Saturday, December 11, 2021

Preview #3 Club Cross Country Masters Races-M50&55 --Plus Musings on Team Races

 December 10, 2021 

This picks up where the 2nd Preview dropped off-the Men's 50 and Men's 55. Unlike in previous years, the three names for the predicted podium are in alphabetic order.

M50 The top contenders appear to be: Craig Godwin Bowerman TC Tim Harte Greater Philadelphia TC Jaime Heilpern HOKA Aggies, and Matthew Waite TC Running Company, and perhaps Chad Newton Atlanta TC. One can never count out Mr. Sub Four himself, Christian Cushing-Murray Cal Coast TC. He finished 5th in this division at both Lexington and Spokane, dropping to 7th at Lehigh. Perhaps he will bounce back in this, perhaps his last Club Cross in M50, but with no recent results it seems a bit unlikely. Godwin won the M50 15K road Championship in Tulsa in 2019 and then ran 35:08 at Lehigh to take 3rd in the division. This fall he won the M50 division at the 12 km Championships in 41:23. Harte ran 36:33 at Lehigh last year to take 11th in the division but has had a good year in 2021, with a 1:16:07 in the Philadelphia Distance Run HM, a 27:33 in the Rothman 8K and an M50 win at the 5 km Masters XC at Boston in 17:16. Heilpern ran a 16:06 5K at Morgan Hill so he is fit. He ran impressively in M45 at Spokane, 33:50 fro 3rd in the division and 9th overall, and 34:04 at Lehigh to finish 4th in the M45 division and 10th overall. Waite ran a 1:17:42 Half Marathon at Grandma's in Duluth and followed that with a fine 2:44:59 at Boston. In 2020, he won M50 at his Minnesota Association XC Championships over 6K in 22:42. Newton is resurfacing after being absent from USATF Masters National Championships for a few years. He won the M45 5K National Championship in 2015 with a 15:48 and took the M45 title at the 2014 Club Cross Championships in Lehigh in 33:02. He has an 18:14 5K and a 4:47 1500 meter to his credit this year. Heilpern appears to be fit and is the favorite here, given his performances the last two years.Harte and Godwin are running well. Waite could certainly break them up though. Mark CallonWest Valley TC and Greg Putnam Central Mass Striders had a spirited battle for the 2nd place finish at Boston in this division. It wil be interesting to see how that plays out this weekend, and whether either can crack the podium.

Craig Godwin Bowerman TC   Tim Harte Greater Philadelphia TC   Jaime Heilpern HOKA Aggies

M55 It would be too much to say that Nat Larson Greater Springfield Harriers is back at the top of his game, but he is not far off. Considering he was Masters Harrier of the Year in 2017, 2018, and 2019, that makes him a favorite on Saturday. He took the M55 12 km title in September with a 43:13 effort, and the M55 title at the 5 km XC at Boston in 17:31. Good as that is, it may not be good enough to win. Larson will be in M60 next year. Peter Hammer Boston Athletic Association moved up from M50. Hammer took the M50 title at Lehigh with a 34:36; Larson won M55 with 35:55. On the other hand, Hammer has not run in any of the Greater Boston XC meets. The only thing I can find is either a jog with friends or kids or a 'breakdown' 5K at 27 minutes plus. His typical prep includes a fast 10K at Lone Gull followed by two of the Greater Boston XC races. But it is telling that the BAA have them on the M40+ A team, not the B team.  John Van Danacker TC Running Company finished 2nd to Larson at Lexington in a distant 36:02, but did not run at Spokane or Lehigh. He ran a strong 15K in 2019 but I see no results since 2019. Mike Nier Genesee Valley Harriers finished 5th M55 at Lehigh in 37:07; he also took 5th in M50 at XC Nationals in Tallahassee in 2019. He took 3rd M55 in Boston in 18:21 behind Larson. Robert Arsenault Cal Coast TC finished 6th in the Tallahassee XC Nationals, just a half minute back from Nier. He has run a 30:38 5 Miler and clocked a 46:52 in the challenging Quad City Bix-7. Like Newton in M50, Kristian Blaich is running again for Atlanta after a break. At Lexington, Blaich finished 6th M50, just 6 seconds back from Cushing-Murray in 35:05. At the 2018 10K Masters Championships, Blaich finished 3rd M50 in 34:21. In 2015 he won the Overall Masters 10 K Championship in 33:22. Like other potentially strong contenders, I find no recent results. Mark Hixson, coming back from rehab but on a slightly different schedule than his teammate, Larson, may contend. He finished 11th M50 at Lexington in 35:21, 8th at Spokane in 35:45, and finished 3rd M50 over 8K at the 2018 XC Nationals at Tallahassee.  If Hixson is to contend, he will have to improve a lot from his Boston outing where he finished 8th in this division in October.19:02. Tim Meigs Bull CityTC, a superb Marathoner, clocked 2:47:50 at the 2021 edition. He also ran a 2:48:44 at the Richmond HM. In 2019 he took the M50 title at the USATF Masters 5 km Championships in Atlanta with a fine 16:27. That course is, as Eric Heintz likes to say, 'Atlanta Flat' meaning the hills are not too bad. Meigs has no recent XC results I can find, but as observed elsewhere, strong Marathoners have often done well at XC. I am reluctant to put either Hammer or Blaich into my potential podium picks without any recent outings I can find. I will take a chance and leave Baich out. The last time I did that, a few years ago, he proved me wrong with a fine race. Larson is in for sure. I will  add Hammer and Meigs. I will let Arsenault, Blaich, Hixson, Nier, and Van Danacker take a shot at proving me wrong.

Peter Hammer Boston Athletic Association    Nat Larson Greater Springfield Harriers   Tim Meigs Bull CityTC   

Observations on Team Races--Sum of top 5 scores (M40+, M50+) orr top 3scores (M60+ and up and all Women divisions)--lower score wins.  Based on teams as posted on the usatf website--may have been changed at packet pickup

W40+  This team race will be a dandy, with several strong teams but none that look completely dominant on paper. The strongest 3-deep squads appear to be the BAA and the Janes. Atlanta, Cal Coast, and Club Northwest will be pushing for the podium as well.

B.A.A.     Janes Elite     Club Northwest

 W50+ The Janes bring an impressive roster. But there is a lack of recent strong results to point to. If Leetch can run anywhere near the way she was running at Spokane, and Walters turns in another good performance, it is hard to believe that between Fischer, Cushing-Murray and Taylor they could not get  a pretty low score. They have to contend with Greater Philadelphia. Rohl and Strange are likely to be 1-2 in the division. But where will Stewart, their third scoring athlete, finish? Club Northwest has two strong runners who could be in the top 5. Garden State could have a tightly packed group of three runners. If there are not too many top runners in front of them, they could parlay that into a podium finish.

Greater Philadelphia       The Janes Elite      Club Northwest

W60+ Greater Philadelphia should take this championship handily. If Impala Racing had not moved Cordes, Quan and Simmons into the W50+ contest, they could have pushed GPTC a bit. But GPTC is probably strong enough to win even against that team. Club Nothwest looks good for 2nd and Atlanta and GVH  will fight it out for the final podium spot.

Greater Philadelphia     Club Northwest      Atlanta TC

W70+ Team Red Lizard should take this division easily, as long as all three are able to make it to the race. Atlanta A and B follow

Team Red Lizard     Atlanta A     Atlanta B


M40+ The Indiana Elite AC are coming in with high hopes. I heard a rumor that one of their athletes was not able to get a negative covid test submitted, but I did not hear which one. In the 40+ division, five runners score, so missing a runner can hurt. Indiana entered a team of 9 so they should still be in good shape.  They are loaded, with Davis, who I picked for top 3, as well as Poray and Cole, who have national podium finishes to their credit. With a 1:11 HM guy and a 2:47 marathoner along, they look strong enough to withstand losing one runner, but we shall see. There will be the usual strong clubs in this division, the BAA,  Bowerman, Cal Coast, and West Valley. The HFC Striders pushed the BAA in Boston but appear to have weakened since then. With 5 entered, everyone must run well. At Boston they had some cushion with 8. The BAA will have their usual strong pack and, if Taylor runs as well as he looks on paper, they will have a top 3 finisher, too. West Valley will miss Marvilla's star power, no doubt. But they appear to be strong otherwise, assuming Gilmore is fully recovered. Bowerman will need Howell and Mitchell to step up if they are to contend.  Cal Coast can expect a good race from Sallberg and it will be intresting to see if Cook can run with the lead pack this year. It will be good to see how the veterans and the yongsters shake out.

Indiana     BAA     Cal Coast

M50+ The last few years, it has been safe to pick the Greater Springfield Harriers, knowing they would deliver. It looks a bit moe doubtful this year. They have no Kent Lemm. Larson appears to be fully recovered, but Hixson, at least in October, was not there yet. Burdett has been up and down with injuries as well. West Valley has brought a strong team and have 9 entered compared to GSH's 6. With Blaich and Newton ready to roll, Atlanta will have their strongest 50's team in a few years. The Boulder Road Runners have a new team with high hopes for a medal. Todd Straka who has done well in the Flint Road Mile Championships is known but the others are new. It will be fun to see how they do. There are so many strong 50's teams, they could do very well and not make the podium. It is exciting to begin a process. Bowerman, Cal Coast, Central Mass Striders, Club Northwest, and TC Running Company all look like serious contenders.

West Valley     TC Running     Atlanta

M60+ Atlanta has been the big dogs in this division the last few years. With Ken Youngers and Mike Anderson both out of commission right now, they wil be pressed to make the podium. Athetics Boulder looks strong. Even with just a moderate day, King should be on the podium. And he has a strong suporting cast, with Litoff, Brues and Littlepage, even if all are not at their peak fitness. Roger Sayre and Mark Tatum give the Boulder Road Runners two top scorers; if one of the other three step up, BRR could get the gold.Club Northwest has Joe Sheeran. But they need two others. Abdalla was not far behind Sheeran on their regional XC course, If he, or one of the others,  can stay close tomorrow, Club Northwest could make some noise. With Rick Lee leading the way, Reno Stirrat mostly recovered, and Kevin Dollard his usual solid self, Shore AC could well wind up on the podium. The TC Running out of Minnesota looks good in this division too. With Johnson and Class giving them a strong 1-2, they have a real possibility of a win. They need Kessler or Wagner to stay close. 

Boulder RR     Athletics Boulder     Shore AC

M70+ Atlanta brings the same cast that won the 5 km XC Championships in Boston. Boulder RR, who finished 2nd to Atlanta bring a slightly different team. In principle it could be stronger, but only if Rick Katz is close to his usual fitness, which seems unlikely. The Syracuse TC may be Atlanta's strongest challengers. With James Foster leading the way, they need Kelly and Wood to have good races. The San Diego Striders could do well with Ron Wells and Rick Pfeiffer leading the way. But one of hteir supporting cast needs to have a good day. GVH will be competitive but they need someone to step up; they finished 3rd behind Atlanta and Boulder in Boston and thre are a couple of other clubs entered here who could keep them off the podium.

Syracuse      Atlanta     Boulder RR

M80+ Finally an easy one! Atlanta is unopposed and with four strong runners in Craven, Davis, Sherwood and Turner, there is little worry about getting the necessary three finishers.

Atlanta TC

Now let's run the races!

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