December 14, 2021 The weather turned out to be more challenging than expected. When the Women's Race started at 9 am, it was already 67 degrees, with 97% humidity--a dew point of 66. Many authorities feel that dew point may be the best indicator of the effect of heat and humidity on running performance. In an article in runnersconnect.net, John Davis includes a chart indicating that when the dew point is between 65 and 70, that 'hard running' becomes 'very difficult' and performance is likely to suffer by 3 to 5%. The upper end of the range is likely indicative of the effect on runners who are not acclimated to running in the heat; the lower end for those who are. By the time the Men's 40+ race went off at 11 am, the dew point was at 69 and by the time they finished, it was 70, the upper end of the range. Those who went out conservatively, for their fitness, did well. Those who ran as they usually do, suffered, sometimes a lot, over the final loop.
|Two Hundred Meters after the Gun Sounded-The Women's Masters Race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships This photo and all others courtesy of Michael Scott|
Women's Race In my preview I identified the following as top contenders: Karolyn Bowley Boston Athletic Association, Jill Braley Atlanta Track Club, Megan Heuer Club Northwest, Carre Joyce Heineck Team Red Lizard, Laurie Knowles Atlanta Track Club, Michelle Rohl Greater Philadelphia Track Club, and Maggie Shearer Cal Coast Track Club. Other athletes I thought might factor in included: Heather Capello B.A.A.; Vivian Hyman Janes Elite; Holly McIlvaine Club Northwest; Laura Osman Cal Coast; Gwendolen Twist Janes Elite; Ingrid Walters Janes Elite; and Cambria Wu Janes Elite. Knowles was not present after all, but all the rest were. I overlooked Erika Holroyd B.A.A.; Jessica Hruska Crown Running; Caoimhe Irish name pronounced something like 'Kee-va' Kilroy; Katie Sherron Gulf Winds TC;; and Emily Shertzer Moravian Alumni Running Club. Holroyd finished 8th at the 2019 5 km Championships in Atlanta. Hruska had a not so impressive 3:01:13 Boston Marathon, coupled with a more impressive 29:42 8K at a local Iowa race. Kilroy finished 7th overall at the 2021 12 km Championship in 47:24. Sherron clocked 1:21:43 at the RnR Savannah HM. Shertzer ran a 1:25:04 Half Marathon in Harrisburg and a 19:04 5K in Atlanta.
Shearer and Sherron took it out hard and by the 1st split (1170 km), they had a 3 second lead on Heineck and Braley, followed a few strides later by a large chase pack.
|Katie Sherron L and Maggie Shearer R lead the field 300 meters into the race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL|
By the time they sped past the Jumbotron at the halfway mark, Shearer and Sherron were still locked in combat, both at 10:59.
|Maggie Shearer L and Katie Sherron R match stride for stride out in front of the Masters Women's race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL|
Now they had a 50 meter lead over Heineck, who enjoyed 30 meters on Bowley and Heuer, who had both broken out of the early chase pack, and Braley. It was 10 meters back to Kilroy and Holroyd, with Wu, Rohl, and Capello further back, but still in the top 20. Shortly thereafter, Sherron started pushing the pace as Shearer tried to stay with her. By 4000 meters, Sherron had a 15 meter gap. Heineck was further back but had maintained the 30 meter lead she had on Bowley and Heuer at the halfway mark.
|Megan Heuer #936 and Jill Braley #1049 contending for 5th and 6th at the end of the first 3 km loop at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL|
Kilroy was now 40 meters back from that pair, with Holroyd tracking her about 10 meters back.
|Caoimhe Kilroy L and Jessica Hruska R battling for 7th and 8th at the end of the first loop at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL|
Sherron slowed somewhat over the next kilometer, but Shearer could no longer stay close as the gap grew to 40 meters. Sherron and Shearer both closed strong as Sherron took the win in 22:09, 13 seconds ahead of Shearer.
|Katie Sherron enjoys the finish of her winning effort in the Women's Masters Race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL|
Heineck had reduced the gap to Shearer from 80 to 70 meters in the 5th kilometer and then kicked hard up the hill.
|Maggie Shearer races hard all the way to the finish and 2nd place at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL|
She closed the gap part way but was still 30 meters back at the finish, taking 3rd place.
|Carre Joyce Heineck claims 3rd Masters at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL|
Heuer pulled away from Braley in the final kilometer but could not close the gap on Bowley.
|Karolyn Bowley takes 4th at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL|
Bowley placed 4th overall in 22:53, with Heuer 5th, 23:05, and Braley 6th, 23:09. Hruska finished 7th in 23:22; her chip must have malfunctioned as she does not appear on any of the intermediate split lists. Shertzer started off conservatively and was in the middle of a large chase pack after the first kilometer. By maintaining a solid pace she moved up through the pack to 20th by the 2 kilometer mark. She surged over the next kilometer and was rewarded by an improvement to 13th. By then the warmth and humidity was taking a toll. A steady pace over the 4th kilometer brought her to 9th with a kilometer to go and then an 8th place finish in 23:30, just ahead of Holroyd and Kilroy in 9th and 10th.
This was by far the biggest win ever for Sherron. She had been a Division III sprinter/hurdler in college but found road racing about ten years later and embraced the road running culture around Tallahassee, which she described as '...a huge, wonderful community'. She noted, "Usually in local races, I am racing against men. In this race, for the first time, I found myself racing against women my own age and older, who are incredibly fit and competitive and train hard. When I drove up and saw all the women in their team uniforms and vans, I knew I was in for a special experience. Luckily my husband and kids could come along because the race was right here in my hometown, it was a fun, family outing. That helped with nerves.. It also helped that we used to live right across from the Apalachee Regional Park ARP. At that itme, the ARP was my 'go to' workout site. I must have run hundreds of miles over that roling turf." Talk about hometown advantage, Sherron had 'home course' advantage too! It was an impressive win over a strong field. As Sherron put it, "I was so impressed by Maggie Shearer's professionalism and competitiveness. She went out hard, she took all the tangents; she knew what she was doing. It was an honor to be in the same race with Shearer and these other great women runners!" When asked about future plans, she replied " I have a 30K that I usually race in January. And I am looking at the 5 km Masters Championships in Atlanta. That might be doable, even with family responsibilities, although nothing is as great as having a National Championship right in your own hometown!"
Katie Sherron 22:09 Maggie Shearer 22:22 Carre Joyce Heineck 22:29
Men's 60+ Race This was a highly anticipated race, a possible match-up between 2020 Masters Harrier of the Year, Joe Sheeran Club Northwest, middle distance record smasher, Dan King Athletics Boulder, and 2021 Dipsea Champion, Mark Tatum Boulder Road Runners. Sheeran put together an incredible string from December 2017 when he was the first Harrier 60 or over to cross the finish line. He skipped Tallahassee and Buffalo in 2018, bu then won the 60+ Club Cross race in Spokane and did not lose again, through Tallahassee, San Diego 5K, Bethehem/Lehigh, and San Diego XC Nationals-amazing. King challenged him at the San Diego 5 km Masters and at Lehigh, but could not hang with him. Tatum had a terrific race at Dipsea; winning that race raised his profile among mountain and trail runners, for sure, not to mention LDR types generally. Dipsea, however, with its 4400' of ascent and descent over 13.7 miles, with steps and lots of steep climbs and falls, is a far cry from an 8 kilometer race on a groomed trail over grass, dirt and shells, with two comparatively mild hills.
I anticipated that others, like Roger Sayre Boulder Road Runners, with a number of national road championships under his belt, and Rick Lee Shore AC, who set a new American 50 km Record this year, would likely be in the mix as well.
I had my eye out for Paul Abdalla Club Northwest, who finished just 12 seconds behind Sheeran at their Pacific Northwest XC Championships, William 'Hugh' Enicks So Cal TC, with an 18:03 5K and a 37:21 10K to his credit this year, Daniel Johnson TC Running Company who finished 4th M60 at Lehigh and won the M60 division at the Minnesota XC Championships this fall; and Robert McCormack HFC Striders, who led King around the Franklin Park course in October before King blew past and beat him by 10 seconds. Others I might have mentioned include: Tim DeGrado Boulder Road Runners; David Litoff Athletics Boulder, and Kevin Ostenberg HOKA Aggie RC. DeGrado ran 3:02 at the Longview Marathon and 2:56:58 at the comparatively fast CIM. Perhaps more importantly, in retrospect, he ran 37:21 on a 10K trail run. Litoff, this year, has been an able #2 to King on the AB squad, finishing within a half minute of King's winning effort at Franklin Park in Boston. Ostenberg was one of those runners with no recent results that I could find. I did find some very solid, but not spectacular, times in 2019, and that he had finished 13th in M50 at the 2012 Lexington Club Cross Championships. Would he be in competitive shape for this Championship? Ostenberg answered that question on Saturday.
From the right: Dan King leads the Chase at the 300 meter mark, with Rob Class on his left shoulder, followed by Paul Abdalla, Philip Garland, Joe Mora, and David Litoff at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL
Unfortunately Sheeran did not make it to the race; from a chance look at a reply he placed on someone else's FB post, it appears he is rehabbing some kind of injury. It must have popped up recently as he was running well in early November.
The gun sounded and Lee took off with McCormack in hot pursuit, followed by King, with Johnson's teammate, Rob Class, on his heels, with Abdalla, Litoff and Ostenberg right there behind him. By the time they reached the first timing mat, Litoff and King had moved to the front, with a time of 4:16, but it was still a tight pack of runners, with most contenders in the top 10. Johnson started more conservatively and was in 13th at 4:25, followed two seconds later by DeGrado, Sayre and Tatum. all of the Boulder Road Runners. If they could keep that pack together they had a good chance at the Team win, their main concern at Club Cross. From that point to the 2nd split at 2170 meters, King dropped the pace to 5:30 per mile and created a gap of 20 meters over McCormack,
with Lee, Litoff, Ostenberg and Class barely keeping contact with McCormack. Joe Mora Genesee Valley Harriers was 15 meters behind Class, with Enicks, Philip Garland F and M TC, and Abdalla in 10th crossing the mat one by one after Mora. The Boulder RR pack followed right behind in 11th through 13th.
By the time King had mounted 'The Wall' and sprinted around the upper field and down past the Jumbotron, he had a 40 meter lead on McCormack who had 30 meters on a chase pack of Lee, Litoff, and Ostenberg.
Another 30 meters found the Boulder RR pack, followed by Class and Enicks. King was now in full, flowing stride and no one was going to catch him today!
By the time he passed the Jumbotron a second time at the 6 km mark, in 22:14, he had a 200 meter lead on a chase pack of DeGrado, McCormack, Ostenberg, and Sayre. That group had 50 meters on Litoff, Tatum, Enicks, Lee, and Abdalla in that order. With a kilometer to go, King's lead was as big as ever. DeGrado and Sayre were fighting it out for second, 40 meters ahead of Ostenberg and McCormack in 4th and 5th.
From left: Robert McCormack, Kevin Ostenberg, Tim DeGrado and Roger Sayre calling on their fast twitch muscles to get them to the finish line ASAP-300 meters to go! at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL
Fifty meters behind them was a tight bunch of runners, Litoff, Lee, Tatum, Enicks, and Abdalla, all within 4 seconds of each other. King finished smoothly, clocking 29:56 for the win.
|Daniel King flies to take the Men's 60+ win with all cylinders firing! at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL|
DeGrado crossed the line in 2nd 47 seconds later.
His teammate, Sayre, came across in 3rd, just 6 seconds behind.
McCormack rallied, pulling away from Ostenberg to take 4th in 31:11.
Two seconds later, Ostenberg held off a fast closing Abdalla and Tatum.
Tatum was on Abdalla's heels, followed a couple of strides later by Lee and then Enicks.
Seven seconds later, Litoff claimed 10th in 31:28. Remarkably, the top 3 finishers all run for either Athletics Boulder or the Boulder Road Runners. Those two teams from the same high altitude city comprised 5 of the top ten!
Tatum, by the way, was perfectly happy with this race. He and his two teammates raced together for most of the race and did well as a team! Dipsea was great but a different mindset, a very different course that plays to his training and his strengths. That was a magical moment to win Dipsea. This was brilliant in a different way.
It was another tour de force for King, a solid win over a tough field. We expect nothing less these days. King had to work around a sore hip over the last couple of weeks, but is a master at recovery. I happened to be nearby when he was lacing up his racing shoes. He said all systems were go and there was nothing standing in the way of a good run. I knew his rivals were in trouble.When he made his move about 500 meters into the race, it was decisive and he quickly left the field behind. From there the lead just kept on building as King was running free and easy. As a result of his win, King was rewarded with a USADA test that occupied him for a while after the race. When he left that tent, he accidentally left behind his prize spikes that he broke a world and Americn record in. It took him a couple of days to recover them but he was very grateful to the Tallahassee Sports Commission representative who tracked them down. In terms of what's up next, King, a new convert to the middle distnces over the past 18 months or so, posted on Strava, "I race a mile on new Year's Eve."
Dan King 29:56 Tim DeGrado 30:43 Roger Sayre 30:49
Men's 40+ Race Two-thirds of the 2019 podium at Lehigh returned, including the winner, Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast TC, who unleashed a ferocious kick to pull away from 2nd place finisher, Peter Gilmore West Valley TC, for a 5-second win in 32:55. There were plenty of other contenders to push the pace and, with two years between Championships, plenty of new faces. Some of the runners I mentioned included David Angell Roanoke Valley Elite; John Gardiner Cal Coast TC; John Howell Bowerman TC; and Gregory Mitchell Bowerman TC. Angell has won multiple national Overall Masters Road Championships and has often been on the podium at Cross Country National Championships. Gardiner, at one point, had 7 consecutive top ten finishes in the Masters 40+ race at Club Cross Country National Championships, and was on the podium in 2016 at Tallahassee. Like Angell, he has a number of wins at Masters National Championships on the roads. Howell finished 2nd overall at Club Cross in Lexington KY in 2017 and took 5th in Spokane in 2018. From December 2013 through December 2016, Mitchell finished either first or second Masters athlete overall in every Cross Country Nationals and Club Cross Country National Championship.
Some of the other contenders I mentioned included: Eric Blake Central Mass Striders; Brock Butler Greater Philadelphia TC; Roosevelt Cook Cal Coast TC; Jesse Davis Indiana Elite RC; Chris Garvin HFC Striders; Chris Naimoli Greater Philadelphia TC; John Poray Indiana Elite RC; Alexander Taylor Boston Athletic Association; and T.J. Unger HFC Striders. Blake finished 2nd behind Sallberg at the 2020 XC Nationals in San Diego over 8 km in 27:35 and won the 2019 Masters 10 km Championships in Dedham MA.in 32:17; Butler took 1st overall at the 12 km National Championships in NJ in September with a sparkling 39:52 effort. Cook finished 2nd to Sallberg at the 2019 5 km Masters XC Championships in San Diego and finished 6th at Lehigh in 33:33. Davis is a newly minted Masters athlete who qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon as an Open Athlete a couple of years ago. He clocked 1:07:38 at the Indianapolis Monumental HM in early Novmber. Garvin took the win at the 5 km Masters XC Championships in Boston this October in 16:22. Naimoli won the 2019 15K Masters Overall National Championship at Tulsa in 48:37 and finished 2nd behind his teammate, Butler, at the 12 km Championships. Poray led the field at the 5 km Masters XC Championships until Garvin caught and passed him in th efinal kilometer; he finished 2nd in 16:40. Taylor ran 2:22:35 at Boston this year, finishing 2nd Masters behind Abdi Abdirahman, and clocked 49:17 in the Frank Nealon 15K Tuneup race. Unger finished 3rd at Boston behind Garvin and Poray in 16:45.
There were other athletes I could have mentioned: Peter Bromka Bowerman TC; Joshua McAdams Boise Betties & Billies; Kevin Shirk Garden State TC; Todd Rose West Valley TC; Mark Yuen West Valley TC. Bromka apparently ran 2:29:36 in the Boston Marathon this year. McAdams ran a 1:21:58 HM in 2019 and ran 45:05 in the Foothills 12 km XC race. The only result I found for Shirk was a 4:31 at the Loudoun St. Mile, which was 7 seconds slower than he ran the previous year. I knew he had speed, but was not sure if it was current. Shirk finished 15th overall at Lehigh. Rose and Yuen have been top XC runners out of West Valley for years. It appears they both ran the RnR San Jose HM in early October, clocking 1:13:55 and 1:13:58. They finished one place ahead of and one place behind Shirk.
The gun sounded! Across the wide field, down past the Jumbotron where they would wind up 6 miles later. They toiled p the hill trying to gain an edge. As they ran along the flat past the 500 meter mark, it was Davis pulling Cook, Blake and Gilmore along, with a huge group bunched up right behind. It was the same at the 1170 km mark, but there was no break among any of the runners through the first 50 or so. Sallberg, who entered as favorite, was in 37th, but only 3 seconds back from he leaders, with plenty of room to move up later. At the 2170 meter mark on the back of the course it was still a continuous stream of runners through at least the first 50, but now there was a little more space. Davis, Cook, Blake and Taylor were at the front, with Bromka, McAdamas, Shirk, Gilmore, and Poray in behind. Sallberg had moved up to 31st but was now 8 seconds back from the leaders. Perhaps all was not well? When they went past the Jumbotron the first time at 3000 meters, there was now a little separation between the top bunch and the chase group. Yuen, Poray and Rose led the chase group, with Butler, Angell and Naimoli tucked in. Howell was in 24th and Sallberg , still moving up, was in 28th, but now further back again, with 12 seconds separating him from the leaders. There was time for a move, but it would have to come soon. Davis was definitely dictating the pace on the second loop, but Blake, Cook, Taylor, Gilmore and Bromka were all holding on. By 5000 meters, on the back of the course, Davis's persistence was yielding some results. Davis had 5 meters on the chasing trio of Blake, Cook and Gilmore, with almost ten more meters back to Taylor, and 20 more to Bromka.
Sallberg was now 18th, but over 100 meters behind Davis; this would not be his day. Davis was relentless now but he still had not dropped Blake and Gilmore who were within 10 meters. The rest of the chase pack had split up. Cook was another 12-15 meters behind that duo, with over 20 meters back to Taylor.
It was 30 meters back to McAdams, Bromka and Shirk, and then another 30 to Yuen and 50 to Rose. Now there would be two short loops of 2 km each. Davis kept hitting his targets on that loop but Gilmore and Blake would not break. Davis had been worried about 'The Wall' but said after the race that he had actually been able to gap other runners a bit going up it, with them coming back on the flat at the top. The rest of the field was spreading out more and more. But Yuen, having run conservatively over the first loops, moved up from 11th to 6th by the last time they passed the Jumbotron before the finish. His teammate, Rose, moved up from 18th to 10th!
Davis kept up his relentless pacing at the front, and broke the gap open after surging up the rise and hitting the flat. Blake and Gilmore were now focused a bit more on each other and less on catching Davis. Blake made a move after turning the short corner to head towards the back of the course and the shell path. Gilmore did not let him get away though, pulled back even, and by the time they were on the shells path, with a kilometer to go, it was Gilmore making the move to try to lose Blake. The same thing was happening with Cook and Taylor. Taylor closed on Cook as they went up the rise past the Jumbotron. They were even along the flat but Cook would not give in. He dug a little deeper and made a move as they approached the corner and got a little gap on Taylor. But McAdams was tracking them about 15 meters back on the flat and had closed to 5 meters by the time they made the turn toward the shell path! McAdams was moving! Could he keep it up!? Davis had 50 meters on Blake and Gilmore; they would not catch him. Could Gilmore pull away up 'The Wall'? Cook and Taylor were locked in combat and now joined by McAdams, who was content to fall in with them. This would not be a day for the podium but if he just stayed with these two for a bit, maybe he could get 4th at a national championship!
Davis was far ahead of his pursuers. When Blake started up the wall, he pushed, hoping that Gilmore might break. No such luck; Gilmore tucked in behind but let no gap form. Once at the top they were even again. Cook and Taylor pulled away from McAdams going up 'The Wall', but McAdams was close; he had the opportunity to rally once they hit the down slope.
Davis kept it up all the way to the finish line, clocking 32:56 for the win.
Once they approached the downhill, Gilmore surged past and away from Blake who could not match Gilmore's kick.
Gilmore took second in 33:13 to Blake's 33:15 for third.
Twenty seconds later, McAdams picked up his sprint to see if he could catch Taylor. Cook had left those two behind with a terrific kick that netted him 4th in 33:36.
McAdams did sprint past Taylor though and, although he needed 3 backward glances to be sure Taylor was not coming back at him, McAdams had 5th in 33:39, with Taylor 6th in 33:42.
They were followed 25 seconds later by Shirk 7th and Yuen 8th in 34:08.
At 51, Yuen was the first finisher over 50, with his best Club Cross finish ever (looking back through 2012)! In a classic Bowerman-West Valley shootout, Bromka edged Rose for 9th by a single second.
In 2019 at Lehigh, there was a 4 man lead pack up until the final loop when Gilmore made a move that only Sallberg could match. Even so, Gilmore established a small gap that had grown to about 12 meters with 400 meters to go. Gilmore tried to pull away from Sallberg, but he could gain no ground. Sallberg closed and then passed and kicked away from Gilmore for a 5 second win. This year Gilmore, along with Blake, was dropped when the leader accelerated on the last loop. He had to outrace Blake over the final kilometer to get his second consecutive runner-up finish! Blake was, no doubt, disappointed at not being able to kick with Gilmore when he went, but it is his first podium on the big stage of Club Cross!
Davis, along with his teammates, had to travel from chilly weather in Indianapolis down to warm, humid Tallahassee. Make no mistake, Indianapolis has plenty of hot, humid weather in the summer, but XC season doe snot see that. David had been worried about the heat and did not feel that great when the team ran around the course the day before. Davis recounted that he did not really start to feel comfortable Saturday morning until, right before the race, he dripped some cold water over his head and wrists. It is no 'cold jacket' but it may have helped! As with most of the athletes at Club Cross, team was a big motivator. The others had been waiting for fall 2021 when Davis would turn 40 to make a run at Club Cross. And here they were. Davis had run a lot of marathons and ultra-marathons in 2019. With Covid cancelling so many races in 2020, Davis had few races to prep for. When asked about prep, Davis replied, "I was looking forward to competing with my Indiana Elite teammates; I started working twice a week Orange Theory Fitness sessions into my training routine early in the year to build strength, and targeted the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon as my longest race of the fall, instead of a marathon. In November I started training sessions on grass, wearing spikes, some with the team on the Northview course in Carmel, IN that was the site of the 2014 5 km Masters XC Championships. That was great prep, especially with the hill work you can do on that course." When asked about how it felt to win his first Masters National Championship, he observed, " It really doesn't get any better than coming out here, running with these guys on my team, one of whom was my roommate after college. It was just a great way to reconnect with some guys and connect with some new ones--a great bunch!" In terms of future plans, he mentioned that the team would try to hang together for a while and had been talking abut coming down to Atlanta for the 5 km Masters Championships at the end of February. Then he has the Carmel Marathon in his sites for early April.
Jesse Davis 32:56 Peter Gilmore 33:13 Eric Blake 33:15
Next up will be age divisions and then teams and age-grade winners.