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

No comments:

Post a Comment