Wednesday, August 22, 2018

USATF Masters 5K Championships in Atlanta-Overall, Age-Grading, and Age Division 40-59 Recap

August 21 2018. ATLANTA GEORGIA – Running City USA gave a wonderful welcome to the athletes in the USATF 5K Masters Championships, hosted by the Atlanta Track Club (ATC) at Atlanta’s Finest 5K. As nearly 200 Athletes set off from the starting line in search of Championship titles, rousing cheers rang out for “the fastest Masters Runners in the country!” At race time, the Mercury was at 74 degrees Farenheit under cloudy skies, with winds moderate at 3-6 mph, but 97% humidity. Many runners noted that the weather was not as much an issue as they had feared. Not surprisingly, perhaps due to the humidity and the challenging elevation changes, the times were somewhat slower than one would expect if a course were flat and fast. The other curve ball that was thrown at the ATC came from the City of Atlanta, which decided, at a late date, to tear up and repave the road that happened to serve as the first mile of the race course. This meant, not only that the surface was a little rough, but that there were various manhole covers, pipes, etc. protruding several inches above the surface.  ATC is nothing if not resourceful; they saw a problem and attacked it. They had human shields standing on each of these protrusions shouting out to runners as they approached, “Runners right or Runners left!” Even though the first such protrusion was within 50 meters of the Starting Line, there were no incidents whatsoever. It is a tribute to the resourcefulness of the ATC that they hit that curve ball out of the park! All of the focus would be on racing.
The Horn sounds and they are off from the Marietta Street starting line, a block from Centennial Olympic Park [Photo by Jason Getz,, courtesy of Atlanta Track Club]


David Angell, winner of the 2018 8K and 10K Masters Championships, was battling his nemesis, John Gardiner. In 3 previous encounters on the roads over the last two years, Gardiner came home with the honors. Over the first mile, Angell and Gardiner pulled away from the field as a large chase pack of about a dozen runners formed. Through the first two miles, they were evenly matched, with Angell pulling slightly ahead on any uphill and Gardiner closing and pulling ever so slightly ahead on the downhills. Both knew that the course bottomed out around two miles and then at about mile 2.6, the steepest hill on the course climbed up to mile 2.9. Once the runners crested that hill it was essentially flat and fast to the finish! Heading into that hill, Angell surged to test Gardiner and see if he could gain an edge and to his delight, found he did. Up the hill, he poured it on, knowing that Gardiner probably had the better kick. Gardiner fought to stay close but Angell got just a few too many steps on him. As they roared into the finish, Gardiner gained a little, but could not close the gap as Angell won in 15:45 with Gardiner just 6 seconds back!

David Angell takes the Overall title at the 2018 USATF Masters 5K Championship at the Atlanta Track Club's Atlanta's Finest 5K [Photo by Jason Getz,, courtesy of Atlanta Track Club]

The final spot on the podium came out of that large chase pack. Some of the folks chasing included: Alan Black, Francis Burdett, George Darden, Brent Fields, Frederick Herr, Mark Hixson, Nat Larson, Kent Lemme, Tim Meigs, Eric Stabb, Brian Sydow, and Mark Zamek. Larson and Meigs pulled away from the Pack at Mile 2. Larson and Meigs surged up the last hill together but once they hit the flat, Larson found a higher gear and was able to pull away to claim 3rd just four seconds ahead of Meigs. Eleven seconds later, Lemme, Stabb, Darden, and Hixson zoomed across the line from 16:39 to 16:43—some race! Phew!

David Angell 15:45     John Gardiner 15:51     Nat Larson 16:24


Laurie Knowles, who runs for the Atlanta Track Club, took the Masters title at the AJC Peachtree Road Race on the 4th of July and returned today to contest for a National Championship with an even deeper field. 
200 Meters into the race for the 5K Masters National Championship [Laurie Knowles #268, Molly Watcke #293, Tim Meigs #185, Brian Sydow #224, Jeff Conston #126, Dale Flanders #141, Megan Kelly #267, Thomas Schumann #207] [Photo by Michael Scott]

She pulled away from a strong chase pack, established a gap and was able to hold it, taking the win in 17:29, with over half a minute margin of victory. The Chase Pack of Fiona Bayly, Jennifer Bayliss, Sonja Friend-Uhl, and Molly Watcke held together for much of the race. But in the end, Watcke was able to break out, finishing 2nd in 18:07, with Bayliss four seconds back in 3rd, followed by Friend-Uhl in 18:16 and Bayly at 18:21. Terrific performances all around, with the race for 2nd and 3rd sorting itself out on the last hill. As Knowles said after the race, “There was some really strong competition and I knew it would take a good performance to come out on top. I was going for the win today, not focused on time.” 
Laurie Knowles captures her first Masters National Championship at her hometown race hosted by the Atlanta Track Club's Atlanta's Finest 5K [Photo by Jason Getz,, courtesy of Atlanta Track Club]

Knowles also acknowledged her #1 goal was in terms of team, not individual, a sentiment echoed by many of the competitors. Watcke added: “As I preach to the kids I coach, the focus for championship races is place vs. time.   The competition was superb today—congratulations to all the competitors and many of my friends in the Masters division! A huge shout out to the Atlanta Track Club for another outstanding event, as well.” 

Laurie Knowles 17:29     Molly Watcke 18:07     Jennifer Bayliss 18:11

Age-Grade scoring is the best way to compare performance by age across all Masters competitors. Everyone is graded against 100% which is the score for matching the predicted best time for an athlete of that age and gender. It is a bit more technical than approach used at most races, which is to just post the gun times and wait for the ‘Oh, wow, look there’s an ‘old dude’, or ‘old lady’ who ran faster than I did-amazing!” So my affectionate title for this section is the ‘Oh Wow!’ section.

By that standard, Fiona Bayly, 51, who finished 5th overall in 18:20, scored 91.11% and was the National 5K Age Grading Women’s Champion. Bayly won the 15K Overall Championship last year in Tulsa but, as far as I know, this is her first Age-Grading National Championship! 
Fiona Bayly pours it on as she hits the final turn on the way to her 1st National Age-Grading Championship [Photo by Michael Scott]

She was followed closely by Hall-of-Famer, Carmen Ayala-Troncoso, 59, with a 20:10 for a 90.81% in 2nd place. Third place went to Doreen McCoubrie, 56, who scored 89.80% from a time of 19:41. That was her fourth age grade podium this year at a National Championship. Katherine Wolski, 52, with an 18:52, hit 89.28% for 5th, with Molly Watcke’s 18:11 translating to an 88.36 for 5th place. [Oh, wow!] Jennfer Bayliss, 47, Sonja Friend-Uhl, 47 and Laurie Knowles, 40, finished just outside the top 5.

Fiona Bayly 91.11   Carmen Ayala-Troncoso 90.81   Doreen McCoubrie 89.80

Nat Larson, 56, took the top spot; his 16:24 translates to a 94.26%. Phenomenally consistent, this is Larson’s 3rd Age Grade National Championship this year, and his fourth time on the podium. He has not finished off a Road Race Age-Grading podium in a long time. 
Nat Larson pulling away from Tim Meigs just after cresting the final hill as he heads for an Overall Podium finish and another Age-Grading National Championship  [Photo by Michael Scott]

Tom McCormack, 64, made his comeback appearance in grand style, running 17:53 for a 92.33%, just ahead of his rival, and friend, Rick Becker, 63, whose 17:50 graded at 91.81%. This is Becker’s third trip to the podium at National Championships this year. He won it all in Tallahassee! Roger Sayre, 60, also landed in 4th, just in front of a long-time rival, as his 17:29 graded to 91.33, while Joe Sheeran’s, 60, 17:36 landed at 90.72. [Oh, wow! That 60-64 field was loaded!] Mark Hixon, 53, Tim Meigs, 51, and Gene Dykes, 70, finished just out of the Age-Grading money.

Nat Larson 94.26     Tom McCormack 92.33     Rick Becker 91.81


National Age Division 5K Champions were crowned:

Men 40-44
This is not a repeat of the Overall recap except for first place, which went to David Angell. Two Atlanta Track Club teammates, Alan Black and George Darden were in the 12-runner chase pack. Black reports that he had some sinus/throat issues around Mile 2. No doubt that is where he lost some ground to the rest of the chase pack and Darden held with the pack. Darden cruised home in second with Black in 3rd ten seconds later. 
George Darden topping the last hill with separation on his way to a Division Silver Medal at the 2018 USATF 5K Masters Championship in Atlanta [Photo by Michael Scott]

Thomas Knowles clocked 17:39 to land just off the division podium.
David Angell 15:45     George Darden 16:43     Alan Black 16:53

Women 40-44
It is a similar story here as Laurie Knowles took the age division win along with her overall title. But Christy Peterson and the three K’s, Alice Kassens, Casey Keeter and Megan Kelly had to sort out the next two spots among them. Kassens was on the comeback trail happy to be running again for her Athena team, and her teammate, Peterson was up with the pack chasing Knowles. Peterson reported later that it was a tough day on a challenging course, but that she enjoyed that the course required runners to think about strategy and when to make their moves. She made the right moves in the division as she came in well ahead of her rivals in 2nd place. 
Christy Peterson on the flat after the last hill, kicking for the Finish Line and 2nd place in the Division [Photo by Michael Scott]

Keeter and Kelly had a tougher duel, pulling firmly away in the last mile to take third by almost 20 seconds. Keeter claimed 4th in 19:57.

Laurie Knowles 17:29     Christy Peterson 18:50     Megan Kelly 19:38

Men 45-49
John Gardiner, who took 2nd overall, enjoyed the division victory, which he claimed with over a minute to spare. Brent Fields and Brian Sydow stayed solid in the Chase Pack until forging up the last hill and over onto the final straightaway. Fields found just enough strength to pull away and capture the division 2nd place with a 6 second gap back to Sydow. 
Brent Fields heading for 2nd place in the 45-49 division at the 2018 USATF 5K Masters Championship in Atlanta [Photo by Michael Scott]

The Atlanta teammate of Fields, Tommy Carroll, came across the line 9 seconds later, just off the podium. Matt Stegman and  Peter Kotchen finished in 17:20 and 17:26 for 4th and 5th.

John Gardiner 15:51    Brent Fields  16:56    Brian Sydow  17:02

Women 45-49
The top 5 in this division, Jennifer Bayliss, Abby Dean, Sonja Friend-Uhl, Cassandra Henkiel, and Molly Watcke were all identified as potential contenders for the Overall win. And it turned out to be just that competitive; anyone who ran slower than 18:15 was off the podium. As noted in the overall recap, Watcke battled her way out of the chase group to take 2nd overall; that also rewarded her with the Division win, leaving Bayliss in 2nd four seconds back. 
Molly Watcke has powered up the last hill and is about to sprint around the corner and hit the finish line with an Overall Silver Medal, an Age Division National Championship, and 5th place Age-Grading-Quite a haul! [Photo by Michael Scott]

Four more ticks of the clock resulted in Friend-Uhl claiming the final podium spot. Dean and Henkiel claimed the next two spots in 18:43 and 19:07.

Molly Watcke 18:07     Jenifer Bayliss 18:11  Sonja Friend-Uhl 18:15

Men 50-54
Surprisingly, or maybe not, this division’s results are completely revealed in the Overall recap! Tim Meigs battled for the Overall podium and just lost out to Nat Larson, but landed the division win and the title of National Champion as a consolation. 
Tim Meigs in full stride 150 meters from the finish heading for 4th place overall, and an Age Division National Championship at the 2018 USATF 5K Masters Championship in Atlanta [Photo by Michael Scott]

Kent Lemme, Eric Stabb, and Mark Hixson pulled away from the rest of the chase pack to claim 5th, 6th and 8th overall, and 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the division.
Tim Meigs 16:28     Kent Lemme 16:39     Eric Stabb 16:41

Women 50-54
From the Age-Grading recap it is clear that even though Fiona Bayly could not quite add another Overall National Championship to her trophy collection, she could add an Age Division National Championship to her Age-Grading crown. Katherine Wolski stayed with the lead pack as long as she could but, by the end, Bayly had half a minute on her. Wolski had a very solid 2nd place though.
Katherine Wolski sprints for the final 150 meters to take 8th overall and 2nd in the Age Division [Photo by Michael Scott]

Atlanta teammates, Kris Huff and Laurie Wharton battled for the last podium spot with Huff taking the measure of Wharton by 13 seconds. But Wharton was happy; her post-race comment celebrated her return to competitive running within the age group after two serious accidents with significant injuries this Spring. It is one of the great joys of Masters running to see athletes successfully navigating the comeback trail!
Fiona Bayly 18:20     Katherine Wolski 18:55     Kris Huff 21:23

Men 55-59
Nat Larson captured the Age-Grading crown, finished 3rd overall and won the 55-59 division! Two national championships and an Overall Race podium, not a bad day for the 56 year old wonder! Mark Zamek, who is ordinarily the fastest 55 year old in a race by far, could only stay within 40 seconds of Larson, but he had over a minute on the rest of the field. 
Mark Zamek #237, Brian Sydow #224, and Rick Herr (behind Sydow) give all they have to get to the finish line ahead of the others--Competition! [Photo by Michael Scott]

Three Atlanta teammates, Gary Droze, Gregory Oshust, and Nathan Skipper battled for the final podium spot. Droze separated himself and built his edge to 20 seconds to finish in 3rd. Oshust and Skipper drove all the way through the finish line tape, separated by 2 seconds in 18:36 and 18:38 respectively, for 4th and 5th.
Nat Larson 16:24     Mark Zamek 17:04     Gary Droze 18:16

Women 55-59
Ordinarily this division would belong to Marisa Sutera Strange, who has not run a 5K in over 19 minutes in years. You know something is not right when she runs over two minutes slower than her norm. Presumably she just came to help her Athena team compete for a national championship. We wish her the best and feel certain she will be back on her game and challenging for the division win and age-grading prizes again soon. Her teammate, Doreen McCoubrie slotted in nicely to lead Athena with an age-grading podium performance and a 19:41. 
Doreen McCoubrie finishes off another fine effort, claiming 3rd place Age Grading and 1st in the 55-59 age division at the 2018 USATF 5K Masters Championship in Atlanta [Photo by Michael Scott]

That was good for 1st place, even in a race with a Hall-of-Famer in it. Carmen Ayala-Troncoso, in her last 5K Championship in this age group, stayed in contact for as long as she could. By the time they powered up the last hill and across the finish line, McCoubrie had almost half a minute on Ayala-Troncoso. Strange came across the finish line 30 seconds later in 3rd, with Suzanne Cordes six seconds back and Mary Swan, the Athena teammate of McCoubrie and Strange just another second back.
Doreen McCoubrie 19:41     Carmen Ayala-Troncoso 20:10     Marisa Sutera Strange 20:50

A terrific job all around--the Atlanta Track Club put on a first class event and the Masters athletes did their part--Part 2 will recap the Age Division Championships from 60-64 on up to 90-94 and the Team Contests.


  1. To Paul Carlin: Yes, as always, your reports are terrific. The details and descriptions (and superb color-commentary as well!) do wonders for our sport of Masters distance-running, and I hope you are always on the scene to keep pushing our funny stories out there. Good job to YOU, too, in the race itself! These things don't get any easier even though we all get older and supposedly wiser. Does wisdom help with speed? That's my hope.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.