Thursday, February 28, 2019

USATF Masters Team Update From Tallahassee

February 19 2019. The Club Grand Prix swung from Spokane Washington to Tallahassee Florida on the 2nd of February and the Mercury soared from sub-freezing to comfortably above. Tallahassee enjoyed more seasonable temperatures after an unusually cold morning last year. Given the Polar Vortex that swept through much of the Midwest and Northeast a few days before the race, you can bet that plenty of runners were looking forward to milder temps for the weekend. Mid-50's, cloudy skies, gentle breezes--that's about as good as it gets! Had the rain stayed away completely Friday evening the spikes vs. flats debates would have been almost irrelevant. That slight dampening of the course moved a few runners who were on the edge to opt for spikes over either spikeless XC shoes or racing flats. No one told me they were unhappy with their choices. Let's get to the races! The Men's race went off at 9:15 AM with the Women's race at 10:15. The recap follows that order.

Note: Classic Cross Country scoring for Men40+ and Men 50+ races. First 5 runners are scored. We add up their finishing places and the lowest score wins. Runners beyond 5 are counted to displace anyone they finish in front of who is in the top 5  another team. Pushing another team's score higher improves the relative chances of one's own team. For Men 60+ and above and for Women's races, only the top 3 are scored but otherwise rules are the same. The tie-breaker, if needed, is to compare the finishing time of the last scoring runner on the tied teams. The team with the faster time for that runner is declared the 'winner' between those two teams.

John Gardiner 235 and Jacques Sallberg knit cap in the lime green singlets hustle to form the lead pack at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships, with  runners, David Angell 108 and Paul Jones 191, not competing in the team championship

40+. Last year the Garden State Track Club, after a modest showing at Club Cross Country in Lexington, came loaded and got their first win of the year, setting themselves up for a successful run at the title of 2018 Club Grand Prix National Champions. This year they were absent. Are they focused on other goals this year? Or was it just not a good weekend for them? We will find out in months to come. In the meantime, the rest of the 2018 Club GP Podium, the Atlanta Track Cluband the Genesee Valley Harriers (GVH), were present, looking for a good start on the 2019 Club Grand Prix contest. Out of teams that, based on historical patterns, are likely to compete for the Grand Prix title, the Cal Coast Track Club emerged from Spokane with the lead at 55 to 40 for Atlanta and 35 for Garden State. GVH, as has been their practice in this division, did not send a team to Club XC. It looks like Cal Coast will go for the 40+ win this year. They threw everything into the effort in Tallahassee. The 'Old Guys', Rob Arsenault, Christian 'Cush' Cushing-Murray, and Mike Connors, all jumped in with the 40-49 guys to field a formidable 40+ team. With Jacques Sallberg,  a new addition this year, and John Gardiner running point, they looked unbeatable. But Atlanta and GVH had strong squads too so nothing is guaranteed. The early part of the race unfolded as anticipated, except that Atlanta's Brent Fields fired a shot across everyone's bows, as he surged to join the leaders over the first kilometer before gradually dropping back a few strides.
This photo 300 meters into the race shows many who contributed to the competitiveness of the 40+ team race including: Atlanta's Brian Sydow 467 Cal Coast's Shannon Winkelman 502 and Rob Arsenault 113, GVH's Christopher Hernandez 270 Tim Rieth 410, and Thomas Regan 404 at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

By the time they hit the 'Shell Bridge back in the  forested section at 2 kilometers. Sallberg and Gardiner were running 1-2 for Cal Coast, with Cushing-Murray in 4th (in team places where we count only runners on complete teams). Fields was 5 seconds ahead of Cushing-Murray in 3rd and his teammate, Brian Sydow was 2 seconds back in 5th. Ten seconds back was the GVH trio, Christopher Hernandez, Tim Rieth, and Josh Harter in 6th through 8th, with Cal Coast's Shannon Winkelman and Arsenault in 9th and 10th, with GVH's Thomas Regan right on his heels, and his GVH teammate, Brian Lazzaro, only a few seconds back. Connors was running in 13th place, displacing, at the time, Atlanta's 3rd through 5th runners, Thomas Aliff, John Westrick, and Mark Castleberry, in 14th through 16th. Unless something changed drastically, Cal Coast would have the win and 100 GP points. At that point, their score was 27 compared to 44 for GVH and 53 for Atlanta. It was early days and the Atlanta runners may have started conservatively. But it looked like GVH would be earning at least a 2nd place plaque and the 90 GP points that go with it. Regan slipped past Arsenault into 10th but nothing else changed over the rest of the first loop.
The end of the first loop saw Christian Cushing-Murray 182 holding onto 3rd place, with rivals, Brent Fields 217 right behind and his teammate, Brian Sydow 467 in 4th. Nat Larson 321 was not in this team race. A long loop and a short loop more would settle the Men's 40 and up Team Championship at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships.

The second loop was more of the same as Cal Coast cemented its hold on 1st with Sallberg and Gardiner well ahead of the field in 1st and 2nd and Cushing-Murray in 3rd with 10 seconds on Sydow and Fields of Atlanta in 4th and 5th. Hernandez, Harter and Rieth were now strung out a bit but still held 6th through 8th, followed by Cal Coast's Winkelman, with GVH's Regan now only two seconds back. Arsenault and the three Atlanta guys continued apace, except that Westrick had now surged past GVH's 5th runner, Lazzaro. Call Coast had increased its lead by a point. Atlanta had narrowed GVH's lead slightly.  Atlanta had to hope that either Sydow or Fields could make a move on the final loop and get past Cushing-Murray, or that their 3rd through 5th runners kept moving up through the GVH guys and Arsenault.
Sydow and Fields ran strong over the first half of the short last loop but Cushing-Murray, with the ageless Nat Larson pressing him all the way, was cruising and building his lead. Arsenault had moved further ahead of Atlanta's Westrick so that path for improvement was closed down. Aliff joined Westrick ahead of Lazzaro; that moved Atlanta up but they needed more and now there was only a kilometer left! Everyone who needed to, held onto their place. At the end when places were toted up it was Cal Coast winning soundly by 23 points, with GVH retaining a 5 point lead on Atlanta for 2nd. The associated Grand prix points, building on those from Spokane, give Cal Coast the lead over Atlanta, Bowerman, the B.A.A. and GVH 155-120-100-90-90.
Cal Coast TC 27     GVH 47     Atlanta TC 52

50+ Last year the Greater Springfield Harriers (GSH) dominated this division, with Cal Coast, Atlanta and GVH finishing 2nd through 4th. A mix of injuries and other priorities kept GSH from entering a complete team this year. As noted above, the Cal Coast 50 and up guys ran to strengthen the 40+ team so Atlanta and GVH had the division to themselves. The quality of the competition made up for the small number. The gun sounded and GVH's Mike Nier showed that he had returned to form after battling a hamstring injury last fall When they passed the 2.2 Km mark at the 'Shell Bridge' in the forested part of the loop, Nier was in first with his teammate, Dale Flanders, and Peter Kotchen of Atlanta running neck and neck 7 seconds back. Six seconds further back Atlanta's Greg Oshust and Gary Droze were running in tandem seven seconds ahead of GVH's 3rd runner, David Bischoff. After Bischoff, it was a river of red as Atlanta's Ben Bailey, Jeff Haushalter, Lester Dragstedt, and John Kissane, flowed past ahead of GVH's 4th and 5th runners, Dennis Kinney and John Van Kerkhove. Those two would have to move up for GVH to have a shot at the victory. Nothing changed over the rest of the first loop.
Mike Nier pouring it on at the end of the first loop, in first place in the Men's 50+ race at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

During the second loop, GVH's Bischoff moved past Atlanta's Oshust but there were no other changes. At that point things were looking good for Atlanta, with just 2 kilometers to go. This was one of those races that did not feature a lot of position changes.
Atlanta's 50+ pack in the trenches, getting the job done: Jeff Haushalter 262, Ben Bailey 114, and Lester Dragstedt--at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

With everyone giving all they had to the effort, holding position was the feature of this race's competition. In the end, Atlanta had a little more than GVH, earning a 3 point victory. Nier and Flanders took 1-2 for GVH and Bischoff held onto 5th all the way to the line. That gave them 8 points from their first three runners to 13 for Atlanta, with Kotchen, Droze and Oshust taking 3rd, 4th and 6th. But Haushalter, Dragstedt, Bailey and Kissane held onto 7th through 10th and that made the difference. The associated Grand Prix points, building on those from Spokane, allow GVH to take the early Club Grand Prix lead over Atlanta, the Greater Springfield Harriers, Bowerman and Club Northwest 145-100-100-90-80.
Atlanta TC 28     GVH 31

Last year Atlanta won with a strong 1-2-7 finish by their aces, Ken Youngers, Mike Anderson, and Phil Richey. Shore AC, Boulder Road Runners, Cal Coast, Ann Arbor TC, and GVH followed in that order. More recently, at Club XC, among the teams entered here, Atlanta took the honors again, followed closely by Boulder, Cal Coast and GVH. Could Atlanta make it a hat trick? Anderson had some hip issues coming in and might not be at his best. The training of Boulder stalwart, Doug Bell, had been going well; we learned just before the Championship that his back had acted up and he could not run. As always, others have to step up and fill the gaps. Ann Arbor did not have a team here, but the other five  lined up with two new challengers, the Kansas City Smoke and the Speedsters Florida. When the gun sounded, the two rivals, Sayre and Youngers went to the front, and were 1-2 when they hit the 'Shell Bridge' near the 2 Km mark. It was almost a half minute before the 60+ chase pack hurtled past. The pack consisted of GVH's Tim Riccardi, Shore's Reno Stirrat, Atlanta's Phil Richey, Boulder's Dan Spale, and, a few strides back, perhaps running a little cautiously at the start,  Richey's teammate, Anderson. Atlanta was the only team with three runners in the Chase Pack or better; things were looking positive. Of course, things could change over the next 5.8 Km. It was ten seconds back to GVH's Kevin Clinefelter, in 8th, closely followed by Cal Coast's Brian Nelson and John Holcomb. Boulder's 3rd runner at this point was Mike Fronsoe in 13th, followed 3 spots back by teammate Chuck Smead. GVH's 3rd runner at this point was Tim McMullen in 20th followed two spots later by his teammate, Mark Rybinski. Stirrat's running mates on Shore, Kevin Dollard and Scott Linnell, were in 12th and 17th. Cal Coast's 3rd runner, Keith Witthauer, still on the comeback trail after a bout with cancer was in 24th place. 'Coach' Bill Sumner stepping down from 70+ for extra insurance, was next. The Smoke did not have a runner in the top bunch but had a reasonably tight pack with Stan McCormack in 11th, Robert Harber in 14th and John Blaser in 15th. The Speedsters had Andreas Boehm, 19th, followed by Jerry Orange 21st and Jeffrey Wingenroth 26th. Had the scores been tallied at that point it would have been Atlanta with a good margin over Boulder and the same for Boulder over the two teams, GVH and Shore, locked in a tight battle for third, only 2 points apart at this point. It was 7 points back to the Smoke and another 3 to Cal Coast. The Speedsters would need to move up to factor into the race for the podium. factor. A key question for Atlanta was whether Anderson could stay with the leaders. His teammate, Kirk Larson was running for insurance but was 10 spots further back.
The 60+ Chase Pack at the end of the first loop--GVH, Shore AC, Boulder Road Runners and Atlanta TC mixing it up [L to R- Tim Riccardi, Reno Stirrat, Dan Spale, and Phil Richey] at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

By the time they went past the Jumbo-tron at the end of the first loop, Anderson had let a small gap develop to the chase pack but it was only a few seconds, most likely nothing for Atlanta to worry about. The biggest change was that Boulder's Smead passed the Smoke's 2nd and 3rd runners to move into 14th. That helped Boulder keep GVH and Shore at bay but wasn't enough to move them any closer to Atlanta; they were still 8 points back. It did make it tougher for KC to catch GVH and Shore. The main update after two loops was that Anderson was holding onto 7th place.Smead had moved up one more place to solidify Boulder's hold on 2nd.
Shore AC's Kevin Dollard 192 Keeps Pace with 60+ Cal Coast runners, John Holcomb 272 and  Brian Nelson 371 [in the midst of 50+ and 40+ athletes] at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

Spale was now running ahead of the rest of the Chase Pack alongside Stirrat. Dollard had also passed Holcomb and Nelson, solidifying Shore's hold on 4th and moving them within a point of GVH. The last short loop did not change things much. Anderson not only held on, he moved up a spot as Atlanta claimed the win and the hat trick! With Spale nailing down 3rd and Smead holding onto 13th they made it to within 4 points of Atlanta but couldn't close them down. GVH and Shore tied 17 points back; the tie-breaker gave GVH the final podium spot. The KC Smoke edged Cal Coast by three points and the Florida Speedsters closed off the scoring. The associated Grand Prix points, building on those from Spokane, allow Atlanta to claim the early lead over Boulder, GVH, Club NW, and Cal Coast 170-150-110-100-100.
Atlanta Track Club 13     Boulder Road Runners 17     GVH 34

70+ Last year GVH won a close contest with the Atlanta Track Club and Cal Coast Track Club, 16-18-20. More recently,  the Ann Arbor Track Club had a decisive win at Spokane, with Atlanta and the Genesee Valley Harriers well back. Two of Ann Arbor's team are focusing on other priorities right now, one on Indoor Track and the other on prominent Road Races, so no complete 70+ team was entered. In their absence, Atlanta's A team would battle with GVH for the win. GVH was without three of their stalwarts, Keith Yeates, Mike Reif, and Tony Gingello. GVH had an 11 point edge over Atlanta in Spokane but those three all made a difference in the final score. To be fair, Atlanta was also missing their #3 from Spokane, Curtis Walker, but Sam Benedict was only a minute and a half back. It would be a tall order for Patrick Dwyer, GVH's #3, to come in ahead of Benedict, who finished 3 minutes earlier than Dwyer in Spokane. A year ago, Atlanta's Dave Glass led the way in the team championship but he has been hampered by injury over the last several months. Jerry Learned has led the way for Atanta since aging up last August. When the gun sounded, Learned moved to the front of the field in the team competition.

GVH's Jim May and Doc Rappole tried to give chase but found themselves 26 and 34 seconds respectively back from Learned at the 2.2 Km mark. Fifteen seconds later, Glass came along for Atlanta, with his teammate, Benedict next, another 50 seconds back. Benedict was almost 40 seconds ahead of GVH's Dwyer. So at this first reading, it was Atlanta 'A' with 10 and GVH with 11. The only runners who were close to another were on the same team, so it would take a major surge or breakdown to change the outcome. But a single point does not require much change. In this case, though, everyone hung tough.
Jerry Learned, leading his Atlanta Track Club 70+ team to victory at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

Learned built his lead up to over a minute and despite their best efforts, May and Rappole could not dent it. Neither Glass nor Benedict faltered for Atlanta either and despite Dwyer's best efforts, he could not close on Benedict.
Doc Rappole 402 led his GVH 70 and up team to a 2nd place finish at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships [just ahead of Bruce Kirschner who ran for Boulder RR in the 60+ division] 

So the Atlanta 'A' team carried the day, with GVH in second place, two points back. Atlanta 'B' took 3rd place. Dave Peterson, who ran for Atlanta 'B' had a terrific race and came in 3rd, and Ed Bligh, Atlanta's #4 runner, was able to come in ahead of Dwyer and push GVH 1 point higher. Atlanta 'C' finished a single point back from the B team, in 4th, behind Mark Flynn's 6th place finish. Frank White and Gerald Miller finished 11th and 13th for the B team, while Morris Williams and Andrew Sherwood finished 10th and 12th for the C team. The associated Grand Prix points, building on those from Spokane, allowed Atlanta A to take the early lead over GVH, Atlanta 'B', Ann Arbor, and Tamalpa 155-150-125-100-90.
Atlanta Track Club 13     Genesee Valley Harriers 15     Atlanta Track Club B 27

40+ Last year, Jennifer Bayliss, Suzanne Cordes, and Nancy Thomas, of the Impala Racing team, had this division to themselves. This year the Atlanta Track Club showed up to challenge for the Championship. Every team is a little different each time it steps to the starting line of a new race. Sometimes the racers are different and sometimes the racers are the same but their fitness level is different. Impala had only one change of personnel. Cordes stayed in California where she is prepping for upcoming bike races. But Alexandra Newman, who raced with them in Atlanta at the 5K Championships last year would be in her stead. Bayliss, who was at the top of her game last year when she claimed the overall Masters win, would be coming in with some questions about her current race fitness based on recent results. Normally Atlanta would be counting on Sonja Friend-Uhl to lead them around the turf at her favorite Cross Country course but her Indoor Track schedule sometimes interferes and this was one of those times. She was flying to Boston instead of Tallahassee. That left the leadership to Jill Braley, who finished 2nd at the 5 Km Masters Cross Country Championships in Buffalo behind Friend-Uhl last fall. Kathy Wiegand and Hiroko Guarnieri would join her in the chase. The gun sounded and Braley joined Bayliss and Thomas in the front, with Wiegand just a couple of strides back, as they raced past the Jumbo-tron 400 meters into the race.
At the front of the Women's 40+ Team race-L to R- Atlanta's Jill Braley and Kathy Wiegand red singlets and the Impala Racing's Nancy Thomas and Jennifer Bayliss blue singlets, along with Laura Bosley and Sarah Barber who were not entered in the team competition at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships [cropped by  author]

Once they entered Field #4 and passed the 1 Km mark, Braley started to push the pace and Bayliss  started to slip back. By the time they passed the 2.2 Km mark near the 'Shell Bridge' Braley had only a second on Thomas but Bayliss was 9 seconds back. Luckily for Impala, the next runner coming along was Alexandra Newman 20 seconds further back. And she had almost 20 seconds on Wiegand, Atlanta's #2 runner, and Guarneri, #3, just a few strides back of Wiegand. So Impala, with 2-3-4 had a 3 point lead on Atlanta with 1-5-6. If Bayliss ran into further trouble or if Wiegand and Guarnieri could work together to overtake Newman, it might be another story. But by the time they finished the first loop, there were no signs of trouble for Impala. Thomas had let a small gap develop between her and Braley but Thomas, Bayliss and Newman were still comfortably in front of Wiegand and Guarnieri.
Nancy Thomas leading her Impala Racing Team to victory in the Women's 40 and up race at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

Everyone was running hard so it was tough to move up. The last loop brought no significant changes as Braley claimed first for Atlanta but Thomas, Bayliss, and Newman cashed in 2nd through 4th to maintain the three point lead. Wiegand and Guarneri finished things off in style and helped Braley celebrate a 2nd place team finish in a National Championship. The associated Grand Prix points, building on those from Spokane, allowed Impala Racing to take the early lead over the Jane's, Atlanta, the San Diego Track Club, and the Boise Betties and Billies 155-100-90-90-80.
Impala Racing Team 9     Atlanta Track Club 12

50+ Last year this was one of the most competitive races on the card. Marisa Sutera Strange led her Athena Track Club teammates, Doreen McCoubrie and Mary Swan to victory by a single point over New Balance Tampa Masters Racing (NBT). The Genesee Valley Harriers (GVH) finished third. Trish Butler, Michelle Allen, and Lynn Cooke came up just short. Butler had a partial knee replacement in August so would not be at her best. At first it looked like NBT had a replacement at the head of their pack, with Jody Hawkins, a former Overall winner of this race when it was in St. Louis. When she had to scratch, that made an upset win much harder. Of course it was not all roses for Athena either. Strange had a couple of hiccups last fall so some were wondering if she would be her usual dominant self or if her fitness was off. And last year they had their long distance ace, Doreen McCoubrie, running who finished within a minute of Strange. Lorraine Jasper interrupted her Indoor Track season to run for them. Jasper is a seasoned Cross Country runner who excels at the sport but there would likely be a little more distance between her and Strange. Their reliable #3 runner, Mary Swan, was back to help to cause. GVH and the Atlanta Track Club would also have a say in the outcome. Even if winning the team race was too much to expect, Carol Bischoff, Gail Geiger, and Colleen Magnussen for GVH and Atlanta's  Kris Huff, Mary Shah, Mireille Silva, and Robin Tanner would leave everything out on the course.
Athena's Marisa Sutera Strange 463 leads out the Women's 50+ Team Competition with New Balance Tampa Masters team members, Lynn Cooke 175 and Michelle Allen 106 in hot pursuit at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships [cropped by  author]

The gun sounded and Strange made it clear that she felt confident as she immediately joined the Overall leaders at the front. Allen and Cooke were only a few strides back as they crossed in front of the Jumbo-tron for the first time. There was a small gap back to Atlanta's Shah, followed closely by  Jasper and then Butler, Swan, Huff and Silva, Bischoff, Magnussen and the others all finding their pace. Strange did not slacken her pace; by the time they had reached the 'Shell Bridge' 2 kilometers into the race, Strange was still in the lead pack. Allen had settled in 25 seconds back with her teammate, Cooke, another 7 seconds back. Ten seconds later, Jasper crossed the mat with Shah on her heels, and a ten second gap back to Swan who had the same lead on Huff, with Butler a stride back, and Silva two seconds behind her. Butler was, no doubt, finding the knee a challenge. Tough runner that she is, no one doubted she would give it all she had. All of those gaps except the ones between Cooke and Jasper, and between Shah and Swan, expanded over the rest of that first loop. Silva passed Tampa's Butler and hoped to close on her Atlanta teammate, Huff, now 8 seconds ahead. After 2 miles of running, Athena had the lead on the course, 11 (1-4-6)  to 13 (2-3-8) and Atlanta at 21 (5-7-9) had a big lead over GVH at 34! As they raced around field #4, Strange started her long kick, pulling away from the rest of the lead pack and her 50+ team rivals as well. Everyone else hung tough.
Lorraine Jasper pushing to try to close the gap up to Lynn Cooke of New Balance Tampa Masters at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

Cooke could not shake Jasper completely but Jasper could not gain on Cooke. Butler, despite her best efforts, could not make up any ground on Swan. With everyone holding onto their position over the second and last loop, the honors went to Athena, with Atlanta claiming the final podium spot and GVH in 4th. The associated Grand Prix points, building on those from Spokane,  allowed Atlanta to take the early lead over GVH, Athena, The Jane's, and New Balance Tampa Masters 130-110-100-100-90.
Athena Track Club 11     New Balance Tampa Masters 13     Atlanta Track Club 21

60+ Last year the Genesee Valley Harriers won a tight contest with the Atlanta Track Club and the Syracuse Chargers. GVH won with 13 points and Syracuse and Atlanta tied with 16, Syracuse awarded 2nd place on the tie-breaker. Two of those three were back in GVH and Atlanta, but they faced a new, formidable opponent, Team Red Lizard out of Oregon, the 2018 Masters Club Grand Prix winners. Sharon Moore would lead GVH again and had her teammate, Nancy Munson back. Darlene Saeva would be replacing Cheryl Guth. The two Cindy's, Williams and Lucking, would be back to lead the Atlanta squad, with Margaret Taylor and Kathleen Allen replacing Elizabeth Unislawski and Terry Ozell. Suzanne Ray, usually the #1 runner for Red Lizard was not in Tallahassee but they had their #2 and #3 runners, Betsy Miller and Jeanette Groesz, along with Joanna Harper and a new recruit, tri-athlete, Sharon Gerl.  When the gun sounded, Atlanta and GVH headed to the front, with Williams of Atlanta and Saeva of GVH leading the way, followed
Cindy Williams [R] leads out the Atlanta Women's 60+ squad with Sharon Moore, a few steps back, doing the same for the Genesee Valley Harriers at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

closely by GVH's Moore and Atlanta's Taylor. GVH's  Munson came next, with Atlanta's Lucking by her side. Then came the Red Lizards in a bunch, Groesz, followed by Harper, Miller and Gerl in tight formation.
Team Red Lizard started out as a tight pack L to R Sharon Gerl 237, Betsy Miller 351, Joanna Harper white cap, and Jeanette Groesz leading, with their rivals, Atlanta's Cindy Lucking to Groesz's left, and GVH's Nancy Munson 367 at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

Atlanta's Allen came next. By the time they reached the 'Shell Bridge', runners had found their early pace and things looked a bit different. Williams was still leading, but now Groesz and Miller, running in tandem, were just 3 seconds back, followed by GVH's Moore 4 seconds further back. Moore was 4 seconds ahead of the 3rd and 4th Red Lizards, Harper and Gerl. It was six seconds back to GVH's Saeva, 4 more seconds to Lucking and another 8 to Taylor, followed by Munson, and Allen. Things seemed to be shaping up well for Red Lizard, but GVH and Atlanta were battling over 2nd and 3rd! At this point it was Red Lizard (2-3-5) 10, GVH (4-5-10) 19, and Atlanta (1-8-9) 18! Between the Shell Bridge and the Jumbotron at the end of the first loop, Miller took the lead, with her teammate Groesz 5 seconds back and Williams, 8 seconds back, trying to maintain contact. GVH's Moore was 7 seconds behind Williams, with fifteen seconds to the Red Lizard team's Harper and Gerl. Lucking had passed Saeva and was now just 6 seconds back from the Red Lizard tandem. Team Red Lizard was now more solidly in first and Atlanta had maintained its lead over GVH. When they hit the '1 kilometer to go' mark, Miller had 1st pretty well locked up but Williams was now within 3 seconds of Groesz; the battle for 2nd and 3rd was on! Moore was 22 seconds back, seemingly secure in 4th. Moore did not realize it, but the Red Lizard's tri-athlete, Gerl had cut her lead from 17 seconds to 10. Would her long acceleration,  carry her up to Moore before the finish?   Gerl no had 17 seconds over Lucking, and Harper, only 4 seconds back from Lucking, was within striking distance. Harper had ten seconds on Saeva, followed by Atlanta's Taylor and GVH's Munson. The Red Lizards were winning by a solid margin and Atlanta maintained a 4 point lead over GVH, 18-22. The final kilometer saw Miller claim first with a solid margin but Williams rallied past Groesz to take 2nd place. Groesz had not been able to old off Williams but had a good 24 seconds on the 4th place finisher, Moore. Moore had finished almost as strong as Gerl, conceding only two seconds in the final kilometer. Gerl finished off the Red Lizard scoring with 5th place for 9 team points total. Lucking held off Saeva by ten seconds and Taylor did the same with respect to Munson. That gave Atlanta 17 points and the second place finish followed by GVH in 3rd. The associated Grand Prix points, building on those from Spokane,  allowed Team Red Lizard to take the early lead over Atlanta, Impala Racing, GVH, and San Diego 200-160-90-80-80.
Team Red Lizard 9     Atlanta Track Club 17     GVH 21

70+ The Atlanta Track Club broke new ground by entering a 70+ women's team. The Three C's,  Carolyn Mather, Catherine Radle, and Carol Rhodes, finished in that order,
Carolyn Mather leads out the Atlanta Track Club's Women 70 and up team at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

enjoyed a solo win and passed the time by seeing how many of their younger rivals they could stay with. A perfect 1-2-3 means 6 points and the victory.
Catherine Radle 400 and Carol Rhodes 406 working together for the Atlanta Track Club's Women 70 and up team at the start of the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships

It also nets them 100 points toward the Club Grand Prix. They won the title last year and it looks like they will be tough to beat again this year.
Atlanta Track Club 6

The team races are the center of attention at Cross Country and the races were worthy of the attention! The next chance for team cross country competition is in San Diego in October for the 5 Km Masters XC, followed by the 2019 edition of Club XC, which is back in Bethlehem, PA, the site of the 2014 Championships. Meanwhile, the roads beckon! First up is the USATF Masters 8K Championships, in their third and final year in Virginia Beach, on March 16th. If you have been aching to run in this Championship over its flat and fast beachfront course, but thought you might wait till next year, do not delay. This is your last chance to run it as a Masters Championship race. See you there!

Photo Credits: Michael Scott

Saturday, February 16, 2019

2019 USATF Masters Cross Country Championships-Age Division Recap

February 16 2019. The 2019 edition of the USATF Cross Country (National) Championships took place on Saturday, February 2nd at Apalachicola Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida. The only minor shortcoming on an otherwise perfect day for cross country was the light rain that fell the night before resulting in a few slightly muddy spots on the course. And those spots caused no trouble for anyone; a few runners switched to spikes from flats but that was about the only impact. With temps in the mid 50's under cloudy skies, the athletes were eager to roll. The Masters Men's race was over 8 Km, with two 3 Km loops, followed by a short lop of 2Km. The gun went off at 9:15 AM and the runners headed off across the top of the large field and down between the stands and the Jumbotron. A few were focused on the race at the front but most were focused on their age division or their team's division. First let us look at the Age Division races. Each of these races within the Race is for a National Championship!

40-44. Last year David Angell, despite running with a banged up knee from a freak non-running injury, took first but was pressed by Sam Teigen who finished only 13 seconds back. Teigen's Garden State teammate, Chuck Schneekloth took 3rd. This year the Garden State crew skipped Tallahassee but there were other contenders. At Club Cross Country in Spokane, Angell was on his game, taking 3rd in a shootout with a tough field. His chief challenger here is Jacques Sallberg who took 5th at Spokane 28 seconds back from Angell. But Sallberg has an amazing record at these Championships. He won three straight, in Boulder CO in 2015, and twice in Bend OR in 2016 and 2017. He skipped the Championships last year. So he is 3 for 3 when he has contested the race. By the time they hit the 'Shell Bridge' back in the woods on the first loop it was clear that Angell and Sallberg were locked in a battle for first, ten seconds in front of the Chase Pack. Try as he might, Paul Jones could not stay with those two. The question was whether he could stay ahead of the Genesee Valley Harriers (GVH) pack. As long as Jones could stay tight in the main chase pack, he would have runners to work with. The GVH crew, John Harter, Christopher Hernandez, and Tim Rieth were working together another ten seconds back from the Chase Pack and Jones. At the end of the first 3 kilometer loop, Angell was still leading with Sallberg right on his shoulder. It was now 20 seconds back to the chase pack, and Jones was solidly in the middle of it. GVH continued working together but now were almost 20 seconds back. Things were looking good for Jones to land on the podium. As noted in the recap of the overall race, Sallberg made his move on the 'Shell Bridge' back in the woods and quickly pulled away from Angell in the final kilometer to finish strong and take his 4th victory in four tries at these Championships.
Jacques Sallberg speeds to the finish line and first place overall and in Men's 40-44 for the 4th time in 5 years at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

Angell took 2nd overall and in this age division. Jones held tight, working with the other runners in the Chase Pack. Between the 6K and 7K mark, Christian Cushing-Murray and Nat Larson took off and left the Chase Pack diminished to 4 but by then Jones and the remainder of the pack had 45 seconds on the closest GVH runner. The GVH pack had finally splintered as well and Hernandez was the closest pursuer, but now working alone. Try as he might, that was too big a gap for Hernandez to close. Jones stayed tough all the way to the finish taking 3rd in 28:08, 57 seconds ahead of Hernandez who took 4th, followed by his teammates, Rieth and Harter in 5th and 6th.
Jacques Sallberg 26:33     David Angell 26:53     Paul Jones 28:08

45-49 Last year Kevin Castille, the overall winner in 24:19, took 1st in the division with the fleet twins, Elliott and Jonathan Frieder, taking 2nd and 3rd ahead of Brent Fields. None of the podium returned this year to defend their medals. But it was still a strong field. John Gardiner who missed last year in Tallahassee, but recently finished in the top 10 overall at Club XC in Spokane, would contest for the overall podium and the Age Division win. In addition, Brian Sydow who finished a couple of minutes back from Gardiner in Spokane, and Fields who was a half minute back from Sydow at Club XC were also entered. Gardiner's Cal Coast teammate, Shanon Winkelman, finished only a half minute back from Fields, and would be eager to move up if possible. Gardiner ran with the overall leaders, Angell and Sallberg for the whole first 3K loop. While he drifted back after that, Gardiner continually built his lead over the Chase Pack and the rest of the field. That was significant because Sydow was one of the mainstays of the Chase Pack though the first two loops. Gardiner built his lead to almost 30 seconds by the Shell Bridge on the second loop and upped it to 37 by the time they passed the Jumbotron and headed out for the final, short loop. Gardiner added 12 seconds to his lead on the last 2 kilometer loop, winning the division in 27:20.
John Gardiner heading into the final Two Kilometer Loop and the Men's 45-49 win at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

As noted earlier, Fields shot off at the start and was with the leaders for the first kilometer. By the time the first loop ended he was in the middle of the Chase Pack along with Sydow. He stayed right there all through the second loop and as far as the Shell bridge on the final loop. Once they hit 'The Wall', Sydow proved to have more in the tank as he was able to open up enough of a lead to hold it all the way to the tape, capturing second with a seven second edge over Fields. Winkelman, despite all his efforts, could not manage to stay with the Chase Pack. He was able to stay ahead of the rest of the field, claiming 4th in 29:24.
John Gardiner 27:20     Brian Sydow 28:09     Brent Fields 28:16

50-54 Kent Lemme ran a tremendous race last year, out-kicking his teammate, Nat Larson, to take 2nd overall and win this division in 27:36. I bumped into Lemme while he was stretching about an hour before the race. He indicated that he has not been as motivated this year and was currently in Marathon training to run with his daughter at Boston with a three hour goal in mind. That was in evidence in Spokane where he finished 11th compared to his 3rd place finish in Lexington KY a year earlier. Christian Cushing-Murray had finished 5th in Lexington, 2nd here to him last year and took 5th in Spokane, a minute ahead of Lemme. The other potential threat was Dean Thompson who was almost 3 minutes back from Lemme in Lexington, but only a half minute back this year in Spokane. Could he close the gap farther? Rob Arsenault, Matthew Farley, and Mike Nier were three others who were returning to the fray after varying stints with injury and rehab. Both Arsenault and Nier had bested Thompson by about a minute in Lexington, with Arsenault taking the honors by 13 seconds over Nier that day. Farley had taken 6th in 45-49 at these Championships in Bend in 2017 but by the end of the year in Lexington, was just running for team points as he finished well back in 50-54. Arsenault had not raced nationally since Lexington. Nier was hampered by a hamstring injury in the fall but by Spokane appeared largely over it, finishing less than a minute back from Lemme. Farley was still not clear, however, as he was another couple of minutes back from Nier. When the gun went off, Cushing-Murray surged to the front, with Lemme a few strides back. Arsenault, Farley, Nier and Thompson were all taking more measured approaches to the first kilometer. By the time they reached the Shell Bridge around 2 kilometers in, Cushing-Murray was leading with Lemme on his shoulder and Thompson a few seconds back. Farley, Nier and Arsenault were another 20 seconds back. When they came by the Jumbotron the first time, Cushing-Murray and Lemme were still in the Chase Park although it was Cushing-Murray pushing the pace at the front. Thompson was 10 seconds back. Nier was leading a chase group 20 seconds further back that included both Farley and Arsenault. Over the next two kilometers Lemme lost contact with Cushing-Murray but continued to grow the gap back to Thompson, now over 20 seconds. Nier's chase group was still within 20 seconds of Thompson. Would that gap start to close? The only change from there to the end of the second loop was that Farley had dropped almost ten seconds back from Nier, who was now within 18 seconds of Thompson. Arsenault was now another ten seconds back as he has still not recovered his former fitness. Cushing-Murray now had a solid half minute on Lemme who, in turn had almost a minute on Thompson. The only change in the next kilometer was that Farley was clawing back Nier, closing to within 4 seconds. Then it was up 'The Wall' and over the top with Cushing-Murray the winner in 27:57.
Christian 'Cush' Cushing-Murray leading Nat Larson into the final loop. No one from his division is in sight and he went on to win the Men's 50-54 title at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL 

Lemme sped across the line 43 seconds later. Thompson stayed strong all the way to the finish, claiming the final podium spot with a 17 second margin over Farley who had pulled away from Nier in the final kilometer for a 7 second edge. Arsenault followed them home 20 seconds later. Even though the podium escaped them, it was a very nice outing for those three. And 'Cush' had his first Age Division win since he took the 2012 Overall Crown in St. Louis!
Christian Cushing-Murray 27:57      Kent Lemme 28:40      Dean Thompson 29:05

55-59 Last year Nat Larson took 3rd Overall and won the division by over 2 and a half minutes. The 2nd and 3rd place finishers from last year did not make the trip this year. No one expected a challenge to Larson's dominance but a number of strong runners were entered. Mike Blackmore finished 7th in the division in Spokane, 2 and a half minutes back from Larson in the 10K XC race. That suggests he may well be the closest runner to Larson. A 2.5 minute loss in a 10K is closer (relatively speaking) than a 2.5 minute loss over 8K. Gary Droze, one of the mainstays of the Atlanta Track Club finished 3rd in the 5K Masters Championship this year, clocking 18:16. Although it is hard to compare the two very different races, Mark Tatum earned a mention as a contender from his Half Marathon Ascent up Pike's Peak in 1:22:16. The gun went off and Larson moved smoothly toward the front, knowing he wanted to be close to the leaders. By the 2.2 Km mark in the woods, he was firmly embedded in the main Chase Pack ten seconds behind the overall leaders. Blackmore was within a stride of Larson but Tatum was already 20 seconds back with Droze another 15 seconds further back. When they passed the Jumbotron at the end of the first loop it showed Larson comfortably in the Chase Pack with Blackmore the last runner still attached.
Nat Larson #321 cruising in the main chase pack behind the leaders. Larson kept cruising all the way to the finish and the  Men's 55-59 National Championship at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

Tatum was over a half minute behind Blackmore and Droze was 20 seconds further back. The final order seemed pretty clear unless it would have turned out that Blackmore had extended too much energy trying to stay with Larson. But that was not the case. Blackmore did fall back to the 2nd Chase Pack eventually but maintained a solid lead over Tatum who, in turn held a solid lead over Droze. In the end, Larson had his repeat division victory in 27:50, with Blackmore only 22 seconds back in 2nd. Tatum took 3rd a minute and a half back but managed to keep his margin over Droze above 45 seconds.
Nat Larson 27:50     Mike Blackmore 28:12     Mark Tatum 29:50

60-64 This division had more entries than any other and was one of the most competitive. Last year Rick Becker used this event as a stepping stone on his way to the title of Men's 2018 USATF  Harrier of the Year. He led Atlanta teammates, Ken Youngers and Mike Anderson on a merry chase around the park, winning in the end by over a minute. Youngers had a similar edge over Anderson but Brian Nelson was only 9 seconds out of third, with a similar margin over 5th place finisher, Reno Stirrat. Becker was not back but the other four were. Youngers expected to compete for a podium finish and Stirrat would try his best to make it, as that would help his team. Anderson and Nelson knew they were not at the top of their game, but would run their darnedest for their teams. But there were plenty of new contenders. Joe Sheeran and Roger Sayre went 1-2 in Spokane, finishing just ahead of Rick Becker. Youngers could not stay within a minute of that pair but had 33 seconds on Dan Spale and 37 seconds on Norm Larson. Youngers would try to repeat that performance in Tallahassee, while the other two hoped to edge closer and perhaps edge Youngers at the finish. The gun sounded and Sheeran, Sayre and Youngers moved to the front of the 60's field. By the time they reached the Shell Bridge in the forest, those three were the lead 60-64 pack with Larson 20 seconds off the pace in a group of 50's runners, and Stirrat and Spale running in the same group another 19 seconds back. By the time they came past the Jumbotron at the end of the first loop, the lead pack was starting to slip apart. Sheeran had a few strides on Sayre and Sayre had  a few more on Youngers. Larson had narrowed the gap to Youngers to 14 seconds and Spale and Stirrat were now a half minute behind Larson.
Running for the Team! Lead Chase Pack in Men's 60-64  behind the 4 leaders, giving it everything they've got--L to R Timothy Riccardi, Reno Stirrat, Dan Spale, and Phil Richey

All of those trends continued over the next 4 km as all distances grew except the distance between Youngers and Larson. With 1 Km to go, Larson had cut the gap to 9 seconds. Larson continued to gain, but Youngers held strong all the way to the tape to preserve his podium finish and to ensure his team the best chance of a win. In the end Larson was within 5 seconds, but had to settle for 4th-a great run and a super closing kick! Sheeran got another victory to go with his Spokane win
Joe Sheeran #436 pushing the pace as Roger Sayre orange singlet tries to find a faster gear to close on his division rival at the end of Loop1. Sheeran held the lead all the way to the finishing tape to claim the Men's 60-64 Championship at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

and Sayre had another fine run, taking 2nd a half minute behind Sheeran and with a half minute margin on Youngers. Michael Fussell ran strong all the way to take 5th ahead of Spale and Stirrat.
Joe Sheeran 29:18     Roger Sayre 29:47     Ken Youngers 30:15

65-69 Last year Doug Bell led this division around the park taking the win by 45 seconds. His Boulder teammate, Chuck Smead, edged Kirk Larson by a mere 4 seconds for 2nd place. Rick Katz and Lloyd Hansen, who finished 4th and 5th have aged up to the 70-74 division. Bell had prepped well to try for a repeat win, but his back acted up a few days before the race. That left Smead and Larson to slug it out against a new cast of contenders including Ignacio 'Nash' Jimenez and Jerry Orange. Jimenez won the division when this race was in Bend OR in 2017. Orange had some strong 60-64 finishes in 2013 and 2014 in the 15K and 5 Km XC Masters National Championships and had just won the 65-69 division at the Naples Half Marathon in 1:38:00. Jimenez and Smead went to the front of the group at the start; Larson always starts slowly and tries to work his way up. At the Shell Bridge, 2 kilometers into the race, they had 8 seconds on Larson; Orange was 9 seconds back. Unlike last year, Larson was never able to close on Smead, but he was able to keep Orange well back in 4th the whole way.
Ignacio 'Nash' Jimenez #288 leading Chuck Smead #445 at the end of Loop1. By the end of Loop 2, the positions were reversed and Smead took the Men's 66-69 title at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

By the 5K mark, Smead was dictating the pace but Jimenez was right with him. By the time they went past the Jumbotron at the 6K mark, Smead, for the first time, had a few steps on Jimenez. He worked to increase that throughout the last loop and grinded out a ten-second victory. Jimenez had 4 seconds on Larson who had over a minute on Orange. Smead and Jimenez had a great battle; they have met before and will meet again!
Chuck Smead 33:50      Ignacio Jimenez 34:00     Kirk Larson 34:24

70-74 Rick Katz came in 19 seconds ahead of Lloyd Hansen last year when they were both in 65-69. Katz has also taken the honors between them at the 5 Km Masters XC Championship in Buffalo and at Club XC in Spokane. But the margin in Buffalo was 29 seconds and the margin in Spokane was only 5 seconds. It looked like the perfect set up for an epic battle. Unfortunately we learned that morning that Katz ran into a lower back problem as he was finishing his prep for the race and had to withdraw. There were still plenty of contenders, but Hansen became the strong favorite for the win. 
Dave Glass won here last year but was injured late last year. He has recovered somewhat but it is notoriously difficult to get good workouts in over the winter in upstate NY. Neither John Combs nor Tony Gingello who finished 2nd and 3rd last year entered this year. Jerry Learned and Dave Glass are always in contention if healthy. Glass had been battling back from injury late last year and  Doc Rappole won the 60-64 division when this race was in Boulder in 2015. Since then he has had injuries that have slowed him but he is making his way back; he aged up to 70-74 this year. Gene French, who finished 4th last year has been a little further back this year. He finished three minutes back from Hansen in Spokane. Jim May, who is always dangerous, finished almost a minute ahead of French in Spokane. Hansen went right to the front of the division when the gun sounded. By the time they reached the Shell Bridge 2 kilometers into the race, he had19 seconds on Learned who had almost half a minute on May and Rappole, GVH teammates. They were followed by French, Bill Sumner, and Dave Peterson who took a more measured approach to the start. Everything stayed the same up front as Hansen built his lead steadily through the race, winning with over 2 minutes to spare.
Lloyd Hansen all alone at the head of the Men's 70-74 field on his way to the Division National Championship at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

Similarly Learned added to his lead on the field, taking 2nd with over a minute to spare. In the middle of the race, May pulled a few strides ahead of Rappole and kept that edge for much of the race, although he never dropped him. During the latter stages of the 2nd loop, Peterson pulled up tight behind Rapple and hung on. Rappole had a little more left and was able to pull away over the last kilometer to take 3rd place by 5 seconds. Peterson kicked to a photo finish with May. They had the same time but Peterson was awarded 4th place.
Lloyd Hansen 35:05     Jerry Learned 37:28     Doc Rappole 38:42

75-79 Last year Robert Hendrick took the honors but he has decided to say farewell to the Masters Grand Prix racing circuit and focus more on road racing closer to home. Charlie Patterson and David Turner, who took 2nd and 3rd last year skipped the Championships this year. But Ed Bligh and Gerald Miller who took 4th and 5th were entered and moved up to take 1st and 3rd,
Ed Bligh speeds to victory in the Men's 75-79 Division at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

separated by their teammate, Andrew Sherwood, who finished in 2nd place.
Ed Bligh 45:36     Andrew Sherwood 51:59     Gerald Miller 55:43

The Women raced over 6 Km consisting of two 3K loops of the course. Their race started at 10:15AM with essentially the same conditions of weather and footing.

40-44 Last year three competitors, Maggie Shearer, Kimberly Mueller, and Carla McAllister came out from California and took the top 3 spots in this division. They did not make the trip this year but the competition was just as strong. Sarah Barber, Laura Bosley, and Jill Braley had the credentials to contend for the overall win as well as the division. Barber finished 19th in Spokane which doesn't sound that impressive, but the field at Club XC is very deep. No one who finished ahead of her was entered here. Bosley had been a 3-time All American at UW-Parkside and had recent impressive 8K and 10K runs in Wisconsin. Braley finished 2nd to Sonja Friend-Uhl at the Masters 5 Km XC Championships last September in Buffalo NY. The three of them ran the first loop as if they were glued together, along with Marisa Sutera Strange.
Jill Braley #145 pushing the pace with Marisa Sutera Strange green singlet with Laura Bosley #141 and Sarah Barber #117 maintaining contact at the end of the first of two loops. Braley went on to win the Women's 40-44 division at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

But on the second loop as they headed into field #4, Strange began pushing the pace and opened up a small gap of a few strides on Braley, with Bosley and Barber another stride or two back. Braley committed to sticking with Strange, while Barber and Bosley allowed those two to slip away. By the 4K mark, Braley was almost ten meters ahead of her division rivals. As they entered the wooded portion of the loop for the last time, Braley maintained her lead and, for the first time, Barber started to fall back from Bosley. Those gaps grew larger over the final 1.5 kilometers, with Braley taking the 40-44 division crown  in 23:41, with 14 seconds over Bosley in 2nd and a 30 second margin over Barber who took 3rd. Kathy Wiegand finished 4th.
Jill Braley 23:41     Laura Bosley 23:55     Sarah Barber 24:11

45-49 Jennifer Bayliss, the defending Overall Champion would, ordinarily, be the heavy favorite for the division. But Bayliss had some uncharacteristically slow 5K to 15K races between November and early January that suggested either injury or some training interruption. Her teammate, Nancy Thomas, who finished 4th in the division here last year and 2nd at Club Cross Country in Spokane, would, no doubt, step to the front if Bayliss faltered. Alexandra Newman, the 3rd Impala teammate,  and Dana Parrrot would battle for the final podium spot. Newman finished 4th in the division at the USATF Masters 5 Km XC Championship in Buffalo. Parrot finished 3rd in the Masters 10K Championship in Dedham in 2017 and was 2nd to Kaela O'Neil at the USATF-New England Cross Country Championship this year. Thomas and Bayliss both went out with the leaders but by the time they hit the shell bridge in the forested section, Bayliss started to fall back. With a kilometer to go in the first loop, Thomas had 8 seconds on Bayliss; Newman was twenty seconds behind Bayliss, with Parrot another half minute back. By the time they sped past the Jumbotron at the end of the first loop it was clear that Bayliss's fitness was off as she now lagged well over a half minute back from Thomas and Newman had pulled to within 14 seconds. Parrot was still a half minute back. Thomas kept pulling away and Newman kept closing. With 1 kilometer to go, Thomas had a minute's cushion but Newman had pulled even with Bayliss. Thomas came across in first, clocking 24:40.
Nancy Thomas adds to her lead int he Women's 45-49 Division at the end of the first of two loops on her way to the division win at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

Bayliss had enough left in the tank to kick away from Newman over the final 500 meters, to take 2nd with a 6 second cushion Parrot took 4th.
Nancy Thomas 24:40     Jennifer Bayliss 25:56     Alexandra Newman 26:02

50-54 Last year Marisa Sutera Strange, Michelle Allen, and Carol Bischoff went 1-2-3. Both Strange and Allen aged u to 55-59 this year and Bischoff is in her last year in the division. New blodd is needed. Originally it looked like Jody Hawkins, who finished 2nd overall in these Championships in 2012 and first in 2013, woud be running but she was a late scratch. But Dolyne Divino. Amy Fakterowitz, and Mary Shah cooperated. Fakterowitz was the new favorite. She took 2nd in the division at the Masters 5 Km XC Championship in Buffalo and at the Masters 1 Mile Road Championship in Flint; she has run 5K's in the low 20's. Shah finished 14th at Club XC in Spokane, 8 seconds ahead of her teammate, Kris Huff, so she has some 'turf-cred'. Divino ran a 22:38 5K and a 49:20 at the Cooper River Bridge 10K. It became clear pretty clear after the gun went off and the runners headed out to field #4 that all three runners were running well but in different groups. By the time they were at the Shell Bridge in the forested region of the first loop, Fakterowitz had half a minute on Shah and Shah had 25 seconds on Divino. Those gaps just grew over the course of the race. In the end, Fakterowitz took the victory in 25:24 with Shah  minute and change back in second.
Amy Fakterowitz speeding to victory at the end of Loop 1, earning a Women's 50-54 National Championship at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

Almost two minutes after Shah, Divino came across in 3rd. Bischoff finished 4th.
Amy Fakterowitz 25:24     Mary Shah 26:41     Dolyne Divino 28:38

55-59 Last year Trish Butler, Doreen McCoubrie, and Lynn Cooke finished 1-2-3. But Butler had a partial knee replacement in August and would not be ready to compete for the podium; she was running for her team. McCoubrie was not entered and Cooke aged up to 60-64. The favorites were Strange and Allen who moved up from 50-54. They would battle Mary Swan who finished 5th last year and Kris Huff who also aged up after posting a third in the 50-54 5K Masters Championship in Atlanta and was just 20 seconds back from Swan in Spokane at Club XC this year. They would also need to reckon with Lorraine Jasper, coming off a strong track season, she had finished 2nd at the Masters 5Km XC Championship in Buffalo and took 3rd at Club XC in Lexington in 2017. Although Allen is a very strong runner, especially on the track, no one was going to stay with Strange on this day on the turf; she was 'unstoppable'  and, as noted earlier, took 1st overall. By the time they reached the 2.2 Km mark in the woods, Strange had 25 seconds on Allen, who had 18 seconds on Jasper and  a half minute on Swan. Huff was another 9 seconds back. At the end of the first loop, Strange was away, almost 45 seconds ahead of Allen. Only a top 55-59 runner would be able to stay within a minute of Strange on that first loop. Allen had 25 seconds on Jasper, with Swan another 20 seconds back. Huff was now 13 seconds behind Swan. Would Huff slip back further, or rally and try to catch Swan? Strange turned on the burners when she hit the 4K mark and by the '1 kilometer to go' mark had well over a minute on Allen, who still had a comfortable 45 seconds on Jasper. Jasper, in turn, had a half minute on Swan and Huff, who were now separated by only 8 seconds. Strange pulled away to win in 23:31.
Marisa Sutera Strange powers to victory in the Women's 55-59 Division, as well as winning the Women's Race Outright, at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

Allen and Jasper finished in 2nd and 3rd, happy they had run well for their teams. Winding up on the podium was a nice bonus. Swan had to battle Huff over the final kilometer and in the end had enough to hold her off, taking 4th by 1 second! Both were spent, but exhilarated.

60-64 The defending Champ, Cathy Utzschneider, did not enter this year but the second and third place winners in 2018 were back. Cindy Williams and Sharon Moore. finished within 19 seconds of each other. Although Utzschneider  was absent this year, Susan 'Lynn' Cooke moved up from 55-59 and looked likely to dominate. Her time last year was nearly two minutes faster than Utzschneider's and she was coming to the race fit after a year focusing primarily on the track. Betsy Miller, who took a division 3rd place at the 8K Masters Championship in Virginia Beach, and finished 7th in Spokane, a minute ahead of Williams seemed likely to fit in the space between Cooke and those four. But you never know until the race is run! Cooke left no doubt about her intent. When the gun went off she ran with her teammate, Michelle Allen, close to the front of the overall field. By the time they hit the 2.2 kilometer mark back in the forested section of the first loop, Cooke had a minute on the division field. Williams was 4 seconds ahead of Miller, and Moore 4 seconds behind. By the time they sped past the Jumbotron at the end of the first loop, Cooke had a lead of over a minute and a half. Miller had passed Williams and now had a 13 second advantage. Moore was hanging on tenaciously, 8 seconds back from Williams in 4th. They headed out around field #4, into the woods and with a kilometer to go, Cooke had over 2 minutes on the field, and Miller had a comfortable 27 second lead on the other two. Williams now had 21 seconds on Moore and it would take a terrific kick by Moore to land on the podium, but she never gives up. Cooke never let up and, in the end, took the victory in 25:55
Lynn Cooke Goes out fast to take a commanding lead on her way to a National Championship in the Women's 60-64 Division at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

with Miller three minutes back in second. Williams claimed third with a 27 second margin over Moore.
Susan 'Lynn' Cooke 25:55     Betsy Miller 28:58     Cynthia Williams 29:29

65-69 Sabra Harvey, who took the Age-Grading crown as usual in 2018, had this division to herself. She was back to defend but at least had some rivals. Harvey, the 2018 USATF Harrier of the Year was still a healthy favorite. Jeanette Groesz, who won the division at Club XC in Spokane, finished 3rd in the 8K in Virginia Beach, and 2nd in the 10K and the Half Marathon, would likely have what it takes for the second place. Cynthia Lucking and Nancy Munson, who finished 18 seconds apart last year, taking 8th and 9th in the 60-64 division, would likely battle for the remaining podium spot. Groesz finished almost two minutes ahead of Lucking in the 10K Masters Championship last April. Harvey was not worried about competitors; she was simply focused on her race. When they got to the 2.2 Km mark, she was running in a  small group of 50+ runners a minute ahead of Groesz. She was 25 seconds ahead of Lucking who was already 26 seconds ahead of Munson. Perhaps their race within the race would not be so tight today. Harvey and Groesz kept their paces going. Harvey ended the first loop in 13:58.5 with Groesz speeding by a minute and change later. Lucking came through a tick after 16 minutes with Munson over a half minute back. The second loop was similar to the first except that Munson closed just a bit on Lucking. Harvey took  the win in 26:27;
2018 USATF Harrier of the Year, Sabra Harvey, wastes no time in establishing a large lead on her way to the Age-Grading Crown Overall and the Women's 65-69 Division Title at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

Groesz took 2nd to the only woman her age in the US who could beat her. Harvey will be in a new age division this spring while Groesz will join her in the fall. Lucking finished a minute back from Groesz in 3rd with Munson 33 seconds back in 4th.
Sabra Harvey 26:27     Jeanette Groesz 29:32     Cynthia Lucking 30:34

70-74 Last year Terry Foody won this division unopposed; this year she had two rivals. Like other tri-athletes who have tried the Cross Country turf, Sharon Gerl looked formidable. An Age Division National Champion in both  the Sprint and Standard duathlon (run, bike, run), Gerl had also run a few 5K's in the low 23's. Carolyn Mather, who won the division in Spokane's Club XC race, would also be competitive. For the first part of the race, Gerl ran with younger teammate, Joanna Harper, and at the 2.2 kilometer mark already had a 3 minute advantage over Mather, who had a half minute on Foody. From that point the margins kept expanding. In the end, Gerl won in 30:04.
Sharon Gerl running confidently at the end of the first of two loops; She moved up through the field on the second loop, while claiming victory in the Women's 70-74 division at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

Nine minutes later Mather took 2nd with a comfortable two minute margin over Foody. Carol Rhodes finished 4th.
Sharon Gerl 30:04     Carolyn Mather 39:5     Terry Foody 41:07

75-79 Madeline Bost, the winner of the Masters Grand Prix for this division ever since she joined it in 2014, will move to a new division later this year. She is also the defending Champion in this event. But this year Catherine Radle, who won three events last year on her way to 2nd place in the Grand Prix contest, would enter as the favorite. The two met at the 5 Km Masters XC Championships in Buffalo NY last September and Radle took the honors that day. When the gun went off it soon became clear that, barring unexpected developments during the race, Radle would win the day again. By the time they crossed the 2 kilometer mark back in the forested section, Radle had about a minute and a half on Bost. From there the margin grew steadily. Radle took the win in 42:18
Catherine Radle 400 leads her teammate, Carol Rhodes out onto the first of two loops; Radle won the Women's 75-79 Division at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

 and enjoyed 100 points in the race for the MGP title. Bost took 2nd and the 95 Grand Prix points that went with it.
Catherine Radle 42:18     Madeline Bost 49:32

No one knew for sure at the time but after the race, note that this early picture a few minute into the race shows 5 division National Champions in the making, from right to left, Nancy Thomas 2nd blue singlet from right, Jill Braley red singlet, Marisa Sutera Strange green singlet, Susan 'Lynn' Cooke lefthand of 2 runners with black running top, Sabra Harvey red singlet farthest left with green shoes. This is the lead group; the rest of the field is out of picture to the left at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL
A fantastic set of Championship races. That finishes Cross Country National Championships for now; the next one is San Diego in October. In the meantime the roads are heating up. The Masters 8KChampionships are March 16th in Virginia Beach, Virginia and will be followed by the Masters 10K Championships in Dedham, Massachusetts, outside Boston, at the end of April.

[Photo Credits: Michael Scott. Photo of Lynn Cooke in Women's 60-64 section cropped by author.]