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.]

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