Monday, November 4, 2019

2019 USATF Masters 15 Km Championship Recap-A Hearty Farewell to Tulsa

October 31, 2019. Last Saturday, October 26th, the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run hosted its 7th and final Masters 15K Championship. It started in 2013 on its 'River course'. 80% of that race was flat and fast along the river with a 180 degree turn at the halfway point. The first mile or so saw the runners descend from City Center to the Arkansas River and the final mile or so saw them climb back up again. Because of that last hill, it was not a fast course but it was faster than anything the runners have seen since. One record was set and a couple more runners just missed. I recall Dug Goodhue telling me he had the American Record in hand with a half mile to go and then there was one more rise and it slipped away. Tulsa decided to redevelop its riverside and banned the race from the Riverfront for a few years. The Sports Commission wanted to showcase the neighborhoods of Tulsa so Masters Runners learned a lot about the terrain of Tulsa. Like Atlanta, it is not flat. After the redevelopment was finished in 2017, we thought the next year would see a return to the River course. But apparently there were barriers to doing that. In any case, a new course was revealed in 2018 that was just as hilly, if not more so. And there were a lot of turns so long, straight stretches were in short supply. And that is the course we ran on Saturday. As Fiona Bayly put it, "The course wasn't any easier, but at least it was more familiar the 2nd time, so I knew how to race on it." The one thing constant throughout that 7-year period was the exceptional hospitality and the highly professional organization of the race. Even if runners were a bit put off by the course difficulty, they applauded the race organizers.

On top of the known difficulty this year was the weather uncertainties. Two weeks before the race, the forecast was for partly cloudy and low 40's without much wind. As we got closer and closer to race day, the forecast soured a bit each day. On Friday we were still worried about rain and wind. In the event though, the weather was good for running. The rain pushed through early so the race went off under cloudy skies, with temperatures in the low-40's and winds only 7-10 mph, with occasional gusts. The mood was good at the starting line.  
Waiting for the Start--L to R Roger Sayre checking gps, David Angell headband, Melissa Gacek #226. Heads of others visible in 2nd ad 3rd rows include: Mike Anderson, Jan Frisby, Scott Linell, Kevin Dollard, and in profile to the right, Dave Glass at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championships in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

Perry Jenkins, the Starter, called the runners to the line. The gun went off and we were under way. Who would be first to cross the finish line? And would anyone beat an American Record?
The gun sounds and the runners surge forward. Most of the contenders for the Men's Overall Championship are front and center-David Angell #204, Chris Naimoli 250, Todd Hierlmaier 281, Jason Butler 212, Aaron Totten-Lancaster red singlet&sunglasses, Brian Sydow 297, Jonathan Frieder 224, and Craig Godwin far left-red singlet #228 at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championships in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]
Despite this being her first National Championship in over a year, Edie Stevenson was firing on all cylinders. Her last effort in Tulsa was in 2017 on a slightly different course. At that time she ran 1:08:26 as a 68 year old. That was a few minutes off of the 1:05:04 set earlier that year by Kathryn Martin. Returning as a 70-year old, she had a different target in mind, one she thought was not out of reach. Norma Thomas set the Women's 70-74 American Record of 1:17:10 in 2013. Stevenson knew she would need to go out faster than a straight split might suggest. The first 5K is slightly downhill, despite a few short uphill stretches; the 2nd 5K has a longer uphill stretch but at 10K, the runners are well below the Start elevation. The last 5K brings them back up to the start and is typically the slowest of the three equal segments. Stevenson ran 5K splits of 24:11, 24:02, and 25:03. That gave her a 1:13:16, nearly 4 minutes under the existing record, quite a return engagement!
Edie Stevenson 1:13:16  [Existing Record: Norma Thomas 1:17:10  2013]

Edie Stevenson crosses the finish line at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK, setting a new American Record for Women 70-74 at 1:13:16! [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

David Angell finished 2nd to Philippe Rolly last year and was in fine form, looking for his first win in Tulsa. He faced two new challengers in Chris Naimoli and Aaron Totten-Lancaster. Angell was familiar with Totten-Lancaster from the 10K Championship in Dedham earlier this year. But this was his first time to face him in a longer race and, it was the first time when Totten-Lancaster was at the top of his fitness. On October 13th, he ran 54:36 in the Army Ten-Miler. That's age-grade equivalent to a 50:48 15K, comparing favorably to Angell's 2nd place time last year of 50:53. Angell ran 50:25 the year before. Nonetheless the Army Ten-Miler is not likely as challenging ats the Tulsa course. Given his victory over Totten-Lancaster in Dedham and knowing those curse characteristics probably gave Angell confidence that his main competition would come from Naimoli.  Naimoli's 32:16 win at the Cow Harbor 10K earlier this fall was comparable to Angell's winning 32:22 at Dedham. Earlier in the summer, Naimoli had taken 1st Masters Overall over Boyd Carrington at Falmouth. In September Angell and Naimoli met on the Cross Country turf, at the Paul Short race, with Angell finishing 22 seconds ahead of  Naimoli. That knowledge must have been comforting when Naimoli took off with the gun and never looked back. Angell and Totten-Lancaster watched him pull away and after a bit decided to let him go and hope he would come back to them once he hit the more challenging hills. Angell and Totten-Lancaster ran tight together for the first two miles. Then with Naimoli well ahead and Angell wanting to stay within striking distance, Totten-Lancaster had to worry about staying ahead of the Chase Pack consisting of Brian Sydow, Jason Butler, Jonathan Frieder, Craig Godwin, Todd Hierlmaier, Frederick Herr, and Elliott Frieder. Naimoli hit the 5K mark at 16:14, with 40 meters of real estate between them. Angell had nearly twice that distance on Totten-Lancaster, who found himself in 'No Man's Land.' He was nearly 200 meters ahead of Sydow and company at that point. Angell knew there was a chance that Naimoli had gone out to fast and might come back to him over the last uphill portion of the course. But it never happened; Naimoli had nearly half a minute edge by the 10K mark and built the lead from there. He crested the hill on Baltimore Street, cut over to Boston, and flew along the final stretch of pavement under the huge American flag draped over the course. He enjoyed a gap of over a minute by the time he broke the finishing tape.
Chris Naimoli takes the tape and the Overall win in 48:37 at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

Both Angell and Totten-Lancaster ran alone for most of the race but neither ran into problems. They hit the 10K mark in 32:48 and 33:41 respectively. Angell took 2nd place with a margin of 1:20 over Totten-Lancaster, who held off Godwin to take the final podium spot. Godwin was one of the few runners who managed a negative split on the course. At 5K he was 54 seconds out of 3rd, at 10K 44 seconds, and at the finish he was only 26 seconds behind. Godwin was not close enough to worry Totten-Lancaster but he had left his rivals behind, enjoying a 4th place finish. Sydow came across the finish line 42 seconds later, followed closely by Butler, J. Frieder, Hierlmaier, and E. Frieder. Hierlmaier is new to the Championship circuit and acquitted himself well. The Frieder twins had fine races considering they had been dealing with injuries much of the year. It was Jonathan's first race since mid-March and Elliott's first since last December. If they can stay healthy they should be competing at the front of the pack next year. Although Butler is primarily a Marathoner, he shows u for this race very year and is always in the mix; this year was no exception. Sydow says he is still learning the ropes about Masters Distance Running. If so he is a quick learner. This is the longest race he has run since moving to national prominence in the Masters LDR national circuit and he nailed a top-5 finish! As far as I can tell, Godwin made his USATF National Championship debut on the roads at Tulsa. Wow, quite a splash, finishing just off the podium with a run that was cautious at the start but very strong over the final uphill portion of the race. Naimoli and Angell were the only two with faster finishes. Everyone who made the podium earned the accolades they received. At the 10K Championship in Dedham, Totten-Lancaster managed 15th overall. He has come a long way from there as he showed in the Army Ten-Miler and then displayed on the terrain at Tulsa. His first 10K here was faster than his 15th place time in Dedham. And Angell showed again why he is dangerous at distances from the 5K to the Half Marathon. As Naimoli put it after the race, "Angell was never out of my mind. I would count the seconds between me and him by the cheering!" Angell had thought Naimoli might make a first-timer mistake at Tulsa and go out to fast, but even when he realized that was wrong, he could fall back on his training and soldier on for a very nice 2nd place run and his PR at Tulsa.
David Angell captures the Silver Medal Overall at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

And what can you say about Naimoli--well trained, did his homework for the race and executed perfectly-amazing debut! And he warned me not to count him out for Cross Country. The Paul Short Invitational XC race was his first Cross Country race in 20 years. Let's see what he can do on the same course at Club XC in December!
Chris Naimoli 48:37   David Angell 49:51   Aaron Totten-Lancaster 51:11

For the last three years, the battle for 1st place has come down to Fiona Bayly vs. Melissa Gacek. Gacek got the win in 2016, but it has been Bayly the last two years. Gacek felt that in 2018, Bayly took off at the 3-mile mark and was gone; she never saw Bayly again after that move. This year she was determined to keep her in sight if she made a strong move at  the 3 mile mark. Bayly has tremendous respect for her rival and because of that felt she should make her move even earlier this year. The element of surprise would work in her favor and allow her to quickly develop a gap. Bayly executed perfectly but Gacek responded better this year than last; she had trained better over hills this year. Gacek was determined to keep Bayly in sight, but thought it would be wiser not to match the move, but to wait and save something for the big uphill at the end, where Bayly might be fading. As has been the case the last few years, both runners had to spend most of the race running by themselves; pacing was paramount. In the end, Bayly never did fade, her half marathon prep just two weeks before Tulsa stood her in good stead. She climbed up the last hill, stretching her lead as she did so, and zoomed across the finish line in 1st place again, with a time of 57:58. In the process she lowered the Oklahoma 15K record she set last year by  11 seconds.
Fiona Bayly captures the Overall win, her third consecutive, at the
2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]
Gacek also finished strong, claiming 2nd in 59:50.
Melissa Gacek, the 2016 Overall Champion, claims 2nd place and her fourth consecutive Overall podium finish
at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of Melissa Gacek]

Alice Kassens and Brooke Bray fought it out for the final podium spot. In 2018 Kassens and Bray had a similar battle, winding up 6th and 7th, with Bray over a minute back from Kassens. But Kassens had an up and down year in 2019 with injuries and recovery. She ran a Marathon
in March and then did not race again until the 4th of July when she ran, by her standards, a slow 4-Miler. She skipped the 5K Championships in Atlanta in mid-August because she was not yet recovered. Bray, by contrast, competed and turned in a 20:01, comparing favorably with the time Kassens recorded in 2018 of 20:06. Kassens, due to her injuries and up and down training, knew she had no hope of staying with Bayly and Gacek, so let them go. She started conservatively but if the wheels did not come off, she was not inclined to let anyone else get away. Bray hit the 5K mark at 20:30, with Kassens just 4 seconds back. That seems fast compared to Atlanta, but the first 5K in Tulsa does not involve too many hills, and the course in Atlanta has a substantial climb in the last mile. Kassens must have been smiling at that point. The next section, which has some testing hills, saw Kassens move past Bray and establish a 15 second gap. Kassens was able to finish strong and, despite Bray's best efforts, stretched her lead, finishing 3rd in 1:00:41. Despite any trepidation she may have had, Kassens bettered her 2018 mark by 46 seconds! Bray finished just off the Overall podium, running 1:01:16. Four minutes later Jodi Buyyounouski, her teammate, claimed 5th, followed by Kristin McCann and Alexandra Newman in 6th and 7th.
Fiona Bayly 57:58   Melissa Gacek 59:50   Alice Kassens 1:00:41

First across the finish line is one measure of which Masters runner  had the best day. Another measure that allows for the possibility that a runner from any age division could be said to have had the best day is age-grading.

The method was devised by Alan Jones (who also invented the mechanical contraption for measuring courses on a bicycle) using 'World- Best' single-age data compiled by the late Ken Young (1941-2018). The idea is to use those data to estimate a curve that can be used, for any given age, to predict what the best possible time, on a world standard, is for each age. There are separate data and predictions for Women and Men. The Age Grade percentage is essentially a measure of how close to that best possible predicted time the individual's time gets. If the World's Best prediction for a given distance and age was 20:00 and the individual ran 21:00, then (20/21)*100 = 95.24. If a different athlete of the same age and sex ran 22:00, their age-grade score would be 90.91. The closer one gets to 100, the better the score; athletes do sometimes score over 100. When that is happening with too much frequency, it is time to recalibrate the prediction model to account for these faster times. That happened last with the 2015 tables and is likely to occur again within the next couple of years.Why not just use the actual world best rather than a prediction? If one uses the actual time, and an extraordinarily gifted 57-year old, for example, runs a time that is out of this world, breaking the former World's Best by several minutes, the effect does not fall entirely on that single age. It is, in a sense, spread out over the curve. The Masters LDR Committee has tried to popularize the terms 'World Class' for 90% and above, and 'National Class' for 80%-89.99%. Age-Grading allows for a comparison across all age groups in the Masters Championships.

The favorites for the Men's age-grading going in were Roger Sayer, 61, Tom Bernhard, and David Angell, 43, with Craig Godwin, 52, a real threat and Aaron Totten-Lancaster, 44, in the hunt for a podium spot. Bernhard did not compete and Sayre ran into a problem with his SI joint. He passed the 10K mark in 39:20, well ahead of his 60-64 rivals. But somewhere in the last 5K this problem got worse, and Sayre was clearly just finishing so his team would have three finishers. It took him almost 30 minutes to cover the last uphill 5K. We can imagine how tough that must have been! With the top 2 favorites out of action, the others moved up. I was right that Godwin was a threat. In fact he was so much of a threat, he took the title; his 51:37 at age 52 age graded at 90.33%, the sole World Class performance for the Men's race. 
Craig Godwin finishes off his 4th place Overall Finish and claimed the top Age-Grading Award at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]
 Angell's 2nd place time Overall earned him 5th place in Age-Grading with an 86.75; Totten-Lancaster graded at 85.18 and finished 10th. The top 5 in Age-Grading earned cash prizes. The 2nd and 3rd spots on the podium were taken by the two gentlemen who have been battling all year for supremacy in the 65-69 year old division. Joseph Reda's 1:00:12 at age 65 scored 87.36 to 65-year old Reno Stirrat's 1:00:28 which scored an 86.96. Just off the podium ahead of Angell was the Overall race winner, Chris Naimoli, 40, who graded at 86.91. Others in the top ten included Bob Deak, 65, with 86.43, Jonathan Frieder, 48, with 85.89, Frederick 'Rick' Herr, 53, with 85.31, and Jason Butler, 47, at 85.26.
Craig Godwin 90.33%   Joseph Reda 87.36   Reno Stirrat 86.96

Things went a little more as expected on the Women's side. The favorites all  performed about as expected. Despite this being Edie Stevenson's first National Championship in a year and a half, she had no trouble distancing her main rivals for the Age-Grading Championship. Her record time graded at 93.65%. Suzanne Ray, 67, and Fiona Bayly, 52, traded places this year. Ray's 1:1:10:30 graded at 92.96, while Bayly's Overall winning time netted a 92.30. 
Suzanne Ray claims the Silver Age-Grading Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

Just off the podium was 4th place  Andriette Wickstrom, 64; her 1:09:54 merited an 89.69. One-hundredth of a percentage point back in 5th was Jeanette Groesz, 70, whose 1:16:30 earned an 89.68! The remainder of the top 10 included: Patrice Combs, 62, at 89.51; Mary Sweeney, 59, 87.13; Mireille Silva, 60, 81.74; Cynthia Williams, 63, 81.42; and Kris Huff, 55, 81.40.
Edie Stevenson 93.65   Suzanne Ray 92.96   Fiona Bayly 92.30

Congratulations to all of these excellent athletes for the most astonishing performances across all age divisions on the day!


In both cases, the discussion of the Overall Championships above covers the 40-44 Division Championships as well. On the Women's side, the final order was:
Melissa Gacek 59:50   Alice Kassens 1:00:41   Brooke Bray 1:01:16
Alice Kassens heading for the Finish Line and the Bronze Medal Overall at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

On the Men's side it was:
Chris Naimoli 48:37   David Angell 49:51    Aaron Totten-Lancaster 51:11

My prediction for this division was Jodi Buyyounouski, followed by Samantha Forde, and Alexandra Newman, with Kristin McCann  just off the podium. Forde was a DNS. If the predictions were right, everyone just moves up a slot. The 5K split gave the first look at the division. Buyyounouski crossed the mat in 21:16, with Newman 14 seconds back and McCann another 10. At some point between 5K and 10K, Newman must have caught her teammate, Buyyounouski, as they had the identical 10K time, 43:07, with McCann now 30 seconds back of the pair. That move may have taken more out of Newman than she planned; McCann was able to gain back all of that ground and more, coursing over the Arkansas River bridge and back and then up the last hill to the downtown finish. Buyyounuski held on for the win, 
Jodi Buyyounouski wins the Women's 45-49 Gold Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

but it was McCann in 2nd and Newman in 3rd.
Jodi Buyyounouski 1:05:06   Kristin McCann 1:05:59   Alexandra Newman 1:06:03

The Men's race was loaded, with the addition of the Frieder twins, Elliott and Jonathan from the Garden State Track Club, on the last day of online registration. Brian Sydow  has been on a tear recently, on the podium at the 5K Championship in Atlanta, followed by his first Age Division National Championship in Flint. Those three would go up against the pride of Oklahoma City, Jason Butler. Primarily a Marathoner, Butler shows up each year in Tulsa to take on top runners from across the country. The Frieders have been off the circuit dealing with injuries. Jonathan and Elliott ran 1-2 for their Garden State Track Club team in Spokane at Club XC but then the injuries that have kept Elliott from competing at his former level, hit again. This would be his first race back on the circuit. Jonathan ran through the 8K Championships, where he took 5th overall in 26:30, a few seconds back from Sydow. He then spent much of the next 7 months in rehab and a gradual return to racing fitness. For both this would be their first race back. Would they be as sharp as before their recent injuries? Sydow was stepping up in distance. Was he ready to add another 5K, especially a final 5K like the one in Tulsa? Butler and Sydow ran together for the first part of the race, crossing the 5K mat in 17:11. The Frieders were a little more conservative, with Jonathan about 60 meters back and Elliott another 7 to 8 meters further back. In the next 5K, Jonathan made a surge to connect with the two division leaders; Elliott focused on running his own race--perhaps too soon to mix it up with the leaders. He was a minute back but two minutes ahead of the next fastest in the division, Brian McKinney. The top 3 held tight across the bridge and back and then up the hill. Eventually Sydow made a move the other two could not match, established a gap and held on for his 2nd National Championship in 3 months, in 52:19. 
Brian Sydow claims the Men's 45-49 National Championship at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

Six seconds back, Butler used his Marathon strength to eke out a 3 second margin over J. Frieder in taking 2nd. Brother, Ellliott, came across 4th in 53:40. Another great day for Sydow and Butler enjoyed his usual fine run in Tulsa. The Frieders vowed to be closer to the front overall the next time they race; they are back!
Brian Sydow 52:19   Jason Butler 52:25   Jonathan Frieder 52:28 

This was a two-woman race, with Fiona Bayly focused on winning the Overall race and Laurie Wharton focused on running well for her Atlanta 50+ team, which she did. 
Laurie Wharton claims the Women's 50-54 Silver Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

Along the way she picked up the Silver Medal for the Age Division.
Fiona Bayly  57:58   Laurie Wharton 1:09:20

Craig Godwin, as noted above, came in with a recent sub-1:13 Half Marathon, hoping to compete for the Overall podium. He nearly made it, finishing 4th. He, of course, got his National Championship in this Division. Frederick 'Rick' Herr typically travels to these National Championship events with his Cal Coast teammates. This was a solo effort, presumably to give himself a test against the best. Brad Slavens  was in Tulsa to run for Atlanta. Initially entered for the 50+ team, he was moved down to the 40+ team when it was clear Atlanta would have to go against a talented Garden State club. He was focused on being sure to deliver a good effort for his team. Herr was only 11 seconds behind Godwin's 17:29 5K split. Slavens crossed in 18:31 and was more interested in how he was doing relative to runners in the Garden State colors than he was with Herr and Godwin, who were here without teammates.Once Godwin started ot move up over the 2nd 5K stretch,  it was clear there would not be much drama in this division. Godwin crossed the 10K mat at 34:25, almost two minutes ahead of Herr. Herr, for his part was nearly two minutes ahead of Slavens, while Slavens had a larger gap back to the rest of the field. 
Frederick 'Rick' Herr captures the Men's 50-54 Silver Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]
 Godwin, Herr, and Slavens all held their place over the final 5K. Slavens was followed by his teammate, Matthew Whitis, in 4th and Charles Land, 5th.
Craig Godwin 51:37   Frederick Herr 55:08   Brad Slavens 58:13

This division was populated by three members of the Atlanta Track Club W50+ team, Mary Sweeney, Kris Huff, and Robin Tanner. The main focus was on finishing as that would give the team, unopposed in that category, the win. But there are also bragging rights within the team so Sweeney and Huff certainly gave it their best shot. Sweeney covered the first 5K in 22:00, with Huff 24 seconds back. By the time they crossed the 10K mat, Sweeney had increased the lead to 48 seconds. Despite Huff's best efforts, Sweeney took the win in 1:07:09, with a 1:05 margin of victory. 
Mary Sweeney captures the Women's 55-59 Gold Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]
Tanner focused on her own goals, finishing off the podium in 3rd place.
Mary Sweeney 1:07:09   Kris Huff 1:08:14   Robin Tanner 1:20:03

Michael Collins came in as the favorite although there was good reason to think Mark Zamek could give him a run for the money. When Zamek was a 'DNS', that made Collins the heavy favorite. I only learned after the race that he had been having difficulties with his SI joint and only came to the race because he had bought his ticket and had his hotel room well before the most recent flare-up of a chronic difficulty. With the help of ibuprofen, he got through the race. He started conservatively, for a runner who had recently cracked 57 at the 15K distance. He hit the 5K mat in 19:25, with John Borthwick, who ran a 1:26:09 Half Marathon in 2017 but not much since,  25 seconds back in 2nd and another 12 seconds back to Lester Dragstedt. I had thought Dragstedt had the edge over Borthwick unless the old HM time was a better indicator of current fitness than his lack of recent races was. The next 5K would probably reveal which it was. Dragstedt's 20:02 suggested he might well run faster than the 1:02 I was figuring on for him. Once Collins got into the 2nd 5K, he was pretty sure there were no M55's ahead of him. That meant he was free to just try to move up, which he did, clocking 19:11 for the second 5K. The 10K mat is toward the bottom of a hill; if that stretch did not move the SI joint pain marker up, he was probably going to get safe to the finish line. It was still a race between Borthwick and Dragstedt for 2nd place, but Collins was now a minute ahead of Borthwick. Borthwick had a half minute on Dragstedt now. That was a hefty lead, but Borthwick was not home free yet. The uphill nature of the final 5K means that if an athlete is fading somewhat in the last third of the race, it is very possible to lose a half minute or more to someone in chase. Collins had no trouble over the last portion of the race, running 19:02 to finish with the win in 57:38, close to what I had projected for him. 
Michael Collins heds for the Finish Line and the Men's 55-59 Gold Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

Borthwick also ran a strong last 5K, clocking 19:36 to capture 2nd place in 59:12. Dragstedt ran a very smart and tough race, finishing well ahead of the time I had thought he might run, clocking 1:00:27 to claim the third podium spot. Like Godwin, both Collins and Borthwick were among the few to achieve negative splits on the course, even if it was partially forced upon Collins. Sad to say, when I heard from Collins a week later, that had been the last time he had been able to run. I hope this bright debut is a sign of good things to come, and wish him a speedy recovery.
Michael Collins 57:38    John Borthwick 59:12   Lester Dragstedt 1:00:27

Andriette Wickstrom took 2nd in 2018 in 1:11:20 and won it the year before in 1:09:00. I thought Patrice Combs, based on her 1:34:49 at the 2018 Half Marathon Championships in Ann Arbor, with its hilly, river section and long uphill at the end, would run faster than that, perhaps not a 1:07 but probably not too far off. Combs always gives a good account of herself, but so does Wickstrom. It would be a duel no doubt. Combs's teammate, Mireille 'Mimi' Silva, ran about a half minute slower than Wickstrom last year when she was in the 55-59 age group. That meant Silva would be right there on their heels if she had a really good day or if either of the two favorites faltered. Combs ran a strong first 5K, crossing the mat in 21:49. Wickstrom started conservatively, running three seconds slower than her first 5K last year, and well back from Combs, who was now nearly 300 meters ahead and out of sight. But Wickstrom perhaps knew this was Combs's first year running Tulsa and might overcook it at the beginning. There was always the possibility Combs would come back over the final 10K. Silva was only 8 seconds back at that point and, no doubt, had that 'F60' back bib in her sights. Rather than slacken, Combs actually ran a faster 2nd 5K, lowering the time to 21:42, and crossing the 10K mat in 44:31. Wickstrom was much more adventuresome i her 2nd 5K this year compared to last; she crossed the 10K mat last year in 46:54; this year she hit it in 46:08. Even though that did not move her any closer to Combs, it did establish a more generous gap back to Silva who was now over a minute and a half behind Wickstrom. Combs ran hard all the way to the tape, claiming victory in 1:08:07. 
Patrice Combs captures the Women's 60-64 Gold Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

Wickstrom took 2nd in 1:09:55, nearly a minute and a half faster than last year, a very nice run! Silva finished off a well-paced race with a 24:33 up the steep last portion of the course, earning a podium finish.
Patrice Combs 1:08:07   Andriette Wickstrom 1:09:55   Mireille Silva 1:12:33

Roger Sayre was expected to dominate this race as he does most road races, as long as no one named Becker, McCormack, or Sheeran shows up. William 'Hugh' Enicks is a very strong runner, though with tons of experience at National Championship races. If Sayre had a slightly off day and Enicks had a very good day, it could be tight for first. Mike Anderson, John Blaser, and Brian Nelson have all run times around 1:01 to 1:02 in the last two years. They should be in the 'cement mixer' together, battling for the final podium spot. Everything started as expected. At the 5K mat, it was Sayre in 19:15, followed 40 seconds later by Enicks, who was probably more worried about who was behind him than catching Sayre. Anderson was only 7 seconds back at that point, with Blaser 19 seconds back and Nelson another 15. If Anderson had not gone out too fast, it would be a good day and Enicks might have to worry. No one knew it at the time, but, like Collins, Sayre had had some issues with his SI Joint on his last easy run a few days before the race. It was just a little tight during the warm-up and first 5K, but it got progressively tighter during the 2nd 5K. The downhill to the river was the last screw turning; Sayre passed the 10K mat in 39:20. Shortly after that, there is a 90 degree turn to the left as the downhill ends for a short, flat stretch. There the pain became too much to bear; all he could do was walk and jog to the finish to get a finishing time so his team could have the three finishers they need to get a team score. Enicks passed the 10K mat in 39:36; by then he may have been aware that Sayre was in difficulty. In any case, he now had over a half minute lead on Anderson. That was entirely due to Enicks. Anderson was cooking it as he padded his lead over Blaser to 1:16. Nelson, in the meantime, had pushed to get a good 2nd 5K time, as he passed Blaser to move into 4th at 41:04. Enicks passed Sayre before the 7 mile mark and realized he now had the lead. Enicks pushed over the bridge and back and up the hill; he took the win in 59:28. 
William 'Hugh' Enicks heading for the Finish Line and the Men's 60-64 Gold Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

A little under a minute later, Anderson blazed across the line with a 1:00:24, for 2nd place. Nelson held his pace to the finish line, clocking 1:01:54 to nail the final podium position. Blaser, on an off day, had to settle for 4th in 1:03:20. He was followed by Kevin Dollard sixteen seconds later in 6th.
Note: Sayre appears to be philosophical about the injury, has had an evaluation and 'some hip realignment' since then. He is maintaining fitness on the 'elliptical and recumbent bike' for now--no running for a while. 
William Enicks 59:28   Michael Anderson 1:00:24   Brian Nelson 1:01:54

Suzanne Ray was the only entrant in this category as she was last year. She ran one of the fastest races of the day by the standard of age-grading. She was running against the clock instead of running against the field. As noted above, her time of 1:10:30 was good enough to claim 2nd place in the Women's Age-Grading Championship.
 Suzanne Ray 1:10:30

Tom Bernhard was the favorite among those who entered, but he did not make it to Tulsa. Nor did Robert Qualls, who would have been a podium contender. Their absences freed it up for another donnybrook between the runners who finished 1-2-4 at the 5K Championship in Atlanta, Joseph Reda, Reno Stirrat, and Bob Deak. In that race, Reda and Stirrat had the same time and Deak was just 15 seconds back.In between, Stirrat and Reda met at a 12-K race where Stirrat had the upper hand for the first time this year. It was a very hot day and, as Stirrat noted, that may have worked in his favor. The other relevant information is that an on-again/off-again hip issue had surfaced for Stirrat. In a half marathon he ran, it was fine for about 3/4ths of the race but then it asserted itself and he had to adjust, which slowed his pace for the last few miles. Would the hip hold up in Tulsa? Deak was feeling it in the first 5K; he went out hard, crossing the 5K mat in 19:45 with 15 seconds on Reda and Stirrat, who were running shoulder to shoulder. Their steady pace, just under 6:30 per mile, gradually pulled Deak back over the next 5K. By the time they crossed the mat on the downhill portion of 15th Street, Deak was only 4 seconds ahead of Stirrat, with Reda tucked in behind. Shortly thereafter the pair passed and took the lead. But coming back across the bridge, the hip flexor started to impinge again, and Stirrat could not stay with Reda. Instead of the tight finish we have grown used to, Reda was able to pull away and take first in 1:00:12. 
Joseph Reda captures the Men's 65-69 Gold Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]
Sixteen seconds later, Stirrat finished in 2nd, a battler as ever, for the sake of the race and the team. Deak claimed the final podium spot, finishing off a terrific run in 1:00:50. Now that's a superlative 65-69 podium 
2019 Men's Masters Grand Prix 65-69 Podium--at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK L to R Reno Stirrat, Joseph Reda, Kirk Larson 2nd, 1st, 3rd respectively [Photo posted by Michael Anderson on FB]

on a challenging course like Tulsa.

When you get two top age-grading runners like Edie Stevenson and Jeanette Groesz in the same race and the same division, you know one will go home with the Championship medal but you will have two superlative performances. Groesz's primary focus was on helping her team to the 60+ victory, because when Stevenson is healthy, she is a dynamo! Stevenson hit the 5K mark in 24:11, with nearly a minute lead. It did not get any closer, but Groesz was focused on running her own race. As usual she turned in a near-'World Class' performance, finishing 5th in Age-Grading, 
Jeanette Groesz heads for the Finish Line, 2nd in the Women's 70-74 Division and 5th in Age-Grading Overall at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

and missing 4th by 0.01% points!
Edie Stevenson 1:13:16   Jeanette Groesz 1:16:30

The Men's race did not have the top age-grading athletes; Lloyd Hansen was out with a hamstring injury and Terry McCluskey would not come to Tulsa now that his team (and mine) had wrapped up th Grand Prix title in San Diego. It did have what looked to be a closer race for the top 3 spots. Dave Glass and Jerry Learned, of Atlanta, have been ahead of Paul Carlin (that's me, your reporter) all year, with Learned ahead of Glass. At the 8K in March, Learned was a minute ahead of Glass and Glass a half minute ahead of me. At the 5K in Atlanta, that I missed due to a family-related conflict, Glass was just two seconds back from Learned. At the Road Mile in Flint, Glass looked like he had the win heading for the finish but Learned's closing kick carried him even, though the timing system gave the win to Glass. I was nearly 20 seconds back, not quite ready to challenge. But 15K is more my distance than a mile (maybe). Last year it was Learned-Carlin-Glass but Glass was running for the team with a nagging injury, not at his best. The year before Glass had been the first of these three. The only thing I had going for me was past glory; in the 2013 race, when I was 68, on the River course, I had finished right behind McCluskey in 1:01:35. Sic transit gloria! At the start, it looked like it would be a replay of past races when Glass was on his game. Those two took off but I realized after a quarter mile or so that Learned was not too far ahead of me. Perhaps this would be a day when I could keep up with him. Glass hit the 5K in 22:46, with Learned a little over a half minute back. I was already 45 seconds behind Learned. My earlier hopes seemed in vain; a bronze medal would not be so bad--Keep on plugging! Glass kept on his pace, slowing just slightly in the second 5K. Learned was slipping back, however. Just after the 4 mile mark, we had crested the hill on Utica St. and were on the down-slope side, I caught sight of Learned ahead turning up into the posh neighborhoods along Terwilliger Blvd. There is nothing like the sight of a rival suddenly coming into your sights to rejuvenate hope, and put a little extra spring in the stride. There was still a long way to go though. It wasn't until we hit the downward portion of 15th Street, just before the 10K mat, that I closed. At that point Glass was ahead of us by over two minutes. This was definitely his day! A single second separated Learned and me. I passed Learned just before we turned left onto the flat stretch of Boston Ave., but then Learned surged, and passed me back. I was right behind as we headed up onto the bridge. As we came down off the bridge, headed for the turn onto Baltimore and the final big hill, I was thinking, that in a couple of close races in our past, Learned had been able to out-kick me. Better get moving now! So I passed him and ran scared up the hill and onto that rolling stretch into the finish at 6th and Boston. If he came up on me again, I had no strength left to fend him off. Luckily for me, Learned was even more depleted. He had fought the good fight, but could not mount a final attack. I came home 2nd, with almost a minute to spare. Glass had already finished in first 4 minutes earlier. 
Dave Glass captures the Men's 70-74 Gold Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]
 Learned had many more minutes on the rest of the field. His Atlanta teammate, Sam Benedict, took 4th. [Please forgive the greater detail; I had a 'front-row seat' for this one!] 
Men's 70-74 Podium Finishers at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK L to R-Jerry Learned, Dave Glass, Paul Carlin, 3rd, 1st, 2nd [Photo courtesy of Lloyd Hansen]

It was a fine effort that put Glass on top of the podium for the second time in three years!
Dave Glass 1:09:42   Paul Carlin 1:13:58   Jerry Learned 1:14:55

Irene Terronez claimed her gold medal in this division for the first time, after taking the gold medal last year in the 70-74 division. She was unchallenged.
Irene Terronez 1:43:57.

On a hot, hot day in Tulsa in late October, 2014, Jan Frisby took 2nd to Doug Goodhue in 70-74 in 1:08:16. He missed Tulsa the next couple of years to injury, returned in 2017 with a little extra weight, he said, and a 1:13:54. Last year it was pretty much the same story, more golf than running, still a few extra pounds, and a couple of nagging injuries. Nothing was too serious but it was not a year to compete. This year his weight was down and all of the nagging injuries were out of the way. And no Doug Goodhue to worry about. Frisby ran a fine race, hitting the 5K mark in 24:06 and never looked back. He had a 5 minute lead on the field at that point so no worries! Frisby crossed the finish line in 1:12:30, his best time since 2014, making him the 75-79 15K Champion. 
Jan Frisby captures the Men's 75-79 National Championship at the at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run]

The others who would sort out  the podium included Atlanta stalwarts, Charlie Patterson and Andrew Sherwood, and my Ann Arbor teammate, David Cohen. Like many masters athletes, Cohen was coming back from injury. Unlike most others, he was also still suffering some after-effects of a grueling 90K race in Sweden in  August, not to mention a Half Marathon in early October.
Things sorted themselves out pretty early. No stranger to the 75-79 podium, Patterson crossed the 5K mat in 28:57, three minutes ahead of Sherwood, with Cohen another minute and a half back. The size of the gaps changed but not the order. Patterson enjoyed a Silver Medal performance, with Sherwood taking the Bronze and Cohen just off the podium by a few ticks over a minute.
Jan Frisby 1:12:30   Charlie Patterson 1:27:25   Andrew Sherwood 1:41:22

80-84 Now that he has aged up, David Turner is in a class by himself. There are few 80 year olds who are willing and able to tackle a hilly 15K course, but Turner is one of them. He still enjoys the competition against other teams and the internal team competition among the Atlanta 70+ team members. He covered the first 5K in 28:47 and continued apace, claiming the Championship in 1:29:36.
David Turner 1:29:36


Two of the team contests, Women's 40+ and 50+, despite early anticipation of tough battles, had only one team entered.

W40+ Atlanta conceded the 2019 Grand Prix title to the Impala Racing team from the San Francisco Bay area when they did not enter. The Impalas Brooke Bray, Jodi Buyyounouski, Alexandra Newman happily took the victory with an average time of 1:04:08.
Impala Racing 3:12:24
The Impala Racing Team L to R Alexandra Newman, Brooke Bray, Jodi Buyyounouski won the Women's 40+ Team Championship at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo posted on Facebook by the Impala Racing team]

W50+ The shoe was on the other foot when no one challenged Atlanta's team in this division. Atlanta Kris Huff, Mary Sweeney, Robin Tanner, Laurie Wharton took care of business, with their top 3 runners averaging 1:08:14.3.
Atlanta Track Club 3:24:43

W60+ Atlanta Patrice Combs, Mireille Silva, Cynthia Williams entered the race with 480 Grand Prix points on their best 5 events; Team Red Lizard Jeanette Groesz, Betsy Miller, Suzanne Ray from Oregon entered with 380 Grand Prix points on 4 events. As teams count their best 5 events, a win at Tulsa would have given them 480 points. Atlanta's score would stay at 480 if they finished 2nd or below. Winning at Tulsa would mean also that the tie-breaker favored the Red Lizard team. The only way Atlanta could win was to beat the Red Lizards and vice versa. When they met at the 10K in Dedham, they went 1-2 in the division: Atlanta had 12 seconds per runner on the Red Lizards. A hint of the final result came early. Combs crossed the 5K mat first in 21:49. It was a minute and 17 seconds before Ray, the first of the Red Lizard team, came past the mat, followed just 7 seconds later by Atlanta's Silva. A minute and 17 seconds later, Williams crossed the mat for Atlanta. It was another half minute before Miller and Groesz from Red Lizard came past. Atlanta already had a three and a half minute lead. This would not be as close as the 10K race was. The remainder did nothing to change the outcome of this team battle. In the end, Atlanta increased their advantage to 2:27 seconds per runner, taking the 15K Team Championship and the 2019 Masters Grand Prix win.
Atlanta Track Club 3:36:35   Team Red Lizard 3:43:58
The Atlanta Track Club Teams won lots of hardware at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK [Photo posted on Facebook by the Atlanta Track Club]


M40+  This was the most highly anticipated team race of the day. Only 5 points separated the Atlanta Track Club Brad Slavens, Brian Sydow, Aaron Totten-Lancaster and the Garden State Track Club Elliott Frieder, Jonathan Frieder, Shawn Williams, out of New Jersey, for the 2019 Grand Prix title. Whoever won the day would take home the 1st place award for this race, but would also be receiving the Clubhouse banner and the $1,000 cash prize at the Grand Prix Awards ceremony in Bethlehem PA in December. It appeared to be close. In my projections I had Atlanta's top two runners, Totten-Lancaster and Sydow, ahead of the Frieder twins but the uncertainties surrounding their comebacks made the margin a bit uncertain. It appeared that it might come down to the 3rd runner, as it often does. Slavens and Williams appeared to be closely matched; I thought both likely to come in around 57 minutes. The 5K timing mat gave a first read. Totten-Lancaster, competing for the overall win, put his foot down on the mat first in the team competition, clocking 16:35. His teammate, Sydow came next, a half minute later, with a 12-second gap back to J. Frieder for GSTC and then 17 seconds back to E. Frieder. When Williams came past the marker next for GSTC36 seconds later, that gave them some hope. But Slavens was only 15 seconds back at that marker. Totaling it up, Atlanta had a minute lead on GSTC. Everyone on both teams ran really well. But tow things happened over the next 5k that eventually proved to be critical. J. Frieder was able to close the gap to Sydow and Williams was able to extend the gap back to Slavens. At the 10K mat, Totten-Lancaster was 54 seconds ahead of Sydow but now J. Frieder was right on his heels, a single second back. E. Frieder was still midway between his brother and Williams, but Williams had forged a gap of over a minute and a half back to Slavens. At that point, Atlanta led 1:06:10 to 1:06:28-Close! It came down to the final uphill section. Everyone rose to the occasion, literally as well as figuratively. In the end, Atlanta got the 1-2 finish from Totten-Lancaster and Sydow, but they did not have enough of a gap back to the Frieder twins to ice it for Atlanta. With Williams out-racing my projection for him by almost three minutes, he finished close enough to his teammates that they could welcome him across the finish line, secure in their belief that the team had a tight enough finish for the win. 
The Garden State Track Club-New Balance won the 15K National Team Championship, thereby clinching the 2019 Masters Club Grand Prix title at the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championship in Tulsa OK L to R Shawn Williams, Jonathan Frieder, Elliott Frieder [Photo posted on Facebook by the Garden State Track Club

And they were right! GSTC had a 23 second per runner edge on Atlanta.
Garden State Track Club-New Balance 2:40:32   Atlanta Track Club 2:41:42 

M50+ There were no Grand Prix awards at stake but no doubt the Kansas City Smoke John Blaser, John Borthwick, Stan McCormack, Randy McDermott saw themselves as the home team trying to repel the visiting Atlanta Track Club (Michael Anderson, Lester Dragstedt, Kirk Larson, Matthew Whitis). The Smoke had finished just off the podium in San Diego and were looking for some team medals to take home to KC to celebrate! Would they be gold or silver? At the 5K mat, Borthwick drew first blood for KC, clocking 19:50. But 12 seconds later Anderson and Dragstedt crossed together for Atlanta. McCormack was only 4 seconds back for KC, with Atlanta's Larson another 3 seconds back, and Blaser a further 12 seconds back. Whitis, should Atlanta need him, was only 6 seconds behind Larson. McDermott was much further back but would be good  insurance to make sure KC got their podium finish if any of the other three ran into problems. At that point, KC had the edge, 1:00:17 to 1:01:13. t the 10K mat, Borthwick continued to lead the parade and had padded his lead over the two Atlanta runners to a half minute. More importantly though, Anderson and Dragstedt were still running tight together with just a second between them, and had generated a gap of well over a minute back to Blaser, with another 18 seconds to McCormack. Larson, the oldest competitor in this team race at 68, was now 45 seconds back from McCormack. It was tantalizingly close at this point, with just a single second separating the two teams--KC 2:02;40 to Atlanta 2:02:41. Atlanta proved stronger over and back on the bridge and up the hill.  Larson learned how to pace himself over this tricky course last year and it paid off again as he was able to reinsert himself between Blaser and McCormack. Borthwick still came in first bt Anderson and Dragstedt came 2nd and 3rd with only 3 seconds between them. In the final tally, Atlanta averaged 1:01:33 to KC's 1:02:13.
Atlanta Track Club 3:04:34   KC Smoke 3:06:40

M60+ This should have been a close contest between the Shore Athletic Club Kevin Dollard, Scott Linnell, Reno Stirrat and the Boulder Road Runners Nate Anderson, Bruce Kirschner, Roger Sayre, Jan Frisby. But Boulder was snake-bitten on this one. First they heard that because of mechanical problems, Anderson could not get a plane out of Steamboat Springs, CO so he would not be running.That meant that Frisby, 75, would be their #3 runner. Frisby is an incredible runner, but it is tough for anyone to compete with other national caliber runners a decade and more younger. He would likely give up at least a minute per 5K even if he ran great, which he did. And Kirschner would probably give upa minute per 5K to Dollard. If Stirrat was on and Sayre was on, Sayre would need to be running two minutes per 5K faster than Stirrat for Boulder to have a chance. Even on the best of days that is not likely. Before the race I would have said it is possible because of Stirrat's known hip problem. As we now know, Stirrat's hip problem was largely under control; what we did not know at the start of the race was Sayre's SI joint would impose itself on Sayre's race and force him to jog/walk the final miles of the course, just to get a finishing time. The result, of course, was a big victory for Shore, but frankly, given Stirrat's race, and the absence of Anderson, it was likely they would have taken the gold team medals even if Sayre's SI joint had not flared up. They were two minutes behind based on the 5K timing mat before Sayre's problems ensued. Kirschner, the Team Captain says to watch out for BRR in 2020, they will be healed up and ready to roll!
Shore Athletic Club 3:12:35     Boulder Road Runners 3:31:03

M70+ This was an internal contest between Atlanta A Sam Benedict, Dave Glass, Jerry Learned, David Turner and Atlanta B Joseph Lenahan, Charlie Patterson, Andrew Sherwood With Atlanta's top runners on the A team, it was not close. The A team tallied 3:50:24 for an average of 1:16:48 and the win. The B team scored a 4:40:27 for an average of 1:33:29 per runner. Atlanta sweeps the M70+ awards for the 15K Championship.
Atlanta Track Club A 3:50:24   Atlanta Track Club B 4:40:27 

Three cheers for the teams that competed for top prizes and for the runners whether #1, #2, #3, or #4. As seen above, the final outcome depends as much on the third as the first runner, not to mention the vital 2nd runner across the line. Sometimes a #4 runner says they have not contributed much, but the above results show that sometimes a runner who is there for 'insurance' actually plays a part in the score. In many Championships the difference between getting a score if 3 runners finish and getting no score can be 60 or 70 or even 80 Grand Prix points. And, of course, there are no Championship team medals if a complete team does not finish.

And congratulations to all of the new 2019 National Masters 15K Champions!

This concludes the 2019 Masters Grand Prix circuit of National Championships. The winners of those Awards, both Individual and Club, will receive them at the Grand Prix Awards Ceremony on the afternoon following the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships on the 14th of December in Bethlehem, PA. 

For details on that Championship, which kicks off the 2020 Masters Grand Prix circuit, please see:

The Masters Grand Prix Year-End Team  and Individual Award Ceremony will take place beginning at 5:00 p.m. at the host hotel.

Other assorted photos from Facebook Postings or the Tulsa Run:




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