Friday, October 25, 2019

Preview of 2019 USATF Masters 15 Km Championships at Tulsa

October 25, 2019. For the 7th consecutive year, the USATF Masters 15 km Championships will be hosted by the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run. The course shows off the sparkling downtown, the vibrant neighborhoods and just a few of the hills of Tulsa. It culminates in a challenging last mile that climbs 60 meters. And just to make it interesting, rain at the start, possibly changing to showers and 47 degrees. Never daunted, a terrific field of long-distance specialists is assembling.

Fiona Bayly, after a 2nd place finish Overall in 2016, is going for the three-peat this year. She won last year in 58:09. Melissa Gacek, who won in 2016 in 58:44, has taken 2nd the last two years. Bayly tuned up with a Masters podium finish at the New Balance Bronx 10-Miler in 1:02:54. Gacek prepped with a Masters podium of her own at the TC Medtronic 10 Miler in 1:03:51. Those times may be closer than they look, as the Twin Cities course is known to be one of the more challenging 10 Milers. 
Fiona Bayly wins the Overall Championship at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo Credit: Tom Gilbert]

These two champions will have quite the duel! Who else is in the hunt for the Overall podium? Alice Kassens took 6th last year in 1:01:27 but has been up and down this year with injuries.  She has been training well over the last two months, so I will give her the nod for 3rd.  
Melissa Gacek takes 2nd place at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo Credit: Tom Gilbert]

Brooke Bray, who ran 1:02:43 here last year, may be her toughest competitor. Samantha Forde ran a 1:26:08 in the Oakland Half Marathon in 2014, as well as a 1:29 HM and a 39:17 10K. . Perhaps she can run close to that? A 1:27:00 Half Marathon would be age-grade equivalent to a 1:01:16 15K. I can find no recent unclaimed results in Athlinks and her profile is private, so I can learn little there about current fitness. The win could go either way, but Bayly is the Champ until Gacek can find a way to defeat Bayly over the Tulsa hills.
Fiona Bayly     Melissa Gacek    Alice Kassens

They are off and running at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo Credit: Tom Gilbert]

On the Men’s side the favorite is David Angell. The 3-time 10Km and 3-time 5Km Masters Overall Champion, will try to add the 15K to his win column. He has been on the podium three years running, and hopes to finally turn the page to a win. He finished 2nd last year in 50:53. 
David Angell claims 2nd place in the 2018 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo Credit: Tom Gilbert]

Never an easy task, the primary challengers look to be Christopher Naimoli who took Masters honors at the Great Cow Harbor 10K last month in 32:16. By comparison, Angell’s most recent 10K Championship win was in 32:22. The Cow Harbor course is probably not as challenging as the Championship course in Dedham, so the 10K is probably a toss-up or may even favor Angell slightly. Cross Country is a different medium of expression from roads, so certainly not decisive information. Both Angell and Naimoi ran the Paul Short XC race on the course for Club XC in Lehigh, with Angell taking the honors by 18 seconds. Jason Butler who took 4th in 53:17 in 2017, returns to try for a National Championship win in his home state. His time in the Chevron Houston Marathon this year was 2:34:21. That is about 3 minutes faster than he ran the same race in 2017. For what it is worth, that Houston time is age-grade equivalent to a 51:35 15K. So maybe he can push Angell a little more this year. Others who could be in the race for a podium spot include: Brian Sydow, Aaron Totten-Lancaster  and the Garden State twins, Elliott and Jonathan Frieder who are on the comeback trail after rehabbing injuries. Sydow is running very strong for his Atlanta team this year at the shorter distances; he was 6th at the 5K in 16:26, 4th in the 8K Championships in 26:26 and 8th in the 10K with a 33:37. The only worrisome thing in his race results is the lack of recent races longer than 10K. That may put him at a slight disadvantage relative to the others. Totten-Lancaster's time at the 10K Championships was a half minute slower than Sydow's but T-L ran 54:36 in the Army Ten-Miler two weeks ago. That is age-grade equivalent to a 50:48. He also beat Philippe Rolly by 15 seconds; Rolly was the surprise winner here last year. J. Frieder finished 4 seconds behind Sydow at the 8K but injured himself shortly thereafter and lost most of the spring and summer. His training has been going very well recently so he may not be far off his form. Sometimes the first race back is tentative; other times the runner is ready to go and fresh. Which will it be? The same goes for E. Frieder except that he has been injured more often than not over the last few years. He has a really nice result from Cross Country Nationals in Tallahassee in 2018 when he ran 27:54 and took 2nd in the 45-49 division. But he will have to prove himself anew on the roads.
David Angell   Jason Butler   Aaron Totten-Lancaster  

Age-grading is the top prize awarded for the best performances relative to age across all Masters Age Divisions, with 100 signifying the best possible;a 100  is essentially equivalent to the projected World's best for that athlete's age. Among the men, Roger Sayre and Tom Bernhard are the returning runners with the highest age grading scores and the favorites to go 1-2. Sayre’s 55:59 at age 60 graded at 89.53% while Bernhard’s 1:01:15 at age 67, graded at 87.57%. Furthermore both are regularly on the age-grading podium at Masters National Championships. Craig Godwin, who just turned 50 and ran 1:12:18 at the Eugene Oregon Half Marathon in the spring, is also a threat. That effort age-graded just over 90%. If Butler can break 52 in the 15K, he could well, at the age of 47, age-grade in the 86-87% range. Totten-Lancaster's effort at the Army 10-Miler age graded at 85.78%. Angell's 10K Championship time age graded at 86.97%. 
Roger Sayre   Tom Bernhard   David Angell

Fiona Bayly took the Women’s age-grading honors last year. Her winning time at age 51 earned a 90.89. Suzanne Ray, 66 last year, ran 1:11:06 to merit a 90.80% and 2nd place. Andriette Wickstrom's 1:11:20 at 63, landed her in 5th place with a 86.66. Patrice Combs, Jeanette Groesz, and Edie Stevenson all have a shot at the age-grading podium. Groesz earned an 89.75% at this race in 2017 when she was 68 and ran 1:08:26. Combs is regularly in the upper 80's, earning an 90.69% at Dedham. Of course it is also true that Groesz scored 90.82$ at the same race. Stevenson is a little trickier in that she has been injured and missed over a year of running on the circuit. In 2017 at Dedham, she age graded at 96%. She age graded at 97.20% in Tulsa. It is unlikely she will age grade that high, but in her best outing this year, she ran a 22:43 at the Freihofer's 5K; that age graded at 91.64%. I guess she's back!
Edie Stevenson   Fiona Bayly   Suzanne Ray

Looking Back from the Finish Line to the American Flag, with the Cathedral in the Distance. This is the way the Runners Finish off the USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo Credit: Tom Gilbert]

As I picked David Angell and  Aaron Totten-Lancaster for 1st and 3rd Overall, they are my 1-2 picks in the 40-44 division. Christopher Naimoli got a nod as a possible Overall contender as well so that makes him number 3. Shawn Williams who ran 56:55 in the Clinton County 15K is poised to move up.
David Angell   Aaron Totten-Lancaster   Christopher Naimoli

Whether she finishes 1st or 2nd Overall, Melissa Gacek should certainly win this division. Alice Kassens and Brooke Bray  are mentioned as possible Overall contenders and that carries over to the Age Division. Consistency requires me to pick Kassens for the final spot on the division podium; Kassens could well prove me wrong though.
The Start of the 2017 USATF Masters 15K Championship Race in Tulsa OK [Photo Credit: Tulsa World]

I have picked Jason Butler to have his best finish at the 15K Masters Championships with a 3rd overall. That means I pick him to in the 45-49 division. The Frieder twins, Jonathan and Elliott could throw a monkey wrench into that prediction if they are ready to roll. Their training has been strong over the last few weeks. Brian Sydow could also push to the front if he can master the extra 5K of distance. His 33:37 in the 10K national Championship at Dedham is age-grade equivalent to a sub-52 15K. The course at Dedham is not quite as hilly as the Tulsa course but it is not a fast course. This could be a very tough podium to make. I will go with Jonathan over Elliott because he has a better road race record over the last couple of years.
Jason Butler   Brian Sydow   Jonathan Frieder

Jodi Buyyounouski ran 1:04:54 here last year and has a 1:34:33 at the Urban Cow HM. As mentioned above, I have only 2014 accomplishments of Samantha Forde to go by but those were impressive, a 1:29:30 in the San Francisco HM and a 1:26:08 in the Oakland HM. Kristin McCann ran 44:22 in the 10K at the Marine Corps Marathon, as well as a 1:10:46 at the 2018 Blue Cross Broad St 10 Mile run, age-grade equivalent to a 1:05:50. She also ran a 1:35:35 Half Marathon that year. Alexandra Newman ran 1:07:07 here last year but ran 43:20 at the 10K national Championships where she ended up on the podium.
Jodi Buyyounouski   Samantha Forde   Alexandra Newman

My pick for the age-grading podium includes Craig Godwin. He ran 33:25 in the Scania Run 10K and 1:12:18 in the Eugene HM. He did not fare as well at Club XC in Spokane, but his comparative advantage may be on the roads. If not, Frederick 'Rick' Herr will be running right at his side or ahead. Herr had the advantage at Club Cross, finishing 12th in 36:23, 15 seconds ahead of Godwin. His HM is more modest at 1:20:17, but it was run in Ogden Utah at 4200'. That suggests a faster sea level equivalent time, except that it has about 200 meters of elevation drop that works the other way. Herr also has a 59:41 at the Surf City 10 Miler, age grade equivalent to a 55:32 15K. Michael Slinskey finished 8th in the 8K Championship in 29:35, and 4th in the 5K Championship in 17:37. He also ran a 1:17:48 in the Faxon Law 20K, age grade equivalent to a 57:46 15K. Brad Slavens was about a half minute back from Slinskey at the 8K but only 2 seconds back at the 5k. That could either be because Slavens has gotten faster during the year or because Slinskey is better at longer distances. Either way they should not be too far apart. Slavens finished 6th here in 58:37 but he ran 56:17 in 2017, which is probably a better indicator of current fitness. I am going to leave Matthew Whitis out of the podium prediction because I cannot find any recent efforts and know he has been off the circuit for a while. But he was a mainstay of Atlanta's 40+ team and ran 54:26 in the hot race here in 2014 when he finished 4th in M45.
Craig Godwin   Rick Herr   Michael Slinskey
Brrr! The Masters Runners Had to Figure out the Best Head, Arm and Hand coverings--at the 2017 USATF Masters 15K Championship Race in Tulsa OK [Photo Credit: Tulsa World]
Fiona Bayly is the Overall two-time defending Champion. She is the Champ until someone beats her. That means I pick her for Age Division Champion as well. Last year there were 6 entrants and Laurie Wharton finished 6th in 1:08:08. But this year one of the other 3 aged up to 55-59 and the runners from Nebraska stayed home. Wharton might well run faster this year. Her 1:11:47 from the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is age grade equivalent to a 1:06:47. Whether she runs faster or not, though, no one except Bayly can finish ahead of her in the division.
Fiona Bayly    Laurie Wharton

Michael Collins has a 33:20 10K and a 1:20:20 HM. He also has a 56:51 15K that is probably most relevant to this contest. He will have his hands full with Mark Zamek who finished 2nd to Nat Larson at the 5K Championships in 17:06. Zamek also ran a 57:08 at the Clinton County 15K. Lester Dragstedt's 31:09 that he ran to take 4th in M55 in Virginia Beach is age grade equivalent to a 59:49. The one worry is that Dragstedt tends to run mostly in the 5K to 8K range. If I go back to February 2018, I find a 1:33:48 HM. That may be an underestimate of his potnetial at longer distances. He ran Peachtree a couple of minutes slower that year compared to this. His 40:40:43 at Peachtree this year equates to a 1:02:11.  John Borthwick ran a 1:26:09 HM in 2017. If he can run that kind of effort now, it is age grade equivalent to a 1:00:32.
Michael Collins   Mark Zamek   Lester Dragstedt

Last year Kris Huff ran 1:07:00 to take 2nd in the 50-54 division. She has been consistent all year, running 43:30 to take 5th in the Division at the 10K Championships and ran a nifty 21:18 to finish 2nd at the 5K Championships. She should get 1st place here. Her teammate, Mary Sweeney, was two minutes back at the 5K, but did just run a 1:36:25 Half Marathon n Pensacola, age grade equivalent to a 1:07:53. Another Atlanta teammate, Robin Tanner, who ran a 1:26:22 15K recently should take 3rd.
Kris Huff   Mary Sweeney   Robin Tanner

Roger Sayre is the Age-Grading favorite and favored to win the Age Division as well. Sayre ran 55:59 to win here last year and he has been blazing all year at every distance from the 5K to the Half Marathon. Who else is in the picture? William 'Hugh' Enicks is the closest to Sayre in that he ran a 57:40 to finish 2nd in M55 here in 2016. That might be out of his range this year but he did run an 18:26 5K this August. Michael Anderson, John Blaser, and Brian Nelson should slug it out for the final podium position. Anderson ran 1:01:58 and Blaser 1:01:12 in 2017. Nelson ran 1:02:31. 
Roger Sayre   Hugh Enicks   John Blaser 

Patrice Combs finished 2nd at the 10K Championships in 43:27 and won the 5K Championships in 21:20. In 2018 she won the Half Marathon Championship in Ann Arbor Michigan in 1:34:49, age-grade equivalent to a 1:06:47. Even if that does not translate fully to this hilly course, she should not be far off. Andriette Wickstrom took 2nd in this division last year in 1:11:20. This year she will have to contend with Mireille Silva who ran 1:11:57 to take 5th in 55-59. Betsy Miller, who finished 3rd at the 8K Championships and 2nd at Cross Country Nationals in Tallahassee could also be in the hunt for the podium.
Patrice Combs   Andriette Wickstrom   Mireille Silva

65-69 Tom Bernhard returns to defend his Championship after a little break from the circuit. He ran 1:01:15 here last year. He should be able to defend the championship but there are some strong challengers. Joseph Reda finished 2nd at the 10K this year in 39:28 and took the title at the 5K in 19:14, the same time that Reno Stirrat clocked. Stirrat is also entered. I am leaving Stirrat off of the podium in my prediction. But he is a battler who could well prove me wrong. It is significant that Bernhard finished more than two minutes ahead of Reda at Virginia Beach. Stirrat was able  to beat Reda at a 12k in the summer in the heat. But hip issues cropped up in a Half Marathon he ran since then in 1:29:06. On paper, Bob Deak looks like a real threat. He ran a 59:17 15K in September. He also ran 1:27:44 in the Fox Valley HM. That river town 15K course is probably a lot flatter than Tulsa but it suggests he could stay with Bernhard for a while. Unless Deak was off his game in Atlanta, Bernhard should still prevail. Deak finished behind not only Reda and Stirrat, but was 3 seconds back from Robert Qualls as well. Like some other runners in the overall field, this distance seems to be a little out of his comfort range. Of course, I wrote something similar about Kirk Larson last year and he turned out, ran a smart race and took home the Silver Medal he won in 1:03:57.
Tom Bernhard   Joseph Reda   Bob Deak

Suzanne Ray is one of the best runners in this age division in the country. She won last year in 1:11:06. In 2017 she ran two minutes faster in a year when the field was loaded. She finished 3rd behind Sabra Harvey and Edie Stevenson. This year she has no competitors entered. 
Suzanne Ray
One Minute into the Race and the crowd is just starting to thin out at the 2018 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo Credit: Tom Gilbert]

70  Jerry Learned finished 2nd last year in 1:12:59. He is the favorite. The other two who could challenge him for the title are his teammate, Dave Glass, and Paul Carlin (yours truly). Learned has been finishing ahead of both all year. Glass, who was ahead of learned most of the year before has been getting closer and closer all year. According to the timing chip transponder at Flint, Glass just edged Learned but if he did it must have been by the thinnest of possible margins. And that was a 1 mile race, not a 9.3 mile race. Carlin finished 3rd last year in 1:13:40 and was running better earlier in the year. He ran 1:16:55 at the Blue Cross Broad Street 10 Miler, age grade equivalent to a 1:11:34, but that course is much faster than the Tulsa course. Both Learned and Glass were well ahead of Carlin at the 8K Championships, and then again at the 1 Mile Championships in Flint. Glass finished behind both those two at Tulsa last year but he was running injured for his team. Glass ran almost 3 minutes faster just two weeks later in the Stockade-a-thon 15K. Still Carlin might have a chance. It does not appear that Glass has ventured beyond a 10K since then. His 10K time in Dedham, however, was about 3 minutes faster than the 10K I ran a few weeks ago. Sam Benedict, who ran 1:23:29 here last year, is poised to move up should any of those three run into trouble.
Jerry Learned   Dave Glass   Paul Carlin

I initially picked Jeanette Groesz to take this division but then I reconsidered. Edie Stevenson ran 1:08:26 here in 2017, taking 2nd behind the remarkable Sabra Harvey. She was off the circuit for more than a year dealing with injuries but she returned earlier this year, running a 22:43 at the Freihofer's 5K. That suggests she is at close to her long-term normal. That means a sub-1:10 is certainly possible. Groesz is an amazing runner but her 15K times tend to be in the 1:14 to 1:15 range. Stevenson is likely to win this battle.
Edie Stevenson   Jeanette Groesz

75-79 Jan Frisby has been chasing Hall-of-Famer, Doug Goodhue since the summer. He caught him at the Road Mile Championship in Flint, but Goodhue got away again over the XC turf in San Diego. Frisby does not have Goodhue to contend with this time and he should certainly win here at Tulsa, probably in a time under 1:15. Charlie Patterson finished 5th here last year in 1:36:00. David Cohen has battled Patterson over the years, with one or the other taking honors at different times. Cohen is recovering from a 90K ultra earlier in the fall and a Half Marathon two weeks ago so may not be at his springiest. It could go either way, though.
Jan Frisby   Charlie Patterson   David Cohen

 Irene Terronez won here last year in 1:39:54 and is unopposed this year.
Irene Terronez

80-84 David Turner was on the 75-79 podium at both the 8K and 5K earlier this year. Now that he has aged up to 80-84, he will claim the gold medal at  here at Tulsa as long as he finishes the race. He is unopposed.
David Turner 

With many of the Club Grand Prix races already decided, there are only three divisions that will be tightly contested, but those will be doozies. 

In Men’s 40+, the Atlanta Track Club and the Garden State Track Club-New Balance square off for season’s honors. With Atlanta ahead 370 to 365, whoever wins the Championship here gets 100 points and the Grand Prix win to boot. If the Frieder twins had been running races right along, it would be sensible to make Garden State the favorite. Because they are both returning from injuries, it is too close to call. The Atlanta Track Club legally filed a team declaration that changed the makeup of their 40+ and 50+ teams, moving Brad Slavens who should be able to run around 57 minutes onto their 40+ team and moving Mike Anderson back up to 50+.  If the Frieder's are fully healthy and competitive, it is unlikely their combined time would be much better than the combined time of Totten-Lancaster and Sydow . It is slightly more likely that Atlanta will have the lower combined time from their first two runners. It appears that Slavens is closely matched with Garden States' Williams who has a recent 56:55 15K and Mark Zamek, who ran 57:48 in that same race. 
Atlanta Track Club   Garden State Track Club

The Men’s 60+ Club Grand Prix is settled already but the Boulder Road Runners want to send a message to this year’s winners, the Atlanta Track Club, about next year by finishing off with a win. With Sayre leading the way, Boulder should enjoy a comparatively easy win over the Shore Athletic Club and Kansas City Smoke
Boulder Road Runners   Shore Athletic Club   Kansas City Smoke

Women’s 60+ is a tight contest between last year’s Club Grand Prix Champions, Team Red Lizard of Oregon, and the Atlanta Track Club. As with the men, the 2019 Women’s 70+ Club Grand Prix goes to Atlanta, but Team Red Lizard is running at full strength in this event to test themselves against the 2019 Grand Prix winners. It should be tight, with the Red Lizard team more balanced across their top 3 runners and Atlanta relying on Combs to lead them to victory. I give Atlanta the edge though.
Atlanta Track Club   Team Red Lizard
This event winds up the 2019 Masters Grand Prix season. Grand Prix awards will be presented at the Club Cross Country Championships at Lehigh in Bethlehem, PA. The Masters races at that event kick off the 2020 Grand Prix.

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