Monday, October 25, 2021

Team Races at the 2021 USATF Masters National 5 km Cross Country Championships

 October 25 2021. For many of the nearly 300 Masters athletes who assembled at Franklin Park on Sunday morning, the 17th, the prospects for the team were of primary concern. In some cases, the goal was to nail down a Masters National Grand Prix MNGP title for 2021. For others it was to defeat one of their regional rivals on a national stage or simply to win a national title. All enjoyed the excitement and camaraderie of a large XC gathering and competition. Just for variety, I will cover the races in a different order this time, starting with the third race of the day, the Women's Race. After that I will cover the Men's 60+; both those races score the top 3 runners, with low score winning. Places reported below refer to place within the team competition, where all runners from incomplete teams are eliminated.  I will cap off the coverage with the Men's 40-59 team races where they score the traditional five top runners.


40+ The Impala Racing team has become more active over the last two years of active competition, 2019 and 2021. Because of the structure of the MNGP scoring this year, the Jane's Elite of Southern California were able to lock up the title by winning Club Cross at Lehigh and Cross Country Nationals at San Diego. With a good showing in Boston, though, the Impalas could be sure no one would move them out of 2nd place. Plus another national title has bragging rights of its own! The HFC Striders, HFC stands for 'Hurtin' for Certain' a Boston area running club, would try to repel not only the Impalas, but two other clubs from other ares with rich histories,  Atlanta Track Club and the Genesee Valley Harriers GVH , from upstate New York. The Liberty AC, less competitive but no less enthusiastic, would also compete. Liberty has a rich history of its own, founded in 1948, the first running club exclusively for women. Jess Smith got the Impalas on the board first at 18:35. Less than a minute went by before Jill Braley served notice that Atlanta would be in the hunt, too. Christina Seretis Campbell gave HFC hope when she came across in 3rd less than a half minute later. At 20:02, Kelly Couch gave Impala the second of the three runners they needed. Erin Brown kept HFC spirits high by finishing 5th 20 seconds later. Trailing by three points, HFC would need their 3rd runner in well ahead of the Impala's 3rd. At 20:43, Heather Webster got GVH on the board at 6th. Katie Famous delivered the victory for the Impalas with a 7th place finish at 20:53. That gave the Impalas 12 points; no team  could match that. Megan Kossar showed that Impala had a strong insurance runner when she finished 8th at 21:05. 

The Impala Racing Team sets off with the gun! At the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA All photos courtesy of Todd Straka

The winners of the Women's 40+ Team Race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA, the Impala Racing team L to R Megan Kossar, Katie Famous, Jessica Smith, Kelly Couch

Atlanta's Kathy Wiegand gave then their 2nd scoring runner; they trailed HFC by 3 points in the race for 2nd place. 


Kathy Wiegand, competing intensely for the Atlanta Track Club at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA

When Murphee Hayes finished 9th for GVH, the race for 2nd was definitely heating up! After the Impalas scored another runner in 11th, Alexandra Newman, the Liberty AC, scored its first runner in Carrie Benedon. Hiroko Guarneri capped off the scoring for Atlanta. 

Third Place Team at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA, the Atlanta Track Club L to R: Jill Braley, Kathy Wiegand, Hiroko Guarneri


Her lucky 13th place gave Atlanta the 2nd compete team score at 24. Anyone watching the scoring closely would know that HFC needed its 3rd runner in one of the next two spots to nail down 2nd. Sure enough, Lauren Fitzpatrick answered the call 18 seconds after Guarneri. Her 14th place gave HFC 22 points and 2nd place! Gail Geiger finished off the scoring for GVH at 32 points. Liberty rounded out the division in 5th at 44.

Impala Racing 12     HFC Striders 22     Atlanta TC 24

50+ This division saw a renewal of a new rivalry from the 12 km between New Jersey's Shore AC and the Greater Philadelphia TC GPTC. When Athena disbanded last year, many of their runners moved to Greater Philadelphia. With some added recruiting, GPTC is now one of the stronger teams in the country, in the 50+ and 60+ divisions. But Shore was able to get the win at Highlands. The Jane's also led in this MNGP divison going into Boston but did not enter a team. That meant if GPTC won, they would also collect the MNGP title, and the same was true for Shore. Of course, even though it is a single team, the specific team members who can make it to a national championship make a difference. And, of course, some runners excel at, and enjoy cross country, others are relatively stronger on the roads. Suzanne LaBurt led Shore at both races, but with different supporting casts. The GPTC 50+ team at Highlands consisted of three 59-year olds, 2 of whom aged up between the 12 km and 5 km XC, and ran for GPTC's 60+ team. No worries for GPTC though, as they were led at Boston by two of the strongest imaginable 50's XC runners. Even though they had no chance of taking the MNGP title, several teams made for a highly competitive division. Checkers AC, GVH, HFC, and Liberty AC would all threaten for the podium.

At 19:21 into the race, Michelle Rohl, the new W55 American Record holder in the 800 and 1500 meters on the track, got things rolling for GPTC. A minute later, the other athlete forming their top tandem, Marisa Sutera Strange, gave them the lowest possible score off of 2 runners at 3 points. That took the pressure off their 3rd runner. At 20:38 Amy Fakterowitz gave Checkers their first score. Less than twenty seconds later, Shore was on the board with LaBurt in 4th. Liberty's Julie Craig led the 2nd wave at 23:34, giving Liberty 5 points. Betsy Stewart came next; her 6th place finish closed off the scoring for GPTC at 9 points. 

Marisa Sutera Strange pushing through 'The Wilderness' at the Franklin Park course to help her Greater Philadelphia TC team compete for the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA 

Michelle Rohl driving with full force to the finish line for the Greater Philadelphia Track Club at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA 

Winners of the Women's 50+ Team Championship at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA, the Greater Phildelphia Track Club L to R Betsy Stewart, Marisa Sutera Strange, Michelle Rohl

That gave them the win! Eileen Cakouros put HFC on the board with her 7th place finish and GVH was heard from in the person of Sandra Gregorich's 8th place finish. All of the teams had their first runner in. The rest of the podium would depend on the order of finish among the 2nd an 3rd runners. GVH had only ten seconds to wait as Carol Reif finished 9th to give GVH 17 points on two runners. When Diane Rothman finished 10th, that mo ed Shore back into the lead for 2nd at 14 points on two scores. Ann Marie Gannon moved Checkers into a tie at 14 with Shore. Mary McNulty kept HFC's hopes alive with her 12th place, giving them19 points on two runners. At that point it was Shore & Checkers at 14 , GVH at 17, and HFC at 19. 

Kara Haas L and Amy Fakterowitz R battle on behalf of their teams for supremacy at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA

Checkers AC in the Hunt for the 50+ Podium at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA--Colleen Newman #1769 setting the pace for Joann O'Loughlin off Newman's right shoulder and Nancy Legierski #1768 background

Second Place Team at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA, Checkers AC L to R Amy Fakterowitz, Colleen Newman, Nancy Legierski, Anne Marie Gannon, Joann O'Loughlin


At 25:17 Joann O'Loughlin finished 13th, giving Checkers 27 points and 2nd place! Colleen Newman, though listed for 14th, actually finished essentially even with O'Loughlin, getting the same 25:17 time, so Checkers definitely had good insurance! Less than 20 seconds later, Audra Naujokas-Knapp was across the line for GVH in 15th. Their 32 points gave them the final podium position.


Third Place Team at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA, the Genesee Valley Harriers L to R Carol Reif, Sandy Gregorich, Audra Naujokas-Knapp

Susan Stirrat
and Leslie Nowicki finished 21st and 22nd for Shore to give them 4th place at 35. Mary Caruso's 18th place  ended HFC's scoring at 37 points, leaving them only 2 points back from Shore in 5th. Liberty's Shahdokt Reeder and Melanie MacFarlane finished 17th and 19th to give Liberty 41 points and 6th place.

Greater Philadelphia Track Club 9     Checkers AC 27     GVH 32

60+ The only team entered in this division with 2021 MNGP aspirations was Atlanta. Shore AC did not enter a team, hence allowing Atlanta to move past them into 2nd place in the GP. With three teams entered, Atlanta needed to have three runners finish the race. Liberty AC sent a strong team. As noted above, two of Greater Philadelphia's 59-year olds moved up to the 60+ division, giving GPTC an edge. Lorraine Jasper got things started for GPTC at 21:38. Liberty's Mary Cass was only 8 seconds back in 2nd. Trading punches, GPTC's Mary Swan finished next in 3rd. A half minute later, Amanda King kept Liberty in contention with her 4th place. Liberty trailed GPTC, 6-4; they needed the next finisher. Cheryl Bellaire made sure that did not happen, as GPTC's #3 edged Liberty's Victoria Bok by 7 seconds. That meant it was GPTC finishing first at 9 points to Liberty's 2nd with 12. 

Greater Philadelphia TC's 60+ team compares notes post race at the
2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R Cheryl Bellaire, Lorraine Jasper, Mary Swan

Winners of the W60+ Team Championship at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R Lorraine Jasper, Cheryl Bellaire, Mary Swan

Alda Cossi and Anne Shreffler provided insurance for Liberty with 7th and 10th place finishes respectively. 

Second Place team in the Women's 60+ Competition at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R  Alda Cossi, Mary Cass, Victoria Bok, Amanda King, Anne Shreffler


Atlanta did not bring all of their top guns, but the three who came took care of business. Robin Tanner, Cindy Williams, and Margaret Taylor finished 8th, 9th, and 11th to give Atlanta 28 points, delivering third place in this Championship and moving them into 2nd in the final 2021 MNGP standings.

Greater Philadelphia TC 9     Liberty AC 12     Atlanta TC 28

MEN 60+

60+  Athletics Boulder AB, Greater Philadelphia TC, and Shore AC were all tied at 170. That AB was willing to make the trip all the way from the Rocky Mountains speaks to their commitment or confidence or both. GVH was a bit behind the others but had a chance to move up if they had a great outing. The HFC Striders and Greater Lowell Road Runners were there to defend the home turf. The Manchester Running Company was visiting from the neighboring association in Connecticut. Dan King got things started right for AB at 18:57. Nine seconds later, Joseph Mora gave GVH an initial two points. HFC's Robert McCormack took 3rd at 19:11 to put HFC in the thick of the competition. Shore was next with Rick Lee's 4th place finish 8 seconds later. Four of the five teams that looked to move up in the Grand Prix had their first runner on the board. AB's bid for the win got reinforced when their 2nd runner, David Litoff, came next ahead of the #2's for every other team in GP contention. 

Twenty-five seconds later, Chuck Shields finished 6th to get things going for Greater Philadelphia. When Shore's #2, Michael Salamone edged Greater Lowell's David Westenberg for 7th, that kept the pressure on. Westenberg is a top middle distance runner, but would not normally expect to be Lowell's first runner in on a Cross Country course. That shows how beat up Greater Lowell is at present. At 20:29, GVH's 2nd runner, Tim Riccardi, came across the finish line in 9th to give them 11 points on 2 runners, matching Shore , but trailing AB with 6. None of the other teams had 2 runners scored yet. AB put the race for first place away when Jay Littlepage edged GPTC's Bruce Weber at the finish line to take 10th and give AB 16 points and a lock on 1st. 

Jay Littlepage purple singlet of Athetics Boulder tracking GPTC's Bruce Weber in the midst of the M60+ race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA

Dan King purple singlet biding his time behind Robet McCormack in the midst of the M60+ race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA
M60+ Winners at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R Rick Bruess, Dan King, David Litoff, Jay Littlepage

That's not the end of the story though. Not only did Weber take 11th, but his teammate, Robert Reynolds finished ten seconds later in 12th to give Greater Philadelphia a total of 29 points with all 3 runners in. But there was still room for Shore and GVH to finish above GPTC. Each needed their third runner to finish higher than 18th. Manchester's Kevin Glenn took the lucky 13th spot, and 19 seconds later Donald Schwartz  gave Shore a 14th place finish, bringing their total score to 25 and netting 2nd place in the race. His teammate, Kevin Dollard, finished 15th, displacing runners from other teams. A few seconds later, Ned Kennedy took 16th for Manchester, giving them 29 points with 2 runners scored. When Jimmy Fallon of HFC, Rick Bruess of AB, and Reno Stirrat of Shore 

Shore AC captured 2nd place in the M60+ race at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R Kevin Dollard, Reno Stirrat, Michael Salamone, Rick Lee, Donald Schwartz


took 17th through 19th, that meant GVH would have a total score higher than 29. GPTC could celebrate their third place finish! 

Like so many others at the 5 km XC Championships, Chuck Shields left it all out on the course in striving to move GPTC up on the leader board in the M60+ division at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA


Robert Reynolds L and Chuck Shields R commemorate their 3rd place finish in the M60+ team competition at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA

And HFC now had 20 points on two runners. John Barbour, who won the 65-69 division at Lehigh, finished next for Greater Lowell at #20, giving them 29 points on two runners, even with Manchester, and 9 behind HFC. Tris Carta finished 21st for Manchester, giving them a total score of 50 points. Gary Passamonte finished 12 seconds later in 22nd, making sure GVH did not fall any lower. Their final total was 33 points, good enough for 4th place. They did not land on the podium but did increase their MNGP points with 70 from this race. Whether they moved u in the MNGP standings depended on how Greater Lowell finished. But at least they guaranteed they would hold their #6 spot. Mark Reeder, who finished 2n in the M60+ race at Lehigh, just ahead of King, managed to finish in 23rd. That gave Greater Lowell 52 points. They could finish no higher than 6th but even if they finished 7th, that would give them 50 MNGP points and enough to stay ahead of GVH in the standings. HFC's 3rd runner, Paul Corcoran, finished 26th to give HFC 46 points, enough to push Manchester to 6th and Greater Lowell to 7th. This was a real dogfight for MNGP honors. AB won out. Shore's 90 points for 2nd moved them ahead of the Boulder Road Runner in the Grand Prix. Boulder did not compete in Boston. Greater Philadelphia's 80 points for 3rd place moved them into a tie for 3rd in the Grand Prix with Boulder. They were on the Grand Prix podium for the first time. As noted, Greater Lowell scored enough points to stay in 5th in the Grand Prix, just ahead of GVH. 

Athletics Boulder 16     Shore AC 25     Greater Philadelphia TC 29 

70+  The Ann Arbor Track Club won the Grand Prix the last two years but they have been beset by various injuries and health problems; they will finish the season with the 100 points they earned by winning the Club Cross Championship at Lehigh in 2019.. The Atlanta Track Club and the San Diego Striders are tied with the lead at 180 points. San Diego is not contesting Boston so they finish with 180 points. Atlanta needs to win or finish second to move past San Diego into 1st. This would be Kirk Larson's first opportunity to run for Atlanta as a 70 year old. Their biggest challenge at Boston looked to come from the Boulder Road Runners. They were strengthened by Hall of Famer, Doug Bell, who just aged up out of 65-69. With 100 points from winning XC Nationals at San Diego, Boulder can also move past the Striders if they finish 1st or 2nd. Greater Philadelphia was hoping to make a run and move up toward the top of the MNGP, but Don Morrison, their top runner at the 12 km in NJ, is an injury scratch. GPTC will not contest the 5 km XC Championship at Boston either. Shore AC's 150 GP points going into Boston had them in 3rd behind Atlanta and San Diego. If Atlanta and Boulder split the top two positions, Shore cannot move u from 4th. If the Genesee Valley Harriers were to win, they would move past Shore into 4th. If the Clifton Road Runners, who took 2nd at the 12 km Championship, could finish 3rd or better, they would move ahead of Shore. This was the first national championship of the season for the New England 65 Plus Runners Club, so they just hoped to do as well as possible in this event.

Midway through the race it looked like a toss-up between Boulder and Atlanta for the win. Bell was leading, but  Larson was within striking distance. Larson's teammate, Jerry Learned came next, but Boulder's Carl Mohr was in 4th. So the teams were even on their first two runners. Atlanta's Dave Glass had 30 meters on Boulder's Jan Frisby, but that could change. When Larson, after slowly closing on Bell over the last kilometer, was able to slip to the left with 60 meters to go, and unleash an all-out kick to move past Bell and take the win, that gave Atlanta the first score. 

Kirk Larson led his Atlanta Track Club M70+ team to victory at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA --Receiving his National Championship 1st place medal from Race Director, Steve Vaitones


As it turned out, Learned was able to maintain his lead over Mohr all the way to the finish where he prevailed by 14 seconds. Mohr's 4th place finish meant that Atlanta and Boulder were not tied at 5 after their first two runners scored; Atlanta led 4-6. A half minute later, Glass came across the line in 5th, giving Atlanta 9 points and the Boston win. And that win meant Atlanta also took the 2021 GP title! 

The victorious Atlanta Track Club M70+ team with their team plaque and medals at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R Kirk Larson, Vasan 'Pooh' Neovakul, Dave Glass, Jerry Learned, Sam Benedict


Ezequiel Garcia finished in 6th to put Clifton on the board. Frisby  came over the  line in 7th, sewing up 2nd place for Boulder, both in this championship and in the GP standings.  

Packing It Up-George Braun #1552 and Jan Frisby finished just 3 seconds back, with their teammate, Gary Ostwald another 5 seconds back--helping the Boulder Road Runner's team to 2nd place at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA


Gary Ostwald followed Frisby over the line for Boulder, just 5 seconds later, pushing the scores for other teams 1 point higher. 

The Boulder Road Runners M70+ team captured 2nd place at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R Gary Ostwald, Carl Mohr, Rich Castro, Jan Frisby, Doug Bell


The next wave of runners began the tale of GVH vs Shore vs Clifton. GVH's Jim May took 9th in 24:45, with his teammate, Keith Yeates ten seconds behind in 10th. Things were looking good for GVH to take 3rd. Shore's Spider Rossiter took 11th, a second back from Yeates, The next two finishers were Boulder's Rich Castro at 25:38, and, a minute later, David Ritchie, who put the New England 65 Plus team on the board. GVH's Jim Glinsky edged Shore's Przemek Nowicki for 14th when Nowicki missed the final right turn. By the time he realized his mistake, Glinsky had caught up and made the turn.  Nowicki returned to the course, but it was too late to catch Glinsky, who edged him by 3 seconds. It was not critical to the score, but one always hates to lose a place. Glinksy's 14th gave GVH 33 points and 3rd place.   

The Genesee Valley Harriers made the M70+ Team Podium at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R: Roger Salmons, Jim Glinsky, Keith Yeates, Jim May, Patrick Dwyer


Roger Salmons, GVH's 4th scoring runner, finished 16th, just ahead of Atlanta's 4th runner, Vasan 'Pooh' Neovakul. William Reilly and Richard Paulsen, finished 18th and 20th for New England, giving them a final score of 51. At that point Shore had 26 points from 2 scorers; They needed their third runner to finish in the top 25 to finish 4th. When Roland Cormier came across the line in 21st, Shore had 47 points; they would finish 4th at Boston. But they knew that GVH would not pass them in the Grand Prix standings. Shore would finish 4th with GVH 5th.

Atlanta Track Club 9     Boulder Road Runners  13     Genesee Valley Harriers 33

80+ The Clifton Road Runners won championships at the Club Cross Championships at Lehigh and at the 12 km in Highlands NJ. That meant they had the M80+ Grand Prix locked up. They did not contest the 80+ division at Boston. The only team contesting the 5 km XC was the hometown favorites, the New England 65 Plus RC.  Unopposed, they took the Championship with 6 points, led by Bill Borla, coming across the finish line at 33:31, followed by his able teammates, Philip Pierce, Buddy Cummings, and Ram Satyaprasad.

The Victorious M80+ team of the New England 65 Plus Runners Club at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R Buddy Cummings, Ram Satyaprasad, Bill Borla


MEN 40 - 59

40+ In terms of the Grand Prix, Cal Coast had a good lead with 190 points from finishing 2nd at Club Cross and coming back to win at XC Nationals in San Diego. They were not entered at Boston so would finish with 190 Grand Prix. Greater Philadelphia would pass Cal Coast and finish in first if they won at Boston. They had 100 points in hand from winning at Highlands but they needed another win because they finished 7th for 50 points at Club Cross. That would be tough with the B.A.A. entered. And Greater Philadelphia had to worry about the BAA moving past them into 2nd. GPTC could not afford to finish last. Then they would lose their 2nd place standing to the B.A.A. The Garden State Track Club was also in the mix for a Grand Prix podium spot, if they could finish 3rd or higher. The HFC Striders were no threat for the podium but brought a strong team that would battle with the BAA for the win. The Central Mass Striders would need to beat both the BAA and the HFC Striders to move up much in the GP standings, which seemed unlikely. Despite the Grand Prix implications, there was plenty of glory and bragging rights at stake in the National 5 km Championship! The BAA is tough on their home course; HFC would love to take the win away from such a strong team! The Checkers AC, like HFC, had no hope for a strong Grand Prix showing overall so their focus was to do as well as possible at the National Championships.

HFC's Chris Garvin surprised everyone, possibly even himself, when he came across the finish line at 16:22 in first. One for HFC! John Poray came from the Indiana Elite without any teammates. His finish at 16:40 did not count in the team competition. When T.J. Unger, also of HFC, finished in 16:45, that gave HFC 1-2. But, as a reminder, the top 5 runners are scored in the Men's 40-59 race divisions. There was plenty of story left to tell. Todd Witleben drew first blood for Checkers with his 3rd place  just 9 seconds back from Unger. The BAA announced their presence with a 4th place from Matthew Carter in 16:55. Two seconds later, Greater Philadelphia's Matt Waggoner took 5th a single second ahead of the BAA's Jason Holroyd. Holroyd gave the BAA two runners in so now they were part of the conversation, albeit behind HFC 10 points to three. Brock Butler came next, showing that GPTC had to be reckoned with. They had 12 points on two runners. Two seconds later, Scott Leslie put the Central Mass Striders on the board . Two more seconds later, Aaron Price gave the BAA their 3rd scoring runner, and a total of 19 points. Those whose hearts beat for the BAA unfurrowed their brows and breathed more easily. Tim Harte answered for GPTC with a 10th place finish at 17:16 that kept GPTC within three points of the BAA. Both teams had their top 3 runners finished. The BAA had 4 runners in and 30 points when Donal O'Sullivan crossed the finish line in 11th at 17:27. They were almost there, but knew that David Bedoya, who had run so strongly for them so many times before, was not at his best. Would he be able to finish in the top 20 and give them the win? It would be a while before they knew. The other teams got into the action. Garden State's Dave Ferrugia, though not at top health on the day, came in 12th for Garden State to put them on the board. Brian Cullinan did the same for the Somerville Road Runners 4 seconds later. HFC got cooking again as Lee Danforth and Michael Daniels came across the finish line in 17:49 and 17:50, for 14th and 15th, to give HFC 32 points on 4 runners, trailing the BAA by just two points!  Michael Anis finished 16th for Garden State, giving them 28 points on two runners 32 to 30. Seven seconds later, Bedoya came through with a 17th place finish that gave the BAA 47 points and the win

Aaron Price, David Bedoya, Jason Holroyd and Donal O'Sullivan L to R with their first place plaque and medals commemorating their M40+ win at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA


It was a dogfight out there though. Bedoya edged GPTC's Kenneth Barbee by 2 seconds, with HFC's Timothy Gavin a single second further back. Had Bedoya and Gavin switched positions around Barbee, the teams would have tied and sorting out the team winner would have been complicated. As it actually turned out though, the BAA had the clear victory in a tight contest over a worthy adversary: 47 for the BAA, 51 for HFC. 

Michael Daniels, Chris Garvin and T.J. Unger L to R with their plaque and medals commemorating the HFC finishing 2nd in the M40+ Division at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA


With Barbee's 18th place, GPTC had 40 points on 4 runners and was within a shout of a podium finish! But the shouting would have to wait; until the 5th runner comes in, nothing is certain! Before the 5th runner for GPTC finished, Checkers had John McMahon, Joe Silliman , and Matt Dore finish from 18:32 to 19:21 in 22nd, 25th and 27th, to give Checkers 77 points on 4 runners. That meant GPTC's 5th runner had to finish 36th or better to assure a win. With 40 runners entered int he M40+ team competition it was not certain. Garden State's Jason Timochko and John Hogan finished 26th and 27th in 19:21 and 19:22; GSTC had 82 points on 4 runners, five points back from Checkers. Three seconds back from Hogan, Dave Dunham gave Central Mass their 3rd scoring runner. Harold Porcher came across the finish line with the same 19:25 time as Dunham; his 30th place finish gave Garden State 112 points, assuring them a place in the top 5 teams at Boston. They came in fast and furious at that point; David Dixon was a second back from Porcher in  31st. Dixon gave Checkers 108 points as a final total, edging GSTC by 4 points but was it for 4th or 3rd? Where was Greater Philadelphia's 5th runner?! CMS's Daniel Verrington  claimed 32nd in 19:49, with Somerville's Steve Bosic in 33rd before GPTC's Scott Armstrong answered the question with his 34th place in 20:08. Armstrong delivered the goods; GPTC was on the podium with 74 points. 

Kenneth Barbee, Brock Butler, Matthew Waggoner, Tim Harte and Scott Armstrong L to R with the Greater Philadelphia Track Club's 3rd place plaque in the M40+ contest at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA


Checkers was 4th and GSTC 5th. Once James Pawlicki finished in 39th, CMS had 6th place locked up with 128 points. Bradley Harris and Jason LaChapelle closed off the scoring for Somerville so they had their 7th place finish at a national championship!

Boston Athletic Association 47     HFC Striders 51     Greater Philadelphia Track Club 74

50+ The Greater Springfield Harriers have won the last three Grand Prix contests, in 2017, 2018 and 2019. But they entered the last competition of this year in 3rd place. With the top two teams in the 2021 standings skipping this championship, GSH had a chance to win their 4th consecutive Grand Prix. They needed to do well at Boston. They needed to finish first or second to move ahead of the Bowerman TC. They were up against the Central Mass Striders, GVH, and the HFC Striders. The CMS team could not place in the MNGP standings as this was the only National Championship they contested this year, and the minimum number required is 2. But CMS could win a national championship and, in the process, be a spoiler. GVH needed a 2nd place finish to move up ahead of the Garden State TC, and a 3rd place to tie them. HFC could move up from being barely in the top 20 in the Grand Prix to being in the top Ten.

Gregory Putnam got things started with a bang for CMS when he claimed first at 17:28. Three seconds later, Nat Larson, in his last year in 55-59, claimed 2nd for GSH. At Lehigh, Larson's teammate, Mark Hixson, finished just a few seconds back from him. GSH knew it would be a different story this time with Hixson in the midst of an injury recovery. In fact they were not sure if he would  be one of their top three runners. Seventeen seconds after Larson crossed the finish line, Michael Nahom showed that GSH had some other XC warriors, giving GSH 5 points on two runners. Six seconds later Tim Van Orden answered the challenge for CMS, taking 4th place and pulling them even with GSH. GVH was heard from a half minute later when their dynamic duo, Mike Nier and Alan Evans finished in 5th and 6th, just one second apart. Three seconds later, Scott Grandfield scored another 7 points for CMs moving them to  12 points on three runners. CMS would take three of the next 4 places as Todd Callaghan, Joseph Shairs, and Steve Brightman finished 8th, 10th and 11th. When Shairs took 10th, that closed off CMS's scoring at  30 points; no other team could come close. 

Tim Van Orden, Scott Grandfield, Steve Brightman, Todd Callaghan, Gregory Putnam, and Joe Shairs L to R commemorate their M50+ Victory at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA


Brightman's 11th place pushed the scores for all other teams higher. HFC's #1, Jason Cakouros, broke up the CMS runners to finish 9th. Fourteen seconds after Brightman scored for CMS, Hixson finished in 12th to give GSH 17 points from 3 runners. GVH's Dale Flanders could not hold off Hixson; a second later he had 13th place, giving GVH 24 points on three runners, just 7 points behind GSH.  Robert Murray and Alejandro Heuck finished 14th and 15th for GSH, giving GSH a total of 46 points, good enough for 2nd place. 

Three of the Greater Springfield Harriers team display their plaque commemorating their 2nd place finish at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA L to R Nat Larson, Alejandro Heuck, Francis Burdett


HFC's Steve Neri and Bobby Bligh took 16th and 17th. That gave HFC a 3-runner score of  score of 42, eighteen behind GVH but still in the hunt. Frank Nelson finished 18th for HFC a half minute later. That gave HFC 4 scoring runners finished to only 3 for GVH. GVH needed a 4th runner in soon. Francis Burdett finished 19th for GSH, but GVH had the next two, as Wayne Crandall and Carl Johnston finished 20th and 21st just two seconds apart. That gave GVH third place with a final total of 65, which HFC could not match. 

Mike Reif, Mark Rybinski, Carl Johnston, Dale Flanders, Alan Evans, Mike Nier, Wayne Crandall L to R with their medals and plaque commemorating their M50+ podium finish at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km National Championships at Franklin Park in Boston MA


HFC's #5 runner, Jeffrey Cahill finished less than a minute later in 22nd to give HFC 82 points and 4th place. Interestingly, Mark Rybinski and Michael Reif stepped down from their usual role on 60+ and 70+ teams respectively to finish 23rd and 24th. It seems odd they would step down unless it was doubtful that one or more of GVH's first 5 was going to finish.

Central Mass Striders 30     Greater Springfield Harriers 46     GVH 65

This event provided a fitting end to the 2021 Masters National Grand Prix that extended form December 2019 to October 2020. On a near perfect day and course for Cross Country, Masters athletes rose to the occasion, competing at the highest level as individuals and teams. 

And thanks again to Todd Straka for the many great action and team photos. Too bad he wasn't able to take photos of the race he competed in, the Men's 40+ race. Todd is an accomplished Middle Distance runner who has great admiration for the stamina needed to flourish on the Cross Country course. As he emailed after the race, "I have a long. way to go to remember how to start digging deep in these races! :)"

Here's a Mike Scott photo:

Todd Straka, 54, #1672, our 'Ace Photographer" and webmaster, keeping pace with Steve Brightman #1654 and Todd Callahan #1655 of the winning M50+ Central Mass Striders

Mike Scott, Chair of the LDR Division of USATF, and longtime member of the Cross Country Council, does a terrific job of shooting the Cross Country Championships. I used his photos extensively in the earlier recap of Overall, Age Grading and Age Division contests. I also used Mike's photos for this recap, behind the scenes, to help me identify some of the folks I did not know by sight, in some of the team photos. Let me know if any are incorrect!

The next gathering of national caliber Masters harriers is not far off. Lots of teams from far-flung parts of the country, like the Mountain West and the Pacific Coast, who did not make the journey to Boston will head to Florida in December. The Masters races at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships will take place in Tallahassee FL on December 11th. The first Masters entries have already come in; to join them, you may register by clicking here.

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