Sunday, January 30, 2022

2022 USATF Cross Country Championships Masters Recap #4--Teams!

 January 24, 2022 Many teams live and die on Club Cross each December. The same is not true of  Cross Country Nationals which are often thought of primarily as Individual Championships. That is in part because the Open races at these Championships, at least every other year, have been selection events for Team USA at the World Cross Country Championships. But there is something about the cachet of winning a National Championship or even making the podium that brings out teams. Also some teams have their eyes on the prize of a National Masters Grand Prix Team Championship. The 2022 MNGP Championships require participation in at least three events; the best 5 events make up the final score for the MNGP. Teams that love Cross Country will run Club Cross, for one, and maybe Cross Country Nationals for the 2nd of their events. If they choose to compete at the Masters 5 km Championships (in Boulder, CO this year) that would give them three events, all of which are Cross Country. Pick out two road races (1 Mile - Rochester NY, 5 km - Atlanta GA, 10 km Dedham MA, 12 km Highlands NJ, 10 Mile-Sacramento CA, Half Marathon Syracuse NY) and you've got 5. In any case, although the entry lists are shorter than at Club Cross, the teams battle just as fiercely for the win and for MNGP points! 

Note 1: Top 5 runners score for the Men 40-59 teams but for Men 60+ and for Women only the top 3 are scored.

Note 2: USATF required a negative Covid test within three days of the race for runners to be allowed to compete. They also provided on site testing.


40+ Four teams were entered. Cal Coast, from the greater L.A./Orange County area, finished 2nd at Club Cross, and Team Red Lizard, from the Portland area, 7th, so one would think Cal Coast was a strong favorite. If the team competitors were the same each time, that would likely be the case. But with only 3 runners scoring, and given various commitments that get in the way of travel and competing, it is not that unusual that 1 or more of the athletes will be different from race to race. Cal Coast's number 2 and 3 runners from Tallahassee would not be at this race, but they had a new addition, transplanted easterner, Christy Peterson, who will be a nice addition for the team. Her last year has been up and down with injuries but she has been running well lately and will add to Cal Coast's strength. The Red Lizard roster at Club Cross consisted of Carre Joyce Heineck, Wendy Terris and Michelle Richards. At Mission Bay, Heineck and Richards were replaced by Renee Metivier and Renee Gordon. Heineck finished 3rd in the team competition at Tallahassee; she would be a tough act to follow. But Metivier was more than up to the task, racing to a big lead over the first loop. 

Renee Metivier building a large lead to help her team with a #1 finish

 All photos courtesy of Michael Scott

Cal Coast's Maggie Shearer could not keep pace with Metivier but she was well ahead of everyone else in the team race. With strong support, Cal Coast could still challenge for the win. But the other new Red Lizard runner, Gordon, was next across the 2 km mat, followed 6 seconds later by Amy Alzina of Team Montecito, like Cal Coast, from Southern California. Ten seconds later there were two more Red Lizards, Terris and Crystal Query, and a Montecito, Jennifer Brown

In the thick of it! Jennifer Brown, Team Montecito, leads Crystal Query & Wendy Terris, both of Team Red Lizard, and Vivien Hyman of Janes Elite


Ten seconds further back we find Peterson, with her teammate, Carla McAlister, 11 seconds back and just 9 seconds ahead of Montecito's #3 runner, Kimberly Hazard. With their runners in 1, 3, 5, and 7, there would have to be major shocks to the race over the next two kilometers to prevent Red Lizard from winning. It was very tight for 2nd place. Cal Coast  had a slim 1 point lead, 19-20 over Montecito. A small change in order could flip those scores. There were two important changes on the 2nd loop. Montevito's Brown moved out of that 3-athlete pack and was now running 5-10 meters ahead of Terris in 5th. That made little difference to Red Lizard, increasing their in process score from 9 to 10, but it did move Montecito into a tie with Cal Coast at 19 all. But the second change erased that tie. Query had been unable to stay even with Brown and Terris, and Peterson had switched to a higher gear, moving past Query, the Red Lizard, to hold  a slim 2 second lead at that point. That moved Cal Coast back ahead 18-19. But could Peterson hold that edge? She would need to if Cal Coast was to collect a 2nd place finish!  

The battle between McAlister and Hazard was just as important. McAlister had just 15 meters on 

Carla McAlister 106, #3 runner for Cal Coast, needed to deliver for a Cal Coast 2nd place team finish.

Hazard. It was still anyone's race! Over the final loop, Brown was able to consolidate her lead over Terris, taking 5th by ten seconds. Peterson made a run at Terris but fell 3 seconds short. But that would have been icing on the cake; the important thing was that she kept Query at bay, giving Cal Coast a one point lead as long as McAlister had not faltered. They had to wait a minute after Query finished but McAlister finished next. She had done it; she kept Hazard 6 seconds back. Team Red Lizard had the big win, with just ten points. But Cal Coast got their 2nd place finish by a single point! Peterson had proven to be a valuable addition; Shearer, Peterson and McAlister celebrated a job well done and a second consecutive runner up finish at a national championship. 

Team Red Lizard 10 24:05 avg time per scoring runner.      

Cal Coast TC  18 25:37     Team Montecito 19 26:08

50+ The three teams contesting the event with complete teams were the Colorado Racing Club out of Boulder, Cal Coast, and the Impala Racing Team, of the San Francisco Bay area. Neither Colorado nor Cal Coast had contested the 50+ division at Tallahassee. Impala had contested the event, with three athletes from the 60-64 division, finishing 6th. I speculated that they had one or more 50-59 year old athletes who, at the last minute, were unable to compete. This time Impala had only one 60-year old on their team; the other three competed in the 60+ division as they usually would. Colorado  was led by Colleen De Reuck, the 4-time Track and Field Olympian and Masters triathlete. Would DeReuck be able to lead her team to victory or would the Impalas return to the top of the podium? They last enjoyed that spot at Club Cross in Bethlehem PA in 2019. Or would the Cal Coast 50+ team outshine their 40+ team and take the top prize?

DeReuck took her role as leader seriously. By the end of the first loop, she was the first runner in the team section with a lead of over 100 meters on the 2nd runner, Elizabeth Guerrini, of the Impalas. 

Colleen DeReuck building a big lead on Loop #1 to lead her Colorado Racing Club team in their hunt for a win.


Fifty meters back from Guerrini, two Colorado athletes, Lydia Dissly and Marcy Cote, were running in tandem. That gave CRC 1st, 3rd and 4th at that point. Someone would have to break up that duo or Colorado was headed for a win. Guerrini's teammate, Jeannie Robinson was only 40 meters back, but she had her own CRC runner to battle with, Ashley Faulkner, who was running by her side. 

Lydia Dissly 115 & Marcey Cote 113, with their teammate, Ashley Faulkner 117 racing over the first loop of the Mission Bay course, helping their team compete for the 50+ Win. Suzanne Cordes, #2 Impala runner also pictured.


Forty more meters found the first of three Impalas,Carol Keller in 7th, followed 50 meters further back by her teammates, Gina Edwards and Angela Longworth in 8th and 9th. Then came the 3rd Cal Coast runner, Christine Onufrak in 10th, with Hronn Gudmundsdottir in 11th. The score at that point was 8-17-24, CRC, Cal Coast, Impala. Unless a major upset happened over the next two loops, that would be the order of finish. There were a few cases where a runner moved up or back a position . The only change that affected the final score was Gudmundsdottir passing Onufrak to finish 10th and push her rival back to 11th. But that just made the final score 8-18-24. It would have been a different story, perhaps, if Gudmundsdottir had the kind of conditioning she displayed at Lehigh in December 2019, when she finished 2nd in this division at Club Cross. We can hope she is working her way back into condition and will show up strongly later this year.

Colorado Racing Club 8 27:33     Cal Coast Track Club 18 29:15     Impala Racing Team 24 31:00

60+ This was a shootout between the Impalas and the locals, the San Diego Track Club. Unlike at Tallahassee, the Impala athletes in the 60-64 division got to run with the 60+ team, not in the 50+ division. Impala  made sure there was no doubt at this event who was top dog in the 60+ division. Among complete teams, their Stella Gibbs was first to the 2 km mat in 8:51. She was followed by her teammate, Suzanne Cordes,16 seconds later; the 3rd Impala, Eileen Brennan-Erler was just 40 meters away in 3rd. 

Eileen Brennan-Erler races over Loop #1 trying to deliver the goods as the Impala Racing team's #3 runner


Brennan-Erler had 150 meters on the first San Diego runner, Karen Simmonds, who crossed the mat in 10:08. Fifty seconds later, Ernestina Martin, #2 for San Diego crossed the mat  with the other two San Diego runners, Tina Breen and Kathy Linenberger, 15-20 meters back. Unless something surprising happened, Impala would score a 1-2-3 sweep! And that's the way it unfolded, with no major changes. Gibbs, Cordes and Brennan-Erler finished 1-2-3 for the Impalas in times ranging from 28:23 to 29:30. San Diego took 2nd, with a 4-5-6 finish in times ranging from 32:10 to 34:51.

Impala Racing 6 28:55     San Diego Track Club 15 34:03

70+ Team Red Lizard was going for two in a row. They took the top Division prize at Tallahassee, defeating the Atlanta Track Club, with a 1-2-3 sweep for a 6-15 win. The Impala 70+ team would try to break them up in San Diego. Jeanette Groesz is the key runner for Red Lizard; she is really at the top of her game. She roared out to a huge lead, crossing the 2 km mat in 10:00, with more than 100 meters on her staunch #2 teammate, triathlete Sharon Gerl. 

Jeanette Groesz building up a substantial lead to help her Red Lizard team in their quest for a 70+ win


That gave Red Lizard 1-2. But the Impala's  Jo Anne Rowland was having nothing of a sweep. She could not keep pace with Groesz and Gerl, but Rowland crossed the mat 3rd,  in 11:21, over 150 meters ahead of the Red Lizard #3, Susan Staffel

The Impala's Jo Anne Rowland 136 races alongside Blanca Sanchez, attempting to break up the top three runners from Red Lizard so her Impala Racing team could have a shot at a 70+ win.

And Staffel was only 5 seconds ahead of Donna Chan, the Impala's #2. As it turned out, everyone held their place; despite her best efforts, Chan was not able to close the gap to Staffel. In fact, Staffel widened the gap a bit. In the end it was Groesz and Gerl 1-2 for Red Lizard in 31:56 and 33:47.Rowland claimed 3rd in 35:02. Staffel closed things off for the Red Lizards, in 38:07, giving Red Lizard a 1-2-4 near sweep. Chan took 5th in 38:29, with her teammate, Irene Herman 52 seconds back in 6th. Marilyn Nippold provided solid insurance for Red Lizard.  Had any of their top 3 run into trouble, Nippold would have sealed the victory with her 43:48 effort.

Team Red Lizard 7 34:36     Impala Racing 14 37:38

The Impala's took away the most hardware from the Women's section, with a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place effort. If you value Gold Medals, Team Red Lizard had the best outing with two first places. Cal Coast  was not far back from those two with two 2nd place results.


40+ This event boiled down to a duel between the powerful Bowerman TC out of Oregon, and the Cal Coast TC. Bowerman had the lower score at Tallahassee. But Cal Coast was certain Jacques Sallberg would run better in San Diego than he did in Tallahassee. Would Bowerman be able to pack enough runners together to offset the star power of Cal Coast's Roosevelt Cook and Sallberg?

The first 2 km loop was revealing. Cook and Sallberg performed as expected, clocking 27:31 and 27:37 for a 1-2 start, but then the first Bowerman train rumbled through with Gregory Mitchell, John Howell and Ahrlin Baumann in 3rd through 5th in times from 7:01 to 7:08. When Luis Agricola crossed the mat for Cal Coast six seconds later, one might wonder, where is Phillip Gonzalez? At Tallahassee, Gonzales was strong enough to run ahead of both Howell and Bauman. With Gonzales off his game, it would be tough for Cal Coast to hang with Bowerman.  

Giving Chase to Sergio Reyes #248, Roosevelt Cook & Jacques Sallberg of Cal Coast, claim the top 2 spots in the 40+ team competition.

Indeed, the next few runners across the mat were only a few second back and the first three were Bowerman runners, Nick Martin, Orestes Gutierrez, and Joshua Gordon. Fifteen meters back was Cal Coast's 4th runner, Trevor Cox in 7:26. Gonzalez was over 150 meters back, clearly running easy by his standards, presumably due to a minor (I hope) injury. That gave Bowerman a narrow lead 27-30. If Agricola or Gonzalez could move up, the score could be flipped. There was change over the second 2 km loop, but not the change that Cal Coast supporters were looking for. The top 5 were unchanged. But Bowerman's Martin had passed Agricola and now had a 30 meter lead. That gave Bowerman 3-4-5-6, and Bowerman's Gordon and Gutierrez were right on Agricola's heels. Cox and Gonzales were further back than before, with Cox 25 seconds out of 9th and Gonzalez another minute behind Cox. That left little doubt that their best hope was to give Cal Coast a 4th and 5th scoring runner so they could at least place in the competition. 

From right: Joshua Gordon & Nick Martin, both of the Bowerman Track Club running in tandem to give their team its best shot at a win, with David Mastro #313

Martin's move gave Bowerman a 4 point edge, 27-31. Cook and Sallberg at 1-2 could not do any better. It seemed unlikely that Cox or Gonzalez would move up. That left Agricola as Cal Coast's only hope and he was under siege. Agricola fought as hard as he could over the next 3 loops, holding off Gutierrez. But Gordon was too persistent, passing Agricola and establishing a gap. In the end Cal Coast had 1-2 with Cook and Sallberg, as expected, but Bowerman had 3-4-5-6-7 from Mitchell, Howell Bauman, Martin and Gordon, leaving them with 25 points and the win! With Agricola, Cox and Gonzalez taking 8th, 10th and 11th, Cal Coast had 2nd place with 32 points!

Bowerman Track Club 25 29:23     Cal Coast Track Club 32 29:49

50+ This too was essentially a dual meet involving the Bowerman Track Club again, but against a different California rival, the West Valley Track Club, out of the San Francisco Bay area. When I ran in High School and even at College in the 1960's it was fairly common to run in dual meets. One of the lessons you learned was that if the other team had 2 or 3 very strong runners, it was imperative to break them up. If the other team took 1-2-3, it did not matter where the other runners finished as long as they finished. That was under the rule that only the 6th and 7th runners could displace any of the other team's top 5. As both teams here entered just 6 runners each in this race, that lesson applied. If either team took the top 3 spots they would win. WVTC's Mark Yuen and Ivan Lieben came in 1-2 at Tallahassee. BTC's Craig Godwin finished ahead of WVTC's #3 runner, David White. But Godwin was out for this event; BTC's top two runners, Matt Farley and Eric Hartmann finished over a minute behind White in Tallahassee. That would have to change or BTC would be running for 2nd place. It was a tall order; right now the WVTC 50+ train is robust! 

These teams know each other well; they have been competing for the top spot in the 40+ division for years. The first loop made it clear that BTC will be happy when some injured guys return to action and/or a couple of younger guys age up. Lieben, Yuen and White came across the 2 km mat 1-2-3 for WVTC in times ranging from 7:01 to 7:27. It was 30 meters back to the first two BTC runners, Farley and Hartmann, running alongside the 4th WVTC athlete, Edward Randolph, and just ahead of the 5th one, Ahmet Gokcek

Mark Yuen, West Valley Track Club, running in 2nd, later to take the lead, as his team endeavors to go 1-2-3 in the 50+ team competition, with Cory Smith, Hoka Aggies, in the background


Twenty meters further back found WVTC's Ben Turman and BTC's Gregory Coughlan duking it out for 8th and 9th. It was well over a hundred meters back to the other three BTC runners, Shawn Donley, Kevin Taylor and Larry Coxe. Nothing significant changed over the course of the race despite the best efforts of the runners involved. Yuennpassed Lieben to lead the WVTC top trio. BTC's Hartmann and WVTC's Randolph battled back and forth as Farley fell a bit off the pace. Randolph eventually pulled away as Farley recovered and moved back up with Hartmann. BTC's Coughlan got 15-20 meters ahead of WVTC's  Gokcek in the middle of the race, but could not shake him. 

Ahmet Gokcek, West Valley, leading Bowerman's Matt Farley #193 & Eric Hartmann #196 on the first loop of the Mission Bay course. with Mike Blackmore #297 and Adrian Herrera #308


With just one loop to go, Gokcek was even with Coughlan again, and managed to create a 10 meter gap by the time they crossed the finish line. In the end, West Valley's Yuen, Lieben, White and Randolph rolled to a 1-2-3-4 finish, broken up by Bowerman's Hartmann and Farley, in 5th and 6th, before Turman and Gokcek closed off the WVTC scoring ahead of the other 4 BTC athletes. In the end it was a good thumping! And one that Bowerman will be plotting to return in kind in the near-term future, perhaps as soon as this next October at altitude in Boulder. The next chance after that is on West Valley's home turf in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Perhaps they will all meet up in Sacramento to try their luck at the USATF Masters 10 Mile Road Championships?!

West Valley Track Club 17 30:13     Bowerman Track Club 41 23:14

 60+ The 40+ and 50+ divisions require 5 runners for each team. At 60+ it changes to a minimum of three. After seeing two divisions that were essentially dual meets between two teams, it was fun to see a division with 6 teams entered: Athletics Boulder, Boulder Road Runners,Cal Coast TC, Jamul Toads, River City Rebels,and San Diego Track Club. The Toads and San Diego are local. Cal Coast comes down from the greater L.A./O.C. area, with the Rebels from the State Capital in Northern California. The other two dropped down from their Rocky Mountain home to contest the event. Boulder and  Athletics Boulder went 1-2 at Tallahassee but they would have different personnel this time. Neither Tim DeGrado nor Roger Sayre would be toeing the line at Mission Bay. And the local teams might have an extra runner or two available that could make a difference. 

By the end of the first was looking like the 6-way competition was morphing into three 2-way contests. Dan King and David Litoff led the way for a 1-2 standing for AB. But two of the next three, Ray Knerr and David Olds were from Cal Coast

Dan King #177 off to a big lead to ensure his Athletics Boulder team has the best possible shot at a 60+ team win.


And then in 8th through 10th were the #'s 3 and 4 Cal Coast guys, Tomas Rodriguez and Brian Nelson, and AB's #3, Rick Bruess. AB was surely ahead, but Bruess would have to hang tough. And Litoff was only 20 meters ahead of Knerr so nothing was certain yet. The Toads had Jim Walsh in 4th place and their 2nd runner, Michael Lebold, was battling with BRR's Adam Feerst for 6th & 7th. BRR's #2 and 3 runners, were running in 12th and 13th, just ahead of a SDTC athlete, Les Shibata

Michael Lebold, Jamul Toads, leads David Olds, Cal Coast as their teams vie for the 60+ podium.

It was another 50 meters back to the Toads #3 at that point, Greg Wagner. The Toads were ahead of Boulder RR, but anyone who knew Hubbart's history might worry that he would be likely to move up over the next few loops. Shibata was the top runner for San Diego, in 14th, but River City had Brent Cushenberry and Andy Harris in 17th and 18th, and Ronald Souza in 20th. San Diego's Paul Baumhoefner and Daniel Trone were in 21st and 23rd. River City  was probably  a little ahead of San Diego, but there was plenty of running left. The battle in the trenches was on!

Tomas Rodriguez, Cal Coast, leading Adam Feerst, Boulder RR #186 and Rick Bruess, Athletics Boulder #176 they compete for the 60+ team win at Mission Bay, with 50's runners, Steven Dunbar #231, John Leo #227, and Stephen Gibson #307

By the end of the 2nd loop, things were clearer in the battle for the win. King was having another dandy tour of the course, almost 100 meters ahead of his #2, Litoff. Litoff, in turn, had pulled away from Cal Coast's Knerr, now over 150 meters separating them. It seemed very likely AB  would get 1-2. AB's #3, Bruess, had also had a good loop, pulling out of the 3-way group contesting 7th through 9th. He now had over 50 meters on Nelson and Rodriguez. They would have to close that gap back up and get ahead for Cal Coast to have any shot at the win. But with Knerr and Olds solidly in 3rd and 5th, they were not threatened from below. The Toads still had Walsh in 4th, firing on all cylinders. But Lebold, their #2 had seen Bruess, Nelson and Rodriguez go by. He was now in 10th. Dunbar, dropping down from his 70-74 division to help out the 60's team, was still a solid 15th, now with Wagner just a couple of strides back. BRR's Feerst had moved past Lebold into 6th, but Hubbart and Barros were still in 12th and 13th. On paper at that point, the Toads were ahead 29-31- very close! Nothing much had changed between the other two, with River City ahead on paper at 56-59. 

Les Shibata San Diego Track Club, leading Kyle Hubbart, Boulder Road Runners. Hubbart looks to move up to help his team while Shibata fights to keep ahead as their teams vie for the 60+ podium.

There was still plenty of suspense! The third of four loops brought no change to the struggle between AB and Cal Coast--too early to celebrate a victory, but AB supporters were feeling pretty confident. Not so for the Toads vs. BRR. BRR's Hubbart had moved past Witthauer into 11th, but that was balanced by the Toad's Dunbar moving ahead of San Diego's Shibata. It was still a 2-point margin, on paper, with a loop to go. It was the Toads 28 and BRR 30. The third duel tightened slightly. San Diego's Baumhoefner had moved past River City's Souza; that more than made up for Shibata losing a place. It was now 57-59 on paper. The last loop would decide things for good! Hubbart was on the move and at 6 km was less than 20 meters out of 10th. If he could get into 10th that would flip the two point deficit into a tie! San Diego could make up ground on River City. Trone, who was 1:04 behind Souza at 4 km cut that to 37 seconds at 6 km. If he could get past Souza, that would flip their score into a tie also! 

When the final loop was concluded, Athletics Boulder  had a fine 1-2-7 win over Cal Coast's 3-5-8. Hubbart was able to work his way past Lebold, who was spent from his early efforts to stay up well inside the top 8. Hubbart took the 10th spot from Lebold. Everyone else stayed the same so it was a tie at 29. BRR's #3, Barros, and the Toads' Dunbar, held their positions in 13th and 14th. BRR had the tie-breaker and took 3rd, closing off the podium. Trone was able to power past Souza to move San Diego into a tie. When Ostwald of BRR moved past River City's Harris, that raised River City's score up another point and gave San Diego 5th place. 

Athletics Boulder 10 32:42     Cal Coast Track Club 16 34:49     Boulder Road Runners 29 36:31

70+ This division had fewer contending teams than 60+ but it was just as competitive among those three, the Atlanta Track Club, the Tamalpa Runners, out of the San Francisco Bay Area, and the local San Diego Striders. The Striders had taken the measure of Atlanta at Club Cross but every contest is a little different. And Tamalpa was contending rather than the Boulder RR team that took the top spot at Tallahassee. Those different dynamics could make a difference. Tamalpa was not at full strength; their #2 runner, Len Goldman did not make the trip. The first loop revealed that even without Goldman and their top 2 runners, Don Porteous and John Hirschberger, not at their best, Tamalpa  was looking good for the win.  ATC's Jerry Learned, Tamalpa's Don Porteous, and San Diego's Ron Wells crossed the 2 km mat at the end of the first loop as a trio. Officially it was recorded 1-2-3 in that order, it makes more sense to count them all as tied. If I split the 6 points and give them 2 points each, I can use that for a running score. ATC's #2, Dave Glass, was in 4th, about ten meters ahead of the Tamalpa #2, John Hirschberger. Tamalpa's #3 runner, Joe Schieffer, was almost a hundred meters behind Hirschberger, but had a solid grip on 6th place. 

Jerry Learned, Atlanta Track Club, leading Don Porteous, Tamalpa #32 and Ron Wells, San Diego Striders on Loop #1, each seeking to lead their team to victory.


Schieffer had well over a hundred meter lead on San Diego's #2, Daniel Diehr. Tamalpa's #4, James Flanigan was a good 30 meters behind Diehr, sitting in 8th place. San Diego's 3rd runner, James Callaway, crossed the timing mat 37 seconds after Flanigan, and only 4 seconds ahead of Atlanta's Sam Benedict, in 10th. Jan Kafka, San Diego's 4th runner, was well over a hundred meters back from Benedict in 11th. The running totals at the 2 km mark showed Tamalpa in the lead at 13, followed by Atlanta with 16 and San Diego at 18. With scores this close it would make a difference how the top trio sorted themselves out. The outcome of the Glass-Hirschberger duel would also be critical. Diehr had a good gap on Flanigan but it was not so big that their places could be viewed as settled. Callaway's 4 second lead over ATC's Benedict seemed fragile. If Benedict could get ahead of Callaway, that would go a long way toward cementing 2nd place for Atlanta. When they crossed the 4 km mat, halfway through the race, Wells had clearly moved to the front, but had only 10-15 meters on ATC's Learned. Porteous was 30 meters behind Learned. That Learned-Porteous gap seemed more likely to stick. Glass was now 50 meters ahead of Hirschberger so that differential seemed reasonably secure. The gap from Diehr to Flanigan had also grown, leaving San Diego feeling a bit more hopeful. Callaway was now 150 meters ahead of Benedict so ATC's hope that Benedict might pass Callaway to gain a point seemed unlikely to be fulfilled. 

Sam Benedict Atlanta leading Stephen Conner San Diego Striders mostly out of picture to left as their teams compete for the best podium position at Mission Bay

By the end of  the 3rd loop, at 6 km, Wells had nearly a hundred meters on Learned. That was unlikely to change,; Learned had a bigger gap on Porteous too, now up to 50 meters. The 1-2-3 finish for the top dogs on each of the three teams, Wells, Learned, and Porteous, in that order, seemed secure. Everything else seemed more solidified with one exception. ATC's #3 runner, Benedict, had been running well ahead of the #4 San Diego runner, Kafka, but now was just 10-15 meters ahead, and was moving at a slower pace. Whether Benedict had run into a problem during the race or an old injury popped up, I do not know. But something is seriously wrong when a runner's pace suddenly kicks up by 40 seconds per kilometer. The in-process score at the moment was Tamalpa 14, Atlanta 16, and San Diego 17. 

John Hirschberger Tamalpa leads a half dozen 50's and 60's runners around a ben on the First Loop of the Mission Bay course as he helps his team compete for a 70+ Team win


As Atlanta supporters feared, Benedict, despite his best efforts, was not able to hold off Kafka. That raised Atlanta's final score by a point, throwing them into a tie with San Diego. The tie-breaking mechanism gave the edge to San Diego.And that was the case, whether you used the current mechanism, the better finishing #3 runner. or the former and. perhaps more standard, mechanism of head-to-head comparison of the set of three runners from each team. Tamalpa, with Porteous, Hirschberger, and Schieffer finishing 3-5-6, had 14 points and a solid win. San Diego, with Wells, Diehr and Callaway claiming 1-7-9 had 17 points, tied with Atlanta. But, as noted, San Diego finished 2nd on the tie-breaker.

Tamalpa Runners 14 42:02     San Diego Striders 17 44:30     Atlanta Track Club 17 45:09

80+ We do not often have a competition in the 80+ age division, although that may become more common going forward. Tamalpa sent an 80+ team, as well as a 70+ team. The Florida Track Club West is a local San Diego club named after the famed Club in Florida associated with Frank Shorter, Jeff Galloway and Jack Bacheler.  FTC West was determined to defend the home turf. The first two kilometer loop revealed a lot, although clearly too early for the outcome to be certain. Tamalpa's Hans Schmid had a 150-meter lead on the 2nd athlete, FTC-W's James Metts. Metts's teammate, Peter Rowat, was 50 meters back in 3rd place. 

Hans Schmid Tamalpa builds a large lead on Loop 1 of the Mission Bay course, hoping to lead his team to an 80+ team win

It was another 50 meters back to Jerry Coletto and Elmo Shropshire running in 4th and 5th. Richard Williams, at 86, the oldest runner in this team competition, was over 300 meters back. His role was to finish so that FTC-W would get a team score.  The only close races within this team competition, for 2nd and 3rd, and for 4th and 5th, involved runners on the same team. The outcome of those rivalries might be important to the team members, but not to the team competition. Tamalpa only led 10-11 but it was hard to see where FTC-W might make up that point. The only substantive change on the 2nd loop was that Shropshire passed, and left his teammate, Coletto, well over a hundred meters back. Now with over a hundred meters between every two competitors except for teammates, Metts and Rowat, the current 10-11 score seemed likely to be the final score as well. 

Peter Rowat Florida TC West, leads Tamalpa's Jerry Coletto, aiming to help their teams win the 80+ team competition

And that is how it finished. In the end, Tamalpa's Schmid, Shropshire and Coletto went 1-4-5 for 10 points and Florida Track Club West claimed 2-3-6 for 11 points. It was another close one, but Tamalpa had the 80+ win to go with their 70+ victory!

Tamalpa Runners 10 56:34     Florida Track Club West 11 57:45

 Over all 5 Men's Divisions, Tamalpa  was the only team with 2 wins. Bowerman netted a 1st in 40+ and a 2nd in 50+. Cal Coast claimed 2nd place finishes in both 40+ and 60+. 

The only team mentioned among the top teams for both Women and Men was Cal Coast! Although he would like all of his teams to win, Cal Coast Coach Bill Sumner should be proud of that achievement at Mission Bay!

That was it. Club Cross brings out a host of teams and many were, perhaps, not ready to contest another XC championship so soon. Having to move these Championships up so close to New Years probably did not help either. And, of course, covid had its effect as well. Now we are free to focus on the road races. Next up is the 5 km Masters Championships in Atlanta the last Saturday in February. Three weeks after that we go to Syracuse on the first day of Spring for the Half Marathon Championships. Early April finds the circuit moving back to the West Coast for the Masters 10 Mile Championships at the Sactown 10 in Sacramento CA. Late April finds Masters runners flocking to the rolling hills of Dedham, a small Boston suburb. We have been there 7 times before for the Masters 10 km Championships; it has always been exciting! The Masters Road Mile Championships in Rochester in late May set us up for the summer! Clubs should remember the motto that in Masters National Road Race Championships, "It takes three to boogie!" Whether your team is competing in Women's Divisions, Men's 60+, 70+, 80+ or Men's 40+ or 50+ you only need three runners, not 5 as is required for M40+ and M50+ teams in Cross Country. If you're going to Atlanta or any of the other road championships, don't go alone, grab a running partner or two from your Club to bring along and compete for both individual and team glory!

And remember, entry fees for Atlanta go up at midnight on the 10th of February. This week is the time to make your move!




Saturday, January 22, 2022

2022 USATF Cross Country Championships Masters Recap #3-- Men-Age Divisions and Age Grading

 January 22, 2022 The weather was ideal at Mission Bay Park on Saturday, January 8th, with upper 50's to low 60's temps under cloudy skies, with little wind. The course is often used for Cross Country Championships, including the USATF San Diego XC Championships. The Women raced over three loops of 2 km each, and the Men raced over 4 loops. Each loop started with a roughly 1.5 km circumnavigation of the outer edges of Mission Bay Park into a soft 180 degree turn that brought the runners back inside the outer loop for an inner loop of about 1/2 km with some little rolling hills for variation  In this recap, I focus on the Men's Age Division Races and then look at Age-Grading. Each winner of an Age Division is a National Champion; Age-Grading winners are considered the fleetest for their age across all age divisions.Note: There was a higher number than usual of DNS's due, in most cases to the requirement that athletes present a negative Covid test within three days of race day or test negative at packet pickup. Others may have stayed away because Omicron was surging. Team affiliation is in small letters after each complete name; unattached runners are listed with their 'hometown.'



40-44 The Overall Race recap covered this division well, but only the first two finishers overall came from this Division, Sergio Reyes Hoka Aggies and Roosevelt Cook Cal Coast. The next 3 finishers were all from other divisions. 

Sergio Reyes #248 leading Roosevelt Cook, Jacques Sallberg 45-49, and Wesley Reutiman

All photos courtesy of Michael Scott

Wesley Reutiman Pasadena CA saved the honor of the 40-44 crew by finishing 6th in 28:59 and 3rd in this division. Nick Martin Bowerman finished 4th in 29:45

Sergio Reyes 26:37     Roosevelt Cook 27:31     Wesley Reutiman 28:59

45-49  The Overall Race recap covered the podium for this division. Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast, Gregory Mitchell Bowerman, and Okwaro Raura boom-MILESTONE finished 3rd, 4th and 7th Overall and went 1-2-3 in this division. 

From Right: John Howell 45-49 Bowerman TC and his teammate, Ahrlin Bauman 45-49 lead Mark Yuen 0-54 at the USATF XC Championships


John Howell Bowerman and his teammate, Ahrlin Bauman finished 8th and 9th Overall and 4th and 5th in this division in 29:20 and 29:24.

Jacques Sallberg 27:37     Greg Mitchell 28:27     Okawaro Raura 29:00 

50-54 Ivan Lieben West Valley took it out hard from the gun, running in the top 10 for the first of 4 loops, hitting the 2 km Mat at 7:01.

Gregory Mitchell 45-49 leads Ivan Lieben 50-54 around an inner loop at the 2022 USATF XC Championships

He was in 7th place Overall at that point, even with Mitchell and 8 seconds ahead of his teammate, Mark Yuen.  There was a chase pack 40 meters back from Yuen that included: Christian Cushing-Murray Cal Coast and Chris McDonald Boulder RR, with David Mastro Roseville CA a few strides back. Yuen and Lieben had gone 1-3 at Club Cross in Tallahassee; it was no surprise they were in front, although the order may have surprised some. Off his game at Club Cross, Cushing-Murray finished 19th in the division. But he had finished 5th in Spokane and Lexington so he belonged in the top 5. Mastro had run a 16:07 5K last November and clocked 2:35:22 at CIM, so he definitely had the credentials to be in the hunt. McDonald was less well-known, with no national Championships in recent years at least, and, unlike Mastro, no recent road race results. He finished 5th Masters and won his division at the 2020 Pearl Street Mile. In July 2021, he ran in the Boulder All-Comers Track Meet, clocking 4:42.09 for the 1500 Meter Run. 

From right: Christian 'Cush' Cushing-Murray 50-54 leads Chris McDonald 50-54 and Orestes Gutierrez 45-49

Lieben slowed over the 2nd loop and Yuen, who elevated his pace on the 2nd loop, pulled up behind him as they both crossed the 4 km mat at 14:13. They had both put distance on Cushing-Murray, but Cushing-Murray had created a 30-meter gap back to McDonald. Mastro, despite that good start, did not show up on subsequent splits; I can only guess that an injury prevented him from finishing. Just like he did at Tallahassee, Yuen kept the pressure on through the third loop, hiotting the 6 km mat in 21:25, with a 30-meter lead on Lieben. Even though Lieben could no longer keep pace with Yuen, Lieben was still stretching his lead over Cushing-Murray, now well over 200 meters back. McDonald was hanging on, still about 30 meters back but no further. On the last loop, Yuen kept the hammer down, stretching his lead to nearly 150 meters when he crossed the finish line in 5th place Overall at 28:47. Lieben claimed 2nd with plenty of room to spare. Cushing-Murray was able to put some distance on McDonald on the final loop, claiming the final podium spot in30:44. 

From right: Matt Farley with Eric Hartmann -- a  '2-man pack' for Bowerman


McDonald struggled on the final loop; Edward Randolph was able to pull even and then pass McDonald to take 4th in 31:07, just 4 seconds ahead of McDonald. But McDonald gave it everything he had; he held off Eric Hartman Bowerman and his teammate, Matt Farley who finished 6th and 7th in 31:12 and 31:14. That was a mad dash to the finish!

Mark Yuen 28:47     Ivan Lieben 29:24     Christian Cushing-Murray 30:44

55-59 At Club Cross in Tallahassee, Nat Larson Greater Springfield Harriers, 3-time Masters Harrier of the Year, had stayed tight on the M55 leader, Peter Hammer, for as long as he could. Late in the race the strain of keeping up with the newcomer to the division and the warm conditions got to Larson. He was spent. First David White West Valley, who had been running in third, dozens of meters back, came past and took 2nd before a few other runners passed Larson in the final kilometer of the race. Larson has dominated this division since he entered it and took the Masters Grand Prix title in 2017. At the age of 59, Larson is only a few months away from entering the 60-64. He would like to win another national championship or two in the 55-59 division before exiting. He knows how hard it is in your final year in an age division. Larson ran up against a swift 56-year old, Brian Crowley at the 12 km in New Jersey, took the crown at the 5 km XC, and then fell to a talented XC runner, White, 56,  as noted, at Tallahassee. Would Larson be able to handle White in a straight duel without Hammer or the weather conditions to worry about? This time, instead of it being Larson glued to Hammer, it was White glued to Larson. They finished the first 2 km loop in the same time, 7:27, but it was Larson leading and White accepting Larson's pace. 

From right: Trevor Cox 40-44 with Nat Larson and David White, 1-2 in 55-59


While that duel was going on up front, there was a battle for the final podium spot, playing out a few dozen meters back. Two easterners, Dale Flanders Genesee Valley Harriers and his longtime rival and friend, Francis Burdett Greater Springfield Harriers, were battling two West Coast rivals, Bob Brisco Cal Coast and Daniel Martinez Los Angeles CA. Flanders mentioned to me at the 12 km that his training had gone well and he was racing at least as well as he has in the last few years. His 5K's have been in the range from low 18's down to the upper 17 minute range. He finished 5th at that 12 km national championship, clocking 44:23, roughly equivalent to a 36:35 10K. Burdett, in 2015, took the 50-54 Grand Prix title over Larson by 5 points. Since that time he has sometimes been injured, sometimes healthy but more often somewhere in between. I have often been amazed by Burdett's  competitive fire. 'Banged up' or not, he lines up and gives it his all; that is often enough for some surprisingly good results. I could not find any recent results for Brisco but know he had been one of the Cal Coast stalwarts in the mid-teens, finishing 10th in 50-54 for them at the 2017 USATF XC Championships in Bend OR. In 2018 and 2019 his 5K's were typically in the low 18's. He would not give up a podium position without a fight. The only Daniel or Dan Martinez I could find on Athlinks who was the right age and ran races in California was too slow to be keeping pace but there was Martinez doing just that. Seventy meters back from Larson and White, Martinez crossed the 2 km timing mat at 7:45, with Flanders and Burdett running in tandem 10-15 meters back. Brisco was ten seconds back at the end of the first loop. 

From right: Enrique Flores 40-44 with Dale Flanders 55-59, Steve Sievert 50-54, and Francis Burdett 55-59


By the end of the 2nd loop, there was no more information about how the Larson-White battle would turn out. Larson crossed the mat at 15:02 with White right on his heels. Martinez and Flanders were having almost as tight a battle for third; Martinez crossed the mat in 15:48 with Flanders just two seconds back. Burdett, despite heroic efforts, had not been able to keep pace with his old running compadre and was now 40 meters back, still holding off Brisco for 5th. Larson and White, Martinez and Flanders, both duels continuing with no  one giving quarter in that 3rd loop. Larson and White both crossed the mat in 22:29, but Larson, according to the tenths of a second, had about 0.4 seconds on White. They were glued together as tightly as ever, matching stride for stride. It was almost the same for Martinez and Flanders, except the dynamic was different. Flanders had closed on Martinez and now crossed the timing mat at 6 km in 23:57, one second ahead of Martinez. Flanders was now dictating the pace and Martinez was the one holding on. The 4th loop was decisive in both cases. White was able to kick away from Larson; despite his best efforts, Larson could not close. White took the win by 3 seconds in 30:07. It was just as tight for 3rd. Despite his best efforts, Flanders could not drop Martinez. But Martinez could not close on Flanders. In the end, Flanders enjoyed that same 3 second margin, crossing the finish line in 32:26 to Martinez's 32:29. It is incredible that there were two races for podium position that close within the one age division. Burdett took 5th in 33:15, closing out Brisco, who was narrowing the gap and finished 6th in 33:25.

David White 30:07     Nat Larson 30:10     Dale Flanders 32:26

60-64 The expectation was that Dan King Athletics Boulder would meet Joe Sheeran for another shootout on the turf. Unfortunately, Sheeran got snowed in on the eastern side of the Cascades in Washington, and couldn't make his flight. King has had a monumental last 18 months, setting American and at least one World record on the track, not to mention the American 1 Mile record on the roads. King has had some hip issues but he always seems to be ready to run on the turf. With no Sheeran to worry about it seemed likely King would have the same experience he had at Tallahassee where he ran away from the rest of the field. It might be that the 2nd fastest turf runner was a teammate of King's, David Litoff. He finished 5th behind King at the 5 km Masters XC Championships in Boston and 10th at Tallahassee after being in the top 5 for most of that race. Mike Blackmore Beaverton OR finished 2nd at the 2019 USATF XC Championships at Tallahassee. I had an email from Blackmore that he sent the evening before the race. He noted he had run a couple of low 18 minute Cross Country races earlier in the fall but had a lower back injury while moving into a new home. The low 18 XC races looked very promising, but a lower back issue could certainly complicate things. Ray Knerr Cal Coast finished 7th out of 68 M55 competitors at the mammoth 2015 Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. King and Sheeran, by the way, went 1-2 in that contest, with King finding an edge that has been elusive in recent years. Knerr clearly has 'turf cred' from that effort. More recently he turned in an 18:12 5K. 

When the gun sounded, King went to the front of the division field, although Blackmore stayed close behind. Once King got on the Mission Bay side of the course, no one could stay with him. 

Dabn King center, well ahead of the 60-64 field, pacing right behind David White, 2nd place in 55-59

Blackmore found hiself over 30 meters back when King crossed the 2 km timing mat at 7:28. Litoff was a dozen meters back, with a 20-meter lead on Knerr. The 2nd loop saw King extend his lead over the field to more than 80 meters. Litoff passed Blackmore and put a 40 meter gap between them by the time he crossed the mat at 4 km. Blackmore could not stay with Litoff but had no problem upping his advantage over Knerr to well over a hundred meters. 

From right: Jeff Mann 55-59, with Mike Blackmore 60-64, Ahmet Gokcek 50-54, and Adrian Herrera 40-44


Nothing changed the rest of the way, but the gaps increased in size. King won by over 200 meters in 30:58. Litoff crossed the finish line a minute after King in 2nd, with Blackmore in third almost another minute behind Litoff. Knerr closed a small part of the gap up to Blackmore on the final loop, finishing 4th in 33:29. 

Dan King 30:58     David Litoff 31:59     Mike Blackmore 32:55

65-69  This race featured a duel as well. Rick Becker Club Northwest, Masters Harrier of the Year in 2010, 2016 and 2018 would go up against Jacob Nur Elk Grove, CA. In addition to his exploits on the turf, Becker set the 65-69 American 10,000 Meter record on the track at 37:16 this past summer in Ames IA. Becker had the advantage when these two met last in Spokane, finishing 21 seconds ahead of Nur. But Nur has been running better than ever this past year. Nur set the American 65-69 record for a road 10K this past November with a 35:42. He also ran a 1:18:26 Half Marathon at Clarksburg, but the course was not laid out correctly, slightly short due to a misplacement of cones. It was not a record, but still was a very fast time. Kyle Hubbart Boulder Road Runners, Tomas Rodriguez Cal Coast, and Kevin Taylor Bowerman would likely vie for the final podium spot. Hubbart finished 8th 55-59 at the 2015 USATF XC Championships in Boulder in 32:20. In 2019, he ran 19:30 at the USATF Colorado XC Championships over 4K. More recently he ran a 20:47 5K on the road. Rodriguez finished 4th in this division at Club Cross in Tallahassee in December, running 34:46 on that 8 km course. Taylor ran 33:20 to finish 29th in 60-64 at Club Cross in Spokane. Rodriguez's strong effort at Tallahassee carries a little extra weight as it is very recent and on the turf. 

Nur and Becker crossed the first 2 km mat in tandem, both recorded at 7:44. Rodriguez, to no one's surprise was a good 150 meters back, running in a pack with a bunch of late 50"s and early 60's runners. 

From right: Rick Becker 65-69 with Jacob Nur a stride back, with Ray Knerr 60-64 #215 and Daniel Martinez 55-59 #312


A hundred meters behind Rodriguez, found Taylor, with Hubbart just off his pace 15-20 meters back. Nur maintained his pace over the 2nd loop, crossing the 4 km mat in 15:30. Becker could not keep pace. Up the Mission Bay side of the course and into the inner loop, Becker found himself doing something that was unusual for him, giving ground to a rival on a XC course. Nur had a good 40 meters on Becker by the end of that loop. Four hundred meters behind Becker now, Rodriguez was keeping a good, steady pace. He was no threat to Nur and Becker but was not threatened by Taylor and Hubbart, now over 150 meters behind Rodriguez. Taylor continued to dictate the pace; Hubbart was content to lay off 15 meters or so, his eyes focused on Taylor's M65 back bib. There was little drama  left in the fight up front. 

From right: Brian Nelson 60-64, Donald Stewart 60-64, Tomas Rodriguez 65-69, Steven Dunbar 50-54, and Adam Feerst 60-64


Nur extended his lead slightly on each of the two final loops but Becker hung right there. In the end Nur had the victory in 31:42, with Recker 28 seconds back in 2nd. Rodriguez was never in any trouble; he claimed third in 35:59. By the end of the third loop it was starting to look like Taylor might be able to pull away from Hubbart; he had over 20 meters on him. 

From right: Les Shibata wth Kyle Hubbart on his shoulder in the 65-69 Division Championship


But Hubbart was not going away. If Taylor could not pull away from him, Hubbart knew he had a pretty good kick and had a chance. Heading up Mission Bay, Hubbart got closer and when the time was right, passed with determination and sped to a 4th place finish in 36:41, nine seconds ahead of Taylor.

Jacob Nur 31:42     Rick Becker 32:10     Tomas Rodriguez 35:59

70-74  Rick Pfeiffer Carlsbad CA and Dave Dunbar Jamul Toads duked it out in Tallahassee, with Dunbar leading for most of the race until Pfeiffer was able to speed by him to take 2nd to Dunbar's 3rd place. That reversed a result from a couple of weeks prior when Dunbar had the edge at the USATF-San Diego 'Dirt Dogs' XC Championship. After Club Cross, Dunbar let me know that he learned that Pfeiffer had been injured earlier in the year. Dunbar noted that he, himself, had been lucky--no injuries in 2021. Dunbar speculated that Pfeiffer was coming back and might well be faster for Mission Bay. Others who would be in the fight for the podium included the tenacious runner, Jerry Learned Atlanta, who had finished 5th in the division at Tallahassee, a couple of minutes back from Dunbar. Earlier he had finished 3rd in the division at the Masters 5 km XC Championships in Boston with a 22:57. When healthy, Learned is always a threat for the podium. John Hirschberger Tamalpa could be trouble. He finished 6th in the 65-69 division at Spokane in 34:49, nearly three minutes faster than Learned ran in the 70-74 division. Hirschberger must be coming off an injury. He ran 32:50 at the Tamalpa John Lawson 4.25 mile XC event, equivalent roughly to a 23:43 5 m, which is a bit slower than Learned's Boston time. Of course it could be that the Tamalpa course is more challenging or longer than the Boston XC course at Franklin Park. But even if so it would appear that Hirschberger is, at best, roughly even with Learned. Lon Wiley Petaluma CA has been running his road 5K's in the range from the low 21's to low 23's throughout the 2018-2020 period. That might be fast enough to compete for the podium. When the gun sounded, Pfeiffer certainly gave the impression that he was feeling faster. By the end of the first loop, which Pfeiffer ran in 9:02, he had over 60 meters on Learned in 2nd. Dunbar had opted to start conservatively and was 50 meters behind Learned. 

David Dunbar running smoothly in 3rd place, eventually claiming 2nd place in 70-74


Seventy meters back from Dunbar, Wiley and Hirschberger were battling with just a stride separating them. 

In the trenches, John Hirschberger 70-74 #282 with 3 River City Rebels, Andy Harris 60-64 #265, Larry Fluharty 55-59 #264 and Ronald Souza 65-69 # 266, not to mention Frank Whittemore 65-69 #255, Curt Cozadd 50-54 #210 and Andrew Thacher 55-59 #335


Things were clearer by the end of the second loop, which Dunbar negative split to pull past Learned into 2nd. Pfeiffer did not negative split but he did not slow down much either. He added slightly to his lead over Dunbar, despite the negative split. 

Rick Pfeiffer building his lead in the 70-74 Championship


Learned does not give up and he was only 25 meters behind Dunbar; he might rally yet. Wiley, although not completely in 'no man's land' was in that position within the division. He had put almost a hundred meters between himself and Hirschberger, but he was twice that distance back from Learned. Pfeiffer and Dunbar were now in dynamic balance; Pfeiffer added just 2 seconds to his lead on the 3rd loop. By keeping pace with Pfeiffer, Dunbar was leaving the rest of the field far back, over 150 meters. Learned was struggling on the third loop. A lead of 200 meters was chopped to less than 80 meters. 

From Right: Isaac Medrano 40-44, leads Robert Thomas 65-69 and Jerry Learned 70-74 #181, with Don Porteous 75-79 background


That was Wiley's fastest loop of the race! Pfeiffer finished strong, taking first in 37:52; Dunbar finished 2nd, 41 seconds back. Learned hung tough on the 4th loop. Despite Wiley carving another 17 seconds out of Learned's lead, the Atlanta harrier crossed the line in 3rd, with 5 seconds to spare! Hirschberger followed Wiley in 5th place two minutes later. It was a fine victory for Pfeiffer; the intelligence Dunbar received at Tallahassee had proven accurate.

Rick Pfeiffer 37:52     David Dunbar 38:33     Jerry Learned 39:52

75-79 It looked like this division was Ron Wells's San Diego Striders to lose.  He took the 75-79 crown at Club Cross in Tallahassee by well over half a minute. He had, incidentally, done the same at the 2016 Club Cross Championships in Tallahassee, that time in the 70-74 division. Dave Glass Atlanta was 2nd in Tallahassee. He had been running strong all fall, claiming wins at the Masters 12 km Championships in Highlands NJ and the 5 km Masters XC Championships in Boston. In between those efforts and Club Cross, Glass took an age division first at the Stockade-athon 15K in Schenectady with a fine 1:11:02. Glass appeared to be running at the top of his game; Wells too. Unless something shook one or the other of them up, it was hard to see a half minute edge for Wells going away. Of course, this being Masters running, we know a half minute can vanish like a snap of the fingers if something is amiss. And there was another serious challenger, Donald Porteous Tamalpa. Porteous is a terrific runner, and arguably better on the turf than the roads. He finished 2nd at 2017 Club Cross in Lexington, 49 seconds ahead of Glass. Porteous was not at his best at Spokane the next year, finishing 6th in the Division but Glass was battling some kind of injury and was even further back. Porteous ran well at the Pacific Association XC Championships this past fall, earning his last 70-74 Championship in 37:44. That was 14 seconds faster than Wells's winning time at Tallahassee. But with XC one can never be sure if a small difference like that is due to athlete differences or the relative difficulty of the two courses. Gary Ostwald who was the better part of a minute behind Glass at Boston was also entered.  And the wild card is Gary Patton So Cal TC. A record-setter and Masters Hall-of-Famer on the track, Patton ventures onto the roads and turf from time to time. He set the American 75-79 1 Mile record on the roads at Lincoln this past season. He ran several events on the MNGP circuit in 2016, from the 1 mile to the 10 km, taking the 70-74 Grand Prix crown. The only event he ran in that year he did not win was the 10 km, which is a bit longer than he likes. Nonetheless, he did finish second even in that event. So he is definitely a threat, and may get better as the year goes on and he adjusts to the longer distances. Patton finished 4th at Club Cross, a minute and ten seconds back from Glass. Both Tallahassee and Mission Bay are 8 km courses.

Porteous and Wells went out together on the first loop, Porteous crossing the mat at 2 km in 9:20 with Wells right on his shoulder. 


From Right Don Porteous leads Ron Wells in the 75-79 Championship race

It looked like a 2-man race for first. A hundred meters back, a fight for third was underway. One thing Patton knows is how to stick like glue right on a competitor, conserving energy and hanging on for a kick at the end. Patton does not lose many races like that. Glass knows Patton's reputation and you can bet he was not happy to cross the 2 km mat in 9:50 with Patton just 2 seconds back, Ostwald, meanwhile, was over a hundred meters behind those two in 5th. Porteous was not able to stay with Wells on the second loop; that competitive first loop had apparently taken more out of Porteous than Wells. Or maybe Wells was used to the soft, spongy surface but it got to Porteous. Whatever the reason, Wells had nearly 50 meters on Porteous by the end of the 2nd loop. The gap from Porteous to the rest of the field had also grown. What about Glass and Patton? It was playing out according to form. Glass could not drop Patton. Glass hit the 4km mat in 20:06, with Patton 1 second back. 

From Right: John Foster 60-64, with Dave Glass 75-79 trying to build a gap back to Gary Patton 75-79, with Bill Amor 60-64 out of photo to left, and Lon Wiley 70-74 background


No doubt Glass surged from time to time to see if he could drop Patton. After that it would be a waiting game. Glass would plan on a final surge out and away from Patton on the last loop, well before the finish would be in sight, and hope he could make it stick. Patton would be determined to stay close enough to out-kick Glass. Ostwald was still that same hundred meters behind in 5th. Wells continued to pull away from Porteous on the 3rd loop; Patton was still staying just off of Glass's shoulder, making him set the pace. In the meantime, Ostwald, keeping a steady pace as those two were wearing each other down, had pulled to within ten meters and was closing fast. Wells took his second division win in a row at a National XC Championship with a 38:59. Porteous was 2nd, 35 seconds back. He will take another shot at Wells this December on the course at Golden Gate Park. He will hope for a better outcome, no doubt. Ostwald's momentum carried him past both Glass and Patton as he pulled away to take third in 41:08. Patton stayed close enough to Glass to kick past and take 4th in 41:18, with Glass 2 seconds back. It is a tough way to lose a race, but Glass is resilient and will be back in action in Atlanta at the 5 km Championships. Wells, Ostwald, Patton and Glass, along with a few others, expect to toe the line on Marietta Street on the last Saturday in February. I cannot wait to see the action. If all continues to go well with my Achilles, I will have a good view, albeit from a ways back.

Ron Wells 38:59     Don Porteous 40:34     Gary Ostwald 41:08 

80-84 When Roland Cormier Shore AC was absent, that lowered whatever doubt there was about Hans Schmid Tamalpa being the runner to beat. Schmid held the American M70 10 km Record for a while, so he has the mixture of endurance and speed that can work well in XC. He is also one of the, if not *the* top Trail long & ultra  distance runners of his vintage. Double Dipsea is what most people know of in terns of a tough Trail race, but in 2019, Schmid did Quad Dipsea, 28+ miles of up and down around Mt. Tamalpais. In 2018 he won the 70+ division at the Skyline to the Sea 50K. At the 2021 Tamalpa John Lawson XC Challenge, Schmid won the 80-84 division, running faster than anyone 76 or older as well, with a 42:34 over 4.25 miles. In case that sounds slow to you, be aware that Peter Gilmore, who has finished 2nd Overall at the last two Club Cross Masters races, clocked 23:13 to win that Tamalpa Masters race. It is described as 'rolling, with lots of single track...' James Metts Florida TC West ran a 1:02:21 10 km at the 2020 Huntsman Games. His teammate, Peter Rowat ran a 55:52 in the Scripps Ranch 10 km, but that was in 2018. Once the gun sounded and the runners were off, the crew in  this division spread out fairly quickly. Schmid crossed the 2 km mat in 12:12. Metts was a hundred meters back in 2nd, with Rowat another 40 meters behind him. 

Hans Schmid springing over the turf on his way to a big win in the 80-84 division


It was another 40 meters back to Schmid's teammate, Jerry Colletto. The gap from Schmid to the rest of the field widened considerably with every loop. He eventually took the win in 51:17 with 400 meters to spare. Metts never really pulled away decisively from Rowat but gradually stretched his lead each loop. By the end of the third loop, Metts had over 80 meters on Rowat. But then things started to look interesting as Rowat had quickened his pace for the last loop. Metts hung tough and took 2nd in 54:05, but Rowat had taken 50 meters out of Metts's lead, finishing 3rd in 54:17. Colletto took 4th.

Hans Schmid 51:17     James Metts 54:05     Peter Rowat 54:17

85-89 The last time Elmo Shropshire Tamalpa and Richard Williams Florida TC West met, was at the 2018 5 km Masters XC Championships at Mission Bay. Shropshire took the title in 29:44, with Williams in 3rd three minutes back. Shropshire ran the 2000 meter steeple at the 2021 Masters Outdoor TF Championships in Ames so we knew he would be ready for XC. Shropshire crossed the 2 km mat in 13:42 with over a minute's lead on Williams. 

Elmo Shropshire on his way to victory in the 85-89 division


Shropshire took the title in 57:12, with Williams second.

Elmo Shropshire 57:12     Richard Williams 1:04:53 


In my preview, I wrote: 'If the past is any guide, the main contenders for men's age-grading prizes are: Dan King Athletics Boulder and Joe Sheeran from the 60-64 division; and Nat Larson Greater Springfield, from 55-59. Given his performances over the last year, let's add Jacob Nur Elk Grove CA, from 65-69, to that list of contenders as well. And I should not forget that Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast finished 2nd to Sheeran in Age Grading the last time they ran at Mission Bay.' At that time I must not have realized Rick Becker Club NW was entered. How could anyone leave Becker off the list except by accident? At the 2018 Club Cross in Spokane, Sheeran beat Becker on time but Becker, 3 years older than Sheeran, achieved the higher age grade. King took the Age Grading crown in the 60+ race at Tallahassee this past December. Larson took the 40+ age grading title at Spokane's 40-59 race, ahead of Peter Hammer, with that order reversed at Lehigh a year later. Sheeran, sidelined by a massive snowstorm in the Cascades of Washington state, was not on site in San Diego so he was out of this competition.

How did it come out this time? Sallberg, unlike in 2020, did not win overall at Mission Bay this year. But at 47, he is 7 years older than the winner. His age grade was the best for anyone under 59 years of age, and good for 5th place. His 27:37 graded at 83.59. Larson, 59, had a good outing, finishing just 3 seconds behind David White. But being 3 years older meant that Larson out-graded White and everyone else under the age of 60. His 30:10 translated to an 84.75, netting Larson the 4th best age grade. King had no trouble claiming another age division win. 


From Left: Dan King 60-64 flying on the heels of the top two 55-59 year olds-King completed the Overall Age Grading Podium

At 62, his 30:58 was worth an age grade of 84.84. King finished 3rd in Age Grading. Nur, just one year younger than Becker, at 66, outran him by enough to take the Age Grade title. 

Rick Becker #226 leading Jacob Nur #318 on the first of 4 loops; Nur would eventually pass Becker to claim the Overall Age-Grade Championship with Becker 2nd


His 31:42 graded at 86.05 while Becker's 32:10 graded at 85.62.

Jacob Nur 66 31:42 86.05%     Rick Becker 67 32:10 85.62%     Dan King 62 30:58 84.84%