Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Overall Preview, Age Grading, and Records Watch-2019 USATF Masters 8K Championship

March 12 2019. The first USATF Masters Road Race Championship of the year will take place Saturday, March 16 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This is the third year the Championship will be hosted by J&A Racing and their signature event, the Shamrock Marathon Weekend. One of the events on St. Patrick's Day weekend is the Towne Bank 8K which also serves as the National Masters Championship. The Virginia Beach course is known to be flat and fast. The weather in mid-March is unpredictable; we have not yet had the perfect weather we hope for but each year has been good for running. The first year,2017, it was cloudy with the threat of rain and strong winds at 13 mph from the SW; the Awards Ceremony was scheduled for outside and that was a bit raw and rainy. Last year was better for running with fair skies, 48 degrees, and winds 6-8 mph from the SSE. That's what the official record says but it felt colder than that and people were dressed for colder temps. The forecast this year is almost identical except that the 8 mph winds are forecast to be from the NW. After making the turn at 2 miles, the runners may face a bit of a headwind up the 'Boardwalk' and then over onto Atlantic, but the wind will fill our sails as we try to crush the last 700 meters to the finish.

Online registration does not close until Wednesday midnight so there could yet be runners register who will be at the top of the leaderboard. The previews below are based on registrants as of Tuesday, March 12th at 6:00 PM.

Women The biggest name on the entry list, and the favorite, is Roberta Groner, who finished 12th overall and 6th American woman in the 2018 TCS NYC Marathon in 2:31:01. Entered in the Boston Marathon, Virginia Beach is apparently one f her tune-up races. At Gasparilla this past February she was the third finisher overall in the women's Half Marathon in 1:14:51, a 5:43 pace per mile. Project that over an 8K and you get 28:22; presumably she can sustain a quicker pace. The only quicker time in the last 5 years was from 2014 when Magdalena Lewy Boulet won in 28:16, but the other winning times were all over 29 minutes. No wonder Groner is heavily favored to win. 
Roberta Groner approaching the Finish Line at the 2017 Boston Marathon Photo Credit: Laura DeLea via nj.com

The Defending Champion is Marisa Sutera Strange who won last year in 30:40, pulling away over the final Mile to win by 40 seconds. With a recent overall win at the Masters Women's race at the USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, Strange appears to be prepped for a good run. There will be plenty of competition for the remaining podium positions. 
Marisa Sutera Strange winning the 2018 Overall Women's Masters Cross Country Championship in Tallahassee Florida Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Jill Braley finished 2nd to Strange in Tallahassee, 10 seconds back over 6K. At the 5K Cross Country Championship in Buffalo earlier in the fall, Braley took 2nd overall behind Sonja Friend-Uhl. Her recent road efforts have largely been over the 5K distance with her times typically in the 19:30-19:45 range. Her fastest 5K, 18:59, is age-grade equivalent to a 30:59.  Jennifer Malavolta ran several 5Ks last year n the 18:45-19:15 range. She took 3rd overall at the 15K National Championship in 59:59. The Tulsa course she clocked that on is a tough, hilly course. That time is age-grade equivalent to a 31:07 8K, but her best 5K times suggest a more competitive time around 30:40. Others who may factor into the podium race depending on the vagaries of chance and the ever-illusive chase for top fitness on race day, include Brooke Bray who runs her 5K's in the low 19 minute range, and an a 1:02:43 in the 15K Championship; and Michelle Brangan who finished 5th here last year in 32:30, but ran 31:39 at the Rothman 8K in Philly in November and ran a 31:31 5 Miler this February.
Roberta Groner     Marisa Sutera Strange     Jennifer Malavolta

Men The dominant name on the Men's side is David Angell who goes for the three-peat. He ran a 25:24 in 2017, winning with almost a half minute to spare. He followed that with a hard-fought win last year in 25:39, defeating Giovanni Pipia by 7 seconds. In the interim he won the Masters Individual Grand Prix for the 2nd time in 2018, anchoring that with overall wins at the 10K Masters Championship in Dedham Massachusetts and at the 5K Masters Championship in Atlanta.
David Angel winning the 2018 USATF Masters 5 Km Championship in Atlanta Photo Credit: Jason Getz/getzimages.com

Garden State teammates, Sam Teigen and Jonathan Frieder, who finished 4th and 5th last year in 26:05 and 26:09 will attempt to chase down Angell again. In three Indiana races last year, Mike Cole had some impressive results that suggest he will be in the chase. He ran a 1:12:40 in the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, a 15:57 in a local 5K in early October, in the middle of Marathon training, and a 2:38:41 in the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. The 5K is age-grade equivalent to a 25:47 8K. It is worth noting that Teigen ran a 1:12;51 in the Brooklyn Half Marathon. And Frieder's 53:58 in the Blue Cross Broad Street 10 Miler suggest he can run with those two. If Angel is on his game, it is hard to see any of these contenders beating him. His recent efforts include podium finishes at Masters National Championships in Cross Country and Indoor Track [9:10:48 for 3000 meters], not to mention a 25:00 effort to win the 8K at the Richmond Marathon in November. After the race, he is headed to Torun, Poland for the WMA Indoor Championships where he has qualified for two  non-stadia races, a XC race and the 10K road race.
Sam Teigen finishing off his Bronze Medal Effort, Overall, at the 2018 USATF Masters 10K Championships in Dedham MA Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Cole, Frieder and Teigen could have a heck of a battle for the two remaining podium spots!
David Angell     Mike Cole     Sam Teigen

Women At the age of 56, Marisa Sutera Strange is a favorite to land on the overall podium. She is expected to crack 90% in age-grading as she did last year at 92.57%. The only one who could beat her last year was 81-year old, Libby James, who ran almost ten minutes below the posted American record to earn a 99.04%. James is staying home in Colorado this year. But Roberta Groner can certainly challenge for the win. Her 16:35 5K last year at age 40 grades at 91.46% and her 1:14:51 HM at Gasparilla this February at the age of 41 grades at 90.71%. Jeanette Groesz, 68, who ran 37:13 here last year earned a 91.82% last year for 4th place; she also took 4th at the 10K in Dedham with a 90.55% off of a 48:08. She made the podium at one of the most competitive events, the Club Cross Country Championships in Spokane, WA, finishing 3rd.
Jeanette Groesz red singlet racing toward a podium finish in the Women's Masters Age-Grading competition at the 2018 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photo Credit: Michael Scott

If any of those falter, Patrice Combs or Suzanne Cordes, who typically score in the upper 80's to low 90's, could factor into the age-grading podium race. Combs took 2nd at the Half Marathon Championship in Ann Arbor and Cordes finished just ahead of Combs in the age-grading contest in Atlanta over 5K.
Marisa Sutera Strange     Jeanette Groesz     Roberta Groner

Men The only one of the top 4 from last year not returning to contest the Age-Grading Championship is Joe Sheeran who picked up a first in Men's 60 and up at the Club Cross Country Championships and a 3rd place Masters age-grading at the USATF Cross Country Championships. Those who are returning will be tough to displace. Nat Larson is the defending Champion with a 92.90% at age 55 off a 6:51. Roger Sayre, 60, clocked a 28:12 for a 92.45%, and Brian Pilcher, 61, ran 28:40 for 91.74%. In 2018 Larson won the 5K, 10K, and 15K age grading contests on the roads, as well as at the Club Cross Country Championships for Men 40+ and at the 2019 USATF Masters Cross Championships in Tallahassee. Sayre, in addition to his podium finish at the 8K, finished 4th at the Half Marathon in Ann Arbor with a 90.18 on a 1:19:07, and in Atlanta with a 1.33% on a 17:29, and in Tulsa with an 89.53% on a 55:59.
Roger Sayre flies to the finish of the 2018 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta GA.,  winning the 60-64 division in 17:29 for a 91.33% Age Grade Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Pilcher, the 2013 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year, is always a threat. Last year the 8K was his first race back after a hamstring injury kept him off the roads for a few months. The October before he cracked the 60+ American Records for the 5K one weekend and the next ran the Chicago Marathon and came in under the Half Marathon, 25K, 30K records and tied the Marathon 60-64 American Record! Again this year he is coming back from a layoff but this one was longer. Pilcher, in the past, has been willing to come to National Championships once he feels he can run competitively; it typically takes him a couple of races before he is ready for record efforts. He ran the Napa Valley Half Marathon on March 3rd in 1:19:04 which is, at age 62, an age grade of 91.97%.
Brian Pilcher on his way to setting an American 5 Km Record for Men 60-64 at the 2016 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Syracuse NY Photo Credit: Gavin Liddell

That sounds pretty fast until you recall that he ran 1:16:54 on his record-breaking Marathon race in Chicago. ]Learned, just after this went to press, that Pilcher will be a Withdraw due to Injury (WDI). And now I have learned that Tom MCormack is likely to also be a WDI due to back problems.] Who else is in the game? Tom Bernhard, Tom McCormack and Doug Goodhue. Bernhard, with a 38:14 at the 10K Masters Championship in Dedham last spring, carded a 90.80% for 4th place. After missing some training in the summer to an injury, Bernhard, 66, came back to register a 7th place finish at Tulsa with a 1:01:15 for an 87.57%. His fitness has probably improved but I cannot find any results since Tulsa. McCormack took 2nd to Larson in the 5K with a 92.33% off of  a 17:29 at age 64. Like Pilcher, McCormack has a history of record-breaking performances, interrupted by injury. He held the 5K 60-64 American record until Pilcher captured it. McCormack, 65 now, has felt good enough recently to run a 19:04 5K where he finished 3rd overall and an 18:21 5K where he finished 6th overall. The 18:21 age graded just over 90%.
Tom McCormack on his way to a 17:53 and a 92.33% Age Grade score at the 2018 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Goodhue, a ten-time Age Division Runner of the Year, has been gradually upping his age-grading percentage since putting his leg injury behind him and  getting in several months of solid training. He took a break from Road Racing recently to run in the USATF Masters Indoor Championships. In three days he ran three races, took home 3 gold medals and lowered two American Records for 75-79 year olds, at the 3000 Meters and the Mile. His top age-grading finish on the roads last year was at the last one of the year, the 15K at Tulsa, where Goodhue, 76, ran 1:08:00 for an 88.58% finishing in 5th, right behind Sayre. 
Doug Goodhue finishing strong as he takes the 60 and up Age-Grading title at the 2018 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Buffalo NY Photo Credit: Andy Martin, Exclamation! Services

Goodhue took the 60 and up Age-Grading crown at the USATF Masters 5 KM Cross Country Championships in Buffalo. Should any of the above falter, Ken Youngers could also be a factor; he came in just ahead of Sayre in age-grading at Tallahassee. Of course one can go on and on based on that kind of comparison. Last year at Tallahassee, Jeffrey Dundas, a teammate of Youngers finished just behind Youngers in Age-Grading and this year at Tallahassee, Norm Larson finished just ahead of Youngers in Age Grading.
Nat Larson     Brian Pilcher     Tom McCormack    Tom Bernhard     Roger Sayre

Disclaimer: None of the athletes named below have indicated that they are trying for a record-breaking performance. It is my assessment of who has a chance, given what I know about recent and historic performances, compared to the current listed record. And of course entering does not mean getting to the starting line with full fitness.

American Records potentially at risk this weekend in Virginia Beach include three that have stood for over 20 years and one from 2017 :
55-59 Nat Larson 26:19 Rothman 8K Philadelphia  Nov 2017
When the current record holder is running, a record-breaking race is always possible. But it may be too early in the year, and Larson is running for team points, not just on his own account. Larson ran 26:51 here last year. An extra half minute would be asking a lot.
Nat Larson completing his rush to the Age-Grading  title at the 2018 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in Dedham MA Photo Credit: Michael Scott

60-64 Norm Green 28:07 Virginia Beach VA Mar 1993
Roger Sayre ran 28:12 here last year. Can he find another 5 seconds? Brian Pilcher's 1:19:04 Half Marathon suggest he can make a race of it with Sayre, but the chances of Pilcher breaking the record are small. Most likely, as with last year, Pilcher will not quite be ready to keep pace with Sayre. It will be interesting to see. Pilcher has been searching for speed recently--has he found it?

65-69 Joe Fernandez 29:41 Boston MA Apr 1994
Tom McCormack's 18:21 effort was not age-grade equivalent to the 8K record, but his 17:53 mark from last August is much faster than would be required. My guess is that McCormack has a sub-29:45 effort in his quiver. And he may not have to go it alone; there is competition! Tom Bernhard ran a 17:58 at the Morgan Hill Freedom 5K last September, at age 66. That is age group equivalent to a 29:27.

55-59 Shirley Matson 30:10 Palo Alto CA Apr 1997

Marisa Sutera Strange ran 30:40 here last year. That is only a half minute away from the record. It is asking a lot, as noted with Larson, to expect a half minute faster time from one year to the next. It is possible; no one thought a 56 year old could win an overall Masters Championship, but Strange did it in Tallahassee.

That is my first look at the races. There will be some battles; it looks like fast times on the Boardwalk!  

Check back for age division and, if time, team contests. Also if there are any last minute entries that affect the races, I will try to highlight them in another post.

Note: I rely heavily on Athlinks for my information on athlete's recent races; when athletes make their Athlinks profiles private, that locks me out and reduces the information I have to work with. In a couple of cases, I learned that athletes did not realize their profiles were private but somehow it happened anyway. Please check to be sure your Athlinks profile is not private unless you intend it to be private.

No comments:

Post a Comment