Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Masters Middle and Long Distance Runners Head to Ames! -- Preview #1 - 800 Meters

July 17 2021. Alejandro Heuck of the Greater Springfield Harriers, refers to the location of his track workouts on his Strava posts as ‘Paradise’; Jorge Maravilla of the West Valley Track Club dubs it ‘The Oval Office’, and John Hadcock of the Greater Lowell Road Runners, simply, but enthusiastically, refers to it as ‘Track!’ Heuck, Hadcock, and dozens of Masters middle and long distance specialists are heading to Ames Iowa for the 2021 USATF Masters Track and Field Outdoor Championships. I am venturing onto tricky ground as I typically do previews of Road and Cross Country events. With apologies, in advance, to those I may slight from lack of detailed track knowledge at the Masters level. My focus is on the cross-over runners who have also factored into recent MLDR contests on the roads or the turf.  I cover age divisions 40-44 and up.

The order of middle and long distance events is: Thursday evening 7/22 5000 meters; Saturday early morning 10,000 meters; Saturday early afternoon 800 meters; and Sunday morning 1500 Meters. Let’s look first at the two middle distance events.

800 Meter. The ‘Sub 2:00 800 Meters’ challenge has energized middle and a few long-distance runners to take up the challenge. That makes sense for M40 and M45, but for most other men’s age divisions and all Masters women’s divisions, a sub-2 is a ‘far reach’ or a ‘can’t reach’.  See my notes at the end of this story for some possible other ‘round’ 800-meter goals (to a nearest 5 seconds) that are roughly equivalent to the sub-2 goal for different age divisions.

Things get underway for the middle distances with the Women’s 800 meters on Saturday, July 24.

11:45 AM W70-W85. The two top seed times in W70 belong to Coreen Steinbach and Nancy Rollins, both unattached. Steinbach has competed in numerous USATF Masters LDR Championships. The last 4 years when the USATF Masters National 5 Km Championships were in Syracuse, from 2014 to 2017, she finished on her age division podium each year. Just before the pandemic restrictions hit in 2020, Steinbach clocked a 6:53:00 at the Hartshorne Memorial Mile in Ithaca NY and a 3:10.18 800 Meters at the USATF-Adirondack Indoor Championships. Rollins has not participated in recent USATF Masters National Championships but is a well-known runner around Chicago and the Midwest. Better known for the Marathon than the track, she finished 4th in Boston in 2019 with a 4:12:12 and then took 2nd in her hometown BOA Chicago Marathon with 3:58:13. In 2019 Rollins ran almost every standard distance from the 400 meters on the track through the Marathon.  She focuses on the road more than the track. That same year, though, she ran a 7:09.45 1500 meter in the National Senior Games. Steinbach is the favorite with Rollins likely a 2nd place in W70.

W85. Tami Graf is the sole entrant. The winner of the 2019 8K and 10K National Championships in her division, Graf will enjoy adding this title to her many others.

Tami Graf winning the W80 Championship in 11:31 at the 2018 USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships in Flint Photo by Carter Sherline, Frog Prince Studios


11:55 AM W60 & W65. The W60 contest is loaded with former teammates, Susan Lynn Cooke and Lesley Hinz, T.H.E. Track taking on Julie Hayden, Greater Philadelphia TC. Their seed times range from 2:41.88 to 2:44.21. There is not much basis there for picking one over the other. Turning to recent results, Cooke competed in the NY/NJ Outdoor meet in early June, clocking 2:45.64 in the 800-meter event. Hinz ran 2:52.77 at an Atlanta Track Club meet in early May. Hayden ran a 2:47:14 at an indoor track meet in early March and has since run four 5K’s ranging from 21:29 to 23:00. It should be a ‘barn-burner’ of a race. Both the seed time and the most recent race time suggest Cooke is the favorite, with Hinz and Hayden right on her heels!

Lynn Cooke contributing a vital effort for her New Balance Tampa Masters team in their Silver Medal W50+ team performance at the 2018 USATF XC Nationals Photo by Michael Scott


W65. Terry Ozell Atlanta TC, is one of their stalwarts, especially at the shorter distances. At the Road Mile National Championship in Flint MI in 2018, Ozell took 2nd in her division in 7:35, helping her team to the W60+ win. She will be looking to make the podium.

12:03 PM W55. Michelle Rohl has the top seed time, 2:25.70 by a couple of seconds; she is the favorite. But Sue McDonald, Alisa Harvey, Unattached, and Lisa Valle have seed times from 2:28.02 to 2:31.57, suggesting they are threats not only for the podium but for first. In 2017, Harvey competed in the USATF Masters National Road Mile Championship in Flint, taking 1st in W50 in 5:45, and finishing 4th overall. On May 31st of this year, she clocked 5:43.07 in the Loudoun Street Mile; she should be ready to roll.  


Alisa Harvey heading for the finish line and a 4th place overall at the 2017 USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships in Flint MI

Lorraine Jasper, Greater Philadelphia TC, is in her last year in the age division but she took 2nd in this event at the 2019 Indoor Championships, and cannot be ruled out. Her two recent Road Mile outings in May and June were 5:53.00 and 5:54.05 suggesting the podium may be just out of reach this time. We shall see.

12:11 PM W50. I do not have much to say on this division. Dianne DeOliveira, Bella n Motion, has the best seed time and has the distinction of running Club Cross at Lehigh in 2019, netting a 16th place W45 finish, helping her team to 9th place. If XC makes track runners tougher, as most Coaches will tell you, that is an extra plus for DeOliveira.

12:19 PM W40 & W45. Christine Laccata Garden State TC has the fastest W40 seed time at 2:22.60 but the runner who stands out is Sascha Scott, 45, Syracuse TC. Her seed time of 2:14.12 is consistent with what we have seen on the roads and the turf. A cyclocross whiz, her crossovers have been equally successful. In October 2017 she took the overall win at the USATF Masters 5 Km National Championship in 17:20, beating a very strong field. She had an even more impressive win at Lehigh in 2019 when she took the Masters Club Cross title over 6 km in 22:26, putting 40 meters between herself and her closest pursuer. 

Sascha Scott winning the Masters Race at the 2019 USATF Club XC Championships at Lehigh College in Bethlehem PA Photo by Michael Scott


In the NY/NJ Outdoor meet on June 12th, she clocked 61.99 for the 400m and 4:36.13 for the 1500. It looks like she should be ready to roll in Ames and is the favorite for the W45 title and to come across the line first in this heat. Euleen Josiah Tanner, T.H.E. Track, who has been a mainstay on Team USATF at WMA Championships, is likely to take 2nd in W45. Her seed time is 2:37.95, not far off Alison Schwalm’s 2nd best seed time in W40 of 2:33.0. But I cannot find any recent results so it is possible she is still a bit rusty from the pandemic interruption.

Men’s 800 Meters. Saturday, July 24

12:35 PM M80 & Up. The M80 division has 7 competitors. Only 3 have seed times, with Sherwood Sagedahl, Unattached, leading the way at 3:07.0. I see the name Elmo Shropshire and the seed time of 5:30 and wonder. Relatively unheralded, he came into the USATF Masters National 5 Km XC Championships and took the title by 11 seconds from John Elliott, a XC champion many times over. His time, 29:44 works out to 9:34 per mile, or 4:47 per half mile on a XC course that has more challenging terrain and footing. It could be that Shropshire missed some training and competition, so has some rust to get rid of. Otherwise, I suspect he might be closer to Sagedahl than the seed times suggest. Nonetheless, if Sagedahl has anything like the fitness he exhibited at the 2019 National Senior Games when he ran his 3:07.16 800 meters, Shropshire cannot realistically challenge him. Sagedahl should take the win. It will be interesting to see if Shropshire can give Stewart a run for 2nd place.

12:45 PM M75. There could be some fireworks here. Gary Patton, So Cal Track, a legend on the track, is listed for a seed time, 2:36.03, that is only 3 seconds faster than Ross Bolding, unattached. Patton is, of course, signed up for the 800 m, 1500m, 5,000 m, and the 10,000 m. Most likely he will only run all four if he figures he can take it easy on the longer ones. Patton should win this if he keeps it in his collection of races. Patton is a legend on the track but he has run many fine road races as well. He took the Individual Masters Grand Prix title in 2016, with wins on the turf and on the road, from the Mile to the 8K. Patton broke the American M75 800 Meter record in early June with a 2:37.06. 

Gary Patton takes the M70 title at the 2016 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships Photo by Bob Brock


Perhaps the 2:36.03 was from before he turned 75? He broke the American M75 record for the Road Mile just last week with a 5:55 in Lincoln NB. Athlinks results from 2019 and early 2020 suggest that Bolding was a 6:30 Miler and a 13:50 2-miler. Even if he has close to that fitness coming out of the pandemic, it does not seem likely he could match Patton’s kick if Patton is hanging back and just looking for the win rather than a fast time. Since he just took down the record, and he would have a 1500-meter race the next day and, potentially, a 10,000 meter race earlier in the day, most likely he will let Bolding lead and rely on a kick for the win.

12:53 PM M70 Like the M75 contest, this race has its own legend, Nolan Shaheed, at the top of the list. With a seed time of 2:22.03, it does not look like anyone can stay with him. If he runs anywhere near his seed time, it will be another American Record for Mr. Shaheed! They are not likely to be on the podium, but I will be interested to see how Harold Nolan Shore AC, and Jerry Learned, Atlanta TC, fare. Learned competes on the Masters National Grand Prix for Atlanta, running distances up through the Half Marathon. 

Jerry Learned left battling his teammate, Dave Glass as they head to the finish line at the 2019 USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships. Photo courtesy of the HAP Crim Festival of Races Michigan Mile


But he also runs the Road Mile, where he met Nolan, who typically sticks to shorter distances. In the 2017 Road Mile Championship in Flint MI, Learned was in his last year of 65-69 and Nolan in his first of 70-74. Nolan took his Age Division in 6:09; Learned finished 8 seconds in front.

1:05 PM M65 Stephen Chantry Colonial Road Runners, has not run many MLDR Championships recently; his most recent was at the 2017 8K in Virginia Beach. In a stacked M60 field, where Brian Pilcher came within a few seconds of breaking the American Record, Chantry dueled Reno Stirrat for 6th, pulling away on the final straightaway to beat him to the tape by 5 seconds in 30:37. Chantry has the best seed time by over 20 seconds and should have no trouble winning this one. 


Stephen Chantry trails Reno Stirrat with a mile and a half to go at the 2017 USATF Masters 8K Championships hosted by the Shamrock Marathon's Towne Bank 8K in Virginia Beach

The second-best seed time in this 800-meter event belongs to Harold Leddy, Shore AC, who, by coincidence, also ran in Virginia Beach in 2017, finishing a couple of minutes behind Chantry. Leddy will finish closer, but the outcome likely the same this time.

1:13 PM M60 The first name I am familiar with on this list is David Westenberg Greater Lowell Road Runners, who has the 5th best seed time at 2:21.19, behind a Canadian and 4 Americans. Westenberg considers himself a 1500M/Miler first so is looking to test his speed in this race. His main race comes Sunday morning. Westenberg has done much more distance over the last couple of years; he has staying power, but may not have the fast twitch muscles tuned up to stay with these speed merchants. It will be fun to see if he can crack onto the podium. 

David Westenberg flies toward the finish line, taking the M60 title in 5:12.07 Photo courtesy of HAP Crim Festival of Races Michigan Mile


Tim Conheady Greater Philadelphia TC ran #2 for Greater Philadelphia at Lehigh in 2019, behind Chuck Shields, as they snared a spot on the coveted Club Cross podium. He has a 2:25 and change seeded time, matching several others. That will be a fun race within a race to watch.

1:28 PM M55 Three of the 16 entrants, Alejandro Heuck Greater Springfield Harriers, Mike Nier Genesee Valley Harriers, and his teammate, Dale Flanders, are well known to MLDR National Grand Prix afficionados. Nier and Flanders are mainstays of the GVH M50+ team which is a threat for the podium at every National Championship. Heuck runs in support of the Greater Springfield squad on the roads where only three contribute directly to the score, but is an important cog in their XC efforts where five strong runners are needed. Greater Springfield has been top dog in the M50+ division since 2016, winning the Masters National Grand Prix and taking the prestigious Club Cross Country Championship each year. As the initial paragraph above suggest, Heuck loves the track more than either the turf or the roads. Heuck’s 800m seed time of 2:14.5 is second to Peter Kashulines Freedom-Garmin, who ran 5:03 in the Big Bang Mile earlier this month. Like Heuck, I imagine Kashulines prefers the track to the turf, but he paid his XC dues, finishing 20th in M55 at Lehigh while leading his team to an 18th place finish in M50+. Heuck, Nier and Flanders all ran faster at Lehigh, but this is a track race. Kashulines hads the best sed time by 5 seconds. If he can come close to that, he should win. It will be fun to see if Heuck can live up to him having the 2nd fastest seed time. His 2:14 is only two seconds faster than the 7th best seed time. And one of those seed times belongs to Alan Wells Atlanta Track Club. Wells primarily runs track and participates in Atlanta’s excursions for the National Masters Road Mile Championships in Flint. In 2019, Heuck, Nier and Wells finished in 5:00.97, 5:01.79, and 5:01.91. Throw a blanket over those three! Nier has only the 11th best seed time, which suggests he has little chance for the podium. 


Mike Nier left about to overtake Alan Wells as they hurtle toward the finish line at the 2019 USATF Masters Mile Championships in Flint MI Photo courtesy of HAP Crim Festival of Races Michigan Mile

The Flint result suggests Nier will be very much in the hunt for a podium spot, as will Heuck and Wells.

1:38 PM M50 Mark Yuen West Valley TC and Scott Siriano Mass Velocity are known to the MLDR community. Yuen has been one of the key contributors to West Valley's impressive Club XC efforts, helping the M40+ team to wins at Lehigh and Lexington. 

Mark Yuen, 5th Overall behind Paul Cook, Adam Dailey, Jacques Salberg, and Neville Davey in the 2019 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships Photo courtesy of Cal Coast TC


A solid performer, Siriano took 3rd at the 2018 Masters Road Mile Championships in Flint with a 5:07 and finished 12th M50 at the Masters 5 Km XC Championships in Buffalo NY. Yuen has only the 4th best seed time but I expect him to be very much in the hunt for a podium spot, and could even get the win. For Siriano, the podium may be more of a stretch.

1:45 PM M45 Seed times and history suggest this will be a classic battle between Mark Williams Unattached and  Peter Brady Central Park TC. Williams is coming in with the equivalent of a 'hot hand' in basketball. On July 18th at the Penn Relays All Comers meet in Philadelphia, Mark got his sub-2, running 1:59.38! Brady, on the other hand, while close to that level, has had his struggles. On July 17th, at a track meet in Beacon NY, Brady ran a 'high 2:04' despite a niggling knee injury. A week of rest and ice is his prescription to go into Ames and give his best shot. Brady is a game competitor but I have to give Williams the edge in this 800m renewal of their long-time rivalry. and they  are both, of course, entered in the 1500m, where Brady has the superior seed time.

Peter Brady #1276 paying his dues on a muddy turn in the Masters 10 Km race at the 2019 USATF Club XC Championshis at Lehigh U. along with Nat Larson #1552, and Mark Zamek #1420. Photo by Michael Scott


1:52 PM M40 Joshua Slamka has a seed time of 1:53:00 which is impressive, less than 3 seconds off the American Record. He took the Masters title at the WISCO Mile last year in 4:21.79, and ran a virtually identical 4:22 for the Virtual Brooklyn Mile. I find no recent results on Athlinks, but if he has anywhere near that fitness, he should take the M40 crown easily. Chuck Schneekloth Garden State TC won the last Masters Road Mile Championship in Flint in 2019, edging Arizona;s Mike Madsen with a lean at the tape and a 4:36.31 to a 4:36.35. Schneekloth knows how to win a race! 

Chuck Schneekloth far side edges Mike Madsen by 0.04 seconds at the 2019 USATF Masters Mile Championships Photo courtesy of HAP Crim Festival of Races Michigan Mile


He has the 4th best seed time at 2:02.74. Like Williams in M45, he is coming in on a roll, with a good stretch of workouts following a 4:22.83 winning effort at Garden State's home track East Coast Championships. That was with a solid 10K workout the day before. Schneekloth said he felt there was plenty in the tank over the last 200 meters. It seems unlikely Schneekloth can stay with Slamka, but he should be in the mix for a podium finish.

All of the above predictions are made in the sense of having fun with it. I love it when athletes prove me wrong and exceed my wildest expectations. Invariably some others will have a niggling injury I don't know about or will encounter other difficulties. I am no expert on the track; these contests are also tricky to predict because it is not known in advance how hard an athlete will be pushing in a given race. Most have multiple races between Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon.    

Aside: Alternatives to a 'Sub-2 minute' 800 Meter Run Goal

I supply some alternate goals, loosely based on 2014 WMA approved age-grading tables for TF, http://www.howardgrubb.co.uk/athletics/wmatnf14.html for those in age divisions where 2:00 is a far reach or no reach. If a sub-2 is a good goal for you, by all means go for it, but the tables suggest the following round figures for men of other ages are at least as challenging but not too much more for the relevant age as ‘sub-2’ is for a 40-year-old male:

45 2:05     50 2:10     55 2:15     60 2:20     65 2:25     70 2:35     75 2:45     80 3:00     85 3:

For Women, the roughly equivalent round challenges with an h for slightly harder than M40, an e for slightly easier, and no clarifier when they are about the same might be:

40 2:10 h     45 2:15 h     50 2:25 e     55 2:35 e     60 2:45     65 3:00 h     70 3:20     75 3:45 h     80 4:20     85 4:55

Take this alternate challenge if you wish and let me know if you nail it (or have already nailed it) this year, either in Ames or at another event. Send an email to therunningprof@gmail.com.


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