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: http://www.usatf.org/Resources-for---/Masters/LDR/MGP/Club-Grand-Prix/Club-Rules.aspx
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.]