Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Quick Look at the Team Races in the 2017 USATF 1 Mile Masters Road Championships in Flint

August 24. The race takes place tomorrow evening, Friday August 25 in Flint Michigan. New National Champions will be crowned and that includes teams. Teams also accumulate points toward the Club Grand Prix title.. Here’s a quick reminder, that in USATF Masters Road races, the scoring is the sum total time for the first three runners for each team. So, unlike in XC, time is everything, place is secondary, and displacing plays no role.

My caveat on the preview-- What I do here is review which teams won last year, who is entered this year and a ‘best guess’ as to how the teams will do. It is tough enough to forecast the individual races without knowing current fitness; it is that much harder to figure out team contests. Nonetheless, here we go!

[BTW, this Team preview is dedicated to Reno Stirrat, who encouraged me enough so I figured it was worth a couple of late night efforts. Thanks, Reno!]


Men’s Teams

Last year the podium consisted of Cal Coast Track Club, Patient Endurance, and TNT International.

This year entrants are the same except that Patient Endurance has both an A and a B team. If runners go according to form, Cal Coast [Cushing-Murray, Gardiner, Stanley, and Yacoub] should gain another strong win, with a team time down under the 14:10 minute mark. Neither of the Patient Endurance squads should be able to break 15 minutes but both should come in under 17:00. Their A team [Fahey, Green, Preiss] should take the silver medal with a time under 16:30, followed by the B team [Hofman, Larsen, Menovcik], perhaps around 15:45 or so. TNT has two strong runners in Kareem and Kyle Lanier, but it looks like TNT may end up just off the podium. They will acquire 70 points toward the Club Grand Prix contest though.

Cal Coast Track Club, Patient Endurance ‘A’, Patient Endurance ‘B’.

Women’s Teams

Last year the podium consisted of: Patient Endurance, the Genesee Valley Harriers, and Playmakers Elite/New Balance.

This year it is the same teams except that Playmakers Elite has not yet identified a 40+ team but the Athena Track Club has. Patient Endurance should have the speed they need to repeat but it should be closer as GVH appears to be stronger than last year and Athena appears to be stronger than last year’s Playmaker Elite  team. Patient Endurance has the same team as last year except no insurance. If any of their top 3 have an off day there is no one to fill in and they could fall a long way. Nonetheless I pick Patient Endurance [Kessler, Larusso, Nowik] for the win; they are likely to crack 17 minutes as a team again this year. I have GVH [Daggs, Senall, Tyler, Webster]  for 2nd. Webster should be able to run around 5:30. If Senall and Tyler can match or improve on their times of last year, the team will come in probably between 17:10 and 17:15. Athena [Bellaire, Kassens, Swan] will not be far off  but from what I see, it appears it will be tough for them to break 17:30 which leaves them predicted for third. TNT International  will likely finish just off the podium again, but will gather important points in the Club Grand Prix contest.

Patient Endurance, GVH, Athena Track Club.


Men’s Teams:

Last year it was a head-to-head with just two teams, the Genesee Valley Harriers and the Playmakers Elite/New Balance. But what a tussle; in the end only four seconds separated the team scores with Playmakers prevailing, 15:23 to 15:27.

We have twice as many teams entered this year with the Atlanta track Club and the Cal Coast track Club adding to the excitement! Playmakers are the defending Champions and I would love to dub them the home town heroes and make them the favorites despite the strong added challenges. This team race should be a doozy! Playmakers Elite [Barnett, Bussard, Hammond, Lambrecht, Stuber] is lacking one of their top 3 from 2016 in Ruben Henderson, who is rehabbing, but they have Dave Bussard back from 2015; he ran two seconds faster than Henderson that year. Add that all up and if Barnett and Stuber can replay last year’s race, Playmakers can be in between 15:20 and 15:25. GVH is also missing one of their top 3 from 2016, Joseph Mora, who came in 1 second behind Mike Nier’s 5:05. Neither Riccardi nor Van Kerkhove are quite as fast as Mora over the shorter distances but will give it everything they have. Still, breaking 15:40 would take strong runs from GVH’s top three. The Cal Coast TC [R. Arsenault, Bowles, Vermeulen] result is hard to predict. Arsenault is coming off of rehab; this is apparently his first race back. I do not know about Vermeulen’s fitness but I do know he has no race results in athlinks this year so he is not coming into the event race sharp. Bowles ran a 5:16 mile last June. Let’s suppose he does that again. Vermeulen ran 4:30 and very nearly took home the Overall masters win. Last year he ran 4:39 to finish 2nd. Let’s suppose he runs 4:40. Then there is Arsenault; if he were not rehabbing, I would expect a race under 5, possibly as strong as 4:45. But given the uncertainties let’s put him in at 5:00. That gives them a 14:56. Even if Arsenault and Vermeulen each run 10 seconds slower than given here, they have enough of a gap to claim the gold. What about Atlanta [Dundas, Haertl, Spencer, Strickland]? Jeffery Dundas is a heck of a runner when he’s on, but like many of us, has had an up and down last couple of years, as he searches for health and fitness. His mot recent 10K is a minute slower than his effort 2 years earlier in the same race but his 4 miler in July was a minute faster than he ran in the same race two years earlier. So which Dundas will show up? Let’s see if we can count him as a 5:10. Haertl ran 5:05 here last year. Let’s say he can do that again. Strickland has run a 5:06 mile this year but his strong time in Club XC last December suggests he can maybe go a little faster. Let’s suppose he hits 5:00. That would give them 15:15 which would be enough for them to challenge for gold if a couple of the Cal Coast guys are a little off. Or they could be beaten for the Silver by Playmakers if I am being too optimistic about Atlanta...or if Playmakers Elite really runs strong to defend the Michigan turf!  GVH has to have everything break their way to get on the podium.

Cal Coast Track Club, Playmakers Elite/New Balance, Atlanta Track Club

Women’s Teams:

Last year the podium consisted of: Athena Track Club, Playmakers Elite/New Balance, GVH.

Athena and GVH are back this year but not Playmakers. There is a new challenger though, the New Balance Tampa Masters Racing Team.  The Athena Track Club’s 50+ team [Jasper, Pangburn, Strange] is the favorite. Given Jasper’s recent performance on the track and assuming Pangburn and Strange can run about as last year, Athena should take the gold medal in this age division and might well break 17:30. As long as Tampa New Balance [Allen, Cooke, Hinz] is not too slowed by injuries, they should claim silver. Allen missed some training earlier this year due to injuries and Cooke has been managing an Achilles problem. Still, if it is a good day, they could well crack 18:00 as a team and might get under 17:45. Either should be good enough to claim Silver. GVH [Bischoff, Hayden, Pirnie, Smith-Hanna] looks to have a stronger team this year than last but even if they can improve from last year’s 20:00 to down around 19:00 that will not enable them to challenge for Silver; it looks like the Bronze medal. But GVH does have an extra runner for insurance; should either Athena or New Balance run into difficulty, they have no fall-back.

Athena Track Club, New Balance Tampa, Genesee Valley Harriers.


Men’s Teams:

Last year Ken Youngers and Kirk Larson led Atlanta to victory, with Vasan Neovakul providing a critical 6:00 effort as the third scoring member.  Ann Arbor claimed 2nd off a solid team effort where their top 4 runners came in between John Tarkowski’s 5:58 and Eduardo Matsuo’s 6:05. A depleted GVH team claimed the bronze with Bill Beyerbach, Mike Reif and an injured Mark Rybinski jogging the mile in a  little over 8 minutes to ensure a score and the Club Grand prix points that went with it.

This year is another story. The race should be even closer; it will certainly be more hotly contested. Atlanta [Larson, Learned, Neovakul, Youngers]comes in as the favorite, with their same team as last year. But between last year and this, Youngers had surgery and is on the comeback trail. He cannot be counted on for a 5:32 this year. His peachtree time was a minute and a half slower this year so let’s say he can run 5:45 this year, and that Larson repeats at about 5:47. Neovakul can probably not run 6:00 this year as he has struggled with some injuries. It is likely but not certain that Learned will be their 3rd runner as he has been running very strong this year. Let’s count on him for a 6:05. If so, that gives them 17:37. Ann Arbor [Hayes, Matsuo, Pratt, Tarkowski, Young] is also back with much the same team; there is one important exception. Young is a new member fo the team; he ran 5:34 last year unattached. Let’s suppose he can run a 5:34 again. If any two of the other 4 Ann Arbor athletes can run about 6 flat, that would give them 17:34, but Hayes and Tarkowski have been battling injuries for a couple of years so it is not certain. Still, Tarkowski has run two mile race sin that vicinity so he should be safe. Paratt and Matsuo have been focusing on longer races so their fast twitch muscles are not race-tested. But like last year at least one of them should come in around 6-6:05. So 17:34-!7:39, right with Atlanta, seems likely. GVH [Beyerbach, Clinefelter, Radford, Reif]should be stronger this year; they have not asked Rybinski to jog the course. Radford ran 5:37 last year; let’s count on that. Clinefelter ran about a minute slower than Radford in the 10K at Dedham and 42 seconds slower at the 8K in Virginia Beach so let’s count on him for a 5:46. And let’s suppose Beyerbach runs the same as last year, 5:43. That gives them 17:06, faster than Atlanta and Ann Arbor, at least on paper. Mike Reif is running better than last year should one of the first 3 falter, and could well crack 6:30.

There are two new teams this year and both are strong. Shore AC [Dollard, Leddy,Linell, Stirrat] will hope this is one of Stirrat’s ‘on’ days. He has had some issues this year but it appears he should still be able to come in pretty close to 5:40. Kevin Dollard should also crack 6:00, perhaps 5:55 and then both Leddy and Linnell could well come in right round 6:00. That gives them 17:35, right with Atlanta and Ann Arbor. Finally we get to the Boulder Road Runners [Bell, Frisby, Hubbart, Spale], the strongest team if all are on their game. Frisby is running for Club Grand Prix points if any of the top 3 have an off day. The ‘Big 3’ of Bell, Hubbart, and Spale have led them to victory numerous times in the last year. Bell ran 5:27 here two years ago. Let’s count him for 5:30. Ordinarily I would put Spale and Hubbart both a little faster than Bell, maybe 5:25’s. Spale’s last couple of 5K to 10K races have been off in time.  But then he cracked off a 5:13 in the Pearl Street Mile on the 16th of August so I guess he is ready to roll? Let’s count Spale for 5:20 and Hubbart for 5:25. That would give them 16:15 and a handsome win!

Boulder Road Runners, GVH, Shore AC

Women’s Teams:

Last year Atlanta and Impala went head to head and Atlanta took the gold medal by a minute. The same two teams are back this year, but with slightly different personnel. Cynthia Lucking sustained a bike injury lately so she has been replaced with Elizabeth Unislawski. Atlanta [Ozell, Richards, Taylor, Unislawski] should be able to run right around 21;00 again if Ozell, Richards, and tayor can match last year’s times.We’ll say 21:13. Impala should have a faster team than last year but both Donna Chan and Jo Anne Rowland are coming back from injury. So what seems probably. First let’s count on Miller-Robinett for another 6:40. Chan’s recent 5K’s have been about a minute and a half slower than last year’s so let’s count on her for a 7:45. Rowland ran a 7:06 in 2014 but let’s just count on her for a 7:30 as she is rounding into condition. Anderson ran 8:23 last year, good insurance. So the impalas may break 22:00 but it looks unlikely they can go fast enough to challenge for gold if the Atlanta runners are all on their game. It looks like Atlanta should take first pretty handily with the Impalas getting 2nd and plenty of Club Grand Prix points.

Atlanta Track Club, Impala Racing Team


Men’s Teams:

Last year Przemek Nowicki led the Shore AC to victory by about a minute over the Atlanta Track Club, who benefitted from their usual balanced effort.  A weakened Ann Arbor Track Club, with Doug Goodhue out injured, Paul Carlin under rehab and jogging the course, took 3rd, thanks to the strong efforts of Philip Kroll and Malcolm Cohen.

The same teams are back this year but with different personnel at different levels of fitness. Shore AC [Nolan, Nowicki, Smith] is probably the favorite again although Nowicki will probably not run as fast as last year. He ran 6:43 last year but this will be his first race back from dealing with a hamstring injury (except for a race over in Europe). I will put him down for 7:00. Smith ran 6:56. I will count him for 7:00 also. That leaves Nolan who has not run here before. He ran a 5:50 at the Fifth avenue Mile but that is a fast course. His 5 mile and 5K times are not so impressive. Still he must be strong at the middle distances. I will put him down for a 6:05. That would give them 20:05. Last year they won with 20:53. The Atlanta Track Club ‘A’ team [Benedict, Carter, Patterson, Shaffer, Williams] includes Patterson and Williams, two of their top three from last year. Frank White is not entered. But let’s count on Patterson and Williams to match their 7:15 and 7:23 from last year. Benedict and Carter should both run faster than Patterson. Let’s count them as 7:00 and 7:05. If so, that gives Atlanta 21:20, over half a minute faster than their 2nd place effort last year. Finally Ann Arbor [Carlin, D. Cohen, M. Cohen, Goodhue, Kroll] comes in with a stronger team. Carlin, yours truly, is far on the rehab road and hopes to run close to 6:00. Let’s count him as 6:05. Goodhue is not as far along on his rehab. Based on a recent outing, let’s count him as 6:55. David Cohen loves the longer races, especially the marathon, but he did run a 7:17 mile this year. Let’s count him for 7:20. That would give Ann Arbor 20:20. If all run as forecast (highly unlikely!  Smile), that gives Shore the win, followed by Ann Arbor, followed by Atlanta.

Shore Athletic Club, Ann Arbor Track Club, Atlanta Track Club

Now all of the teams can go out tomorrow evening and prove me wrong--Best of Luck to you all!

Monday, August 21, 2017

USATF National Masters Mile Championship- Flint Update

August 21, 2017. There are only a few days left before the USATF Masters 1 Mile Road Championship in Flint Michigan. The Championship is one of the events in the Michigan Mile, part of the Crim Festival of Races. It determines the 2017 Masters Mile National Champions. Now that we have the largest and deepest field yet for our 1 Mile Masters Championship guaranteed with 133 already entered, let us take a closer look at some of the races. It looks like the weather will cooperate with gorgeous conditions for a fast mile; the forecast calls for 69 degrees at race time with 44% humidity, clear skies and winds from the nne at 8 mph. And, by the way, if you haven’t committed yet, you can still join 133 of the speediest Masters Runners in the country through this Wednesday at midnight by signing up at:

Defending 2016 National Masters 1 Mile Champions:

John Gardiner—Rancho Santa Margarita CA—4:31
Tammy Nowick -- Clarkston MI—5:26

Jerome Vermeulen—Simi Valley CA—91.75%
Marisa Sutera Strange – Pleasant Valley NY – 91.27%

Age Division

40-44:      Tammy Nowik  MI—5:26                          John Gardiner  CA—4:31
45-49:      Erin Larusso  MI—5:49                               Jerome Vermeulen  CA—4:39   
50-54:      Marisa Sutera Strange  NY—5:27          Nat Larson  MA—4:50
55-59:      Mary Ellen Stornant  MI—6:24               Joseph Mora  NY—5:06
60-64:      Jill Miller-Robinett  CA—6:40                Ken Youngers  GA—5:32
65-69:      Donna Chan  CA—7:15                               Tom Bernhard  CA—5:18
70-74:      Ruth Thelen  MI—8:11                              Gary Patton  IA—6:07
75-79:      Ellen Nitz  MI—9:46                                    Sandy Scott  FL—6:53
80-84:                                                                                  Jon Desenberg  MI—10:17

If those winning times look ‘soft’ to you, keep in mind that the traditional Flint course is challenging for a road mile. It is technical with 1 sweeping turn and five 90 degree turns, plus switching from road to paved path through a grassy area and onto the road again. And it has a serious uphill from about a half mile to 3/4ths of a mile. There is a different course this year due to construction; the new course appears to be faster, with one sharp right turn just before the half mile mark, and then a 45 degree turn to the left before the ¾ mile mark, followed shortly thereafter by a 45 degree to the right onto the finishing straightaway. The serious uphill is no longer part of the course but the course does appear to finish uphill.

In the previews below, I pick out the top contenders for the podium and offer a prediction based on current entrants. These may still change between now and the closing of registration on Wednesday, August 23rd-- because of new entrants or updated information about current fitness.

No new contenders for the overall win have entered since the first preview—so no changes in the preview. John Gardiner has entered to defend his Overall championship, but that will be a tall order. Kevin Castille is also entered. Castille ran a 4:24 mile in Louisiana earlier this year and a 14:30 5K. He has bettered the 15K age division record twice this year, at the Gate River Run in March and at the Utica Boilermaker 3 weeks ago in 46:10. If Castille runs, he will be a strong favorite. Who else will challenge Gardiner for the podium? Two years ago, Gardiner’s teammate, Jerome Vermeulen, and Greg Mitchell outkicked Gardiner in a thrilling finish! Mitchell is not back from a hamstring injury yet but Vermeulen is entered. Last year the tables were reversed as Gardiner had the best of Vermeulen. David Angell, who has been on the podium in every Masters Championship race this year, has thrown his shoes in the ring. Although known for the longer races, no doubt Angell, as the 8K Champion, has some speed as well. Another Cal Coast teammate of Gardiner, Christian Cushing-Murray, is also entered. He won the Masters race at the 2016 Carlsbad 5000 in 15:11. But he spent the latter part of 2016 and the first part of 2017 injured. His first race back from the injury was the 2017 Carlsbad where he ran 16:14 to finish 7th. Even with 3 additional months of training, it is uncertain if he will be in condition to challenge for the podium.  And, like Vermeulen, now a 50 year old, we should not count out Todd Straka, who finished 5th overall in 2015. He is clearly prepped to run a fast mile; earlier this year he ran a 4:26.39 mile on the track at the Music City Distance Carnival and has run faster this summer, clocking a 4:19.2 at one of those great downhill Colorado mile races. Will Straka finish just off the podium again? That is the way I have picked it but he can prove me wrong.  Castille, Gardiner, Angell.
Kevin Castille, decimating the field at the 2015 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Tammy Nowik  has entered to defend her Championship. But her chief challengers from last year are also back. Marisa Sutera Strange, who finished 2nd last year and Minnesotan, Melissa Gacek, who finished 3rd last year, will both try to change the outcome this year. The three of them finished in 5:26, 5:27 and 5:28 last year. Gacek has displayed good fitness this year; she won the Medtronic TC Masters Mile in early May in 5:28.8 and ran an 18:17 5K in late May. Gacek also ran a 20K and a 25K, finishing 2nd Masters in the 5th 3rd River Bank Run in 1:39:08. Nowik also competed in that same race, finishing 17 seconds back of Gacek. Strange has also had a fine year although perhaps a tad off her outstanding performances of 2016. She landed on the podium overall in both the 8K Championship at Virginia Beach in 29:56 and in the 10K Championship at Dedham at the end of April in 37:54. That was about a minute slower than her 2016 time. That is also her most recent race. That is not unusual except that she typically runs the Freihofer’s Race for Women but did not this year. Renee Tolan, who just won the Masters title at the Liberty Mile in Pittsburgh in 5:21 would, with that time, appear to be the solid favorite. But the traditional course at Flint is more challenging than most, with at least six turns and one significant hill climb. Would that add up to 6- 7 seconds difference in time? Perhaps not, but this will be Gacek’s 2nd try; last year she felt she was not assertive enough early in the race, and could not quite make things up in the last quarter mile. Her victory at the Twin Cities Mile may help her confidence. And, of course, Nowik is the 2-time defending champion, with any home course advantage. Heather Webster could also factor into the podium race. She ran 18:04 in the 5K Championship at Syracuse this past year; that is only 1 second slower than Tolan’s 18:03 in 2015 in the same race. Nowik is the defending champion; she has run strong this year so I will go with her for the win. I will give Tolan the nod for 2nd based, in part, on her recent Pittsburgh outing, with Gacek picked for 3rd. But either Strange or Webster could well wind up on the podium.  Nowik, Tolan, Gacek.
Tammy Nowik pressing the pace as Melissa Gacek tries to stay with her at about the 1000 meter point in the 2016 USATF One Mile Masters Championship at Flint [Photo courtesy of Crim Fitness Foundation]

Kevin Castille, Nat Larson, and Tom Bernhard typically perform well above the 90% level. Castille’s Boilermaker effort scored a 95.2%; the 14:30 5K graded over 98%. Nat Larson is almost always a contender for age-grade awards. Last year he scored just above Bernhard, 2nd to Jerome Vermeulen. John Gardiner has been scoring really well lately. Last year his age-grade was only 1 percentage point below Bernhard’s and he finished 3rd in age-grading this year at the Half Marathon Championship. His 5K at Carlsbad in April scored a 91.46%. Bernhard appears to be slightly off his 2016 fitness; he ran a minute slower at the 5K at Morgan Hill this year. And while most others would kill for 89% age-grades like Bernhard got in the 10K and 8K Championships earlier this year, that is a bit off his 2016 standard.  If Todd Straka can crack 4:30 again, he should be in the hunt as well. Vermeulen and Cushing-Murray cannot be ignored either. Vermeulen is the defending champion at 91.75%, but with no recent races it is hard to gauge his fitness. Cushing-Murray’s  Carlsbad effort in 2015 age-graded above 95% but his fitness is not likely to be that strong.  If he were healthy, Doug Goodhue would be a contender, but this is his first race coming back from a leg injury so he is just looking for a good race. Castille, Larson, Straka
Nat Larson crossing the finish line at the 2017 USATF National 10K Masters Championship at Dedham MA where he took the Men's Age-Grading crown

On the women’s side, Sabra Harvey is the odds-on favorite at this point. When she won the Age-Grade title in Flint in 2015, Harvey was on the beginning of the comeback trail after injury, so scored ‘only’ 90.77%. At the 10K Championship this spring, she bettered her own 10K record and age-graded at 103.56%. Harvey is also the current World Record holder for the Women’s 65 division at the 1500 Meters on the track. She will be tough to beat regardless of who else might enter. Marisa Sutera Strange, the defending age-grading Champion, should be the closest to Harvey; she scored 93.73% to Harvey’s 103%+. If Lynn Cooke runs as well or better than she did in Virginia Beach, she has a good shot at the podium. Cooke’s 8K in Virginia Beach netted her a top-5 age-grade finish at 90.54%. Others who figure into the podium contest include Melissa Gacek, Leslie Hinz, Lorraine Jasper, Jill Miller-Robinett, Renee Tolan, and Heather Webster . Hinz’s 10K effort in Dedham merited an 87% age grade and, like her teammate, Cooke, she is likely faster at the shorter distance. Tolan’s 5:21 in Pittsburgh would net an 84.55%. Gacek’s fast 5K earlier this year merited an 83.4% age grade and Miller-Robinett scored 82.99% here last year, finishing two places ahead of Gacek in age-grading. If Jo Anne Rowland is fully recovered from her spring  injuries she could factor in as well. She has not competed at Flint before but has age-graded above 90% at longer distance championships. Harvey, Strange, Cooke.

Sabra Harvey winning the Women's 65-69 year old title at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Age Divisions—Contenders for the podium.

40-44. John Gardiner, the current favorite and defending Overall Champion is also favored here, with David Angell pushing him all the way. There should be a gap to the remaining contenders but it could be a fierce battle between Michigan’s Matthew Yacoub and Philip Potvin. Potvin appears to be new to Masters running but has a 4:55.8 mile to his credit this summer. Yacoub clocked a 35:10 10K a couple of years ago. Yacoub apparently ran a 58:31 in the Crim 10 Mile Run in 2014 but did not compete in the Masters Championship. But there are no recent times listed in Athlinks except for a noncompetitive 29 minute 5K last October. Gardiner, Angell, Potvin.
John Gardiner winning the 2016 USATF Masters Mile National Championship at Flint Michigan

Tammy Nowik, the defending Champion, is the favorite, but she will have plenty of competition.  Melissa Gacek, who took 3rd overall last year, Renee Tolan and Heather Webster are all capable of cracking 5:30. Consistency requires me to repeat my prediction for the Overall race:Nowik, Tolan, Gacek.

45-49. Last year’s winner, Jerome Vermeulen, has aged up to Men’s 50. Kevin Castille, who is the Overall Masters favorite, is also favored for this division; he is very likely to crack 4:30. Because he is coming back from injury, Christian Cushing-Murray is a bit of a wild card in this, one of his last few national championship races in the 45-49 division. Ordinarily he could be counted on for a sub-4:40, but that might be out of his reach. M.J. Stanley appears to be the best of the rest. He finished 3rd last year in 4:53. Michiganders Eric Green and Steve Menovcik, finished a dozen seconds back last year and will try to make it closer this year. Their Patient Endurance teammate, Brian Fahey, who typically runs 5K’s in the low to mid 18’s, will also give chase. Castille, Cushing-Murray, Stanley.
Cal Coast trio that finished 9th, 2nd and 3rd in the 2015 USATF Masters Mile Championship in Flint Michigan-L to R: Christian Cushing-Murray, Jerome Vermeulen, and John Gardiner

Last year GVH’s Melissa Senall, who finished 4th in the 40-44 division, Erin Larusso, the defending champion who runs for Patient Endurance and the defending champion, and her Playmates Elite rival, Amy Nemeth, all finished between 5:48 and 5:51. Unfortunately for them, Serena Kessler has also aged up to this division. Although she has been focusing on longer distances, with a 3:09:51 Marathon and a 1:25:54 Half Marathons, her 5:39 to finish 3rd last year in the 40-44 group makes her the favorite. Larusso is the favorite for Silver with her recent 5:41 in Pittsburgh and, of course, her 1st place in the 45-49 division last year in 5:49. Nemeth ran a 6:06 mile at the end of June so will need to raise her game to compete with Larusso for 2nd place. Senall could well have a better time than either but her last race was apparently a 1:42:57 half marathon in late March. The lack of recent worries raises the concern that she may have sustained an injury either in the race or thereafter. She ran a half marathon ten minutes faster a year earlier. Kessler, Larusso, Nemeth.
Serena Kessler, leading Melissa Senall and a host of others as they hurtle toward the finish line at the 2016 USATF Masters Mile Championship in Flint Michigan

50-54. The three strongest runners in this division at this point are Todd Straka, Jerome Vermeulen and his teammate, Rob Arsenault. Typically a low 16’s 5K performer, Rob Arsenault is coming off an injury this winter. He ran 19+ at Carlsbad in April. Four months further along, he should be close to his usual speed. I am not aware of Vermeulen’s injury status but he has apparently not run a race since last November. Either he has been very busy or he too may have had some fitness issues. That suggests that Straka, who is racing sharp, may be able to reverse the outcome of two years ago when Vermeulen topped him by 5 seconds. If either Arsenault or Vermeulen are off their game, Mike Nier of the Genesee Valley Harriers, could factor into the podium race. He was only 20 seconds slower than Arsenault at Club XC last December. Because of some uncertainty surrounding the current fitness of the Cal Coast duo, I will give the nod to Straka, ahead of Vermeulen and Arsenault. Straka, Vermeulen, Arsenault.
Todd Straka makes the final turn at the 2015 USATF Masters Mile Championships where he finished 5th overall [Photo courtesy of Crim Fitness Foundation]
 Marisa Sutera Strange is the defending age division champion in 5:26. As discussed above, she may not be up to a sub-5:30 this year, but she should still take the division. She defeated Lisa Veneziano by 10 seconds last year.  Veneziano is back but her times on the track this year suggest her fitness is off compared to last year, a minute off in the 5000 and more than that in the 10,000. Michelle Allen had strong outings early this year, with a 33:07 at the 8K Championships in Virginia Beach and a 42:06 at the 10K Championships in Dedham. Unfortunately some injury issues slowed her down this summer so she has just recently gotten back to the track for a 5000. Still her extensive track work suggests she has the potential for a special road mile. Alisa Harvey  ran a 5:29 in the Loudoun Street Mile at the end of May and has 3 recent 5K’s, all just under or just over 20 minutes flat. GVH’s Kathleen Hayden ran a 19:29 at the Utica Boilermaker 5K this summer; she will definitely be in the mix. Strange, Harvey, Hayden.

Marisa Sutera Strange leading Tammy Nowik and Melissa Gacek midway through the 2016 USATF Masters Mile Championships in Flint Michigan

55-59. Dave Bussard, who skipped last year’s competition, won here in 2015 in 4:57. He looks to be in great condition with his last three 5K’s in 16:59, 17:17, and 17:08. Nat Larson, the 50-54 winner last year, aged up to the new division this year and will lock horns with Bussard.  Larson has the edge as he ran 4:50 last year while Bussard ran 4:57 here the year before.  At Syracuse last year, Larson finished nearly a minute ahead of Bussard.  Jeff Haertl, and Fred Zalokar, the Age Division winner at the Marathon Majors, would appear to be his main competition at this point. Haertl ran 5:05 here last year and runs his 5K’s typically in the mid- to upper 17’s. Zalokar would definitely be favored at a longer distance but he has shown good speed at shorter events too; in fact, he finished 3 seconds ahead of Haertl at the 5K Championships in Syracuse last year in 17:13. As recently as November 2015, Jeffery Dundas was carrying a 5:47 per mile pace in the 12K Championship in Alexandria, Virginia, and running a 5:08 road mile, but he has had numerous health issues. He just ran a 5:36 Road Mile so he is probably regaining fitness and coming mostly for the team competition. GVH’s John Van Kerkhove, the division winner at the 8K Championship in Virginia Beach will have his work cut out for him to make the podium here in Flint.  Larson, Bussard, Zalokar.
Dave Bussard drives for the finish line and the Men's 55-59 win at the 2015 USATF 15K Masters Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Run]

Susan ‘Lynn’ Cooke, Lorraine Jasper, and Mary Swan will go head-to-head-to-head for the win. Although Cooke was able to edge Jasper by 9 seconds at Club XC last December, Jasper has had the upper hand since then. Cooke ran a recent 5:42.7 Track Mile. But Jasper had the better of their contest at the 10K Championships, and was able to defeat her a week ago in the 1500 meters on the track at the NCCWMA Championships in Toronto, 5:22 to 5:39.  No doubt an achilles issue has been slowing Cooke down. Jasper’s Athena teammate, Mary Swan, will also be pushing for the win.  Swan took Cooke’s  measure at the 5K Championship, by a half minute, at Syracuse last October and at the 8K Championship this spring, by a minute, in Virginia Beach. Until this past year, Cooke focused primarily on the track. Endurance vs. speed, this is a classic encounter. Ordinarily I would go with speed but unless Cooke's achilles has been behaving better, Swan may well have the edge.. Jasper, Swan, Cooke.
Lorraine Jasper competing at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee Florida.

60-64. Ken Youngers is the defending age division champion with a winning time of 5:32. But, in the interim, he has had surgery and, while recovered, does not seem likely to be as fit as last year. He ran a minute and 40 seconds slower at Peachtree this year compared to his 2016 time. He is probably coming more for the team than the individual championship. Dan Spale is the favorite. The only Masters runners in the age group who have come in ahead of Spale have been John Barbour and Brian Pilcher. Neither of those runners are entered here. Spale finished 3rd at the USATF Masters Club Cross Country race, a half minute ahead of Gary Radford who is also in the hunt for the podium. To get there he will have to beat Spale's Bouler Road Runners teammate, Kyle Hubbart, who finished between Spale and Radford at the 8K and 10K Masters Championships this year in Virginia Beach and Dedham. Can anyone else challenge Spale, Hubbart and radford for the podium? Michael Young, a new member of Ann Arbor TC’s 60+ team, ran 5:34 last year in the 55-59 division, three seconds faster than Radford. He has run a recent 5:36 Road Mile and a 38:56 10K this summer. It looks like he should be under 5:40 and that may be enough to edge Radford for the Bronze medal.Thomas Dever will also be in the hunt; he tends to prefer longer races, but ran an 18:28 5K this past April and then a 1:26:56 Half Marathon in May. Last year before taking some time off from racing to deal with some nagging issues, he ran his half marathons in the low 1:20’s and his 5K’s in the mid to upper 17’s. If his training has been consistent since then, he could be in contention for the podium.  Reno Stirrat is another contender. Stirrat has also had some issues, but his recent races include a 39:02 at the 10K Masters Championship and two 10K races this summer at 38:39.  This race should be a dandy! Spale, Hubbart, Young.
The Boulder Road Runners holding their M60+ Team trophy at the 2017 USATF 10K Masters Championship in Dedham MA [L to R: Kyle Hubbart, Doug Bell, Dan Spale, and George Braun]

 Jill Miller-Robinett is the defending champion with a time of 6:38. At present she appears to have the inside track to the victory. Atlanta Track Club teammates, Mary Richards and Margaret Taylor appear to have the records to justify a podium pick. Richards finished 13 seconds back from Miller-Robinett at the Club Cross Country Championship in Tallahassee last December, but was over a minute back at the 8K at Virginia Beach this March. Taylor was a minute back from Richards at Club XC but only 23 seconds back at the 8K so her conditioning appears to be improving.  Susan Stirrat is a strong enough runner to push them all the way but will need a top effort and a little luck to land on the podium. Stirrat has a 6:57.6 Indoor Mile to her credit and ordinarily runs her 5K’s in the low to mid-24’s. Miller-Robinett, on the other hand, ran 21:42 in the Masters 5K Championships at Syracuse last year. She ran a 22:17 5K on the 4th of July this summer so her current fitness seems to be comparable to last year. Miller-Robinett, Richards, Taylor.
Jill Miller-Robinett heading for the Women's 60-64 win at the 2016 USATF Masters Cross Country Championships in Bend Oregon

65-69. Tom Bernhard is the defending champion with a 5:18 winning time. Knee surgery over the holidays slowed Bernhard down and then a trip to japan without much training did not help his spring fitness. He hoped for more consistent training over the summer but the 5K he ran on the 4th of July was 18:26, still about a minute slower than he ran in the same race a year earlier. That suggests a time under 5:30 this year might be difficult for Bernhard and it may be that 5:40 is a better prediction. His strongest competition should come from Peter Mullin. Bernhard has enjoyed solid wins over Mullin this year, though, at the 8K in Virginia Beach, the 10K in Dedham and, most importantly at the 1500 meters on the track last week at the NCCWMA meet in Toronto. Bernhard took the 65-69 division gold medal in 4:59, with Mullin adding the silver medal for Team USA in 5:26.7. Doug Bell had the advantage over Mullin up through spring of last year but since then Mullin has had the edge in events from the 5K to the 10K. Kirk Larson ran 5:47 last year; his two 5K races this summer have both been 19 minutes plus. If it were not for the big 3, Larson would be a lock for the podium. Bernhard, Mullin, Bell.
Tom Bernhard on his way to the Men's 65-69 win at the 2017 USATF 8K Masters Championship at Virginia Beach

As noted in the Age-Grading section, Sabra Harvey is entered, and is a very strong favorite. She wins almost every age division race she enters and has even beaten the legendary Kathy Martin over shorter distances. She is the current World Record holder for both the 800 meters and the 1500 meters on the track. The mile is right up her alley and it seems unlikely anyone can get close to her. She ran 5:38 to take the 2016 1500 meter race at the Outdoor TF Championships. That time is roughly equivalent to a 6:09 Mile. Her winning time here in 2015 was ‘only’ 6:25 but she was on the comeback trail from  an ankle injury. Last fall she won gold medals at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Australia in the 800 and 1500 Meters. Barbara Broad and Jo Anne Rowland are the favorites after Harvey. Broad would probably be favored right now because this is Rowland’s first race back from an injury. Both prefer longer races; Rowland’s fastest half marathon last year is about a minute faster than Broad’s half marathon this year. Rowland’s Impala Racing teammate, Donna Chan, may also factor into the podium although, like Rowland, she is coming back from injury. Harvey, Broad, Rowland.

70-74. Gary Patton came over from the Track and Field side of the sport last year and took the gold on his way to the Men’s 70-74 Grand Prix title. He is not entered this year. The 2nd place finisher in 2016, Przemek Nowicki, has been struggling with a recalcitrant hamstring; apparently he ran a 23:15 5000 meter run on a track in Aarhus, Denmark in early August so his recovery is well under way. Ed Smith, who finished third last year, has aged up to Men’s 75. Doug Goodhue, winner in 2015, who would otherwise be one of the favorites, has also moved up to Men’s 75. Of those entered so far, Jan Frisby and Paul Carlin,yours truly, appear to be the favorites. In 2015 Frisby ran 6:06 in finishing 2nd to Goodhue. But he has not been quite at that level of fitness since an Achilles injury sustained at the 5K Championships later that year. Heading into Flint both last year and the year before,  I was under the care of a Physical Therapist for injuries. I had orders to keep pain in the 1-2 region on a 10 point scale; that resulted in my jogging the course the last two years, running a little over 7:00 in 2015 and a little over 8:00 in 2016. This year I have been able to consistently average under 7:15 per mile for races of 8K to 10K length. That suggests something in the vicinity of 6:15 or better should be possible. I have been able to finish ahead of Frisby in the 8K and 10K Masters Championships earlier this year, running 35:14 in the 8K and 44:57 in the 10K. But all it would take is a few good weeks of training and Frisby would be right there. I heard, just before going to press, that Frisby describes his current capabilities as 'slow.' , Harold Nolan of the Shore AC, could spoil those predictions. He ran a Mile and a 1600 Meter race on the indoor track in 6:04 this past winter, as well as a 5:50 in the fast Fifth Avenue Mile in September 2016. He ran a 37:54 5 miler in May, a similar time to his clocking in the same race in 2016, but I can find no recent times. If Nolan is healthy and fit and can get fairly close to 6:00 in Flint, he could well claim the win.  Carlin, Nolan, Frisby.
Yours truly, Paul Carlin, [navy top] about to cross the finish line in the USATF Masters 8K Championship in 2014 at the Brea Classic, claiming the Men's 65-69 Silver Medal in 32:11 [Photo courtesy of Running Professor archives]

 Dianne Anderson is in a class by herself. Last year there was a spirited competition between Anderson and Ruth Thelen with Anderson taking Silver 15 seconds back from Thelen. Anderson is looking to improve on her time but unless Thelen or someone else enters in this age group, it is Anderson's in a waltz. Anderson.

75-79. If he were in his usual condition, this would be Doug Goodhue’s race for the taking. His main competition would come from Ed Smith. Goodhue took the Men’s 70 crown in 2015 with a 5:55; he was out with an injury last year and is just coming off of rehab. That kind of time will be out of his reach this year. He ran a 10K in July in 49:40 and is coming primarily for the team competition. Still I do not lightly rule out anyone who can win Age Division Runner of the Year 9 years in a row; his fitness could improve rapidly with some good weeks of training! Smith ran 6:56 last year to take 3rd place in the men’s 70-74 division. No one else entered at present should be able to break 7 minutes although Charlie Patterson may not be far off and could figure into the race for gold. He ran a 3:21.5 800 meters on the track this summer. Smith, Patterson, Goodhue.

80-84. Jon Desenberg is the defending champion in 10:17, but has not yet entered. Jim Askew has the field to himself. Askew ran a 3:27.9 800 meters in the Senior Games this summer so a sub-8 minute mile would seem to be well within range. He ran 45:11 in the Masters 8K Championship so has endurance to go with that speed. Askew