Friday, December 8, 2017

Masters XC Running at the National Club Cross Country Championships-Age Division Previews-Men 40-59

December 8 2017. Nearly 550 Master athletes are entered in the National Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington KY. This piece previews the Men’s 40 – 59 race which is over a 10 km Course and goes off on Saturday, December 9 at 10:45 AM. Bill Quinlisk, longtime USATF XC and Road Race referee, described the course as: "...a 100% Kentucky blue grass loop course with a crushed stone short bridge crossing on men’s courses only. There are rolling hills with an uphill stretch to the finish of all races. It is definitely a spikes course!"  Current forecasts for 11 AM are for cloudy, 34 degree temperatures and 14-16 mph wind, with a 22% chance of precipitation. No accumulation is forecast.

40-44 Typically what is predicted overall for the 10K race is also the main prediction for this group. But John Gardiner is now in the 45-49 division so he does not factor in this age division. Who does? The lead pack should form out of the following alphabetic list: David Angell finished 2nd at the 5km Masters XC in Boston, won the 8K and 10K road national Championships in the spring and has been on the National Championship podium consistently throughout the year. Neville Davey, who finished 4th last year behind Gardiner and Greg Mitchell, recently uncorked a 14:44 5K to go with an earlier 1:09:04 HM in San Jose; he also won the Pacific Association XC Championship. John Howell ran 6th in Tallahassee a year ago but came 2nd at Bend in the USATF XC Championships and has been the leader of the pack at the Stumptown XC series this fall. Alan Jackson skipped Club XC last year but finished 11th in San Francisco and 2nd in Bethlehem PA in 2014. Jorge Maravilla is, according to Gardiner, “…a trail and ultra guy who is fit and fast…” He ran 2:28:23 at the San Francisco Marathon and sped to a 1:09:00 at the San Diego HM. Ryan McCalmon took 11th here last year, but was only 5 seconds out of 5th; he recently won the New England XC Championships, defeating Aaron Price in the process. Gregory Mitchell finished 2nd in Tallahassee last year but was injured in the early part of this year; he has apparently returned close to full fitness. Reading the tea leaves of the Stumptown XC series in Oregon can be murky, but it looks like by the time they got to the 10K in mid-November, it was Howell leading the way with Mitchell not far behind. 

Gregory Mitchell [#1259] and John Gardiner [#1275] building a gap on Neville Davey at the 2016 USATF National Club XC Championships at Tallahassee

The final two main contenders are Aaron Price who finished 18th here last year, took the crown at the 5km XC National Championship in mid-October in Boston; and David Wertz, who finished 9th last year and added a Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Masters victory in 53:16 to his running resume. One would think with a list nine names long I would feel confident I had all of the main contenders for the 40-44 division. But this is a tough, tough race to call. Others who could factor in include some very strong runners: Frankie Adkins took 3rd at the 10K Road Championships in Dedham. The brothers, Ahrlin and Oscar Baumann, who finished 17th and 31st last year, will appreciate a slightly more challenging course, and could be closer to the front. David Bedoya finished 2nd Masters to Ryan Carrara at the Lone Gull 10K. Alan Black finished 3rd at Bethlehem in 2014 behind Mitchell and Jackson. Even though he was quite a ways back in the 5K Masters XC Championships in mid-October, this is 6 weeks further along and the 10K course may be more to his liking. Joshua Gordon finished 15th in the division last year but has been higher up in the Stumptown series this fall. Rob McConnell is a newcomer who ran 1:28:16 in the 5th 3rd River Bank Run 25K (age grade equivalent to a 1:09:54 HM). Ethan Nedeau was 3rd in both the road and the XC 5K National Masters Championships this fall. Kevin Pierpoint only finished 16th here last year, but finished between Davey and Rose (see below) at the Pacific Association 6 mile XC Championships Todd Rose was 8th here last year and has a 40:31 Bay to Breakers 12K and a 59:14 Norcal 10 Miler to his credit since then. Orrin Schumacher is never far off the lead; he won the first Stumptown race (5K) this fall and has a 1:11:40 Corvallis HM and a 51:48 15K on the 2017 books. Charles Smith, out of Nebraska, could be a dark horse but it is hard to be certain given the name. If the ‘40 something’ Charles Smith who ran a 48:14 7 mile trail run out on the prairies and a blazing fast 1:07:40 HM at Walt Disney World are the same person, he could play a role.

Neville Davey     Ryan McCalmon     John Howell

45-49 Since last year, John Gardiner has aged up from the 40-44 division and is running stronger this year than last. He will definitely be a factor in the race for first to cross the finish line; he should take this division easily despite the many celebrated runner sin the field. Bowerman’s Matthew Farley should be a strong candidate for 2nd. He is the only returning runner to have finished within a minute of Gardiner’s 32:54 at Tallahassee last year; he also finished 6th overall in the USATF National XC Championships in Bend. Against that, however, is the apparent dearth of racing this fall. Unlike the last two years, Farley did not participate in the Stumptown series at all. That does introduce some uncertainty about current fitness. There are no doubts about Jonathan Frieder’s fitness as he has raced often and exceedingly well this fall, defeating stellar runners like Greg Putnam, Brent Fields, and Derrick Jones, not to mention his brother, Elliott. With a 15:49 5K at Syracuse in the National Masters Championships, a divisional first place at the 5km Masters Cross Country Championship in Boston, and a 26:08 8K in Philly before Thanksgiving, Frieder has set himself up for a good race in Lexington. Frieder should land on the podium but it will not be easy. If Jef Scott’s fitness is close to last year, he will be tough to beat. He finished 12th in the 40-44 division before aging up to 45-49 a few days after the race. His 33:28 from last year is faster than any other returning runner’s time in the division except Gardiner. In mid-October he ran 32:16 at the medical Center 10K in Bowlign Green KY, taking the first Master’s prize ahead of Frankie Adkins from 40-44. Mark Yuen finished 2nd in the division last year; his 33:35 was nearly as fast as Scott’s time. I can find no race results for him since then and he did not participate in the Pacific Association’s XC series this fall. But he did not participate last year either, although he did the year before. Charles Mullane did participate, finishing 4th behind Davey, Pierpoint, and Rose, first among the 45 and over’s. He took 5th in the division last year in Tallahassee and had a 16:56 5K  this summer; Mullane should be somewhere in the mix again this year. 
John Gardiner heading for the finish line in 3rd place overall but gaining gold for the division win at the 2016 Club XC Championships

Putnam has been a few strides slower than Frieder this fall, but will be pulling out all the stops for his team and may be able to close the gap. Jones thrilled the onlookers at the 10K National Masters Championships in Dedham this year with his ‘go for broke’ duel with David Angell. But his fall series has not matched the promise seen there. This is his chance to close out 2017 on a high note. Cal Coast’s Steven Frisone will also play a role. Last year he was 4th in the division in 34:07, nearly a minute ahead of J. Frieder. Phillippe Rolly and Jason Ryf also will play a role in determining the podium.  Rolly did not have his best day last year at Tallahassee, barely breaking into the top 20 overall but he has many other fine races over the past few years, including a 2nd place finish in the 8K Masters National Championships at Virginia Beach this past March and a 12K win at Alexandria in 2015. Ryf has not participated much in National Masters Championships since the Twin Cities last hosted the Marathon Championships in 2015. He took 4th in that race in 2:28:27 ahead of Uli Steidl and Mike Wardian. Ryf joined the circuit again this fall at our 15K Championship in Tulsa and went home with a 1st place divisional finish, and 5th overall, in 51:47 on a tough course in challenging weather. Other top runners who will hang on with the lead pack as long as they can and try to break onto the podium include Brent Fields, Sephen Johnson, Robert Murray, Brent Roeger, Eric Shaeffer, and Eric Stabb.

John Gardiner     Jef Scott     Jonathan Frieder

50-54 Ordinarily one would not think of runners in the 50-54 division having a shot at the overall win but in this case, Peter Hammer is certainly a contender. I picked Ryan McCalmon for the podium in the 40-44 group and in the USATF New England XC Championship over 8K, Hammer finished second but was awarded the same time as McCalmon. And at the 5K Masters National XC Championships, Hammer finished only 3 seconds ahead of Kent Lemme who is also in this division. Last year Hammer only managed to finish 14th overall although he won the division. But that was a gentle, groomed XC course where Hammer lost out in the sprint for the tape. On the more challenging Lexington course, Hammer may find a way to make an earlier move to establish a gap that he can hold. Certainly Hammer is a bit of a long shot overall but not for the division where he is the favorite.
Peter Hammer [#1244] in the headlong sprint to the finish line where 15 seconds was all that separated 6th from 18th--at the 2016 USATF National Club XC Championship

Who else will vie for the division crown? As usual it is an all star entry list. Kristian Blaich, who finished 3rd last year and has division wins in the 8k and 10k National Masters Road Championships, will hang with the lead pack, as will Lemme, who in addition to his close finish at the 5 km XC championships, finished right behind Blaich in the division at the 8K and 10K championships and won the division title at Tulsa in the 15K. Carl Combs, who finished 5th last year will also contend; he finished ahead of both Lemme and Blaich at the 5K Championships in Syracuse. Christian Cushing-Murray was injured at this time last year but he is far along the comeback trail and should be in the mix for the podium. He finished 2nd to Lemme at the 15K Championships in Tulsa at the end of October and won the division at the Southern California Association Cross Country Championship in mid-November. Mike McManus is known as a fierce XC competitor. After finishing 3rd in the 8K road championship behind Blaich and Lemme, he showed his versatility by winning the division at the Masters Half Marathon Championships in Southern California. He also ran the Pacific association XC Championships and was the first 50+ man to finish, taking 6th overall, half a minute behind Todd Rose. James Beyer, who has a 26:51 5 miler to his credit on Thanksgiving to go along with a 2:46:21 in the NYC Marathon and two sub 1:13 HM’s earlier in the year, could challenge for the podium. Craig Godwin of the Bowerman Track Club, finished 4th in the 45-49 division at Bend this past February and has a 33:49 10K to his credit from this summer. Mark Hixson, who finished 4th in the division last year and Robert Verhees who finished 3rd in San Francisco could both make waves. An intriguing entrant is Tracy Lokken, the great Masters Marathoner. In 2014 at the Masters Marathon championship at the Twin Cities, Lokken took the division crown and finished 5th Masters overall in 2:31:10. But I cannot find any athlinks results for him since then until early September when he ran a 1:21:24 HM. That would be consistent with injuries or other interruptions to training and a gradual return to fitness. It is hard to imagine that Lokken would be coming if he did not think he had a chance to contend at least for division honors. And with 3 months to build up his fitness, he is worth worrying about.

Peter Hammer     Carl Combs     Kristian Blaich

55-59 Pete Magill, the defending champion is recovering from injury. Last year, when Nat Larson ran slightly faster than Magill as a 54 year old, many of us looked forward to a race this year where they were in the same division. That will have to wat until next year. In the menatime, Larson should take the division this year by a good margin. The new 5K American Record holder has been unbeatable since turning  55. He won the 5k National Championship by nearly a minute over Matt Ebiner, a pretty fair runner in his own right. At the 15K Championship in Tulsa, the story was the same as Larson took the crown in 52:20 with a margin in excess of two minutes over Iain Mickle and Roger Sayre. It does not appear that anyone entered in the division can stay with him in this race. 
Peter Magill [#1282] leading a pack with Kristian Blaich [off Magill's right shoulder, red singlet] and Nat Larson [#1349] at the 2016 USATF National Club XC Championships

Mickle is not entered, but Ebiner and Sayre should both have shots at the podium. Ebiner's 16:52 at Syracuse has been backed up by a 58:57 at the Surf City 10 Miler. Sayre has a couple of sub 1:20 Half marathons to bolster the credibility suggested by his 55:29 third place at the 15K Masters National Championship in Tulsa. Dave Bussard returns to the National Championship circuit. In 2016 he ran 16:55 at Syracuse. This year he almost broke 5:00 at the challenging 1 Mile Masters Championship in Flint. He also has a number of 5Ks this year ranging from 16:59 to 17:40 and a 37:20 10K a couple of weeks ago. A 1:01:30 10 Miler (age grade equivalent to a 57:16 15K) adds some depth to his record. Ken Ernst finished 4th in the 50-54 division at Club XC in San Francisco, and has a recent 17:09 5K as well. Others who could factor into the race for the podium include William 'Hugh' Enicks who won the Men's 55-59 Grand Prix last year and clocked a 57:40 15K in Tulsa; Rick Torres who has a 1:21:42 Half Marathon this year; John Van Danacker with a 1:20:58 Half marathon and a 17:02 5K; and Marathon Majors specialist, Fred Zalokar, who took 2nd in the half marathon Championships in Newport Beach in 1:20:27, not to mention a 17:54 5K and a 58:34 15K at the Masters National championships in Syracuse and Tulsa.

Nat Larson     Matt Ebiner     Ken Ernst 


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