has worked. I am aided by the fact that Patton is sticking to the track this year, Nowicki has been out injured, and Frisby continues to have fitness issues. My main worries were Gene French, Dave Glass, Richard Kutzner, Jim May, and, to my surprise, a newcomer on the scene in Tony Gingello. French got off to a quick start by competing at Bend; none of the other contenders did. That gave him a 95 point lead. May ran tough at the 8K, netting 100 points for 1st. Behind him was me, French, Marc Bloom, Kutzner and Frisby. Bloom would also be a runner to reckon with but he has not, traditionally run in enough GP events to threaten for the podium. That gave me a head-to-head victory over French and Kutzner which might come in handy later in the year. I saw that Glass was entered at Dedham. I initially figured he was the favorite as he beat Jim May in the 5K last year and May beat me in the 8K. Glass had strained a muscle in the run up to Dedham so he was not at his best. I also learned after the race that May had strained a muscle cross country skiing a week after the 8K at Virginia Beach. But May had recruited a new tyro for GVH, Gingello. And Gingello took the win, passing me and holding me off in the last 200 meters or so.  Behind me were Kutzner, Bloom, Frisby and Glass. French was in the Bay area of California prepping for the Half Marathon to be run the following week. That left me in 1st, but only 5 points up on French, 10 on Bloom and Kutzner, 15 on May, and 25 on Frisby. Gingello and Glass were on the board but with 100 and 65 respectively, they were far back. To be honest, given my injury experience over the last couple of years, I had a little trepidation about racing in the HM only 1 week after the 10K. But I figured I needed it and if things were off, I was determined to pull back and run it as a training run. As long as I finished the race at training pace, I figured to score pretty good points. It turned out much better. Kutzner won last year but I was able to catch him between miles 9 and 10, pass and eventually pull away for the win. Kutzner took 2nd with French 3rd; none of the other main contenders competed in California. It is definitely anyone’s game at this point; I am 15 points ahead of French and 25 ahead of Kutzner. Given my propensity for injuries over the last two years, nothing is certain. And if any of the contenders is on their game, there is time in the fall to rack up enough points. With five events, a dominant runner can score 500 points and take the title. As I mentioned in the 65-69 discussion, Bill Dixon is aging up this summer and has the talent to score 500 points in 5 events if he decides to contest 5 events. That would be uncharacteristic, but as I learned last year from Patton, expecting the unexpected might be the smart way of thinking. Gingello will surely run Syracuse which is close to home. How many other events will he run? And Jim May and Dave Glass can come back. May does not usually compete in longer road races like the 15K so he probably only has 4 races he would compete in. But those 4 could leave him with a ton of points if he is fully recovered. The same goes for Glass. And if Nowicki is fully recovered, he will have a say in many of those races. This is one of the most competitive divisions as far as the GP goes.
Paul Carlin driving for the finish at Virginia Beach trying, unsuccessfully, to turn 95 GP points into 100

Current Leaders: Carlin 290   French 275   Kutzner 265

End-of-Year Favorites: Carlin, French, Kutzner [Gingello, May, Frisby, Bloom, Nowicki, Dixon(?)]

Women 70-74. The Impala’s Dianne Anderson took this GP title last year with a margin of 190 points. Irene Terronez took second place. Norma Thomas won two events but never got the third required score. Other top Event finishes were recorded by Jan Holmquist and Ruth Thelen but neither competed in two additional events to compete for the Individual GP title.

This year things are looking similar. Anderson is again at the top of the scoreboard with a first place at Bend and a second place at Virginia Beach.  Terronez is in second place, only 5 points back, with a win at Newport Beach in the Half Marathon and a third place finish at Virginia Beach. Holmquist has her win at Dedham but nothing else. In past years she has often competed at Syracuse. If so, she would need only one more event to qualify for a GP prize. Perhaps the 5km Masters XC Championship in Boston, not far from her hometown of Burlington MA will be enticing and she will be in the hunt for a prize. Kathleen Jefferson took the win at Virginia Beach. Jefferson has not been active in the Masters Grand Prix before this year. Will her triumph at Virginia Beach encourage her to travel a little further from her Virginia home to compete in the 5K at Syracuse or perhaps the 1 Mile at Flint Michigan? Time will tell.
Dianna Anderson makes her way up the Boardwalk at Virginia Beach,  adding another 95 points to her GP total

Current Leaders: Anderson 195   Terronez  190   Jan Holmquist 100  Kathleen Jefferson 100

End-of-Year Favorites: Anderson, Terronez  [Holmquist? Jefferson?]

Men 75-79. Despite struggling with injuries the second half of last year, Ron Mastin took the GP title in this division with a 95 point margin of victory. Phillip Kroll, Andrew Sherwood, and Al Swan followed in that order. Mastin has not competed yet this year. Many of us knew that Doug Goodhue, who was plagued by injuries last year, would age up. We hoped that the 9-time Runner of the Year would have put his injuries behind him but it has not turned out that way. Goodhue has also been unable to compete. Sherwood, on the other hand, has competed in all 4 events this year and has won at Bend and at Newport Beach.  That is enough to put him at the top of the leader board. Swan has competed in 3 events, taking 2nd at bend, to sit in 2nd place in the GP. Sherwood has the edge over Swan, however, having finished ahead in each of their 3 head-to-head contests. Malcolm Cohen, who finished 11th last year in the 70-74 division, has aged up and, having competed in 3 events, sits in third place.  His teammate, Phil Kroll, who has competed in 2 events, is right behind in 4th place. David Turner and Tony Fiory who finished 1-2 at Virginia Beach, could factor in if they run a few more events in the fall. The same is true for John Noyes and Hal Bennett who took 1-2 at Dedham. And it goes without saying that if either Goodhue or Mastin can put their injuries behind them, there are enough events in the fall for them to move swiftly up the leader board.
Andrew Sherwood heading into the 2nd loop at the 2016 Club XC Championships at Tallahassee

Current Leaders: Sherwood 355   Swan 230   M. Cohen 220

End-of-Year Favorites: Sherwood, Kroll, Swan  [Noyes, Turner, Goodhue?, Mastin?]

Women 75-79. Last year Madeline Bost ran at the 8K in Brea, and then not again until the last two Championships of the year at Tallahassee, the 5km Masters XC and the Club XC Championships. With two first place finishes and a 4th place, Bost amassed 285 points and took the crown. Pat Herr, Kathy Kusner, Ellen Nitz, and Margie Stoll each won one event but none of them competed beyond that one championship.

Things are looking good for Bost’s strategy at the moment. Her 90 points from a third place at Virginia Beach leave her currently in 4th place but none of the folks ahead of her have more than one race in. Joanne Markley picked up the win at Virginia Beach and Kathleen Scotti got the win at Dedham.  Judy Stewart’s 2nd place at Virginia Beach leaves her currently in 3rd place in the GP. Bost has been challenging other runners in her age division to step up their game by competing in a few more events but so far there have been no takers. Bost has competed at Syracuse in the past and may do so this fall. If she also competes in the 5 km Masters XC at Boston, that would give her the 3 contests she needs. She could then wait to see if a trip to Lexington KY for Club XC is necessary for a win or not.
Madeline Bost, putting the cap on her 2016 Individual Grand Prix winning season at the Club XC Championships at Tallahassee

Current Leaders: Markley 100   Scotti 100   Stewart 95

End-of-Year Favorites: Bost  [Markley? Scotti? Stewart?]

Men 80-84. Jon Desenberg ran 4 events last year and captured the GP title. Although other runners inthis division ran well when they ran, like Jim Askew, Bill Dodson, Bill Spencer, Wade Stockman, and George Yannakakis, none competed in the 3 events needed to factor into the GP contest. Desenberg has not competed yet this year and may not be planning on contending for the GP. Duane Lougee won at Virginia Beach, William Riley at Dedham, and Richard Williams at Newport Beach but no one has run in two events yet. Lawrence Cole, who finished 3rd at Dedham, has expressed some interest in competing at Tulsa. If so, that would give him 2 of the 3 events he needs to win a GP prize. If he would also compete in the 5 km XC Championship closer to home at Franklin Park in Boston, he would be the favorite for the title. Of course it is worth observing that 3 of Desenberg’s 4 races last year were in the fall, the 1 Mile, 5K, and 5km XC championships. If he runs in all three of those again, he could take the title.

Current Leaders: Lougee 100   Riley 100   R. Williams 100

End-of-Year Favorites: Desenberg, Cole  [Lougee?, Riley?, R. Williams?]

2017 Individual Grand Prix standings through the first four events are posted at: