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

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