Friday, October 27, 2017

2017 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa--Preview

October 27 2017. The table is set; a record  list of 171 Masters Athletes are registered for the 15K Championships hosted by the Tulsa Run, almost twice as many as our previous highest here at Tulsa.And this terrific turnout results in some very intriguing races.

The Tulsa Run is one of the great, classic American Road Races, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. We are celebrating the 5th year of our partnership in running the Masters National 15K Championship in Tulsa.  The course at Tulsa is a hilly,  challenging 15K and the weather has sometimes been warmer than the runners would wish. That will not be the problem this year. The temperature at race time is forecast for 36 degrees, rising to the low 40's by the end of the race. It shoould be sunny though and the winds, which had been forecast to be double digit are now predicted to be more moderate, perhaps 7-8 mph. It should make for pretty reasonable times although, as mentioned earlier, the course is not conducive to record tries. But we did have one American record set just last year so it is not impossible.
Start of the 2016 USATF Masters 15K Championship Hosted by the Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run [Photo Credit: Bryan Campbell, Tulsa Run]


Last year's winner, Melissa Gacek, is back and is running better than ever. Earlier this month, Gacek was the Masters winner at the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Miler in 1:03:03 and in June was the Masters Champion at the Bjorklund Half Marathon at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth MN in 1:23:51. She was also the Masters Silver Medalist at the Fifth Third River Bank Run (25K) in May in 1:39:08. It would not be surprising to see her top her 58:44 time from last year. And she may need that to win. 

Melissa Gacek wins the 2016 USATF Masters 15K National Championship [Photo: Tulsa World]

The second place finisher from last year is back and seems poised to offer more of a challenge to Gacek this year than last. Fiona Bayly seems prepped for a good run. Earlier this month she was 13th overall and first Masters athlete in the NYRR Staten Island Half Marathon in 1:24:27. She was also the Masters Champion at the Air BnB Brooklyn Half Marathon in 1:22:06. In September she was 12th overall and 1st Masters in the New Balance Bronx 10 Miler in 1:01:46. Those last two performances are age-grade equivalent to a sub-58 minute 15K. Of course the challenging hills here may push that up a bit but she should be able to match stride for stride with Gacek. 
Fiona Bayly finishes  2nd in the  2016 USATF Masters 15K National Championship [Photo: Tulsa World]

The third challenger is a newcomer to Tulsa but not to Masters LDR. Last year Sascha Scott finished 2nd at the Masters 5K National Championship and this year she took the crown, running 17:50. She races on the track during the indoor season and most of her road races are in the 5K to 8K range. Her real endurance efforts have typically come in triathlons. She was the 5th Masters finisher in 5:31:35 at the Ironman Syracuse 70.3—a half ‘Ironman’—1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, 13.1 run. She is no stranger to endurance contests, but this road race will be her longest in recent years outside of the triathlon discipline. She will no doubt, try to stick with Gacek and Bayly as long as she can. If she is with them in the final mile, she will be tough to beat.

Melissa Gacek          Fiona Bayly          Sascha Scott
 In the men's race, the defending Champion, John Gardiner, has also returned but he is not the favorite. That honor goes to Kevin Castille. Healthy this year after battling injuries for the previous year and a half, Castille has been tearing up the record book for the 45-49 division. He has broken three long-standing American Records, all listed as being held by the legend of American Distance Running, Bill Rodgers. Castille is the current Masters Champion for the Utica Boilermaker 15K where he broke Bill Rodgers’ American 15K record by running 46:10. He is also the current Masters Champion at the Crim 10 Miler in Flint MI, where he won in an American Record time of 49:03. He recently broke the Half Marathon mark by winning the Masters title at the Akron Half Marathon in 1:05:16. In each case, Castille not only broke the record, he crushed it! And then for good measure he took down the American Record of Dennis Simonaitas by winning the 5K Masters National Championship in a blazing 14:29! The Tulsa course is very challenging but Castille is running so well that, if the weather cooperates and everything falls into place, breaking his own 46:10 mark for 15K is not out of the question. Unless Castille runs into unexpected problems, Gardiner will vie with David Angell for the remaining two podium positions.Last year Gardiner won in 50:01; Angell came across the line 57 seconds later in 3rd. 
David Angell finishes 3rd in the 2016 USATF Masters 15K National Championship [Photo: Tulsa World]
Angell has won two national championships this year, the 8K in 25:25 and the 10K in 32:50. Gardiner and Angel have met only once this year so far in the Masters Half Marathon Championship in Southern California where Gardiner again enjoyed the edge, winning n 1:10:46, with a minute and a half margin over Angell. 
 John Gardiner wins the 2016 USATF Masters 15K National Championship [Photo: Tulsa World]

Will this be the race to see a reversal? Stay tuned!

Kevin Castille          John Gardiner          David Angell


The Age-Grading Championship awards those who run fastest for their single age relative to the world's best. The scores typically range from 0 to 100 with scores closest to 100 being fastest. Scores over 100 are possible. A 100% means the runner ran equivalent to the projected world's best for a runner of that age and sex. We have several likely contenders. 

The most likely winner on the Women's side is Sabra Harvey, 68, who often grades in three digits. Other contenders include Edie Stevenson who age graded  90.41% here last year and Fiona Bayly, 50, who scored 86.53%. Scores at Tulsa will be lower than some other races because age grading makes no allowances for rcourse difficulty. Harvey, who usually grades 98% or higher graded only 96.06% here in 2015. Doreen McCoubrie will be in the hunt as well. If any of those three have an off day, Laura Bruess could well find herself on the Age Grade podium. McCoubrie graded 92.19% in the 8K Masters Championship and 88.07% at the Half Marathon. She was bested at that race by Jeanette Groesz who is also entered here. Groesz, 65, ran 1:45:03 to age grade at 88.58%; McCoubrie, 55, ran 1:29:33 to age grade at 88.07%.

Sabra Harvey          Edie Stevenson          Jeanette Groesz

The most likely winner on the Men's side is also the favorite for the overall win, Kevin Castille, age 45. He is typically grading 95% and higher these days. His Boilermaker 15K. another challenging course, graded at 95.20; his 1:05:16 Half Marathon graded at 95.68%. Tom Bernhard, Nat Larson and Kent Lemme will likely contend for the remaining podium spots. At the 8K Championship, Larson, 55, topped the list with a 27:04 for 92.80%, followed by Lemme, 50, at 26:34 for 91.09, and
Bernhard, 65, with a 30:38 for 89.01%. It was the same story at the 10K except that Bernhard edged Lemme, 89.80% to 89.59%, trailing Larson's 92.80% for his 33:30. Because Bernhard is still, perhaps, improving, after knee surgery last winter, and because he had the edge at 10K, I will pick Bernhard over Lemme. But the 15K is at the upper end of the races that Bernhard likes to run these days.  John Gardiner could find himself on the age-grading podium. His Half Marathon was the 3rd best age-grade at 87.54%. But that, too, was a race that saw low age grade scores, either because of the torrential downpour right before the race started, or because there are substantial climbs in the last third of the course. Finally I would be remiss if I did not mention William Moore and Fred Zalokar. Last year, they and Gardiner all edged Bernhard, with the order Moore, Zalokar, and Gardiner. Gardiner edged Zalokar at the Half Marathon so I will go with Gardiner. And then it is up to Moore to run another great race like he did last year and prove me wrong!

Kevin Castille          Nat Larson          John Gardiner


40-44. David Angell is the only podium pick from this age group so he must be the favorite to go home with this division title. Other contenders for the divisional podium include Thomas Knowles, Brantley Lutz, and Randy Wasinger. Knowles ran 16:42 at the 5K Masters Championships in Syracuse, taking 7th in the division, and earlier in the year ventured over to Seoul South Korea where he finished 8th at the World Masters Athletics  8K Cross Country event in 28:28. Lutz finished 2nd in the division to Angell at the Masters Half Marathon championships in Newport Beach in 1:13:57, and ran two other half marathons in 1:11:58 and 1:14:21. Wasinger has run his 5K's in the 15:54 to 16:38 range and last fall ran half marathons on successive weekends in 1:13:42 and 1:14:23 range.

David Angell           Brantley Lutz          Randy Wasinger

Melissa Gacek and Sascha Scott, who are picked for 1st and 3rd in the Overall race, must therefore be picked for 1st and 2nd in this division. Who are the chief contenders for the final podium spot? Michelle Paxton seems a good bet. She ran the Lincoln Half Marathon in 1:24:56, which is Age-Grade equivalent to a sub 1 hour 15K. Kristina Pham could displace her though. She finished 7th overall here last year in 1:03:04. But this is a tough course and that was a warm day for racing so that 1:03 should be thought of as being closer to 1:01 or so.

Melissa Gacek          Sascha Scott          Michelle Paxton


There are two contestants in this division. Kerry May is the favorite to take the title. In 2016 she ran 34:32 in the 8K Masters Championship at Brea and 2 years ago had a 1:32:10 Half Marathon in San Diego. The one thing that gives pause is that she has no recent results so she is not race fit. Heather Meehan typically runs her 5K's in the upper 22's to lower 24's and she has a 46:49 10K. If May is close to the fitness she had in 2015-16, she shoucl take the division.

Kerry May          Heather Meehan

Both Kevin Castille and John Gardiner come from this group so they are the 1-2 picks for the division as well as overall. Jason Butler who finished 4th overall last year in 53:17 but took 4th the year before in 51:58 is perhaps the favorite for the final podium position. He also ran a 2:32:57 in the Houston Marathon and finished 2nd overall in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in 2:37:00. Derrick Jones and Jason Ryf will be right there in the thick of things. As menitoned earlier, Jones battled Angell throughout the first 7K of the 10K masters championship only to fade to 5th at the end ,but he showed he is a fighter. And the 15K is arguably his better distance. He ran 50:18 at the Gate River Run and 50:57 at the Utica Boilermaker 15K. His time for the Crim 10 Miler was 55:22. On the other hand, he seemed to race better in the spring this year than he has the last few weeks. Ryf runs his 10K's in the high 33 to low 34 minute range and raced to a 1:13:49 Green Bay Half Marathon.

Kevin Castille          John Gardiner          Jason Butler 
The Field of Masters Championship Runners sets off on the 2016 15K course ten minutes before the main race.
50-54. The main contenders are Christian Cushing-Murray and Kent Lemme. Cushing-Murray finished 3rd overall here 2 years ago in 51:31 but that may be a stretch for him this year. He was injured late last year and did not return to racing until late Summer. He finished 2nd in the 45-49 division at the Road Mile Masters Championships in Flint in 4:49.0. That is slow by Cushing-Murray's standards though. This former Olympic Trials 1500 meter runner ran 4:31. 5 there in 2014 and won the 2016 Carlsbad Masters title in 15:11. So he is still off his best. He ran the UC-Riverside Invitational 8K almost half a minute slower this year compared to last. But that was 5 weeks ago; he is probably fitter now. Lemme has been hot this year but ordinarily would be a few minutes off of Cushing-Murray's efforts. He ran 57:45 at the Utica Boilermaker 15K this summer but, more impressively, a 53:35 last November in the Stockade-a-thon 15K. Rob Arsenault is also coming off of an injury earlier this year. At the Road Mile Masters Championship in August, Arsenault finished 2nd in this division in 4:54. But he has had an added 8 weeks of training since then. He is probably ready to give Lemme a tough battle. He finished 4th in the division last year in 54:45.

Christian Cushing-Murray          Kent Lemme          Rob Arsenault

Fiona Bayly, favored for the overall podium, should take this division. The two Janes Racing Elite temamates, Tania Fischer and Kathleen Cushing-Murray are the favorites for 2nd and third. They finished 1-2 int he divison at the Half Marathon Championships in Newport Beach. Michelle Simonaitis might have given them a tussle but she had to withdraw. 

Fiona Bayly          Tania Fischer          Kathleen Cushing-Murray

55-59. Terri Cassel is the defnding champion, winning here last year in 1:05:00, but it will be tough to repeat. Doreen McCoubrie is the favorite to win the division gold medal. She won the division at the Half Marathon Championships in 1:29:33 but also showed some speed in taking the 8K national  title in Virginia Beach in 31:09. Laura Bruess finished a minute back from McCoubrie at the 8K Masters National Championships, but she won the division at the 10K Championships in 40:49. That is age-grade equivalent to a 1:02 15K. Deborah Torneden took 1st place in 1:01:34 in the 2015 Masters 15K championship here, but her times at a 4 mile event she has run regularly have slowed in each of the last two years. Others who can contend include one of McCoubrie's Athena teammates , Mary Swan. At the Half Marathon, Swan ran 1:36:12 to take 2nd. That is age-grade equivalent to a 1:07:45.

Doreen McCoubrie          Laura Bruess          Terri Cassel

Nat Larson, who will contend for the age-grading title, is a heavy favorite for this divisional crown. In early September he broke the American divisional record for the 5K, running 15:54. But Larson has plenty of endurance too.He finished 6th overall last year in 54:09. Contenders for 2nd and 3rd include Matt Ebiner, Iain Mickle, and Fred Zalokar. Ebiner ran 16:52 at Syracuse to take 2nd in this age division in the National Masters Championships. Of course that is a much shorter distance. More relevant, perhaps, is his 58:57 at the Surf City 10 Miler. That is age-grade equivalent to about 54:50. At the 8K Masters Championships in 2014, Mickle finished 10th overall and 2nd in the 50-54 division in 26:53. He has recent 1:17:38 and 1:18:33 Half Marathons to his credit. The former age grades equivalent to a 54:33. Zalokar, known for winning his age division title at all of the Major Marathons, has recently been testing himself at National Masters Championships at shorter distances. He took 2nd at the Half Marathon Championships in 1:20:25. That suggest he will probably be just off the podium but that's why we run the race. Zalokar's half marathon was not his best certainly. A year before he ran a 1:16:28 on the fast Rock n Roll San Diego course and a 1:17:25 at the Rock n Roll Seattle HM.

Nat Larson          Matt Ebiner          Iain Mickle

60-64. The three h's, Hibbard, Holcombe and Hubbart, appear to be the strongest contenders for the crown. Heath Hibbard has been absent from the Masters circuit for a year or so. He ran 38:47 at the 2016 10K Championships and 31:30 at the 8K championships in Brea that same year. In 2016 he also ran the tough Bolder Boulder 10K course in 40:49; this year he ran it in 42:16 so he was maybe a bit off where he was in May 2016. And lest you worry that he is a short to moderate LDR specialist, he ran the Pike's Peak Marathon in 3:17:44 in August. And that, by the way, is faster than he ran in 2016. John Holcombe ran a terrific Half Marathon in Newport Beach, winning the age division in 1:24:53. That is roughly equivalent in age grade to a 59:37 15K. He also knows the course here; he finished 5th last year in 1:02:39. Kyle Hubbart has been active on the circuit this year, earning a trip to the divisional podium  in the 1 Mile [5:25], 8Km [30:07] and the 10K [37:59]. Last year he finished 3rd here in 1:00:37. It would also be wise to keep an eye on Fred Torneden. He has run a 19:16 5K and a 25:56 4 miler. And he knows distance running; he competed in the 1980 Olympic Marathon trials and 4 years later ran a 2:12:46 in the 1984 Chevron Houston Marathon. It is probably fair to guess that he does not have the base he had in the day but it will be interesting to see what he can do on this tough 15K course. Michael Young's 1:03:15 at the Crim 10 Miler suggests he will be in the thick of the action for a podium position.

Kyle Hubbart          John Holcombe          Heath Hibbard

Andriette Wickstrom returns to defend her title. Last year she ran 1:10:55 and won by nearly 6 minutes. She is fit; she won hare age division at the Twin Cities Marathon this year with a time 3 minjutes faster than in 2016. She has also run a 1:37:50 Half Marathon and a 1:09:24 15K. Ann Ringlein ran a 1:16:47 10 Miler in March of last year, which is equivalent to a 1:11:26 15K. That is probably not fast enough to threaten Wickstrom but if she is still in that kind of condition, she should run fast enough for a silver medal. Joanna Harper has a 5K under 25 minutes and a 10K under 50 minutes. She ran a 1:51:27 Half Marathon. That equates roughly to a 1:18-1:19 15K. Should any of those first three have an off day, then based on her 1:59:54 half marathon time, Amy Lease would be next in line for the podium.

Andriette Wickstrom          Ann Ringlien          Joanna Harper

65-69. This division is loaded this year! Sabra Harvey is the favorite to win; she ran a 1:07:12 to win here two years ago and appears to have as good a fitness level this year as then. Three weeks ago Harvey ran a 1:11:34 10 Miler., equivalent to a 1:06:36 15K. No one can match that. Edie Stevenson would normally be the pick for second by a huge margin. But not this year. She may still come in second but she will have a real challenge from Jeannie Rice. Srevenson won here last year in 1:12:30. Earlier this year she ran 1:13:23 at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. But Rice has a 1:13:31 10 Miler at the Crim Festival in August. Team Red Lizard teammate, Suzanne Ray and Jeanette Groesz, who ran a 1:15:14 and 1:17:14 at the Pear Blossom 10 Miler may well not make the podium. That goes for Coreen Steinbach also who ran 1:16:16 at the Blue Cross Broad street 10 Mile Run. That's a tough crew!

Sabra Harvey          Edie Stevenson          Jeannie Rice

It should be Tom Bernhard and Peter Mullin at the head of the list again in this race. They have finished 1-2 at the 8K, the 10K, and the 1 Mile  Master Championships. Mullin was entered in the 5K Championships which Bernhard won in 17:55 but decided against racing when he encountered a bit of a hamstring twinge during warmups. Will he bit fit and ready to go? We shall find out. Bernhard is also the defending champion; he won in 1:00:45.  Mullin ran two 1:26 Half Marathons early in the year and then faltered a bit at the Half Marathon Championships, perhaps due to the pre-race downpour that made it impossible to warm up properly. He still won the division but in 1:31:15. If Lloyd Hansen was in the same condition he enjoyed in 2015 when he won here in 1:01:51, ti would be a ferocious battle for 2nd. But Hansen has battled injuries over the last year and has lost some training time to family responsibilities. He was 4 minutes back from Mullin at the Half Marathon Championships.    Perry Forrester finished 4th in the 60-64 division here last year in 1:02:12; he is probably the favorite for 3rd place. Chuck Smead of the Boulder Road Runners is a dark horse candidate for the podium. He runs few road races, preferrng cross country. He had a strong outing at the USATF Cross Country Championships in Boulder Colorado in 2015. He came in ahead of Hansen in that race when Hansen was fit and winning divisional titles.

Tom Bernhard          Peter Mullin          Perry Forrester

70-74. This will be one of the more competitive divisions. Richard Kutzner is the defending champion, winning here last year in 1:13:03. Kutzner could run that fast this year and perhaps not be in the top 5. Kutzner may well run faster; in 2016 he won the Masters Half Marathon Championship at San Diego in 1:45:30; this year he finished 2nd in 1:42:59 on a day and course that was arguably tougher than the 2015 event. But the 2nd place finished here last year is the one who beat him; that is me, Paul Carlin, running 1:41:42. But there are two others who are favored to come in ahead of me. Dave Glass had some injuries in the early spring, but this fall he has won the 5K and the 5km Cross Country Masters Championship races. Glass also was able to clock a 1:06:49 last November at the Stockade-a-thon 15K. He probably does not have that level of fitness but a sub 1:10 seems likely. My most recent 15K is a 1:10:37 at the Utica Boilermaker 15K. The athlete with the fastest 15K this year is Robert Hendrick who ran 1:07:17 at Gate River in March but also has a 1:37:16 Half Marathon from a month earlier. He has apparently not raced since May but he is probably pretty fit. Gene French will be in the mix as well. He has been a consistent podium finisher int he age division this year. Third in the Half Marathon in 1:43:20, he also finished 3rd in the 8K championships in 35:35. He ran a 1:42:10 Half Marathon in August. One other contender is Jan Frisby  who is finally fit and motivated. When that was last true for him, he finished 2nd in 1:08:16.

Robert Hendrick          Dave Glass          Paul Carlin

On the women's side it is a race between Judy Bomer and defending champion, Irene Terronez. Terronez won last year in 1:42:16. Bomer has a 1:01:04 10K and a 2:38:12 Half Marathon to her credit this year. Her 10K time is roughly equivalent to a 1:33 15K. But the Half Marathon time is equivalent to a 1:51 so one is faster and one slower than Terronez's 15K time here last year. Terronez won the Masters Half Marathon Championship in 2:19:48. I will make Terronez the favorite, but Bomer may prove me wrong on the race course.

Judy Bomer          Irene Terronez

75-79. We have a celebrity guest this year in perennial Boston qualifier and age division winner (most years), John 'Johnny O' Ouweleen. This year he took the 75-79 divisional crown at the Berlin Marathon in 3:39:39. He also has a 1:44:02 Gasparilla Half Marathon to his credit and a 1:11:15 at the Gate River Run 15K. Unless something goes seriously wrong, he should take the divisional crown by minutes.Philip Kroll is the defending champion in 1:28:08 but he may have to be satisfied with just making it onto the podium this year. Charlie Patterson has aged up and has a 1:56:14 half marathon to his credit. That is equivalent to a 1:21:38 15K.

John Ouweleen          Charlie Patterson          Philip Kroll

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