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

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