Saturday, September 30, 2017

Preview 4—Team Competitions at the 2017 USATF 5K Masters Championships

September 29 2017. It is 2 days now to Race Day, this will be my 4th preview and the first to focus on the Team Competition.  As of 10 pm on Thursday, September 26th, we had 46 complete teams already entered, including 27 Men’s and 19 Women’s Teams. The increase in the participation of Women’s teams is particularly welcome. As recently as 2014 there were only 12 Women’s teams entered. Last year the total reached 18; it looks like a record number of Women’s Teams to me! Once I know if other teams are entering or if teams add runners, I will try to update.

Note: Team scoring in road races is the total time of the 3 fastest runners on each team. 


40+ Women

Last year we saw a spirited competition among seven teams on race day. In the end the Atlanta Track Club cruised to victory with a top 3 average of 18:11. Team Rogue, from Austin TX, came across the line next, 3 minutes back, with the Genesee Valley Harriers claiming 3rd with a two and a half minute margin over their local rivals, the Syracuse Track Club. All 4 of those teams are entered again.  It will be tough to deny Atlanta [Amy Bartholomew-Koepp, Sonja Friend-Uhl, Paula Johnson, Kathy Wiegand]a repeat victory. Their top runner, Friend-Uhl, could well run faster this year as she has been healthy all year.  The one potential chink in their armor is that their number 2 from last year, Ortlund, is not entered at present. Last year she finished just 15 seconds behind Friend-Uhl. Wiegand is a strong runner but it would be asking a lot for her to crack 19:00 and neither Bartholomew-Koepp nor Johnson are likely to do so either. Without Ortlund they are likely to be 1.5 to 2 minutes slower than last year as a team. Team Rogue Cassandra Henkiel, Mandy Plante, Carmen Ayala-Troncoso, Shellon McCallie] brings the same 4 runners; if they run just as in 2016, they would still likely finish over a minute slower than Atlanta. Unless Heather Webster is a late addition to GVH’s A team [Caroline Bucci, Murphee Hayes, Audra Naujokas-Knapp, Wakenda Tyler], it appears they will be a little slower this year as well. Only Tyler of the other three, and possibly Hayes, is likely to break 20 minutes but neither can match the 18:04 that Webster clocked last year. The Syracuse Track Club [Roxanne Niezabytowski, Karyl Sargent, Sascha Scott, Kathleen Wheeler, Kristin White] has added two runners to their team. As I noted in the individual preview it appears that Scott is even fitter this year than last when she ran 17:45. That helps.  White, who runs mostly tri- and duathlons, has run two Half Marathons in about 1:30. That suggests she should be down around 20:00 or possibly under for a 5K. If so, Syracuse could move up a bit. This year the Athena Track Club [Alice Kassens, Christy Peterson, Tara Smith] has entered a strong team, although with only 3 runners, every athlete must have an on day. Kassens ran a 19:54 5K in mid-August but a week later finished 3rd overall in the USATF Masters Road Championships with a 5:34 in Flint Michigan. If she can replicate that effort in Syracuse a time under 19 would not be out of the question. Peterson ran 18:23 last year as an unattached runner and could do even better this year. That leaves it up to Smith who apparently ran a 32:35 8K in New Jersey in June. If that is the right Tara Smith, she might well break 20:00. If they all run their best, they could finish atop the podium.  Right now, based on current team members, it looks like Athena, Atlanta and Rogue in that order but Syracuse could get in there to make the podium, and GVH will not be too far off. Bella N Motion [Karen Carlton, Dianne DeOliveira, Susan Sarn, Joan To taro], the Philladelphia Masters [Anabelle Broadbent, Lauren Estilow, Linda Kelnock, Kristine Longshore], and TNT International [Kimberly Anderson, Marilyn Gregory, Joy Oakey] will battle for the remaining positions.

Athena Track Club          Atlanta Track Club          Team Rogue

40+ Men

Last year the Atlanta Track Club won a close contest in this division, running 47:52 [15:58 average] to defeat the Central Mass Striders by less than a minute. The Syracuse Track Club was only 40 seconds back from them in 3rd. The Willow Street AC finished just off the podium another minute back in 50:20.

Atlanta has not yet shown their cards for this year's race, but it is hard to imagine they won’t be entering a pretty strong team. As of now, Kristian Blaich, who was their 2nd runner on the 40+ team, is listed for their 50+ team. But, of course, that could change on packet pickup day. The 2nd place team from last year, the Central Mass Striders [Derrick Jones, Joshua Perks, Greg Putnam, Joe Shairs] as of now, is lacking their number two from last year, Tim Van Orden, but have an able replacement in Derrick Jones. In fact it is likely that Jones will run a little faster than Van Orden did last year; Jones came in 2.5 minutes ahead of Van Orden at the Utica Boilermaker 15K this past July. And, of course, Van Orden could also come in at the last moment to provide an extremely strong number 3 runner. If they also have Van Orden on the team, Central Mass could make a strong run for the Gold Medal. Like Atlanta, Syracuse has not declared their team intentions yet either. Willow Street [Volker Burkowski, Robert Irwin, John Stadtlander, Jake Stookey] is back with all of the same team members except for their 4th runner last year, Derrick Staley. If they run as they did last year, Stookey should lead the way with a time close to 16, followed by Stadtlander around 17 flat with Burkowski just a bit off that for a time under 51. And there will be at least 4 new contenders in Adidas Garden State [Thomas Knowles, Gary Leaman, Chuck Schneekloth], Garmin Runners [Brian Crowley, Robert DeCarlo Jr., Joel Garrell, Peter Kashulines, Mark Williams], GVH [Andrew Bucci, Josh Harter, Kirt Komocki, Don Miller], and Shore AC [Daniel Campbell, Jeff Conston, Robert Skorupski]. Adidas has a strong group of runners who could well crack 52 as all seem capable of coming in between 17 and 17:40 or so. Based on last year’s results, that is probably not fast enough to make the podium. Garmin has one of the fastest Masters Men’s Milers in the country in Mark Williams. Luckily for his competitors, this middle distance specialist is not quite as formidable on the roads. Likely to come in between 17 and 17:30 Williams adds much needed depth to Garmin’s 5K efforts. Like Adidas Garden State, it looks like Garmin’s top 3 could well come in right around 52 minutes, with Crowley, Williams, and DeCarlo leading the way. GVH has a group that appears to be a little more spread out. Komocki should be well under 17, possibly flirting with 16:30 and Harter might well come in between 17 and 17;20 but it appears that Bucci, who focuses more on trail runs, will be pressed to break 19 minutes. He has run Marathons in about 3 hours. If that is accurate they will not be able to keep up with Adidas Garden State  and Garmin. Conston should lead the way for Shore, coming in between 17 and 17:30 but it does not appear that Campbell and Skorupski can keep that pace. TNT International [David Ash, Michael Jackson, Kareem Lanier, Kyle Lanier] will be ably led, as usual by the Lanier brothers. Despite their best efforts, it seems unlikely they can turn in a team time under 53 minutes, which is what it will likely take to make the podium.

Central Mass Striders           Willow Street AC          Adidas Garden State 
[Atlanta TC and Syracuse TC seem likely to enter and complicate the race for the podium positions]

50+ Women

Last year we saw the Athena Track Club take the gold medal in 58:31, with 2 minutes to spare over the New Balance Tampa Masters Racing Team. The NBT had a 1 minute lead over the Atlanta Track Club, which won a close struggle with the Clifton Road Runners, besting them by only three seconds overall or an average of 1 second per scoring runner.

Athena [Lorraine Jasper, Doreen McCoubrie, Marisa Sutera Strange, Mary Swan] and NBT [Michelle Allen, Trish Butler, S. Lynn Cooke, Lesley Hinz] are both back along with Atlanta [Kris Huff, Michelle Morrisey, Susan Welch, Laurie Wharton]. But Clifton has not entered (yet). New entrants this year who might have an impact include the Impala Racing [Eileen Brennan-Erler, Suzanne Cordes, Teresa Quan, Janet Smith] and Willow Street AC [Anna Benson, Mary Buck, Lori Kingsley, Nancy Nicholson, Beth Stalker]. Strange, of Athena has a hamstring issue so they cannot count on her sub-18 minute race to start them off. Will she be a minute slower? Two minutes slower? Therein lies the conundrum for Athena; if 1 minute slower, Athena is a strong favorite but if 2 minutes or more slower, things get interesting. Athena initially listed Swan on the B team which suggested they were counting on Strange to run under 20:00, perhaps 19:30. If so, Athena A would have been very tough to beat. Jasper is running much better than last year when she ran 19:59. I would expect her to finish between 19:30 and 19:45 this year. And McCoubrie could be their first runner in. Her 31:10 at the 8K Championship in Virginia Beach is Age-grade equivalent to running around 19:00 flat. With two age division national championships under her belt, McCoubrie has been running consistently well. She was not able to make the 1 Mile Championships but won the Westchester Mile in 5:33.5 earlier in August. If all three run as suggested above, they would have a faster time than in 2016 but there is plenty of room for slippage. Swan should be able to run right around 20 minutes. If so, and the projections for Jasper and McCoubrie are not far off, that still gives them a total of 58:45. NBT returns with largely the same team as last year; Hinz is new and gives them depth. That is important because Butler, their top runner last year at 19:02, missed several months to injury; this is her first major race in 2017. Allen is also on the comeback trail. Cooke is not on the comeback trail, but has an Achilles issue that occasionally kicks up. If they all have good days on Sunday, they could be pushing Athena all the way. But if Cooke, Allen and Hinz  all come in above 20 minutes, and Butler is only a little below, they will be worried more about holding off Willow Street for 2nd place.  Willow Street’s Kingsley could well run under 19:30, with Stalker capable of running around 20:30 and with Benson probably under 21. If so that gives them an average time of about 20:12 and NBT is also likely to finish with an average a bit over 20. Atlanta has entered a very balanced team with Huff likely to come in around 20:00 but with Morrissey around 21:30 and huff perhaps 22. That puts them around 1:03:30 which is probably not quite fast enough to match Athena, NBT and Willow Street. It does not appear that Impala Racing can match the top 3 teams but they shouuld give Atlanta a run for their money as a reasonable projection for Impala is around 1:05, with Brennan-Erler leading the way.

Athena Track Club ‘A’        New Balance Tampa Masters Racing        Willow Street Athletic Club

50+ Men

Last year the Greater Springfield Harriers took home the winner’s trophy by a minute and a half, finishing with an average of 16:33 per runner for a 49:39 total score. Playmakers Elite/New Balance and the Cal Coast Track Club had a heck of a battle for 2nd but did not really press GSS for 1st. Playmakers Elite got 2nd with an average margin of 3 seconds per runner-close! Atlanta and GVH battled similarly for 4th and 5th with only 4 seconds per runner separating them at the finish.

Greater Springfield [Francis Burdett, Alejandro Heuck, Nat Larson, Kent Lemme, Ron Lombardi] is back and looks to be even stronger than last year. Burdett is not as fit as last year; at least his gradient is pointing in the right direction. But Lemme can run in the low 16 minute range which is a bit faster than Burdett ran last year. If Lombardi and Heuck run similar to last year, that gives them a total time of around 49:40 or so. Neither of the other two podium teams from last year, Playmakers Elite nor Cal Coast have entered yet and may not make an appearance. Dave Bussard, of the Playmakers, is running strong as evidenced by his 3rd place age-grade finish at the 1 Mile. But his running cmrades from Playmakers, Kerry Barnett and Ruben Henderson, are not at full strength. Last year Barnett was running stride for stride with Bussard, but this year at the 1 Mile Championship he was a half-minute back. Henderson has missed most of the year due to injury and is just getting back to racing fitness now. We know they will be back but maybe not until next year. Although Matt Ebiner of Cal Coast has signed up his two teammates from last year, brothers Rob and Dan Arsenault, have not. Rob is pretty much recovered from the injury that kept him out of play in the spring; he ran a sub-5 at the 1 Mile championships and finished among top 10 age-grading. If they do not enter, it is most likely for strategic rather than fitness reasons. Atlanta [Kristian Blaich, Gary Droze, Jeff Haertl, Nathan Skipper] and GVH [Dale Flanders, Mike Gardella, Mike Nier, Tim Riccardi, Theodor Schnaufer], the 4th and 5th place finishers from last year are registered and both appear to be somewhat stronger. Up until this race, Blaich has run for the 40+ Atlanta team; he lowers the time for their 1st runner by a minute and a half. If Droze and Haertl can both run about the same as last year, right round 17:15, Atlanta’s total time would improve from 51:49 to around 50:10 or so. That might not be enough to catch Springfield but it would pretty much make them a lock for 2nd, at least given current entries. GVH looks like a good pick for 3rd. Until last year, Nier, was running well under 17:00 at Syracuse. He had some issues last year but is back closer to his normal fitness and should run around 17:00 or faster. If Flanders can come in around 17:30 and either Gardella or Schnaufer around 18 minutes, that would give them a total time of around 52:30. Each runner seems capable of reaching those requirements. It does not look as if the Syracuse Track Club [John Cico, Neal Coffey, Loren Davies, Dennis Delaney, Paul Humphrey] could come within three minutes of that performance, and the Philadelphia Masters [Walter Boyle, Stephen Hranilovich, Paul Isaac] are likely to close out the scoring.

Greater Springfield Harriers          Atlanta Track Club          Genesee Valley Harriers

60+ Women

The Atlanta Track Club had an easy time of it last year. Their only opposition was a weakened Impala Racing team from the San Francisco Bay area. Only 3 of the Impalas were able to make the trip and one of those was recovering from injury and one was dropping down from the 70’s to help out the 60’s team. Atlanta took 1st by 7 minutes. Atlanta [Patrice Combs, Nonie Hudnall, Margaret Taylor, Cynthia Williams] is back, but Nancy Stewart who led the way for them with a 20:03, is not. Combs, who was not running for atlanta last year, ran 20:36. Taylor and Williams have been running well for atlanta this year and if they can come in around 22:40and 23, then Atlanta could well be within a half minute of their winning 2016 time. Impala [Dianne Anderson, Mo Bartley, Jill Miller-Robinett, Jo Anne Rowland] has a faster team this year. Bartley should be able to run under 21:30 based on her race at the 8K Championship in Virginia Beach and other recent outings. Miller-Robinett should crack 22, as she did last year. If Rowland can come in under 24, that gives them a projected time within a half minute. And that is close enough for anything to happen. GVH's perennial strong Women's 60+ team is back this year after a tough year for injuries in 2016. Although not back to the fitness they enjoyed in 2015, they should hav a good race. They are not ready to challenge Atlanta and Impala yet, but will still enjoy their 3rd place finish after missing the race entirely last year.

Atlanta Track Club          Impala Racing Team          Genesee Valley Harriers

60+ Men

In 2016, the Boulder Road Runners and the Cal Coast Track Club outran the other teams, but it was a strong, competitive field from 3rd through 6th, with less than a half minute victory margin between each place. Shore AC captured the 3rd place prize from the Genesee Valley Harriers who were only 27 seconds back, followed closely by the Syracuse and Atlanta Track Clubs.And the Ann Arbor Track Club, which finished 7th was only 38 seconds (or 13 seconds per runner) out of 6th. Boulder [Jeffery Barros, Doug Bell, George Braun, Kyle Hubbart, Chuck Smead] and Shore AC [Kevin Dollard, Scott Linnell, MIchael Mooney, Reno Stirrat] are the two podium finishers from 2016 to return.Shore was two and a half minutes back last year but it should be a lot closer this year. Another team that will contend is Atlanta [Bob Dalton, Kirk Larson, Jerry Learned, Vasan Neovakul, Ken Youngers]. The core of the Boulder team from last year, Bell, Hubbart, and Braun are all back. They had hoped to have Dan Spale too but he is working on a fitness issue. They added Smead instead. Bell seems to be just a bit off where he was last year although the 5K is his bread and butter. Still, I suspect he will have a hard time matching his 18:31 of last year. Hubbart's results this summer promise a time very similar to his 18:21 of last year. Braun, who ran 19:55 last year, looks to be a bit off this summer, but not mch. I have him down for a 20:00 if they need him. But I have Smead, based on earlier Cross Country results, picked to come in ahead of Braun by about a half minute. If that all transpires Boulder will match their 56:47 winning time of last year. Will it be enough? Probably. The big difference for Atlanta is that Youngers is almost fully recovered from his time off after surgery. Using his Macon Labor Days and Peachtree and 1 Mile times as a guide, I am projecting him to come in around 17:20. Larson has been running about as well this year so I have him in for a 19:22. Learned will need a good day if they are to challenge for 1st or 2nd. He ran 20:33 last year. He ran a much faster mile at the 1 Mile Championship in Flint MI. He did run a bit slower at the Hollis Fast 5K this year but ran faster at Dedham. He also had a 45+ 10K in August but that might have been due to a hot day or a tough course. I will put him down for a 20:15. I am guessing Dalton and Neovakul will take longer than Learned. If those three perform as projecte, that give them 57:00. Shore has a strong, well balanced team; all four of their runners should come in under 20 minutes. The question is by how much? Stirrat had a couple of issues last year and did not run; the year before he ran 18:27. Based on results that kind of time seems out of the question, although with a tough campaigner like Stirrat, you never know! Despite the addition of Mooney to the squad I am guessing Stirrat still leads the way but may not break 19:00. Based on this summer's times, if Stirrat runs 19:10, Mooney should be very close, perhaps 19:15, followed by Kevin Dollard and Scott Linnell at 19:35 and 19:45 or so. If those projections hold, Shore winds up at 58:00, almost a minute and a half faster than last year. GVH [Bill Beyerbach, Jack Kasperski, Michael Reif Sr, Mark Rybinski] and the Syracuse Track Club [Brian Cummins, James Foster, Theodore Larison, Douglas Wood] have serious teams entered but neither looks as if they can break 60:00 as a team. If Rybinski turns out to be completely healed and returned to his former fitness when he could run well under 19:00, GVH might have a shot at a sub-60 performance.

Boulder Road Runners          Atlanta Track Club          Shore AC

70+ Men  

In 2016 the Genesee Valley Harriers had a pretty solid win in 1:08:24, with a minute and more to spare over  the Shore AC and the New England 65 Plus Runners, who finished within 14 seconds of each other in a thrilling battle for 2nd and third. Further back were the Atlanta and Ann Arbor Track Clubs who were in 4th and 5th, separated by only 11 seconds. Two minutes later, the Clifton Road Runners closed out the scoring.

This year GVH [Tony Gingello, Jim Glinsky, Thomas Lamme, Jim May, Keith Yeates], Shore AC [John Kuhi, Harold Nolan, Przemek Nowicki], Atlanta  [Sam Benedict, William Shaffer, Curtis Walker, Morris Williams], Ann Arbor [Paul Carlin (me), David Cohen, Doug Goodhue, Malcolm Cohen] and the Clifton Road Runners [William Ash, Tony Fiory, Joseph Saley, Al Swan] are back in action ,while the NE 65 Plus Club is missing.   GVH has been strengthened with the addition of Gingello, who showed his mettle with a win in the 70-74 division at the 10K in Dedham. His recent 10K times have been a little off, but that may be due to the lack of competition. Gingello should be able to come in close to 21:00. It is hard to see May matching his 20:55 of last year. He is a tough runner; in the spring he sustained a Cross Country skiing injury and ran in the 10K at Dedham anyway, limping across the line (not literally I hope) in 48 minutes plus. That is after he started the season with a bang, winning the 8K age division championship at the 8K in Virginia Beach. I can find no race results since. It is almost entirely guesswork, but I will put him in for 22:30, and that may be too much of a challenge. Based on his runs this summer, especially the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge 3.5 mile run, it appears that Yeates is a little off his 2015 form when he ran 21:54. I will put him in for 22:45. Based on results for Glinsky and Lamme, it appears Yeates would be 3rd runner in. If those all come to pass that gives GVH a 1:06:15. Shore AC is probably not a s strong this year overall although the addition of Nolan would otherwise make them much stronger. Nolan won the 1 Mile Championship last month with a 6 second margin over Ann Arbor's Carlin. He also ran a pretty strong 5K this summer in 21:43, but that was over a minute and a half faster than he ran the same race in 2016. Primarily a middle distance specialist he should, nonetheless, come in around 21:00. Nowicki ran 21:37 last year but will have a hard time matching that this year. He has been struggling with hamstring issues and his time at the 1 Mile Championships was much slower than in 2016. But with a fighter like Nowicki, I will still list him for a 22:15. But their 2nd and 3rd runners from last year, Ed Smith and J.L. Seymore, are not running this year. That leaves it up to Kuhi; he can probably match his time from last year and may well run a bit faster. I will list him for 27:00. That would give Shore a total time of 1:10:15. Both Atlanta and Ann Arbor should be quite a bit faster this year. The addition of Benedict gives them a runner who can probably break 23:00. Based on times in other races this year, it appears Walker should not be far off of 23, perhaps 23:15, with Shaffer and Williams both under 24:30, perhaps 24:00 and 24:15. If so, Atlanta improves from 1:17 plus to about 1:10. Although Malcolm Cohen is listed for Ann Arbor, it turns out that he has a family event to attend that cannot be changed. So Ann Arbor will rely on just 3 runners; there is no room for error. The big difference here is the return of Goodhue; at the 1 mile run he won his 75-79 age group and almost came in 2nd in the 70-74 division. I, in the meantime, continue my gradual improvement after a long period of hamstring injury-rehab-injury-rehab. Last year I ran 21:38 here and should improve considerably on that. I hope to break 21 and will put myself in for 20:40. Goodhue should be able to match (or beat) that. I will put him in for 20:40 as well. D. Cohen continues to run well this year and should be able to come in close to his 24:19 of last year, perhaps 24:30? If all those come to pass, it would give Ann Arbor 1:05:50 and a narrow win over GVH. That is quite close though and individual results are variable enough that everyone on Ann Arbor will need to be on their game. If one or more of GVH's runner has a strong day, that could also be enough to reverse the order. Although it does not appear that the Clifton Road Runners can race their way onto the podium, if they match their times form last year, they will have a great deal of fun and enjoyment and will happily claim 5th place in about an hour and 20 minutes.

Ann Arbor Track Club          Genesee Valley Harriers          Atlanta Track Club

80+ Men    

For the first time in my memory we have an 80+ team entered for the 5K Championship here in Syracuse. Unchallenged, the Syracuse Chargers Track Club [Sam Graceffo, Sheldon Kall, David Rider] will enjoy their Championship winning race, especially as they charge up to the finish line and hear Dave Oja proclaim their names and annunce them as the winning 80+ team!

Syracuse Chargers Track Club

And that is it for the Teams Preview. No pictures I am afraid. 

Now it is up to the runners to go out on Sunday and prove me wrong! I will be so happy for any runner who exceeds the projection presented here.

If I have some spare time tomorrow (Saturday), I will try to give a brief update on some individual entrants who came in after I wrote Previews 1 and 2. That includes Carl Combs, the ace runner for Club Northwest out of Eastern Washington. He finished 10th overall last year and 2nd to Kristian Blaich in the Men's 50-54 division.

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