Wednesday, October 31, 2018

USATF Masters 15K Championships at Tulsa Run-Recap No. 1 Overall and Age-Grading

October 30, 2018. The day dawned on the 27th of October with near perfect weather for a 15K jaunt over the hills of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Temperatures were in the mid 50's with plenty of sunshine and light winds. A new course greeted the Masters Runners--a course that wound through cool neighborhoods with taverns and restaurants, and old, established residential neighborhoods. The course certainly showed off Tulsa to great advantage. 

Overall Masters Championship. In the race to be first across the finish line, it appeared there were four main contenders, although there can always be surprises. David Angell has been tearing up the roads at National Championships the last two years but he has enjoyed more wins this year, taking the titles at the 8K in March at Virginia Beach, then the 10K in late April at Dedham, and the 5K in mid-August in Atlanta. John Gardiner has been his nemesis though. Angell had not beaten him on the roads at Championships until the 5K in Atlanta. At this 15K Championship in Tulsa, Gardiner had the best of their duels in both 2016 and 2017. Would this be Angell's year at the 15K? Sean Wade threw his entry onto the pile on the last day of registration. The renowned runner from Houston and current holder of the Men's 50-54 American 5K Record of 15:02 is a force to be reckoned with, even if 15K is not his best distance. And then there is Philippe Rolly. Rolly has been behind Gardiner and Angell for the last few years, at the front of the chase pack by the end of each race. Arguably his better distances are outside the 5K to 10K races where he has met them. Rolly won the Masters Division overall at the Chicago Marathon last year. We learned after the race that he is in training now for the California International Marathon (CIM) to be held the first weekend in December.

The Announcer sent the runners off with a voice command and the runners headed down 3rd street. The advice circulating among runners before the start had been to restrain yourself in the first mile for pacing purposes. But advice is one thing and actually doing it in a competitive situation is a different challenge. 
'Get Set, Go!' The Start of the 2018 USATF 15K Masters Championship  hosted by the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run [L to R across the front: Brent Fields, George Darden, Giovanni Pipia, John Gardiner, David Angell, Nat Larson, Francis Burdett, and  Mark Hixson] 

A lead pack of Angell, Gardiner, Rolly, and Wade quickly formed, with a chase pack consisting primarily of the Atlanta Track Club's contingent of Alan Black, George Darden, Brent Fields, and Giovanni Pipia. Black won the National 1 Mile Road Championship this year in Flint. At the 5K, Darden, Black and Fields finished 8-9-10, almost a minute behind Angell and Gardiner in 1st and 2nd. Pipia did not run the 5K but earlier in the year had surprised many by finishing 2nd to Angell ahead of Rolly. Would Pipia be able to spring another surprise? The Greater Springfield Harriers duo, Mark Hixson and Nat Larson took a more measured pace. By the 5K mat just after the first uphill, there was essentially no separation among the first 4 as they all clocked between 16:35 and 16:37. The Atlanta chase pack went past in 16:55 to 16:58 with Pipia trying to maintain contact 5 seconds back. Shortly after the 5K mark, there is a long hill and Gardiner fell back a bit. In that stretch Angell was the one pushing the pace but whenever they would hit a downhill section, Wade would push the pace. Rolly was content to hang with them, assuming he would have to try to match a killer surge at some point. In the stretch through the park after mile 5, Angell and Wade started to pull away from Rolly. In the next section through a residential neighborhood with speed bumps, Angell gained a few steps but by Mile 6, he heard someone closing, assuming it was Wade. To Angell's surprise, it was Rolly. They ran together until the turn around on the far side of the 23rd Street Bridge. 
Philippe Rolly starts his surge on the 23rd Street Bridge as Angell stays on his heels at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K Championship 

With just under 2 miles to go Rolly discovered, to his surprise, that Angell was starting to struggle with the pace. Rolly gained a few steps over the next half mile and then powered away up the last 1.5 miles of uphill grind before the course finally flattens right before the finish. It was a great and surprising victory for Rolly; his time was 50:40. As Angell turned onto the final hill he caught a glimpse of Gardiner who had recovered and was closing. Angell found the strength to hold off Gardiner for 2nd but could not catch Rolly. 

Philippe Rolly captures the 2018 USATF Masters 15K Overall National Championship in downtown Tulsa Oklahoma 

Angell was second in 50:53, with Gardiner third 8 seconds back and, closing even harder, Darden in 4th another 3 seconds back, followed by Wade. Rolly said after the race, "I have never beaten Angell or Gardiner in 6 tries before this. I am really surprised that I won. Perhaps it is the Marathon training. I am a little disappointed with the time, as I felt I have the conditioning to break 50 minutes. But it is a very hilly course. My goal was to run with the leaders at 5:20 pace for as long as possible. When we were on the bridge just after 7 miles, I saw Angell slowing down from our previous pace. At first I was confused, but waited until after the turnaround and made my move. I finished hard over the last mile and no one caught me. It was a great confidence builder in my training for the CIM."
Philippe Rolly 50:40   David Angell 50:53   John Gardiner 51:04

In the Women's Overall Race it was the third duel between Melissa Gacek and Fiona Bayly. Gacek won in 2016, with Fiona Bayly 2nd and in 2017 Bayly was the winner with Gacek 2nd. Who would win the rubber match? Both have had strong seasons. Bayly has been on the Masters podium or just off at several very competitive road races in the New York City area from the Fifth Avenue Mile to the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Perhaps her best predictor from those efforts was her 1:23:19 in the United Airlines New York City Half Marathon, which is age grade equivalent to a 58:40 15K. But she had a time in the Brooklyn HM that was a minute faster.  Gacek had two impressive 2nd place Masters finishes to polish her resume. She ran 1:41:21 at the 25K in Grand Rapids in May and 1:03:03 at the challenging 10 Mile Run in the Twin Cities in early October. Michelle Paxton who finished 3rd last ear had to scratch due to injury. Jennifer Malavolta has won two 5K's this season in 18:54 and 18:41. If she has the distance fitness for a 15K, those times suggest a time under an hour is within reach. Shannon Mauser-Suing ran a 1:24:34 half marathon in 2017 but in 2016 in that same race she ran 3 minutes faster. If she is in shape to run a 1:24 Half Marathon, she can break an hour in a 15K, but she has no races this year. Is that due to injury or something else preventing her from training? In either case, she is not race sharp. When the race started, Gacek's plan was to take it out hard, establish herself at the front and stay there if possible. She and Malavolta covered the first mile in 5:59. Gacek tried to drop her over the next mile, pushing on the tangents. Then right at three miles, Bayly came past both of them at speed. By the 5K mark, which Gacek hit in 19:27 she had left Malavolta 8 seconds back. But by then Bayly was 15 seconds ahead and pulling away. And that was pretty much the story the rest of the way as Bayly kept tripping off the miles and Gacek could only hold her in sight 1-2 blocks on the straightaways. Gacek seemed to close a bit on a downhill stretch around 10K, but then at the next uphill Bayly pulled away again. In the end Bayly had a fine victory, her second consecutive in 58:09, over half a minute faster than last year. 
Fiona Bayly captures her second consecutive USATF Masters 15K National Championship on the streets of downtown Tulsa Oklahoma 

Gacek finished gamely up the final hill to claim 2nd in 59:33, holding off Malavolta who claimed third 26 seconds later, 
Melissa Gacek 208 helping Jennifer Malavolta to walk off post-race fatigue at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK 

with Mauser-Suing coming across the finish line in 4th a minute and a half later.
Fiona Bayly 58:09   Melissa Gacek 59:33   Jennifer Malavolta 59:59

Age Grading Championships
On the Men's side of the competition, Nat Larson, 56, was the favorite. He took the Gold Medal in Age Grading, symbolic of the best overall performance relative to age across all age divisions. Larson took the gold at the 5K in Atlanta, winning out over a formidable field with a 94.26%. He added that to age grade victories this year at 8K (92.90%) and the 10K (93.90). But he would have a challenger he has not faced before to my knowledge, Sean Wade, 52, the aforementioned 5K American M50 Record holder. Also in the field were Rick Becker, 63, who came in ahead of Larson in Age Grading at the USATF Cross Country National Championships in Tallahassee and also took 1st at the Half Marathon in Ann Arbor, Doug Goodhue, 76, a ten-time USATF Age Division Runner of the Year, and Roger Sayre, 60, who finished 2nd to Larson at the 8K. Tom Bernhard, 67, who has been on his share of age grading podiums, is always a threat. Medals go three deep and prize money five deep. Larson, ran 52:33, finishing 9th overall and grading at 91.94%. 
Nat Larson crosses the finish line in 52:33 to claim Age-Grading Gold at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K National Championship in Tulsa OK

Wade, 4th Overall, took 2nd in the Age Grading competition from his 51:32, grading at 90.48.
Sean Wade speeds to the Finish Line in 4th place Overall to claim a a Silver Age Grading Medal at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K National Championship

 Larson's teammate, Mark Hixson, 53, had a good day at the office, covering the hills and dales of Tulsa in 52:26 to grade at 89.72% and make his first age-grading podium at a National Championship! Sayre made his mark again, clocking 55:59 for 89.53% with Goodhue in 5th at 1:08:00 and 88.58. Becker was less than a half percentage point back, followed by Bernhard.

Five years ago the Age-Grading podium for the 15K Masters Championship in Tulsa consisted of Brian Pilcher, who is currently rehabbing a hamstring injury, Goodhue, successfully back from leg injuries and 5th place finisher in Tulsa this year, and yours truly, Paul Carlin, hoping to finish my comeback from off and on hamstring injuries since April 2016, and have a good 2019. The only one of those three who is close to the fitness of that day, in the context of age-grading, is Goodhue. He is an inspiration to all of us who have struggled with injuries and fitness. Hurray for the Silver Bullet and his remarkable comeback! 
Nat Larson 56 91.94   Sean Wade 52 90.48   Mark Hixson 53 89.72

The top returning age-grading scorers from last year on the Women's side of the competition were: Suzanne Ray, 67, Fiona Bayly, 51, Andriette Wickstrom, 63, and Doreen McCoubrie, 56. Their Age grades ranged from 87.87 to 92.22. McCoubrie and Ray were both on the Age-Grading podium for the Half Marathon and for the 8K McCoubrie was on th epodium and Ray was top 5. They have kept up their strong running this year. This is the first National Championship race of 2018 for Bayly and Wickstrom, but Bayly's Brooklyn Half Marathon of 1:22:19 age graded well over 90 and Wickstrom's City of Lakes Half Marathon of 1:37:08 graded just over 90%. I had a hot tip from one of my West Coast correspondents to watch out for Jennifer Teppo who was very fit and had just turned 60. As it turned out the top two returning from last year were the top two this year but in reverse order. Bayly was on fire on Saturday and everything fell into  place; her 58:09 age graded at 90.89%, over two percentage points higher than last year. Most folks who were repeat runners from last year went the other way on Age-Grading. Ray moved up from 4th to 2nd this year based on her 1:11:06 and 90.80%. Hixson and Sayre were close in the Men's competition but these two were even closer, a narrow win for Bayly!
Doreen McCoubrie keeping her pace cracking over the 23rd Street Bridge after mile 7--Good enough for a Bronze Age-Grading Medal at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K National Championship

McCoubrie's 1:03:18 closed off the podium with an 88.87. But two more went home with virtual cash jingling in their pockets. Teppo hit 1:08:01 to grade at 87.19 [my 'hot tip' was on the money!] in 4th
Jennifer Teppo approaches the Finish Line where she will claim the Women's 60-64 crown and a 4th Place Age-Grading Finish Overall in the 2018 USATF Masters 15K National Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of Tulsa Sports Commission]

and Wickstrom's 1:11:20 scored 86.66 to land in 5th, one percentage point ahead of Suzanne Cordes.
Fiona Bayly 51 90.89   Suzanne Ray 67 90.80   Doreen McCoubrie 56 88.87

The next post will focus on Age Divisions and Teams. The spirited competition celebrated above permeated the event.

Photo Credits: Except for the one photo with the Tulsa Sports Commission watermark and the photo of Jennifer Teppo immediately above, all photos are by Shane Bevel Photography, LLC and Heckenkemper.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Age Division Championships at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K Championships in Tulsa OK

October 25, 2018. The earlier preview looked at the Overall and Age-Grading Championships. Now I turn to the heart of the race, the Age Division Championships. Who will be the 2018 National 15K Champ in their Age Division? The forecast still holds for low 50's and mostly sunny. The forecast on windiness has improved, with the prediction now being even more moderate at 2-3 mph. Talk about 'rolling out the red carpet' for the Elite Masters Runners--we will take favorable weather over frills any day of the week--Thank you Tulsa!

The big news in terms of entries on the last day is that Sean Wade, the 50-54 holder of the 5K American Record at 15:02 has joined us. That will have implications for the Overall Race, Age-Grading and the Age Division. See immediately below for Age Division implications and the end of the Age Divisions for updates on Overall and Age Grading contests..

Age Division Championships.

Men From the Overall Preview which had David Angell competing for 1st place against John Gardiner, who is in the 45-49 division, it is clear Angell is the favorite for the Division crown. Giovanni Pipia is the closest contender; he finished just 9 seconds behind Angell at the 8K Championships at Virginia Beach in March. Since then Angell has won Masters National Championships at the 10K, 5k, and 5 Km XC. Pipia finished 10th Masters at the Boston Marathon in 2:40:33. That was a very nice time for the challenging conditions in Boston this year. But I can find nothing since. It could be that was an ordeal that set him back or it could just be that his life became busier. In any case it appears he will not be race fit. That is enough to keep Angell as a solid favorite. But I am sure Angell would not be surprised to see Pipia in the lead pack. Apparently his training has been solid. Pipia's Atlanta teammate, George Darden, may well give him a run for 2nd. Darden finished 2nd in the Division at the 5K, albeit well back from Angell. His 16:43 at that race is age grade equivalent to a 51:31 which is quite a bit faster than is likely for anyone else currently registered. And it is possible that Pipia is primarily entered to help his team get the victory although not near peak fitness.  Another National Team Championship is always desirable.
David Angell   Giovanni Pipia   George Darden

Women Melissa Gacek should have this division title well in hand. Her main challenge should come from Michelle Paxton who finished just 16 seconds back from Gacek last year. But I am expecting Gacek to run faster this year, probably a minute faster if this year's and last year's course were the same. Based on Paxton's times this year and last year along with Gacek's, I am guessing there will be a bigger gap this year. Paxton's recent 10K effort in 40:44 is age grade equivalent to a 1:01:59 15K. Gacek's 1:03:03 at the Medtrnic TC 10 Miler earlier this month is age grade equivalent to a 58:40. Brooke Bray, Alice Kassens, and Shannon Mauser-Suing could all break onto the podium. Brooke Bray's 1:07:45 at the NorCal John Frank 10 miler last March is age grade equivalent to a 1:03:02. Her more recent 19:22 at the Morgan Hill 5K is equivalent to a time under 1:01 but it is a much shorter distance and the Morgan Hill course tends to have fast times. Kassens is coming back from an injury. Her first time out post-injury was the 5K in Atlanta. She ran 20:06 and would presumably run faster today. But even the 19:10 is age grade equivalent to a 1:02:04. That suggests she has a good chance of coming in ahead of both Bray and Paxton. Mauser-Suing is a bit harder to figure out. A year ago she ran a 1:24:34. The year prior she ran 3 minutes faster. Given the lack of recent races it seems unlikely that Mauser-Suing is in better condition than a year ago but stranger things have happened. Her 2017 time is age grade equivalent to a 59:33; her 2016 was faster. My guess is that if Mauser-Suing toes the line on Saturday she will be looking for a podium age division finish at the least. [Note: Paxton notified the Race Director on Wednesday that she would not be competing due to injury.]
Melissa Gacek   Shannon Mauser-Suing   Alice Kassens

Men John Gardiner will have to fend off challenges from Alan Black, Jason Butler, and Philippe Rolly. Gardiner won the race overall in 2016 and finished 2nd to Kevin Castille last year, with times a couple of ticks over 50 minutes both times. Butler finished 4th overall two years go and 8th last year but I have not found any results for him this year. That raises a question about race fitness. Black has been active again after an on and off couple of years. He appears to be close to the top of his game. He finished 3rd at the 5K, about ten seconds behind Darden but apparently had some breathing problems. He recently ran a 10.2 K race (go figure!) in 34:37 which is roughly equivalent to a 33:56 10K which is age grade equivalent to a 51:43. If that transfers, it puts him almost a minute faster than Butler ran here last year. Rolly has chased Angell home in the 8K and the 10K this year, finishing only 18 seconds back in 25:57, and a minute back in the 10K at 33:33. If he can replicate that, he should be able to take 2nd place. Should any of those falter, Brent Fields who covered the USATF Masters Half marathon in 1:18:22 seems poised to move up. That time is age grade equivalent to a 55:08 15K
John Gardiner   Philippe Rolly   Alan Black

Women Jennifer Malavolta has two 5K's this year in 18:54 and 18:41. The slower of those two times is age grade equivalent to a 59:30. Assuming Malavolta has put in the miles to be ready for a good 15K, she is the favorite. Jodi Buyyounouski's 1:32:44 in the Urban Cow HM is age grade equivalent to a 1:05:18. Alexandra Newman's 1:34:09 in the 2017 USATF Half Marathon Championship equates to a 1:06:18 15K. Ann Bauermeister's recent 46:09 10K is age grade equivalent to a 1:10:17. That seems to indicate that Malavolta is the one to beat, with Buyyounouski a bit ahead of Newman and Bauermeister.
Jennifer Malavolta   Jodi Buyyounouski   Alexandra Newman

Men This division just got a whole lot more competitive on the last day of online registration. Sean Wade, the current American Record Holder for the 50-54 5K at 15:02, registered. He won the Masters division of the Aramco Half Marathon in Houston in January of 2017 in 1:12:21. That puts him in the hunt for the Overall win and definitely the favorite for an age division National Championship and a contender for a top Age Grading prize. If he is close to that fitness he could well break 51 minutes. Even if he is off a bit, a sub-52 seems doable. Kent Lemme is not in Tulsa to give battle but two of his running mates from the Greater Springfield Harriers are, Francis Burdett and Mark Hixson. Hixson is Mr. Reliable for the GSH team and a fine runner in his own right. The 34:20 he ran at the 10K Championships in Dedham, for example, age grades to an equivalent of 52:23. Burdett is still not quite at that level although he has been improving rapidly during this year as he returns form injury. He just ran 34:54 at the Lone Gull 10K which suggests something around 53 or so might be possible for him on Saturday. Suffice to say that Wade will not have a cakewalk in the Division--great competition!
Sean Wade   Mark Hixson   Francis Burdett

Women Fiona Bayly, in the hunt for the Overall Win, should take the division crown easily. After  Bayly it could well be a 4-way fight for the two remaining podium positions. Debra Carlson ran 1:09:26 here in 2015 and ran a 1:35:27 in the Cowtown HM. Kris Huff ran a 1:36:41 in the HM Championship at Ann Arbor but times were generally a little slow. Stacy Shaw's 1:34:47 at the Lincoln HM makes her a slight favorite. Laurie Wharton has been coming back from injury for most of the year. Her 5K times have come down steadily to 21:33 at the 5K Championship where she came in just behind her teammate, Huff. At the Macon Labor Day 5K, a fast course, she cracked 20! Earlier in the year she had a 1:38:55 at the Publix Georgia HM but she would probably run that several minutes faster now.
Bayly   Shaw   Huff

Men Defending Champion, Nat Larson should take this division with ease as he tries to wrap up yet another age grading win overall. Roger Corey and John Kissane should have a close struggle for 2nd place. They have both run 10K's in the 41 to 43 minute range recently. I will give Corey the edge on the basis that he also has a recent Half Marathons in the 1:33 to 1:34 range.

Women Doreen McCoubrie won this division last ear in 1:03:12 with her teammate, Terri Cassel  in 2nd place, forty seconds back. McCoubrie seems to be running even stronger this year so there is no reason to think she cannot repeat. Cassel should take 2nd but after that, Eileen Brennan-Erler and Suzanne Cordes have comparable 5K times in the 20:30 to 21:30 range, and Michele Keane turned in a 44:51 performance on the challenging 10K at Dedham . The 5K times are a little better than the 10K time I terms of age-grading equivalent but the `0K is a closer distance so may be or relevant. Cordes's last outing at the 5Km XC was also a little off her usual form so it is unclear whether she is at her best.
Doreen McCoubrie   Terri Cassel   Michele Keane

Men Roger Sayre and Rick Becker renew their rivalry up front in this division. But Sayre has been able to come in ahead of Becker at both the 5K and the HM so this should go his way too. The age grading is another story, though, as Becker is Sayre's senior by 3 years. Brian Nelson should have a clear path to the final podium spot but Boulder's Nate Anderson will try to stay within striking distance.

Women Andriette Wickstrom and Ann Ringlein came in 1-2 last year in 1:09:00 and 1:10:54. Jennifer Teppo of Team Red Lizard should contend for the win this year. her 1:38;40 in the Appletree HM last month suggests she could well run under 1:10, perhaps as low as 1:09. [Hot tip: I was reminded that Teppo won the 55-59 age division at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in the spring in 1:09:16. If she is in that condition, then she could break 1:05, and might well win by a few blocks. On the other hand, Wickstrom need not despair of winning; if Teppo were in that condition it raises the question of why only a 1:38:40 at Appletree, which describes itself as flat and fast!?]  Joanna Harper who took 3rd last year will have to improve considerably  on her 1:16:01 from last year to have a shot at the podium.
Andriette Wickstrom   Jennifer Teppo   Ann Ringlien

Men Tom Bernhard is the defending champion. Up until early August it appeared he would reel off several age division championships in a row, as he did in 2017. But his calf started acting up and he lost 5 weeks of training and skipped two road races he had entered early on, the 5K and the 1 Mile Championships. He presumably has at least 6 weeks of reasonable training under his shoes now and decided to compete. My guess is that he feels things are good enough that he can at least go for the Age Division win. My guess is that he can get it. We shall see. In his absence, Kirk Larson moved up and took the victory, his first Age Division National Championship at the 5K in Atlanta. He may well push Bernhard under the current circumstances. But Chuck Smead is also entered and Smead came in a good minute ahead of Larson at the 10K Championship. Bernhard and Smead went 1-2 last year and that is probably still a good prediction for this year. But it will be tougher; look for Smead to push Bernhard all the way. John Hirschberger finished 6th last year in 1:06:58 but he has run stronger this year. His 1:31:40 in the Half Martathon Championships in Ann arbor suggest he could well come in under 1:05. If so, he will give Larson a good run for the final podium position; Larson generally prefers to keep his races under 15K in length.
Tom Bernhard   Chuck Smead   Kirk Larson

Women Suzanne Ray finished 3rd last year between two powerhouses of Women's distance running, Sabra Harvey and Edie Stevenson. Neither is entered this  year so Ray will get a chance to shine and should take advantage of the opportunity with a win by a wide margin. Her times in the Half Marathon and 8K this year suggest she may have a hard time matching the 1:08:59 she turned in last year but she should be able to run 1:10 or so and still win comfortably. Victoria Crisp's  23:36 suggests a 1:16 or so would be a reasonable projection to the 15K. But she may be better at longer races; she clocked a 1:42:10 in a spring half marathon which is age grade equivalent to a 1:11:57. So Ray may have to be on her toes to be sure she takes the gold medal. Betty Wagner's 1:20:48 in the Shamrock 10 Miler suggests a 15K time of around 1:15 to 1:16 is feasible for her, and that should be good enough for the final podium spot.
Suzanne Ray   Victoria Crisp   Betty Wagner

Men The big news here is that Gene Dykes, having just won the WMA 70-74 Marathon Championship, breaking his own American record in the process and finishing within a half minute of the legendary Ed Whitlock's World Best mark, has decided to skip the 15K to focus on breaking the Half Marathon record. At the 5K in Atlanta, it was Dykes, followed, in order, by Lloyd Hansen, Jerry Learned, Przemek Nowicki, and Dave Glass, the defending 15K Champion. Nowicki is not entered but the other three are. Hansen came in almost a minute ahead of Learned and another half minute ahead of Glass in Atlanta. Both were much closer to Hansen at the 5 Km XC in Buffalo but Hansen was just back from a week at the World Championships where he ran an 8K XC, a Half Marathon and a 10K all in the space of 9 days. And Hansen likes the HM. At the HM Championship in Ann Arbor he had over 6 minutes on Glass. Learned was even further back but that was due to a fluke non-running related injury incurred a few days before the race. Terry McCluskey has been in the mix as well but he has scratched. Gene French and I, Paul Carlin, have been off our game of late but we have hopes of getting a bit closer to the podium this time around.
Lloyd Hansen   Jerry Learned   Dave Glass

Women Irene Terronez finished 2nd to Judy Bomer last year in 1:39:03. Bomer has moved up to the 75-79 division this year. If Terronez can come close to matching her time from last year, she should take the 70-74 crown easily. Carol Rhodes will have a hard time breaking 2 hours, but will be quite happy with 2nd place; those 95 points would give her the 2018 70-74 Masters Grand Prix win.
Irene Terronez   Carol Rhodes

Men Since his comeback from injury took off this spring, Doug Goodhue, ten-time USATF Divisional Runner of the Year, has won the 10K, 5K, 1 mile, and 5Km XC races. There is no reason to think he will not win this one too and finish up with a perfect 500 points for the Grand Prix. Robert Hendrick will give him a good fight but when both are healthy, Hendrick has been the first to acknowledge that Goodhue has the edge. Hendrick returned a month ago from the WMA Championships in Malaga Spain with a Bronze Medal in the Half Marathon. He will be quite happy to walk away with a Silver Medal from this event. Dale Summers who ran 1:22:04 in the Medtronic TC 10 Miler earlier this month appears to be capable of running  around 1:16 or so int he 15K. That would be fast enough to keep David Cohen of Ann Arbor at bay and claim the final podium spot.
Doug Goodhue   Robert Hendrick   Dale Summers

Women Unless someone enters between now and the race, Judy Bomer just needs to finish. Of course she showed last year she could do much better than just finish as she ran under 1:40. That probably scared off any potential competition.
Judy Bomer

Updates for Overall and Age Division

Michelle Paxton, who finished 3rd overall here last year, notified the Race Director today that she would be unable to race due to injury. As I had Paxton picked for third, that means I move Shanon Mauser-Suing  up.
Melissa Gacek   Fiona Bayly   Shannon Mauser-Suing

Sean Wade threw his hat in the ring. That means there will be one more runner in the lead pack. He is a terrific runner, no doubt. Were this a 5k or maybe even a 10K, I might be inclined to pick Wade for a top 2 spot but it seems to me that both Gardiner and Angell have better recent half marathon times. What I found for Wade was a 1:12:21 at the Aramco HM in January 2017. Angell ran 1:11:20 on a rolling hills HM course in Ann Arbor and John Gardiner ran a 1:10:48 in the 2017 HM Championship which was deceptively difficult as much of the second half of the race was uphill. My guess is that once Gardiner and Angell throw in a surge in the middle of the race that Wade will be with the chase pack, but he may prove me wrong. Wade may well be the rest of the rest. Philippe Rolly, Giovanni Pipia and Alan Black will battle all the way, but if they are close at the end, Wade's closing speed is likely to be decisive.
John Gardiner   David Angell   Sean Wade

Gene Dykes is skipping Tulsa and Sean Wade has entered. If Wade can run around 51:00, that would age grade over 91%, leaving him in the mix for an Age-Grading award. Larson ran 52:20 last year on the challenging hilly course and that was good for a 91.5%. He age graded at 94% in the 5K this year, and holds the 55-59 American record at that distance.
Nat Larson   Sean Wade   Rick Becker

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Overall and Age-Grading Contests at the Upcoming USATF Masters National 15K Championships in Tulsa

October 24 2018. Over a hundred of the fastest Masters Long Distance Runners in the country will converge on Tulsa, Oklahoma this weekend, chasing the prize purse of $10,000, and  competing against the best. The forecast at this point looks close to perfect—low 50’s under mostly sunny skies, with moderate winds. That will feel like a reward for those who ran here last year when the temps were a good 20 degrees lower; this year is closer to the norm.  The Masters athletes will toe the line at 8:50 AM with a new starting line on 3rd Street, between Main and Boulder, adjacent to the host hotel. The new course has less elevation change overall but there is still a good, substantial climb over the last mile and a half to the finish. After we cross over the Arkansas River, take a 180 and return, there are 2 kilometers left to the finish. When the runners cross 10th Street on Boston, the racing flats will really be churning for that last half mile to the finish just past 5th Street! This has been a great Championship venue since 2013 and Tulsa is only getting better with age. This preview will look at the race up front for the Overall Championship and at the likely contenders for Age Grade Awards.

Overall Race Championship

Men David Angell and John Gardiner will renew their rivalry. Gardiner has had the best of it at this race, coming in ahead of Angell in each of the last two years. But earlier this year Angell had his first road race victory over Gardiner in Atlanta, 15:45 to 15:51. 
David Angell wins the 2018 USATF Masters 5K Championship in Atlanta GA [Photo: Jason]

It should be quite the battle. Gardiner has been remarkably consistent with a 50:01 in 2016 and a 50:03 last year. Angell came in almost a minute behind Gardiner in 2016; last year less than half a minute separated them. There are other contenders to consider as well. Alan Black, Giovanni Pipia, and Philippe Rolly have been knocking at the door; perhaps this will be their race to break through. Black was at the lead pack in the 5K in Atlanta this year until running into some breathing problems. He came back a week later to take the Championship title at the Masters Road Mile in Flint Michigan. Pipia and Rolly finished 2-3 behind Angell at the 8K Championship in Virginia Beach. Pipia was only 7 seconds back, with Rolly another 9 seconds off. Pipia is a bit of a mystery in that he has no recent road race results. I can find nothing since his 2:40:33 effort at the Boston Marathon this past April. Those conditions were challenging to say the least. That time might well have been as many as 5 minutes faster under good conditions. But if Pipia is not race fit, it is more challenging to compete for the victory. Angell’s most recent race is his win at the 5 Km Masters Cross Country Championship in Buffalo on the 23rd of September. Gardiner also recertified his credentials at the MDRA Victory 10K in the Twin Cities on September 3rd, where he finished 2nd Masters runner in 32:39. Black has a 15:31 to his credit at the fast Macon Labor Day race and a 34:37 10K two weeks ago. Rolly finished 2nd to Angell at the 5 Km Cross Country race last month. Gardiner has the honors at the 15K distance, so I will go that way; Angell will have to beat him to show that Atlanta was not a fluke. 
John Gardiner breaks the tape at the 2016 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa, OK [Photo: The Tulsa World]

The choice between the others is more difficult. Given Pipia’s lack of recent races and Black’s less consistent performances over the past year, I will go with Rolly for the last spot on the podium; he has shown consistently that he can make the podium at National Masters Championships. He has not raced here previously but the distance is no problem; Rolly took the Masters win at the Chicago Marathon last year.

John Gardiner   David Angell   Philippe Rolly


Fiona Bayly and Melissa Gacek have battled for glory the last two years with Gacek winning in 2016 and Bayly last year. Whoever wins this year will have the best 2 of 3! Gacek came in almost a minute ahead of Bayly in 2016 in 58:44, with Bayly coming in almost a minute ahead of Gacek last year in 58:46. 
Melissa Gacek captures the 2016 USATF Masters 15K Title in Tulsa, OK [Photo provided by M Gacek]
Both seem primed for a good run this year. Bayly was on the Masters podium at the Fifth Avenue Mile in 5:20.0 this fall and finished just off the podium at the Brooklyn Half Marathon in 1:22:19 and at the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon in 1:23:19 in the spring. The latter is age grade equivalent to a 58:40 15K. 
Fiona Bayly taking control of the 2017 USATF Masters 15K Championship charging to the top of the first steep hill on the 2017 course layout [Photo by The Tulsa World]

Gacek took 2nd Masters at the 5th 3rd River Bank Run (25K) in Grand Rapids this spring in 1:41:21 and 2nd Masters at the challenging Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Mile Run in 1:03:03, age grade equivalent, as it turns out, also to a 58:40 15K. Looks like quite a dust-up on the streets of Tulsa! Others who could upset their apple carts include Michelle Paxton and Shannon Mauser-Suing. Paxton finished 3rd last year, only 16 seconds back from Gacek. But she had run a 31:24 5 Mile race a month before the 15K last year, and this year her most recent race is a 40:44 10K in mid-July. Her 5 Mile time was age-grade equivalent to a 59:59 but the 10K is equivalent to only a 1:01:59. If Paxton has been ramping up her training for the 15K she could be a factor as she was last year. Mauser-Suing ran a 1:24:34 at the Twin Rivers YMCA HM in 2017, but the year before ran 1:21:27. The lack of any recent race results makes it unlikely that Mauser-Suing has her 2016 fitness right now, but if she does, she could give Bayly and Gacek a substantial challenge. It is tough to choose between Bayly and Gacek, two very tough and determined champions. Perhaps Gacek feels she has a little more to prove this year and, if so, that might be just the extra little bit of incentive needed..

Melissa Gacek   Fiona Bayly   Michelle Paxton

Age Grading Championship

Women The top returning women from last year are, in order: Suzanne Ray, 67, Fiona Bayly, 51, Andriette Wickstrom, 63, Terri Cassell, 57, and Doreen McCoubrie, 56. All seem to be coming into the race with good fitness. Ray just ran the Sun River HM in 1:42:13 [Age-grade 89.68] and won the Age Grade competition at the Masters Half Marathon Championship; Bayly has a 37:50 10K [90.57] in June and a higher age grade at a recent 5K;  Wickstrom just ran a 1:15:21 10 Miler [88.17]; Cassell ran a 1:34:29 HM [85.64] and has a 10K last May that graded a  point higher; McCoubrie ran 1:05:45 at the Blue Cross Broad Street 10 Mile Run [91.94] and a 1:30:10 that landed her on the age grade podium at the Masters Half Marathon Championship in Ann Arbor. Are there any newcomers likely to challenge? 
Suzanne Ray finishes the 2018 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championship with an Age Grading and an Age Division Win [Photo:]

Jennifer Teppo and Suzanne Cordes have both age graded in the mid-80’s in recent events but they would need to improve considerably to land on the age grade podium.

Suzanne Ray   Fiona Bayly   Doreen McCoubrie

Men The top returning men from last year are, in order: Nat Larson, 56, Roger Sayre, 61, and John Gardiner, 46, who finished 2nd, 3rd and 5th. After that it drops all the way to Dave Glass, 71, and David Angell, 42, who were 12th and 13th. Are there newcomers who can crack the podium? Rick Becker, 63, and Gene Dykes, 70, are obvious candidates; they have landed on the age grading podium or been just off it in every Championship they have competed in this year. At the Masters Half Marathon National Championship, for example, Becker and Dykes went 1-2 with a 1:20:18 [91.45] and a 1:26:34 [91.08]. Another likely candidate is Tom Bernhard, 67, who finished 0.4% points behind Gardiner in Tulsa last year and has typically been on or just off the podium when he is fit. But Bernhard lost 5 weeks of training in the summer when his calf muscle was acting up. If he is a little off his peak fitness it would be a tall order to make the podium. Becker seems a sure bet for top 3. Dyes should also be a lock. Why not? He broke his own 70-74 American Marathon Record in the Scotia Bank Toronto Waterfront Marathon while taking the WMA Championship; that was only 6 days earlier. Ordinary mortals cannot recover that fast. But Dykes has shown it is possible for him. He ran 2:57:43 at the Rotterdam Marathon on the 8th of April, 3:16:20 in the terrible conditions in Boston 8 days later and then 2 weeks later broke the 70-74 American Record at the Masters 10K Championship in Dedham while finishing 2nd in Age Grading. It seems silly to count him out unless he is sensible enough to skip Tulsa and focus on recovering for a different race. The last contender is Doug Goodhue, 76, who has been moving up his age grading scores as he recovers fitness this year. He got inside the top 25 at the 5K in Atlanta, finished 5th at the One Mile Championship a week later, and finished 3rd at the 5 Km Masters XC Championship in Buffalo the next month. Whether he can keep up that improvement and do so at a longer race is an open question, but the others will need to reckon with him putting up a pretty good number. Larson has shown incredible consistency in age grading and has raised his game generally this year. Larson has age grading wins at the 5K, 8K and 10K. 
Nat Larson digging for the finish line and an Age Division and Age Grading win on a Frosty Morning at the 2017 USATF 15K Championship in Tulsa, OK [Photo courtesy to the Tulsa Sports Commission by Marathon Foto]

Sayre has landed age graded podium or near podium finishes in most of his Championship races including the 1 Mile (4th), 5K (4th), 8K (2nd), and Half Marathon (4th).

Nat Larson   Rick Becker   Roger Sayre

Friday, October 19, 2018

Individual Masters Grand Prix-Who's In the Driver's Seat as We Head into Tulsa?

October 19, 2018. The Individual Masters Grand Prix provides recognition to those athletes who are the most successful in a given year among those who commit to the circuit by running at least three events. In most 5-year Age Divisions, the winner will have at least 5 of the 9 events and often more. Because of this required commitment many, but not all, of the top runners in the Individual Grand Prix are also focused on winning a Club Grand Prix race for their team. Here I focus on individual outcomes. 

The general sense of the Governing Rules is that runners accumulate points for each event starting with 100 points for the Age Division winner, and going down in continual 5-point increments for the 1st 19 positions. Then 20th and below acquire 5 points for the race. Point totals are accumulated over the highest 5 race scores; the 6th highest race adds nothing to the total. Runners must score in at least 3 events for an award. The Age Division runner with the higher point totals places higher in the GP. 

Aging Up. Runners who age up to the next higher 5-year division in a given year will move up to the higher division as soon as they compete in a Grand Prix race in that higher age division. A 49 year old runner who turns 50 in early October will be in the 50-54 division if they compete in Tulsa but remain in the 45-49 division if they do not compete in Tulsa. 

Tie-Breakers. Ties for 1st, 2nd and 3rd can be broken, not just for 1st as in the Club Grand Prix. Ties in places 4th and below are not broken. The 1st tie-breaker for any of the 1st 3 places is head-to-head competition within the age division. If that does not break the tie, then the runner with more first place finishes is declared the winner of the place/position. If neither tie-breaker succeeds in breaking the tie, the runners are awarded the same place and receive duplicate plaques.

As in my previews, I list a preview/predicted final GP top-3 order under each division, just for fun. If a runner has a place locked-in they are in bold. But it is harder here than in the races; in many cases, one of the main determinants of the outcome is whether someone not yet entered will do so before the deadline.

Women Heather Webster leads the way with 285 points followed by Vanessa Lordi 270, Kathy Wiegand 220, Melissa Gacek 200, Heather Patterson 170, Liz Gottlieb 165, Murphee Hayes 155, Alice Kassens 145, and Sunday Patterson, 145. 
Heather Webster finishing off the 2018 USATF 10K Championship with a 3rd place division finish [Photo by Mike Scott]

Webster is not currently entered at Tulsa nor is it clear whether GVH will field a team and, if so, who would be on it. Lordi, Gacek, and Kassens are entered at Tulsa. Gacek is the favorite for the Age Division win; she won Overall 2 years go and finished 2nd Overall last year, winning the Age Division in both years. Even if Gacek gets the 100 points for the win, Lordi only needs to finish 14th or higher to outpoint her. Right now there are 11 entrants so it is a sure thing. If we got to 14 it would be the first year having that many. Actually the 11 is already the high water mark. With several days of online registration left it could happen, and the women entered already are a fast bunch. Kassens is coming back from being injured for much of the year, but she ran well in Atlanta at the 5K and has had a couple of months of good training to ready herself for a 15K. Depending on whether any of the other contenders enter, Kassens could certainly move up into the top 5 with a good performance in Tulsa. Wakenda Tyler won this division last year with 320 points at 5 events. This year the only Championship she has run is Club XC. Tyler also ran a solid time at the UA NYC Half Marathon in March but nothing since. I hope to see her active with GVH again next year, competing for the Club GP and, along the way, for the Individual GP. 
Vanessa Lordi   Melissa Gacek   Heather Webster

Men David Angell has this division sewn up; he has 500 points and no one can overtake him. Last year he took this division with 495 points so he was delighted to get to 500 with the 5K in Atlanta. 
David Angell capturing the Overall Masters and Age Division win at the 2018 USATF 5K Championship in Atlanta [Phot by Jason]

Sam Teigen with 445 points has a similar stranglehold on 2nd place. No one can take it away now. The same is not true for Teigen's teammate, Thomas Knowles. Knowles has 270 points, is 70 points ahead of his nearest pursuer, and is entered at Tulsa. That should be enough to ensure he has a cushion against Aaron Cooper 200, Alan Black 195, Chuck Schneekloth 190, Greg Mitchell 180, and Tim Rieth 175, the only runners who could move up with a 100 point performance in Tulsa. Two of those runners could well get the 100 points. Black took the 1 Mile Championship and was a contender in the 5K until he ran into some breathing problems. He is entered and no doubt hopes to be a contender for the Overall win after a couple of year away from top fitness. Mitchell is not currently entered but is no stranger to Tulsa, having won here previously. But even if Black wins, Knowles would only need a 15th place finish to keep him at bay in the GP, and only 18th to keep Mitchell out of 3rd. Late update--I noticed that Black is entered at Tulsa in the 45-49 category. If he runs that race, he will be advanced to the 45-49 division for the purpose of the GP and will not be a factor here.
David Angell   Sam Teigen   Thomas Knowles

Women The leaders at present are Sonja Friend-Uhl 380, Melissa Senall 340, and Jennifer Bayliss 295. Not far back are: Abby Dean 265 and Nancy Thomas 245, followed by Molly Watcke 200 and Erin Larusso 195. None of these contenders are entered in Tulsa. Unless someone steps up the standings will remain as is, at least for the top spots. Alexandra Newman is entered but if she wins and gets 100 points, her total rises to 220 and she would move up from 10th to 6th, displacing Watcke. 
Sonja Friend-Uhl heading for the finish line and an Overall Masters and Age Division win at the 2018 USATF Masters 5Km XC Championships in Buffalo NY [Photo by Andy Martin, Exclamation Services!]

The most likely entries are probably those affiliated with Atlanta (Friend-Uhl), GVH (Senall) and Impala (Thomas), all of whom have a team incentive to participate as well. But for now I am assuming no entries from the leading contenders. Cassandra Henkiel won this division last year with 290 points on three Championships, Club XC, the 10K and the 5K. This year she skipped the 10K so has only two events and 190 points. Should she be a late entry at Tulsa and place well, she could well move as high as 4th if there are no other late entries.
Sonja Friend-Uhl   Melissa Senall   Jennifer Bayliss

Men In this division the podium is set, just not the order. Jonathan Frieder 470, Brent Fields 440, and Philippe Rolly 390 are well away from the pack. No one can catch them. Rolly and Fields are entered at Tulsa. I have heard a rumor that Frieder will register also but nothing is certain until the registration actually appears. 
Jonathan Frieder collects an Age Division 2nd place only 3 seconds out of first at the USATF Masters 10K Championship in Dedham MA [Photo by Michael Scott]

Right now it looks like Rolly should take the win with 100 points. If so, that would give him 490 points and the lead. Fields's 5th score is 80 so even if he wins at Tulsa, he maxes out at 460. He cannot catch Frieder. It appears that Frieder is the only one with a chance to keep Rolly from the GP win, and he would need help. Not only would he have to enter but he would also have to achieve what has been unachievable in three previous tries this year, come in ahead of Rolly. If Frieder wins and Rolly finishes 2nd, then Frieder winds up with 480 points as the 100 would replace his 5th score of 90. But if Rolly finishes 2nd, he would have 485, enough for the win; a 3rd place leaves him tied with Frieder at 480 but Rolly has the tie-breaker. So even if Frieder wins, he needs two other runners to finish ahead of Rolly. [If Frieder finishes 2nd he has 475 points and Rolly would need to finish 5th or lower for Frieder to win.] And now we get to the two runners who are already entered and have a shot at coming in ahead of Rolly. John Gardiner, the defending GP Champion in this division, has not been able to fit many Championship events in this year so he has 195 points on two races, the Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington and the 5K in Atlanta. As noted above, Alan Black ages up to this GP division if he races in Tulsa. Black was near the top of the heap in 2014 when he finished 3rd Overall at the Club Cross Country Championships. But a variety of challenges have kept him from competing at that level until this year. He was among the leaders at the 5K in Atlanta before breathing problems slowed him. He won the Road Mile Championship in Flint. Whether he is fast enough on the roads to come in ahead of Rolly on a 15K is a question. There is no doubt he can handle the distance. In 2016 he ran 52:32 at the Gate River Run and he ran Boston this year in those terrible conditions, clocking 2:50:06 so we know he can endure. Suffice to say that if Frieder comes to Tulsa, his main job is to beat Rolly, at least as far as the GP goes. I am sure he will let the rest take care of itself. Gardiner and Black come in tied for 4th. Gardiner beat Black in Atlanta so he is favored to take 4th with Black finishing 5th.
Philippe Rolly   Jonathan Frieder   Brent Fields

Women Kris Huff leads the way with 365 points, followed by Michelle Simonaitis with 290 and Carol Bischoff with 235 points. Huff is in the driver's seat. She is entered at Tulsa and if she finishes is almost assured of winning the GP. 
Kris Huff finishes strong at the USATF Masters 10K Championship in Dedham MA, Helping Her Team to 3rd place and acquiring valuable points toward the Individual Grand Prix contest [Photo by Michael Scott, cropped by author]

Simonaitis would have to enter and finish 15 places ahead of Huff. It is not certain that Simonaitis will enter. After finishing either first or second in the Age Division in 3 championships in a row, she has not entered since. She may be waiting for Club XC in Spokane and the 2019 GP series. On the other hand, if she enters, she is almost assured of finishing 2nd in the GP. Laurie Wharton has 145 points but unlike Simonaitis and Bischoff, has already entered the 15K Championship. If Bischoff does not run Tulsa and Wharton finishes third or higher, she would tie or exceed Bischoff's point total and Wharton has the tie-breaker. If Bischoff enters and finishes the race, she is almost assured of staying ahead of Wharton. Katherine Wolski has 195 points from 2 events. If she would run Tulsa and Simonaitis does not, then Wolski could finish 2nd in the GP if she finishes 2nd or better. If 2nd, then it would be a tie for 2nd and they would be even on both the first tie-breaker (no common events) and the second (both would have one 1st place). If Wolski wins at Tulsa and Simonaitis is not entered, then Wolski wins the GP also. Other athletes who could get on the GP podium if neither Bischoff nor Wolski enters include: Amy Fakterowitz, Laura Delea, Elizabeth Randell, Judy Arlington, and Michelle Allen. This division was dominated by Marisa Sutera Strange in recent years but she has moved up to 55-59.
Kris Huff   Michelle Simonaitis   Laurie Wharton

Men Kent Lemme has 485 points and an insurmountable lead. That gives Lemme his second consecutive Individual Grand Prix victory. 
Kent Lemme capturing the Division title at the USATF Masters 10K Championship in Dedham MA [Photo by Michael Scott]

His teammate, Mark Hixson, is in 2nd with 415 points and, unlike Lemme, is already entered in Tulsa. But Hixson only earns an additional 50 points, even if he would win. If Lemme stays away from Tulsa, Hixson is, in fact, the favorite in this Age Division although his other teammate, Francis Burdett, has been coming on strong of late. That means Hixson is almost sure to remain in 2nd place although it is not a mathematical certainty. Dale Flanders is currently in 3rd with 370 points. Although not currently entered, Flanders did run here in 2016 when the 50-54 field was loaded. If he enters and finishes 5th or better, he can repel any challenge from Burdett, who is entered, and comes in with 295 points. Flanders has 50 points as his lowest score of 5 so he only realizes 30 points from a 5th place finish. Burdett ran for the team last December in the Cub XC Championships before fully recovered and earned 5 points; that is his lowest score of 5. So if he finishes  If Flanders does not run, then Burdett can tie with a 6th place finish or better, and Burdett has the tie-breaker. Thomas Schumann, though not entered yet, has run here the last two years. If he enters, he can add to his 195 points and likely move into the top 5; the podium is out of reach. Mike Nier finished 3rd last year and has 260 points but he has a hamstring issue that hampered him substantially at the 5Km XC Championship in Buffalo so it seems unlikely he will attempt Tulsa. Although if he is a fast healer, one cannot rule it out. 
Kent Lemme   Mark Hixson   Francis Burdett

Women This is the only division where we could, potentially, wind up with two athletes tied with 500 points each. How can that be in a 9-event series? It is because one of the athletes aged up during the year and there is one event where both athletes won their respective divisions before the aging up happened. The two athletes in question are Marisa Sutera Strange and her teammate, Doreen McCoubrie. Strange has 500 points already but is not currently entered in Tulsa. 
Marisa Sutera Strange drives for the finish line and an Age Division win at the USATF Masters 10K Championship in Dedham MA [Photo by Michael Scott]

McCoubrie currently has 495 points, is entered in Tulsa, and is favored to successfully defend her 2017 age division win in the 15K. That would give her the 5th win and 500 points in the Grand Prix. McCoubrie has the tie-breaker. Their common races in the Age Division are the 5K in Atlanta and the Road Mile Championship in Flint and McCoubrie came in ahead in both of those. In the races earlier in the year where Strange finished before McCoubrie, they were in different age divisions so, based upon previous rulings/precedent, those do not count in the head-to-head. That means the only way Strange can win the GP title is to enter and win at Tulsa. It is worth mentioning that Strange won the GP series in 2017 and 2016 so it would not be surprising to see her go for the 3rd in a row by trying to win at Tulsa. On the other hand, Strange has not run at Tulsa before and I would say 10K and below is in her wheelhouse whereas McCoubrie seems happy to run everything from the Mile to the Marathon. That is the headline story but it is not the only story. Their teammate, Mary Swan, is in 3rd with 440 points, followed by Karyl Sargent 405, Suzanne Cordes 395, Colleen Magnussen 365, and Lorraine Jasper 275, despite her primary focus on Track in this WMA Championship year. Cordes is the only one of those three currently entered in Tulsa and would likely move up into 3rd in the GP if the entry list stays as it is today. Cordes must have run into some difficulty in Buffalo; she finished outside the top 20 overall and only 6th in the age division. If she can bounce back, things look good for a GP podium finish right now. Swan has run in Tulsa before but at this point only her two teammates, McCoubrie and Teri Cassell are entered. That makes me think Swan has a conflict; otherwise she would have entered with them.  Gail Geiger, Janet Smith, and Mireille Silva have a good shot at finishing in the top ten. Silva is entered in Tulsa as is Teresa Quan who is only 5 points behind her. If Quan can come in ahead of Silva in the 15K, she would take the 10th spot away from Silva. For now I will guess that neither Strange nor Swan will compete in Tulsa.
Doreen McCoubrie   Marisa Sutera Strange   Suzanne Cordes

Men Nat Larson bolted out of the GP gun this year, taking first in the first 4 events, Club XC, XC Nationals, the 8K,and the 10K. He skipped the Half Marathon in June but won the 5K in August. That gave him his second straight Grand Prix win with a perfect 500 points. No one can get within 50 points of him this year. 
Nat Larson takes 3rd Overall and Notches his 5th Age Division win in 2018 at the USATF Masters 10K Championship in Atlanta GA [Photo by Michael Scott]

But John Van Kerkhove and Gary Leaman will be happy to take the next two spots; the only question is the order. Van Kerkhove is ahead with 340 points; that gives him a 35 point bulge on Leaman. Neither has run Tulsa in recent years; if that practice continues, it will be Van Kerkhove 2nd and Leaman 3rd in the Grand Prix. After that podium trio, Dennis Kinney 200, Alan Evans 195, and Eric Stuber 190, hold 4th through 6th.
Nat Larson   John Van Kerkhove   Gary Leaman

Women The top 6 in this division are Sharon Moore 430, Cynthia Williams 415, Patricia Ford 410, Cheryl Guth 355, Susan Stirrat 350, and Joanna Harper 335. If Moore does not compete in Tulsa, she still has a good chance of ending up in first in the GP competition. Williams would need to finish 4th or better in the division. The score in Tulsa will replace her 5th best score of 70 points if it is higher. If Williams finishes in 4th, she ties Moore on points but owns the tie-breaker going into Tulsa, 3-2. If Moore races in Tulsa she needs to finish in 5th place or higher for her result to increase her GP total. If Moore comes in ahead of Williams, she definitely beats Williams. 
Sharon Moore has the finish line in sight at the USATF Masters 5K Championship in Atlanta GA where she landed on the Age Division podium [Photo by Michael Scott]

Williams finished 2nd in the 2016 15K Championship; Moore has not run in Tulsa before. But Harper is  entered in Tulsa already and will look to move up. Harper has only 4 scores thus far so she gets full value for any points she earns there. Should she win the division, and Ford, Guth and Stirrat skip Tulsa, and neither Moore nor Williams add to their current GP score, Harper could win the GP competition. That is a lot of 'ifs' but it is not impossible. If Harper finished 2nd and Moore stays at 430, Harper would tie her and win the GP on the tie-breaker 2-1. If Ford does not run, Harper needs only to tie her 410 points by finishing 6th or higher at Tulsa because she is ahead head-to-head by a 2-1 score. She would replace Ford in 3rd. Ford competes for the Syracuse Track Club which cannot finish on the podium in the Club GP competition; there is no extra incentive for her to enter Tulsa. Patrice Combs, who is sitting in 7th with 300 points from wins at the 10K. the Half Marathon, and the 5K, could move up to 4th if she would enter and win at Tulsa but could move no higher. Jill Miller-Robinett won last year but her team, the Impala 60+, has had a number of team members struggling with fitness and injuries. She took 1st at Club XC and 2nd at Virginia Beach in the 8K but ran no further races. We will be looking for the Impalas and for Miller-Robinett in 2019.
Cynthia Williams   Sharon Moore   Joanna Harper

Men Roger Sayre does not have 500 points yet but he cannot be caught. He is entered at Tulsa and is the favorite to win; if so he gets the perfect 500 points! 
Roger Sayre flies over the last hundred meters to capture an Age Division first and 100 GP Points at the USATF Masters 5K Championships in Atlanta GA [Photo by Michael Scott]

Ken Youngers, who is in 2nd at 460, is not a threat to Sayre because his 5th place score right now is an 85. If he entered the 15K and upset Sayre by winning, he would max out at 475, five points short of Sayre. Rick Becker,  who sits in 3rd with 380 points on 4 events, could be a threat if he had 5 more points. As is, the best Becker could do would be to tie Sayre on points. For that Sayre would need to have an off day. Becker would need to win, but even that would not be quite enough. Sayre is ahead on the 1st tie-breaker going into Tulsa by a 2-0 score. And Sayre would have to have a seriously off day to finish lower than 2nd. That would give him 495 points and the outright win. Unless Youngers enters at Tulsa, Becker can move into 2nd place with a top 5 finish since he owns the tie-breaker. If Youngers would race Tulsa and if the final order would be Youngers-Sayre-Becker in 1st through third, Youngers would hold onto 2nd place. Michael Anderson who is in 4th with 360 points, would have to enter Tulsa and beat both Becker and Sayre to move up and pass Youngers. He needs the full 35 points he would get from an outright win. That is pretty unlikely so Anderson is not likely to run with the idea of moving up in the GP competition. He does have to worry about being moved down. Brian Nelson sits in 8th right now with 325 points on 4 events. That means he gets full points from his Tulsa endeavors. Nothing is certain but with the entry list right now, Nelson looks like a good bet for 3rd. That would give him 90 points and move him up to 415. The highest point total Anderson can get to is 395, but more likely his best shot would be third for 90 points which would give him 385. Even if he could beat Nelson he would have to rely on others pushing Nelson down below 7th place in the division at Tulsa. That way Anderson would retain his 4th place finish in the GP. Nelson finishing 8th or worse is unlikely but not impossible. Kyle Hubbart who won the title last year spent most of this year rehabbing an injury. He was able to make a token appearance at the 5K for his team but will, no doubt, be ready to burn up the roads and turf in 2019.
Roger Sayre   Rick Becker   Ken Youngers

Women Only 40 points separates the top 4 contenders in this division: Cindy Ingalls 415, Cindy Lucking 405, Suzanne Ray 385, and Jeanette Groesz 375. 
Cindy Ingalls closing in on the Finish Line at the USATF masters 5K Championships in Atlanta, helping her team to a 2nd place finish and earning valuable points toward the Individual GP Contest  [Photo by Michael Scott]

Of those 4, only teammates Ray and Groesz are currently entered at Tulsa. They also have an advantage relative to Ingalls and Lucking. Unlike those two who already have 5 events, Ray and Groesz have only 4 events so they get full value of any points they score in Tulsa. Ingalls would only realize points earned over 75 and Lucking would realize points over 65. Ray is not only ten points ahead of Groesz but has come in ahead of her in 3 of the 4 races they have both run this year. That makes Ray the favorite, followed by Groesz. Last year the order was reversed; Groesz finished 5th and Ray 7th. Sabra Harvey sits in 5th place with 300 points from the three races she ran this year. As Ray and Groesz will likely increase their totals well over 400 points, Harvey, the defending Champion, cannot make the podium this year. Her 5 medals from the WMA Championships in Malaga, Spain, will no doubt be a satisfactory substitute. If Kathleen Allen, Jeanne Herrick or Terry Ozell entered they might well move ahead of Harvey into the top 5, but that would be the limit of their ascendancy. For now I am guessing that neither Ingalls nor Lucking will enter. Is that wrong?
Suzanne Ray   Jeanette Groesz   Cindy Ingalls

Men This has been a banner year for Kirk Larson; he won his first National Championship earlier this year in his hometown at the 5K. Five weeks later he sewed up the Individual Masters Grand Prix title. 
Kirk Larson heads for the Finish Line and an Age Division National Championship in the USATF Masters 5K Championship in Atlanta GA  [Photo by Michael Scott]

His highest previous finish, attained in both 2017 and 2016 was a 3rd place. The year 2018 is one Larson will remember for a while. John Hirschberger has been chasing Larson all year but has not caught him yet; he is in 2nd with 415 points on 5 events. The maximum points he can realize out of Tulsa even if he would enter and win is 45 which would leave him 5 short of Larson. But it would help him repel potential challengers for his 2nd spot. Doug Bell has been struggling all year, and probably longer, with back problems; despite that, he has 365 points on 4 events. In principle he could enter and score a good many points. If he entered and finished as high as 4th he would have 460 points. But given the back problems and the preference for events 10K and below, my guess is that Bell will not be in Tulsa. He will likely have to be satisfied with his 2016 win. No one else is a threat to Hirschberger's 2nd place. This will be Hirschberger's 1st podium finish in the Grand Prix; he finished 5th last year in his first real attempt at the series. There are two runners who could pass Bell in the Individual Grand Prix and move onto the podium: Eduardo Matsuo 295 on 4 events, and Chuck Smead 275 on 3 events. Smead is entered; Matsuo is not. Last year they both ran Tulsa with Smead finishing 3 minutes in front of Matsuo. But with a 20 point lead, Matsuo would not have to defeat Smead; as long as he would finish within 3 places of Smead he would retain his lead and would move ahead of Bell into 3rd as long as his finishing place was 6th place or better. That is likely with the current list of entrants, especially if Tom Bernhard, who entered sometime ago but then encountered a calf problem, does not actually run at Tulsa. But there is a week of registration left so who knows. For now I will assume that folks like Bell and Matsuo who have not yet entered will stay out. Tom Bernhard was heading toward his third age division win in the GP in the last 4 years, but his calf said 'no' in the middle of the summer and he had to miss both the 5K and the 1 Mile Championships.
Kirk Larson   John Hirschberger   Chuck Smead

Women The only two athletes in this division who will have the required minimum number of events are: Carol Rhodes 275 and Terry Foody 240.
Carol Rhodes finishes 2nd in her Age Division at the 2018 USATF Masters 5K Championships in Atlanta GA  [Photo by Michael Scott]

Rhodes and Foody have only met once this year, at the 5Km Masters XC Championship in Buffalo. Foody finished almost 6 minutes ahead of Rhodes. Rhodes is entered; Foody is not. At present there is only one other athlete entered. Unless other runners enter between now and race time, Rhodes would finish no worse than third which would give her enough points to stay ahead of Foody not matter how much faster she ran. Foody would need to finish 7 places ahead of Rhodes to move ahead and take the Grand Prix title. 
Carol Rhodes   Terry Foody

Men This division is loaded with contenders; it is the most highly contested division. Before Tulsa there are 21 athletes with the required minimum and fourteen with 5 or more events. The closest division otherwise, the Men's 60-64 has 20 with the required minimum and eight with 5 or more events. Despite that, Gene Dykes has the title in hand, with 495 points. He has not been pressed yet this year in the division and is entered. 
Gene Dykes 137 captures another Age Division Title at the USATF Masters 5K Championships in Atlanta GA [Photo by Michael Scott]

But he will be running the Scotia Bank Toronto Waterfront Marathon six days before trying to win a World masters Athletics Marathon title and take a stab at the legendary late Ed Whitlock's Age Division World Best of 2:54:48. That is only three minutes faster than Dykes ran at Rotterdam earlier this year so it is not out of the question. Ordinarily I would say Dykes would probably fail to win and might even decide to skip the 15K at Tulsa but Dykes seems to thrive on running as many races as possible. We shall see. The only incentive he would have would be to attain a perfect 500 points instead of 495 if he should win. Dave Glass is only 25 points behind but his 470 points are on 5 events with the lowest score being 90 points. That means he reaps no points from finishing 3rd or below and only 5 for a second place and 10 for a 1st place. He cannot catch Dykes but he can be caught. Lloyd Hansen is in 3rd with 455 points on 5 events and, like Glass and Dykes, is entered at Tulsa. Hansen needs to finish 1st or 2nd to beat Glass because his lowest score is 80. If Dykes does not run or is off his game from the Marathon effort, and Hansen and Glass came in 1-2, Hansen would have 475 and Glass would have 475 but Hansen owns the tie-breaker 4-0 since turning 70. It is the same if Hansen-Glass come in 2-3. If Hansen finishes worse than 2nd then Glass retains 2nd place. Hansen's teammate, Terry McCluskey is only 25 points behind Hansen at 430 on 5 events, but his maximum possible if he would win the 15K would be 465. He cannot catch Glass and would need to come in 6 places ahead of Hansen to move past him because the tie-breaker is in Hansen's favor. That is unlikely. There are 7 other contenders with over 300 points but none can catch Dykes, Hansen, and Glass. These include Tony Gingello 425, Jerry Learned 425, Przemek Nowicki 345, Gene French 345, Jim May 335, Paul Carlin 330, and Keith Yeats 315. Dykes has the win, Hansen should take 2nd, and Glass will be on the  podium for the 2nd year in a row. Last year he almost caught me, Paul Carlin, with a strong autumn campaign, but fell 5 points short. I have had an off year, trying to come back, with mixed success, from a hamstring and adductor problems since November of last year; this will be my first year off the podium in my Age Division since its inception in 2014. Hope to be in the mix for 2019 though!
Gene Dykes   Lloyd Hansen   Dave Glass

Women Madeline Bost leads with 390 points on 4 events. For the first time she has a challenger for the title. Catherine Radle has 300 points on 3 events. At the moment, neither is entered at Tulsa. If neither enters, Bost will claim her 5th consecutive Age Division Masters Grand Prix win--quite a record! 
Madeline Bost captures 2nd place in her Age Division at the USATF Masters 5K Championships in Atlanta GA [Photo by Michael Scott]
Radle will have a 2nd place Individual GP finish in her first run at the Masters Grand Prix circuit! Next year Bost will be in the 80-84 division but Radle will have a few more years in the division.
Madeline Bost   Catherine Radle

Men Doug Goodhue is back on form after missing a couple of years off and on to rehab. Not ready early in the year, he skipped the Cross Country races but finished 2nd at the 8K and then rolled to victory in the 10K, 5K, 1 Mile, and 5Km XC. 
Doug Goodhue 149 Captures another of his more than 50 National Championships at the USATF Masters 5K Championships in Atlanta GA [Photo by Michael Scott]

That gives him 495 points and a 5 point lead over Robert Hendrick who took wins in the two Cross Country races and the Half Marathon and finished 2nd behind Goodhue in the 10K and 5K. Still it is possible for Hendrick to tie Goodhue. Both are entered at Tulsa. If Hendrick could manage to come in ahead of Goodhue, that would give him 495 points also and with that win, a tie on the first tie-breaker, 2-2, and tied on the 2nd tie-breaker with both having 4 victories this year. Goodhue is favored though. Even if Goodhue were not running extremely well, Hendricks will have run the WMA Marathon Championship 6 days earlier. No one can touch those two. Ed Bligh 335 is in the driver's seat for third but is followed closely by Andrew Sherwood 315 and Charlie Patterson 275. Bligh and Sherwood are both entered at Tulsa. Bligh is favored in that contest as he came in ahead of Sherwood in their meetings at Club XC and the 5K. 
Doug Goodhue   Robert Hendrick   Ed Bligh

Joe Cordero has 185 points from the 10K and the 5KM XC. He is the only individual in this age division who can attain the minimum requirement of three events. 
Joe Cordero heads for the finish and 2nd place in the 80-84 Division at the 2018 USATF Masters 5Km XC Championships in Buffalo NY [Photo by Andy Martin, Exclamation Services!]

He is not entered at Tulsa though so this Individual Grand Prix title will be vacant unless that changes. If Cordero enters and finishes, he becomes the Masters Grand Prix Champion in Men's 80-84.
Joe Cordero