Monday, November 27, 2017

Preview of 2017 USATF National Club XC Masters Championships-First Look- Three Overall Champions

November 25 2017. This is a preview for a race that people care about but one for which neither prize nor medal is awarded. Because Club Cross nationals are all about team competition, there is no recognition of the Overall Winners, those who cross the finish line first. Still, the gun goes off, the race is run; somehow we care about who comes across the finish line first. It is two weeks before the race will be held in Lexington KY at the Masterson Station Park facility that hosted these Championships 5 years ago. My understanding is that the course has some rolling hills and is more challenging than the course at Tallahassee but is well within the normal range for Masters XC events.We will cover the races in the order in which they are to be run. The Preview is based on runners who have entered as of November 25, 2017 when 487 runners were already entered.

Masters Men 60 and over-8Km [113 entered 11/24/17] [9:00AM]. Last year John Barbour and Brian Pilcher matched stride for stride for most of the race. Neither could gain an edge nor make a breakaway until Pilcher kicked away from Barbour once the finish line was in sight. 
John Barbour (L) and Brian Pilcher (R) match strides in Tallahassee last year

Pilcher is nicked up this year but Barbour is not and so returns as the closest thing to a defending Champion that we have. Who will challenge Barbour for the win? It looks like the most likely candidate is Rick Becker, who matched wits and steps with Barbour in 2015 in San Francisco. Similar to last year Barbour was able to hang on for the whole race, but Becker was able to kick away to win over the last few hundred meters. The difference is that then Becker was perhaps at the height of his powers; this year he is returning from foot surgery for some nerve damage last winter. But Becker reports that the last six months he has had solid training with 60 miles per week in the last few. He ran 1:23 on a hilly half marathon course and did a solo time trial 5K in 17:48. Seems like he is ready to roar! His teammate, Joe Sheeran, who will age up from 55-59 at the end of this month, will certainly be in the mix. Sheeran finished 2nd to Pete Magill in the 55-59 division at the USATF XC Championships at Bend OR in early February. Sheeran skipped Club XC this past December but in 2015 finished 2nd to Dan King in 35:35 over 10K (5:43 pace) when Becker and Barbour were vying for the win in the 60-64 division over 8K (5:49 pace). Sheeran’s efforts include a 36:09 10K in October and a July 5K in 17:29. That 36:09 is ten seconds faster than he ran in the same race in 2015. That’s enough for me to make Sheeran the favorite at this point. Becker and Barbour will no doubt have another great duel.  If either of those has an off day, a number of other runners might break onto the podium. Most likely GVH’s Mark Rybinski who ran so well at these championships when they were in San Francisco in 2015, is still nicked up. But Ken Youngers is running well and has a bronze medal from the 5K at Syracuse and a silver medal from the Masters 5km XC Championships in Boston. Reno Stirrat has been just a bit further back with a 4th at Boston and a 6th at Syracuse. Should Charlie Andrews or Tom Dever enter between now and December 9th, they could also make things interesting.

Joe Sheeran     John Barbour     Rick Becker

Masters Women-6Km [111 entered 11/24/17] [10:00AM]. The top two finishers from last year are both entered. Last year in Tallahassee Sonja Friend-Uhl and Janet McDevitt matched paces for most of the race. With 2 kilometers to go, McDevitt pushed the pace and tried to break away but Friend-Uhl held strong and closed up again. With 1500 meters to go, McDevitt tried again, but with the same result. Over the last kilometer, Friend-Uhl finally mae a strong move and pulled awy steadily to register a solid win with a 22 second margin. 
Sonja Friend-Uhl (L) and Janet McDevitt (R) vie for the Women's crown last year in Tallahassee

A substantial chase pack dwindled to three by the 5000 meter mark, McDevitt’s teammate, Camille Shiflett, Marisa Sutera Strange, and GVH’s Heather Webster. Webster had the better kick of the three as Webster-Strange and Shiflett went 3-4-5. Strange is the only one of those three currently entered, but Nancy Thomas, who finished only a second back from Shiflett in 6th is entered. Two others to keep an eye on are Kathleen Cushing-Murray who finished 9th only 7 seconds behind Thomas. Cushing-Murray is running even better this year and her teammate, Tania Fischer is running more like she did in 2014 when at Club XC in Bethlehem she finished 6th, only 3 seconds back from Strange. And there is a newcomer to keep an eye on, Margaret Brennan, who just turned 40 this year; she has an 18:12 5K and a 37:13 10K to her credit this year. [12-1-17 update. Friend-Uhl's strongest competition may well come from Kris Paaso. Paaso has entered her first Club XC Championship since competing as a 44 year old in San Francisco where her 21:14 would have been fast enough to win the Masters Race. Friend-Uhl won that race in 21:59. Paaso’s 5K’s this year include a 17:26 on the fast Morgan Hill 5K and 2 others in the low 17:30’s, as well as a 35:49 on the fast Marin Memorial Day 10K course. Friend-Uhl  has recently run a 17:27 5K in Miami and a 36:49 in a local 10K. It should be a great contest!]

Sonja Friend-Uhl     Kris Paaso     Janet McDevitt     

Masters Men 40-59. It looks like Kevin Castille, the two-time defending champion will pass up the Club XC Championships. It was recently announced that he was added to the field of the USATF (Open) Marathon Championships, hosted by the California International Marathon on December 3rd. Both Greg Mitchell and John Gardiner who finished 2-3 last year are entered. This will be Mitchell’s first national championship race since finishing 5th at the USATF XC Championships in Bend OR. Mitchell was probably not at the top of his game for that event; even though he was able to break 25 minutes at a 5 mile run on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, he shut things down shortly afterward to take a break to heal up. He does not appear to be race tested but Athlinks does not pick up all races so that may not be accurate. It is hard to imagine Mitchell making the trip to Lexington KY without having the fitness to contend with Gardiner and David Angell
Greg Mitchell (1259) and John Gardiner (1275) work to establish a gap on Neville Davey at Club XC in Tallahassee last year.

Angell did not contest Club XC last December but he finished 4th at the USATF XC Championships in Bend in February and 2nd to the BAA’s Aaron Price last month at the Masters 5km Championships in Boston. Price will try to improve on his 20th place last year at Club XC in Tallahassee; he won the contest with Angell in Boston for the 5km XC crown. Home course advantage may have played a small part but it seems likely that Price is simply sharper this year and will contend. On the other hand, Ryan McCalmon who finished 11th last year, beat Price by a few seconds in early November at the USATF-NE 8K XC Championships. The more challenging 10K course may favor McCalmon and others over Price. Neville Davey, who finished 4th last year will be back looking to step up a notch. He ran 1:09:04 at the San Jose RnR HM last month. [Late update-Running in the Elite Pacific Association Field at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, Davey finished 21st of 46 in a smoking fast 14:44. That is almost 20 seconds faster than his 2015 time when he later finished third in Club XC at San Francisco, 11 seconds behind Greg Mitchell who took 2nd. That bodes well for Davey although he will certainly have no home course advantage.] Alan Jackson  who finished 2nd to Greg Mitchell in Bethlehem and 11th in San Francisco is back after a year’s hiatus. With a recent 32:11 6 miler, Jackson appears to be fit and he is one of those runners who seems to thrive on a tough XC course. John Howell who finished 2nd at Bend (ahead of Gardiner) and 6th at Tallahassee cannot be ignored. Other sin the hunt include: Frankie Adkins who finished 24th last year but had a nifty 3rd place in the 10K Masters Championship in Dedham in April; David Wertz who finished 9th last year and has a 32:04 10K in April; and Jonathan Frieder who had an off day last year in Tallahassee but had a superb 15:49 to take 5th in the Masters 5K Championships in Syracuse this October.

John Gardiner     Ryan McCalmon     John Howell

Monday, November 13, 2017

Catching Up on the 2017 Masters [Club] Grand Prix—Teams

November 13 2017.  The 2017 Masters Grand Prix is heading to its conclusion with the final event on the calendar, the Masters Races at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington KY on Saturday, December 9th. The last time the Club XC Championships were held in Lexington KY in 2012, 425 Masters Athletes signed up. That is similar to what they drew in Bend but not as many as in Tallahassee last year and well below what San Francisco turned out or, for that matter, Bethlehem PA. It will be interesting to see if the increased Masters Road Championship participation carries over to XC. And as an added incentive for participation, these Championships are the final event on the 2017 Grand Prix and the first Event on the 2017-18 Grand prix.

A reminder on rules and awards: a team must have 3 GP races to win a prize; only the top 5 scoring events count; ties for 1st are broken first by head-to-head competition and then by most outright wins; no other ties are broken. The point structure is different from the individual GP structure and can be reviewed at:

The top team receives a $1000 cash prize and a Clubhouse Banner; there are smaller cash prizes for the next two. Where are we with the Club Grand Prix? 



40+          The Genesee Valley Harriers have the title in hand. With 350 points from the 10K, 1Mile, 5K and 5km XC, they have 350 points off of 4 events. No other club can catch them. Atlanta is in 2nd with 230 points, followed by TNT International with 210, both from 3 events. The Syracuse Track Club with 170 points, the Western Mass Distance Project with 150 and the Tri-Valley Front Runners with 110, all 3 based on 2 events, could still factor into the podium. But GVH and Atlanta are the oly two teams who showed up in Tallahassee last year. If that happens again this year, it wil be GVH followed by Atlanta, followed by TNT. But Syracuse and the Western Mass DP are strong teams that could likely net enough points to move onto the podium if they compete at Lexington.
GVH's  40+ Team with their 1st Place Awards at the 10K Championship in Dedham at the James Joyce Ramble [L to R: Heather Webster, Tracey Vannatta, Wakenda Tyler]

Based on past experience the most likely outcome is:

Genesee Valley Harriers / Atlanta Track Club / TNT International
50+          The Athena Track Club has this division locked up with a perfect 500 points from their wins in the 8K, 10K, 1 Mile, 5K and 5km XC. The New Balance Tampa Masters team has 5 second place finishes to the Athena TC at those 5 events. Their 450 points means they have the 2nd place finish and the $500 cash prize that goes with it. Two teams have a shot at the 3rd place prize. The Janes Elite Racing have 300 points from first place finishes at the USATF XC Championships at Bend, the Half Marathon and the 15K. GVH has 290 from 4 events, the 8K, the 10K, the 1 Mile and the 5km XC. Both are likely to compete at Lexington. Last year at Tallahassee, the Janes took the division title with GVH in 5th.
Athena Track Club's 50+ team, with their 1st Place Yeam Awards at the 10K Championship in Dedham at the James Joyce Ramble [L to R: Julie Pangburn, Lorraine Jasper, Marisa Sutera Strange]

Based on past experience it appears the most likely outcome is:

Athena Track Club / New Balance Tampa Masters / Janes Elite Racing

60+          This is the tightest of the three divisions. The Atlanta Track Club has 480 points from 1st place finishes at the 8k, the 10K and the 1 Mile, as well as 2nd place finishes at the 5K and the 5km XC. The Impala Racing Team has 470 points from wins at the 5K and the 5km XC, as well as seconds at the USATF XC Championships, the 8K and the 1 Mile. If Impala wins at Lexington they gain 10 points and the tie with Atlanta. On the head-to-head tie-breaker, they would win, 3-2. Atlanta wins if Impala finishes 2nd or below. Last year Impala won at Tallahassee with Atlanta 2nd but it all depends on who can run well on that day. GVH has 330 points from 4 events but could be caught by Team Red Lizard with 300 points from 3 wins—at Bend, the Half Marathon and the 15K. Team Red Lizard did not compete at Tallahassee last year but one of their team, Jeanette Groesz, is already signed up. If they win and GVH finishes 4th, both teams have 400 points and tie for 3rd.
Mo Bartley (L) and Jill Miller-Robinett (R), two of the Impala Racing team mainstays at the 8K Masters Championships in Virginia Beach

Based on extrapolating from last year and the undefeated string for Red Lizard, the more likely outcome is:

Impala Racing / Atlanta Track Club / Team Red Lizard


40+          The Cal Coast Track Club has a commanding lead with 380 points from first place finishes at the Half Marathon and 1 Mile Run, with 2nds at the USATF XC Championships and the 15K. In principle the Willow Street Athletic Club with 290 points from 4 events could catch them by winning at Club XC if Cal Coast either skipped the championship or finished in 15th or below. But neither of those is likely to happen. Last year Cal Coast finished 6th at Tallahassee and Willow Street did not compete. More relevant perhaps are the Central Mass Striders and TNT International, tied for 3rd at 260 points from 3 and 5 events respectively, and the Atlanta Track Club ten points back in 5th. Last year Atlanta took 4th at Tallahassee and the Striders 7th. If they finished in the same spots this year, Atlanta winds up at 320 and the Central Mass Striders at 310.
Cal Coast's 40+ Team with their 1st place team awards at the 1 Mile Masters Championships in Flint Michigan [L to R: Matthew Yacoub, M.J. Stanley, John Gardiner, Christian 'Cush' Cushing-Murray]

It is unlikely things will unfold the same as last year but it is as good a guide as any so a likely outcome is:

Cal Coast Track Club / Atlanta Track Club / Central Mass Striders

50+        The Greater Springfield Harriers have a perfect 500 points from their wins at the 8K, 10K, 5K, 5km XC, and 15K. The Grand Prix title is theirs. Second and third are very much up in the air though. The Cal Coast Track Club and GVH are tied for 2nd with 390 points each. Atlanta has 300 pooints in 4th but are too far back to factor into the podium unless one of the other two teams fails to score at Lexington. Last year at Tallahassee it was Greater Springfield and Cal Coast going 1-2 with GVH in 5th and Atlanta in 8th.
The Greater Springfield Harriers [L to R: Nat Larson, Kent Lemme, Mark Hixson] and Kristian Blaich at the 8K Masters Championships in Virginia Beach

If this year’s result at Club XC is similar to last year, the likely outcome is:

Greater Springfield Harriers / Cal Coast Track Club / GVH

60+          The Boulder Road Runners are celebrating this championship already. With a perfect 500 points from wins in the 8K, 10K, 1 Mile, 5K and 15K, they cannot be caught. Shore AC with 420 points on 5 events and GVH with 370 from their best 5, are in 2nd and 3rd. But Atlanta at 320 points and 4 events could pass GVH. If Atlanta wins at Lexington and Shore AC fails to top up their score by finishing 4th or lower, Shore and Atlanta tie for 2nd. Since the return of Ken Youngers to Atlanta, they and Shore are two of the stronger teams. If the top Boulder guys all show up, Boulder can beat both but that is not a sure thing at Lexington. GVH was the top dog last year at Tallahassee but their two top guys, Mark Rybinski and Gary Radford have been struggling with injuries this year.
The victorious Boulder Road Runners b [Chuck Smead (front) then L to R: Heath Hibbard, George Braun, Kyle Hubbart, Jan Frisby] [photo courtesy of Boulder Road Runners]

Based on those factors, the likely outcome is:

Boulder Road Runners / Shore Athletic Club / Atlanta Track Club

70+          The Atlanta Track Club has a commanding lead with 480 points from their best 5 events. If Atlanta did not compete in Lexington and the Ann Arbor Track Club did and won, Ann Arbor could just pass them. But Atlanta is almost certain to enter and right now it looks like Ann Arbor will not be competing in Lexington. If Ann Arbor gets no points at Lexington, their current 2nd place total of 385 would have to stand against the Atlanta ‘B’ team, with 370 on 5 events and the Genesee Valley Harriers with 290 on 3. If Atlanta ‘B’ finishes 3rd or higher they wind up at 390, just ahead of an inactive Ann Arbor. If GVH wins they too wind up at 390 points and the two teams split 2nd and 3rd place cash prizes. Last year the Tamalpa Runners, Florida TC/West, GVH, and Atlanta went 1-2-3-4. If that happens again, neither Atlanta ‘B’ nor GVH would pass Ann Arbor. But GVH has added Tony Gingello to their roster this year. If he is hale and hearty in Lexington and Jim May is largely recovered from the various injuries that have been nagging at him this year, GVH could win. Two of Tamalpa’s runners, Len Goldman and Gene French are running well, Their lead runner from last year, Donald Porteous was running strong in June and July with a 42:21 10K and a 20:39 5k but then nothing since then. Last year he ran 5 events from August to October. Perhaps he is just taking time off from racing but it also may mean that he is injured. It is somewhat the same story for Florida TC/West in that their lead runner from 2016, Ron Wells, has not run since August. Last year he ran 4 events from August through October. Their 2nd runner, Ron Enos was also somewhat off his game in the summer and has not run since September. That may mean they are not planning on making the trip this year.
Atlanta Track Club's 70+ Teams A and B at the 5K Masters National Championships in Syracuse: L to R: [Frank White, Jim Askew, Sam Benedict, Andrew Sherwood, Charlie Patterson, Morris Williams, William Shaffer, Curtis Walker]

There are many imponderables but taking all in all I guess the most likely outcome is:

Atlanta Track Club 'A' / Ann Arbor Track Club / Genesee Valley Harriers

[That will certainly give GVH a strong incentive to prove me wrong by claiming the victory in Lexington.]

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Catching Up on the 2017 Masters [Individual] Grand Prix—Men

November 12 2017. The 2017 Masters Grand Prix is heading to its conclusion with the final event on the calendar, the Masters Races at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington KY on Saturday, December 9th. The last time the Club XC Championships were held in Lexington KY in 2012, 425 Masters Athletes signed up. That is similar to what they drew in Bend but not as many as in Tallahassee last year and well below what San Francisco turned out or, for that matter, Bethlehem PA. It will be interesting to see if the increased Masters Road Championship participation carries over to XC. And as an added incentive for participation, these Championships are the final event on the 2017 Grand Prix and the first Event on the 2017-18 Grand Prix.

A reminder on rules and awards: a contestant must have 3 GP races to win a prize; only the top 5 scoring events count for each athlete; ties are broken first by head-to-head competition and then by most outright wins.

The top 3 in each Age Division receive plaques; the next 12 receive certificates so getting into the top 3 definitely brings some distinction. Where are we with the Men’s Individual Grand Prix? The 40-44, 50-54, 55-59. 65-69 and 80-84 races have already been decided; the competition for the other division titles will go down to the wire.

40-44          David Angell has this all locked up with 4 first place finishes in the division, and two 2nd place finishes to give him 495 out of a 500 maximum possible points. It is his first Masters Grand Prix title! There is still a lot of uncertainty about 2nd and 3rd however. Jake Stookey and Thomas Knowles are currently in 2nd and 3rd place with 215 and 205 points on 4 Events; Kyle Lanier has 180 points on 5 events, tied with Ethan Nedeau who has the same total but only 2 events. If the turnout for Lexington is anywhere near the turnout for Tallahassee last December, it will be very tough for any ofh these athletes to finish better than 20th which is only worth 5 points. Nedeau was the highest finisher from the group in Tallahassee and he finished 20th. Stookey’s Willow Street AC team did not contend either of the last two Club XC Championships nor did Stookey, but he is entered for Lexington. Nonetheless it seems unlikely he will score more than 5-15 points to wind up at 230 points or fewer, but that is likely to be enough to take 2nd in the GP. Joshua Gordon, who runs for Bowerman, will likely make the trip to Lexington. He currently has 135 points on two events. He would need to finish better than his 15th place last year to make an impact. A 15th place finish is worth 30 points which would bring him up to 165. Nedeau needs to finish 16th or higher to tie Knowles, assuming Knowles is out of the top 20 (he finished 35th last year). Nedeau has the tie-breaker so would get 2nd place if they are tied.
David Angell leading Derrick Jones on his way to a win in the 10K Championship at Dedham and 100 points toward his winning total of 495

My guess as to the most likely outcome:

David Angell     Jake Stookey     Thomas Knowles    

45-49          John Gardiner has a commanding lead. It is safe to say that if he is anywhere near his norm and races in Lexington, he will win his division Grand Prix for the second time although for the first time in this age group. Gardiner has 385 points on 4 events. Kevin Castille has 300 points from 3 events. If he runs Club Cross as he did last year and in 2015, it seems almost certain he would win, raising his total to 400. But Gardiner has not scored below 90 points in any race this year, so it seems almost certain that his final total will be well over 400 points. Others in the hunt for a podium GP finish include Jonathan Frieder with 285 points, Greg Putnam with 280, Derrick Jones with 270, and Brent Fields with 265, all off of 3 events. All of those 4 ran in Tallahassee last year and are expected to run in Lexington. Last year Jones finished 6th, Putnam 10th and Frieder 12th. Fields was in the 40-44 division but his time was 1 second faster than Frieder’s. Frieder has been running stronger this fall however, topping the other three at both Syracuse and Boston in the 5km XC. 
John Gardiner captures the win at the Half Marathon Championship in Newport Beach CA and earns 100 points toward his GP total of 385 [Photo Credit: OC Marathon by Paksit Photos]

The most likely outcome:
John Gardiner     Kevin Castille     Jonathan Frieder

50-54          Kent Lemme has won this division with 475 points on 5 events. No one can catch him. It is his first Masters Grand Prix crown! Mike Nier is currently in 2nd with 350 points on 5 events but he could be overtaken by Kristian Blaich and Rob Arsenault who have 290 and 280 points on 3 events each. All three are likely to run at Club XC. Last year in Tallahassee, Blaich finished 3rd, Arsenault 8th and Nier 11th. If they would finish the same this year, we would wind up with Blaich at 380, Arsenault at 355, and Nier at 350 because the 50 points for 11th place matches Nier’s current lowest score. Mike McManus could show up and complicate things but with 190 points on two events, he cannot make the top 3. It seems pretty likely that Blaich will finish 2nd; whether Arsenault or Nier finishes in 3rd will depend on how they fare in Lexington. It could go either way. 
Mid-Race Pack Running at the 5km Masters XC Championships in Boston-Kent Lemme (#4221) works his way toward a 2nd place division finish and 95 points toward his winning GP total of 475.

With such uncertainty, I will rely on last year as a guide and say the most likely outcome is:

Kent Lemme     Kristian Blaich     Rob Arsenault

55-59          The only uncertainty left at the top of this division is whether Nat Larson can win the division title in Lexington and wind up with a perfect 500 points in his best 5 finishes for the year. He has won every event he has entered since he aged up to 55-59. But that was not true for the first part of the year; his current total is 495 points from 4 firsts and a second place. Fred Zalokar who has already entered Club XC, seems to be in the driver’s seat for 2nd place with 310 points on 4 events. Timothy Riccardi and John Van Kerkhove with 295 and 260 points on 5 events each can only top up their lowest score. Jeff Haertle, currently in 5th, is too far back with 220 points to factor into the standings unless some of those ahead of him do not actually run at Lexington. Van Kerkhove had the edge on Ricccardi earlier in the year but this fall it has all gone Riccardi’s way.
Nat Larson heading for the finish line at the 15K Masters Championship at the Tulsa Run, capturing another 100 points toward his 495 GP total [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Sports Commission-Marathon Foto]

Most likely outcome:

Nat Larson     Fred Zalokar     Timothy Riccardi

60-64          The current leaders are Kyle Hubbart with 440 points, Reno Stirrat with 380 and his teammate, Kevin Dollard, with 335, each with 5 events. Because all have 5 events already, their finish at Lexington can only top up their scores by replacing their lowest current score with a higher one. The maximum possible final score for Stirrat is 410 and for Dollard 380. That means Hubbart has this title in his possession, his first Masters Grand Prix title! Ken Youngers has 280 points on 3 events. If Youngers could win in Lexington, which is not impossible, and Stirrat finish no higher than 7th, Youngers could tie Stirrat and would have the tie-breaker. But John Barbour usually competes at Club Cross and would be the spoiler. He would nto have enough points to place in the Grand prix himself. But if he wins, then Younger can get no more than 95 points and Stirrat keeps 2nd place regardless of where he finishes. Youngers would displace Dollard in 3rd however.

Kyle Hubbart [background] about to pick off Pete Gibson on his way to a division 2nd place in the 8K Masters Championships at Virginia Beach and 95 points toward his division leading GP total of 440 points

Most likely outcome:

Kyle Hubbart     Reno Stirrat     Ken Youngers

65-69          Tom Bernhard has this one all sewn up with a perfect 500 points in 5 events. No one can touch that! He can put this Champions Plaque next to the one he won in 2015 for the 60-64 division. Peter Mullin is second with 475 points on 5 events. This division is unusual in that neither of the first two runners in the standings in expected to race in Lexington. Bernhard ran in San Francisco but otherwise has not entered Club XC recently. Mullin hardly ever runs XC. And neither will have to. Bernhard is untouchable and Mullin got enough points in the 15K at Tulsa that his main rival, Doug Bell, cannot overtake him even if he should win in Lexington. Bell would be ten points shy. It is worth noting that the Boulder Road runners have first place in the 60+ team division locked up. Will Boulder compete? My guess is that a team will come anyway, although maybe not full strength. One of their 60+ team members, George Braun, is entered already. I guess Bell will show up along with Braun and at least one other to compete for the Club XC win and, in the process, get the points he needs for his 3rd place finish in the Grand Prix. Kirk Larson is in 3rd with 425 points, and Jerry Learned and John Hirschberger are tied for 4th with 410 points each. If Bell does not run in Lexington, then Larson would likely take 3rd in the GP.
Tom Bernhard (L) sprints to the finish line with M55 Brian Kelley as Bernhard claims the M65 win at the 15K Championship and the 100 points that closes off his perfect 500 point Grand Prix season [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Sports Commission-Marathon Foto]

My guess for most likely outcome is:

Tom Bernhard     Peter Mullin     Doug Bell

70-74          Paul Carlin (yours truly) is the current leader with 475 points from 5 events, but I may not win the title. The good news, I guess, is that no matter what happens, after finishing 3rd in my division Grand Prix in 2014, 2015, and 2016, I can finish no worse than 2nd this year. Gene French is in second place with 445 points on 5, followed by Dave Glass with 375 on 4 events, Richard Kutzner with 340 on 4, and Tony Gingello with 290 on 3. I got off to a strong early start, but Glass has been dominant this fall, winning the division at Syracuse, Boston and Tulsa. Initially uncertain about competing at Lexington, he recently indicated in an email that the double points nature of Club XC (counting toward both 2017 and 2017-18) would probably tempt him to come. If so and if he wins, he and I would be tied with 475 points each. Glass would win the head-to-head tie-breaker 3-1. But if Glass wins and I finish 2nd, I top up my low score of 90 to 95 and would win with 480 points. Glass has to win at Lexington to take the GP title; I have to win or finish 2nd to do the same. Unfortunately for me there are many competitors in the way of my finishing 2nd. The main obstacles are Tony Gingello and the West Coast runners from Tamalpa and Florida Track Club West who dominated at Tallahassee last year. That assumes that neither Bill Dunn nor Robert Hendrick, who both beat me in Tulsa show up. It seems somewhat likely that Dunn will compete. The Boulder Road Runners are trying to form a 70+ team with the intent of competing at Lexington mainly because it is the first event on the 2017-18 circuit. If so, Dunn is likely to be there. Gingello came in ahead of me in the 10K and 5K although not far ahead either time. Last year the top 3 in the division at Club XC were Ron Wells from FTC West and Don Porteous and Len Goldman from Tamalpa. I ran, though in the early stages of injury recovery, and finished way back. The ray of hope I have is that those three do not appear to have had quite as strong a run up to Club XC this year as last. Based on recent results I have to make Glass the favorite to win at Lexington and, on recent outings, Gingello is the favorite for 2nd, unless one of the West Coast guys or Bill Dunn beats him. French, who has run consistently strong all year, should get 3rd in the GP.
Dave Glass claims the division win in the Masters 5K Championship at Syracuse and the 100 points that go with it to add to his GP total

My best guess at the GP outcome is:

Dave Glass     Paul Carlin     Gene French

75-79         The top four in this division are: Charlie Patterson with 460 from his best 5 events, Andrew Sherwood with 450 from 5, Al Swan with 385 from 5 and Malcolm Cohen with 380 from 5. No one else can overtake those four even if they win at Club XC. Patterson and Sherwood are both likely to compete in Lexington. It is possible for Sherwood to pass Patterson but it is unlikely. Since aging up into this division, Patterson has beaten Sherwood every time they have faced each other. Patterson has to finish 2nd or better to add to his 460; Sherwood has to finish 2nd or higher to move ahead of Patterson on points if Patterson stays at 460. Patterson should prevail and take his first Masters Grand Prix title. Swan looks pretty safe for third as Cohen is not planning on being at Lexington.
Charlie Patterson heads up the Boardwalk at the 8K Masters Championship in Virginia Beach on his way to hard earned points in one of his last races before aging up to M75

My best guess at the outcome:

Charlie Patterson     Andrew Sherwood     Al Swan

80-84          Jim Askew has this all wrapped up with 395 points from 4 events, 3 wins and a 2nd. No one can touch him. 
Jim Askew captures the division title at the Road Mile Championships in Flint Michigan and the 100 Grand Prix points that go with it

This will be his first Masters Grand Prix title!

Jim Askew

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Catching Up on the 2017 Masters [Individual] Grand Prix—Women

November 11 2017. The 2017 Masters Grand Prix is hurtling to its conclusion with the final event on the calendar, the Masters Races at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington KY on Saturday, December 9th. The last time the Club XC Championships were held in Lexington KY in 2012, 425 Masters Athletes signed up. That is similar to what they drew in Bend but not as many as in Tallahassee last year and well below what San Francisco turned out or, for that matter, Bethlehem PA. It will be interesting to see if the increased Masters Road Championship participation carries over to XC. There is also the added incentive that Club XC points will count for the 2017 Grand Prix and also for the 2017-18 Grand Prix.

A reminder on rules and awards: a contestant must have 3 GP races to win a prize; only the top 5 scoring events count for each athlete; ties are broken first by head-to-head competition and then by most outright wins.

The top 3 in each Age Division receive plaques; the next 12 receive certificates so getting into the top 3 definitely brings some distinction. Where are we with the Women’s Individual Grand Prix? The 50-54, 70-74 and 75-79 races have already been decided; the competition for the other division titles will go down to the wire.


40-44          Wakenda Tyler and Vanessa Lordi both have 4 events contributing to their totals, while Renee Tolan, Alice Kassens, and Kathy Wiegand have 3 each. Tyler has 295 points and a 10 point lead on Tolan. Lordi and Kassens both have 240 with Wiegand ten points back. Tyler and Kassens will almost surely compete for their teams, GVH and Athena, at Club XC. Kassens would have to finish 9 places higher in the age division than Tyler to supplant her in 1st if they both run. Although not impossible it is a tall order. Last year Kassens and Tyler both ran; Kassens finished in 6th, Tyler in 7th. Tolan is more of a threat in that she only needs to finish 2 places ahead of Tyler to tie and Tolan would have the tie-breaker in her favor (head-to-head Tolan is 3-0). But will she run? Tolan’s team is not active in the GP so she does not have that incentive. She has not competed at Club XC in the last 3 years, not even when it was closer to home in Bethlehem PA.   Wiegand is in the same boat with Kassens in that she will probably compete for the Atlanta TC but she would need to finish at least 11 places higher than Tyler-highly unlikely. No one else has over 200 points so no one can threaten Tyler as long as she finishes the race. Will Lordi compete? It is a long way to come and it is unlikely that her Strawberry Canyon team will come to compete in Club XC. If Tolan enters, the most likely finishing order is : Tolan, Tyler, Kassens, Wiegand. If not, then Tyler, Kassens, Wiegand. If so, this would be Tyler’s 2nd consecutive win in the 40-44 division. 
Wakenda Tyler heads for the finish line at the 10K Masters National Championship at Dedham to pick up 75 GP points of her 295 total.

My best guess:

Wakenda Tyler     Alice Kassens     Kathy Wiegand

45-49          No one in this division has the 3 races needed to contest the GP. But there are 6 women with 2 events. Of those who is the most likely to run Club XC? The current leader, Cassandra Henkiel, with 200 points from winning the 10K and the 5K, has competed once at Club XC, in 2014, with her Team Rogue compatriots. Melissa Senall, of GVH, has 170 points on two events. If she competes and Henkiel does not, Senall would get the victory because Henkiel would not have the 3 events needed. If they both run, most likely Henkiel would win the GP. Senall is one of the mainstays of the GVH team so it is highly likely that she will compete in Lexington. Kristin White, of the Syracuse TC, is in 2nd with 180 points on the 5K and 5kmXC. But White has not competed in any of the recent Club XC competitions nor has her team competed, not even when the championship was in Bethlehem PA, not far away. Neither of the other three runners with 2 events, Terri Powell, Kathleen Wheeler, nor Trista Brown seem likely to run in KY. Wheeler, like White, competes for the Syracuse TC and Powell and Brown compete for the Tri-Valley Front Runners. None of them have competed in recent Club XC events nor have their teams. That makes it likely that Senall will win; this would be her first win in the 45-49 division but she took the GP crown in the 40-44 division in 2015. If Henkiel shows up for Team Rogue, then Henkiel is favored over Senall.   
Melissa Senall [GVH-21329] competing in the 2016 Masters 1 Mile Championship

My best guess:

Melissa Senall  

50-54          Marisa Sutera Strange has won this divisional GP title for the second year in a row. She has 490 points in 5 events. Michelle Allen, who is in second place with 395 points on 5 events can only improve her current score by a maximum of 25 points even if she wins outright. That is because only the top 5 scores are added together and her lowest current point score is 75. The race for second has a lot of facets however. Tania Fischer seems back on top of her game and she loves to run XC. If she and her Janes Elite teammates come to Lexington there is a chance she could win the division, even if Strange runes. In 2014 in Bethlehem PA, Strange finished 3 seconds ahead of Fischer. Last year Strange beat Fischer by half a minute in Tallahassee but Fischer was still somewhat off her game last year. Strange is a little off where she was last year and Fischer is probably a little better. In terms of the GP, if Fischer wins, she winds up tying Allen on points and would have the tie-breaker as that would be their only head to head. If Fischer finishes 2nd or lower Allen takes 2nd. Even if Fischer wins, Allen can still take 2nd in the GP by finishing higher than 7th. If so she raises her GP score by at least 5 points and that raises her above Fischer’s max of 395 points. If Fischer is not running in Lexington then any of the following three could take the 3rd place position instead: Julie Pangburn, with 4 events, Kathleen Cushing-Murray with 3 events, Kathleen Hayden, with 4 events, or Karyl Sargent,with 3 events, with current scores ranging from 275 for Pangburn down to 260 for Hayden and Sargent. Given that Hayden was clearly off her best in Boston, I would opt for Cushing-Murray taking 3rd in the GP if Fischer does not run or has a bad day. 
Marisa Sutera Strange [#654] vying with Kathy Wiegand [#674] at the 5K Championships at Syracuse where Strange  acquired 100 of her 490 GP points. [Photo by Amir Findling] 

But the most likely outcome at this point seems to be:

Marisa Sutera Strange     Michelle Allen     Tania Fischer

55-59          The current top 3 in the division all have 5 events already; Mary Swan has 425 followed by Lynn Cooke with 400 and Margaret Sloan with 380. Lorraine Jasper with 370 points on 4 events and Doreen McCoubrie, with 300 points from 3 events are the only other athletes with a chance to crack the podium. This division is hotly contested and will go down to the wire. Swan, Cooke and Sloan all have 5 events under their belts, so the last event can, at most top up their score a bit by replacing their current lowest score with a higher one. Swan is in the driver’s seat as she can add to her 425 as long as she finishes better than 9th. For Cooke to win she must beat Swan by at least 5 positions and finish at least as many positions above 7th as Swan does above 9th. Cooke owns the tie breaker if it comes into play. If Swan does not run, Cooke needs to finish 1st or 2nd. But both Swan and Cooke could find Jasper leapfrogging past them. Jasper has been running very strong in the second half of the season and her 370 points is only based on 4 events so her Club Cross Points will count 100%.  A win for Swan would wipe out her 60 point score from the 5K and raise her total from 425 to 465.  A 1st place for Cooke wipes out her lowest score of 70 and jumps her to 430. But if Jasper wins, she leapfrogs over both to 470 points. The strongest runner in the group for the distances under 10K at least, right now, is Trish Butler. Butler will not factor in the Grand Prix totals this year because she missed the first 5 events of the season. But she is arguably the favorite to win in Lexington although Jasper will likely give her a battle. If Butler wins and Jasper comes 2nd, Jasper wins the GP with 465 points as Swan’s highest total then is 450. But more likely Cooke will also beat Swan; the question is by how much. Last year Cooke won and Swan finished 5th. If Cooke finishes 3rd and Swan 7th, Cooke winds up at 420 and Swan at 435. Doreen McCoubrie, even with her 3 wins in 3 tries, is unlikely to wind up on the GP podium. For one thing, she has not run a XC race in the last few years so racing in Lexington would be a switch. Even if she would run and win, her max possible is 400 points.  So I favor Jasper to win. If so it would be her first in this division but she has a GP win already in the 50-54 division in 2015. 
Lorraine Jasper heading into the 2nd loop at the 2016 Club XC Championships in Tallahasee

The most likely finishing order seems to be:

Lorraine Jasper     Mary Swan     Susan ‘Lynn’ Cooke

60-64          The current standings show Jill Miller-Robinett in 1st with 455 points and Margaret Taylor in 2nd with 370 points, both with 5 events. Mary Richards sits in 3rd with 360 points and Cynthia Williams in 5th with 295 points, with 4 events each. Mo Bartley is in 6th with 290 points on 3 events, Susan Stirrat is currently in 4th with 325 points and 5 events. Stirrat will have a hard time improving much on her lowest score of 50 points for 11th at Syracuse. So despite her strong outings this year, she will probably not factor in the podium race.  Bartley is probably the favorite to win the division in Lexington. If so, her total climbs to 390. If Miler-Robinette can take 2nd she raises her total from 455 to 465 and gets the GP win. If Richards can come in ahead of Miller-Robinett in 2nd, her total rises to 455. Then Miller-Robinett would have to finish 4th or lower so her total stays at 455. The tie-breaker would favor Richards, just. They would be even on head-to-head at 2 wins each but Richards has a 1st place finish at the 1 Mile while Miller-Robinette’s highest finish would be 2nd. Last year it was Bartley and Miler-Robinett 1-2 at Club XC, with Richards 3rd, Taylor 8th and Williams 9th. If that plays out about the same this year, Bartley has 390, Miller-Robinett 465, Richards 445, Taylor 410, and Williams 360. I favor Miller-Robinett totake her 2nd straight GP crown in this division.   
Jill Miller-Robinett sprints to the finish line at the 8K Masters Championships, collecting 95 GP points toward her 455 total

My most likely finish in the GP is: 

Jill Miller-Robinett     Mary Richards     MargaretTaylor

65-69          The 4 leaders all have 4 events each but only 3 of the 4 are likely to compete at Club XC. Sabra Harvey has 400 points, winning every contest she has entered; Edie Stevenson has 380 points on an 8K win and 3 2nd place finishes to Harvey. Jo Anne Rowland and Jeanne Herrick also have 4 events each with 350 and 315 points. Rowland and Herrick run for their teams in Club XC most years. Harvey has run Club XC in both of the last 2 years. Stevenson has not run Club XC in the last few years, not even when the USA XC Championships were held in her home town, Boulder CO in 2105. If Harvey runs Club Cross this year, it is highly likely that she will win again. The only runner who could deny her is Kathy Martin but Harvey was able to defeat her last year so it would not be a sure thing. A Club XC win would ice the GP for Harvey. If Harvey would not run then Rowland is perhaps the second favorite because she is very likely to race in Lexington. Martin has only contended in one circuit event this year so she will not factor into the GP except indirectly by reducing the possible GP points other runners could score. If Harvey and Stevenson were not there to run against her, Rowland would surely score more than the 55 points she would need to pass Harvey’s 400. Rowland did not participate in Club XC last year but she had been dealing with injuries. When she ran in 2015 she finished 2nd to Harvey. Herrick did run last year and finished 4th. Should she replicate that, the 85 points would raise her total to 400. That would tie a non-participating Harvey but Herrick would fall to second on the tie breaker. If Harvey does not race, Herrick has incentive to try to finish 3rd or better. Of course if Rowland is there she should be able to retain her 35 point lead on Herrick. 
Sabra Harvey charges to the finish line at the 5K Championships at Syracuse where she finished first in the division and earned 100 GP points

My best guess:

Sabra Harvey     Jo Anne Rowland      Jeanne Herrick

70-74          Dianne Anderson has this one clinched. She has 490 points from 5 events and no one can catch her. Irene Terronez has 295 points from 3 events as the next highest total, followed by Jan Holmquist with 200 points from 2 events. Holmquist is focused more on running well and setting records on the roads; she has not run national Masters XC events, even when the 5kmXC was in Boston a few weeks ago. So it seems unlikely she will alter her behavior of the last few years and compete at Club XC. Anderson is the only one of the three who regularly competes in Club XC and that is as part of a team, the Impala Racing, that competes for the Club Grand Prix title. 
Dianne Anderson strides along the Boardwalk at the 8K Masters Championships in Virginia Beach where she picked up 95 of her 490 GP points

The likely finishing order: 

Dianne Anderson     Irene Terronez

75-79         Madeline Bost has locked up this division for her third win in a row. She has 290 points on 3 events and no one else can make the 3 events required to compete for a prize. 
Madeline Bost on her way to victory in her age division and 100 GP points to lock up the 2017 Individual Grand Prix

To her credit, her point total this year exceeds her total in each of the past two wins.

Madeline Bost