Sunday, January 16, 2022

2022 USATF Cross Country Championships Masters Recap #2 -- Women-Age Divisions and Age Grading

 January 16, 2022 As noted in recap #1 on the Overall Championships, the weather was close to 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's race was 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 Women'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.


The Start of teh Women's Masters Race at the 2022 USATF Cross Country Championships at Mission Bay in San Diego

 All photos courtesy of Michael Scott


40-44 The overall recap covered this division well. Please consult recap #1 for details. Renee Metivier Team Red Lizard won the Overall race going away; the same holds true for this age division. 


Renee Metivier takes the Overall Win at Mission Bay; at the same time she pockets the win for her 40-44 Age Division

The 2nd place finisher, overall, was Hilary Corno Prado Racing who is in the 45-49 division. So Maggie Shearer Cal Coast TC moves up from 3rd to 2nd within the division as Metivier's teammate, Renee Gordon Team Red Lizard, moves up from 4th to 3rd; Crystal Query took 4th. 

Renee Metivier 21:50     Maggie Shearer 23:40     Renee Gordon 24:31 

45-49 Because all three of the top athletes in this division were also in the hunt for an overall win, that recap also provides the detail on this division. Hilary Corno, who finished 2nd overall, ran with Shearer and Mary Akor Hawthorne CA in the chase pack behind Metivier.  

Mary Akor left races alongside Hilary Corno light blue singlet, chasing Maggie Shearer for an Overall Podium finish and vying with each other for an Age Division win


They were 30 meters ahead of the defending Overall and 45-49 Champion from 2020, Lorilyn Bloomer, in the middle 2 km loop of the course, but Bloomer kept her head in the race and held the gap at that distance.

Hilary Corno vies for the Division lead with Mary Akor left edge of picture on the first 2 km loop of a 6 km XC Race


Corno sprinted away from Shearer and Akor on the final inner loop. Bloomer could not quite catch Akor at the finish, but did close to within 4 seconds.

Hilary Corno 23:36     Mary Akor 24:44     Lorilyn Bloomer 24:48

50-54  The primary contenders in this division included Ingrid Walters Janes Elite who signed up  after I created my preview. She finished behind Karolyn Bowley at Club Cross but handled all the rest, taking 2nd in 23:53. Another likely contender was Chris Lundy who won the Women's section of the Double Dipsea but she did not start. Another DNS was Megan Kosser Impala who finished in the top 5 in this age division at both the 12 km Championships in New Jersey and the 5 km Masters XC Championships in Boston. Others who toed the starting line with a good podium chance included : Wendy Terris who finished a minute behind Walters at Tallahassee; Elizabeth Guerrini who 40:24 at the Seal Beach 10K and 3:12:07 at the California International Marathon, CIM; and Jennifer Tobin Boise Betties and Billies who ran a 20:22 5K in Idaho in 2019. She also apparently ran a 4:54 at the Moab Trail Run Marathon which could be fast, or not, depending on terrain. Those are all under the name of 'Jenny Tobin' but fit the profile of a 50-54 runner from Idaho where her team is based. There was also a 'Jennifer Tobin' listed who was about the right age but runs in Pennsylvania and was not as swift as 'Jenny Tobin.' When the gun sounded, Walters moved out swiftly as did Terris, running with one of her 40's Red Lizard teammates, Crystal Query. Once things settled out, Terris and Querry found themselves just a couple of strides behind Walters and they stayed there for the entire first loop. 

Ingrid Walters Janes, 2nd from right, leading the 50-54 division ahead of Wendy Terris 2nd from left, #159

Tobin was in 3rd place a good 70 meters back from Terris, with Guerrini another 15 meters back in 4th. Walters slowed ever so slightly on the 2nd loop, but Terris slowed more and found herself 40 meters behind as they started the 3rd loop. The other gaps had grown larger, with Tobin well over a hundred meters behind Terris and the same for the gap from Tobin to Guerrini, now over 40 meters back from Tobin. There were no surprises on the final loop; Walters enjoyed a fine win in 24:55, a half minute ahead of Terris, the 2nd place finisher. Terris finished strong, crossing the finish line over a minute ahead of Tobin, who ran 26:36. Guerrini,despite her best attempts, could not  keep pace with Tobin, finishing just off the podium in 26:56. It must have been sweet for Walters to return to her Southern California environs with a division win after her battle with Breast Cancer.

Ingrid Walters 24:55     Wendy Terris 25:26     Jennifer Tobin 26:36

55-59 Colleen DeReuck Colorado Racing Club, 4-time Olympian and triathlete extraordinaire was, no doubt, the crowd favorite and better-known than any other runner int he field. But Lisa Veneziano Unattached, Fenton MI has been making a name for herself this last year in Masters LDR. She took the 55-59 crown and set the American Record at the 12 km Championships in New Jersey, supplanting the name of Joan Benoit Samuelson in the records list. She followed that with a 2:58:23 Boston Marathon, where she finished 2nd to 2021 Masters Runner of the Year, Jenny Hitchings. She followed that a month later with a big win in the division at the Philadelphia Marathon in 2:56:13. It seemed she would give DeReuck a run for the money. One caveat is that I could not find any recent Cross Country races listed for her at Athlinks and she has not participated in  recent USATF National or Association Championships. Kimberly Hazard Team Montecito had solid credentials including a 1:34:28 at the Santa Barbara HM and a 26:33 4-miler on Thanksgiving Day. Jeannie Robinson Cal Coast ran 21:20 at a 5k in November. When the gun sounded, DeReuck exuberantly set off with the groups chasing after the Overall leader. She was used to running hard right from the start. It was a necessity if you were competing for a win, and DeReuck has done that so many times. She ran with the second chase group until it started to fall apart towards the end of the first loop. 

DeReuck hit the 2 km timing mat in 8:03 in 9th place overall, just 15 meters out of 8th. DeReuck was  over 60 meters ahead of Veneziano, who started more conservatively, crossing the mat in 8:24 in 16th place overall. Using her Marathon experience, Veneziano was taking the approach of hitting a pace she felt she could maintain. Veneziano's strategy was paying off over the 2nd loop but it was not paying big dividends. DeReuck did slow down by a half minute; Veneziano slowed down by just 3 seconds. But Veneziano only took 6 seconds out of DeReuck's lead, still well over 50 meters. DeReuck is a tough competitor no doubt. 


Lisa Veneziano leads Christy Peterson and Lorraine Jasper as she chases Colleen DeReuck in the Overall, Age Division and Age-Grading contests

She matched her 2nd loop time almost exactly, digging deep to keep it going. Veneziano, meanwhile, was running a second faster than her first loop. She was taking meters out of DeReuck's lead. But, with DeReuck staying strong, Veneziano ran out of real estate. DeReuck crossed the finish line in 10th place overall, clocking 25:06 to win the division. Veneziano took 2nd, eight seconds back. Hazard claimed 3rd a minute and a half later, with Robinson 4th in 28:13. It will be interesting to see if Veneziano contests either the Masters 5 km in Boulder, Colorado, in DeReuck's home territory, or at the bigger event, Club Cross in San Francisco. With added experience on the turf, she might challenge DeReuck for the win.

Colleen DeReuck 25:06     Lisa Veneziano 25:14     Kimberly Hazard 26:53 

60-64 Lorraine Jasper was coming in on a roll. She had won the division at the USATF Masters 5 km XC Championship in Boston in 21:38, and the Club Cross Championship over 6 km in Tallahassee FL in 25:51. The closest competitors were likely to be Stella Gibbs Impala Racing and her two teammates, Suzanne Cordes and Eileen Brennan-Erler. Gibbs finished 3rd to Jasper at Boston in 22:20; Cordes finished 3rd behind Jasper at Tallahassee in 26:26. Brennan-Erler finsihed behind Gibbs and Cordes at the Pacific Association Cross Country Championships. Neither Cordes nor Gibbs were so far behind Jasper that they had no hope of winning. But Jasper would have to have an off day and things would need to break just right for the Impala crew. Jasper took off with the gun and the three Impalas started more conservatively but kept her in their sites.By the end of the first loop it was clear this was not going to be an off day for Jasper. Hitting the 2 km mat in 8:30, the closest challenger, Gibbs, was over 70 meters back. 

Lorraine Jasper flies over the course, in contention for both Age Division and Age-Grading wins


Cordes was 60 meters behind her team leader,with Brennan-Erler 40 meters back from Cordes. Jasper had no problem  growing her lead the rest of the way, taking the win by over 300 meters in 26:56. The Impalas also kept the same order, with Gibbs claiming 2nd in 28:23,followed 28 seconds late by Cordes, with Brennan-Erler 4th in 29:30. It was a tour de force for Jasper and an elegant triple crown on the turf. Boston, Tallahassee, and San Diego.-3 national titles in three tries.

65-69 Suzanne Ray Tam Red Lizard is the most decorated entrant in this division. In 2019, for example, she finished 2nd in the 65-69 division on the basis of a win at Tulsa in the 15K National Championships in 1:10:30, and a win at the Masters 5 km XC Championships on this  same course t Mission Bay. She ran 24:43 which is roughly equivalent to a 29:52 6K time.But she must have had some hurdles to overcome emerging from the interruption of  Championship racing due to covid. In 2021 she ran a Half Marathon in 1:46:12 and a 15K in 1:16:45, performances well off her best in 2019, not to mention 2017, when she was even faster. But if Ray was off her best, who would step up? Her teammate, Joanna Harper was a possibility. In previous years Harper typically ran well behind Ray. But if Ray is off her game, that might not matter. The one doubt was that I could find no races for Joanna Harper on the West Coast. A Joanna Harper in the 60-64 division did compete in 4 races in great Britain, but it seemed unlikely that would be the same Harper. In the absence of any recent race results, there are no clues to current fitness. Tina Breen San Diego TC ran 1:12:28 at the Balboa Pk. 8 Miler, roughly equivalent to a 55:20 10K, a couple of minutes slower than Harper's time at the 2019 USATF Masters 10K Championships. Breen's teammate, Ernestina Martin, finished 2nd in this division at the 2018 Club Cross in Spokane. But her most recent effort was, apparently, a 2:06 HM in January 2020. When the gun sounded, Red Lizard teammates Harper & Ray set off, with the San Diego duo, Breen and Martin, not far back. They ran in that order through the first loop, with Harper crossing the 2 km mat in 10:39, followed by Ray, about 40 meters back. 

Joanna Harper sets the pace for the 65-69 division


At that point Martin was within ten meters of Ray, and ten meters ahead of Breen. Harper's chip did not register for the 4 km Split, but she must have still been in the lead, although Ray may well have closed on her. Ray definitely distanced herself from the San Diego duo; she had a hundred meters on Martin.

Suzanne Ray leads Ernestina Martin pink cap and Tina Breen white cap  in the 65-69 division


Breen was 8 seconds behind Martin. Harper took the win in 33:38, two seconds ahead of Ray. Breen raced past Martin, on the final loop, crossing the line 17 seconds ahead of Martin to claim 3rd.

Joanna Harper 33:38     Suzanne Ray 33:40     Tina Breen 34:51 

70-74 Jeanette Groesz Team Red Lizard and her teammate, Sharon Gerl, went 1-2 at Tallahassee this past December in 30:23 and 31:00. That made them the favorites, especially as they have been dominating their division rivals for the past several years. Jo Anne Rowland Impala Racing won the 12 km Masters Championships in October, clocking 1:03:51. Rowland did not race Tallahassee this year but she raced against the Red Lizard duo in Lexington KY at  the 2017 Club XC Championships and was not able to stay with them then. Rowland's teammates, Irene Herman and Donna Chan, might push any of those three on their best days. They finished 4th and 5th respectively at the 12 km Championships, with Herman well ahead of Chan. On the other hand, Chan had a very fast time at the 2018 Club Cross Championships when she finished 3rd at Spokane in 31:06. Either Chan had an off day in New Jersey or she may be better on the turf than the roads. Groesz and Gerl took off at the gun as if they were the favorites and Rowland was content to follow, hoping things might look up later in the race. By the time they were racing up along Mission Bay, Groesz had already put some distance on Gerl, with Rowland well back, and the rest of the field further back again. Groesz crossed the 2 km timing mat in 10 minutes flat. 

No one in the 70-74 division could stay with Jeanette Groesz shown here building a huge lead on the first of 3 loops at Mission Bay


Gerl was 100 meters behind Groesz, and Rowland was a hundred meters back from Gerl. Chan was 150 meters behind Rowland with Herman another 30 meters back from Chan. Nothing changed on subsequent loops except that gaps grew. Groesz was almost 400 meters ahead when she turned the corner and took aim at the finish line. She took first in 31:53 by almost two minutes. 

Sharon Gerl leading all others in the 65-69 Division as she chases the leader


Her teammate, Gerl, took 2nd a minute and a quarter ahead of Rowland. Chan finished 4th in 38:29, with Herman finishing 5th 52 seconds later.

85-89 Suzanne Falco was the sole entrant. 

Suzanne Falco, navigating a down slope on her way to victory in the 85-89 division


She crossed the finish line a winner 58:29 after the gun sounded.  

Suzanne Falco 58:29 

Jeanette Groesz 31:53     Sharon Gerl 33:47     Jo Anne Rowland 35:02



Age- Grading, as most readers of this blog know, is a system for comparing the quality of performance over different ages. Alan Jones and Tom Bernhard analyzed World Best data, by year of age,to fit a curve for the best performance by age for each of 4 basic anchor distances, the 5K, 10K, HM and Marathon. Bernhard also analyzed Road Miles separately. Distances between these benchmark distances, like an 8K, are essentially interpolations. Men's and Women;s data are analyzed separately. From this fitted curve there is, in essence, a predicted World's Best for each age for both Women and Men. If a predicted World's best for a distance is 20 minutes, and the runner actually runs 22:00, then the age grade score is 20/22 x 100 = 90.91%. The closer to the World's Best, the closer the age grading score is to 100%. This entire exercise is based on road races; there are no separate tables for Cross Country races. By convention, the road race tables are used for XC too. Age Grade scores are usually lower because of terrain and the effect of weather on the terrain surface. The USATF Masters LDR Committee recommends candidates for the annual Masters Harrier of the Year Awards; their primary criterion is age graded scores at the three national championships, supplemented by age grade performance at international Masters events, if any. Top cash prizes at Masters LDR events typically go to the top age grade scorers. Age-Grade winners of races are National Champions. Don Lein, former Chair of Masters LDR,  popularized the terms for road racing, 'World Class' for age grades 90% and above, 'National Class' 80% and above. In addition to Championship medals that go to the fastest Overall, Age Division and Team winners, the Masters LDR Committee also awards Elite performance, Age-Grading medals --Bronze for those achieving 80.00% to 84.99%; Silver for those achieving 85.00% to 89.99%; and Gold to those scoring 90.00% and above.

It is often possible to figure out who the top Age Graded runners are by just comparing the Age Division Champions. That would not work this time. Two of the top candidates are from the 55-59 division. Four-time Olympian, Colleen DeReuck and 12 km American Record Holder, Lisa Veneziano, are both 57 years of age. Three other athletes from different divisions ran away from competitive fields. Renee Metivier, 40,  a 5-time representative of Team USA at World Cross Country Championships, ran 21:50; no one else in the 40-44 division broke 23:00, not even Maggie Shearer, who has been on multiple National XC podiums in the past few years. Lorraine Jasper, 60, had a similar outing in 60-64; she ran 26:56 and no one else came close to breaking 28 minutes. Jeanette Groesz, 72, ran 31:53; no one else in her division ran under 33:30. The beauty of age grading, though, is that it provides a different perspective. If you did not win your division, but ran your heart out trying, you still might get an age grading award. In fact, if an athlete is further into a 5-year age division, that athlete might get a higher age grade score than the division winner. Wendy Terris, 52, for example, ran a half minute slower than division winner, Ingrid Walters, 50, but enjoyed the higher age-grade score, 78.54 to 78.44.

The highest two age grades were earned by DeReuck and Veneziano. DeReuck won, but Veneziano was only 7 seconds back. Those seven seconds cost her 0.39 percentage points. But she still outpointed Metivier by 0.34 points. Metivier's 3rd place in age grading is notable. 

Colleen DeReuck #114 Powers Her Way Through the Mission Bay XC Course on her way to the top Age Graded Performance


It is rare for an athlete in the 40-44 division to land on an age grade podium. For example, Roberta Groner, 43, who is still a threat at Open Marathons, did not make the age grading podium in New Jersey at the 12 km Championships. [BTW, Groner just finished 4th overall at the Chevron Houston Marathon in 2:32:12!] To be fair, Metivier may have been more conscious of the age grading prizes than Groner was. In the post-race interview, Metivier noted that she had to keep pushing throughout the race because of the Age Grading prize! Jasper and Groesz are veterans of National Championships and are well aware that winning an age grading award requires pushing well beyond what might be needed for a division win. Jasper's 26:56 was fast enough to earn an 82.87%, good for 4th place age grading. Groesz's 31:53 at age 72 earned 5th place at 82.16%.

Colleen DeReuck 57 25:33 84.25%     Lisa Veneziano 57 25:40 83.86%     Renee Metivier 40 21:50 83.52%

Recap #3 will feature the Men's Age Divisions and Age Grading 

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