Thursday, January 6, 2022

Masters Athletes On a Mission: Heading to the Shores of Mission Bay for the 2022 USATF Cross Country Championships-A Preview

January 6, 2022. Over 200 Masters runners are entered for Saturday's 2022 USATF Cross Country National Championships. They are converging on Mission Bay in San Diego for the latest shoot-out to determine who is the fastest in the West! An added attraction is running  on the same course on the same day as talented juniors just starting to make a national name for themselves or already famous Open Athletes like Molly Seidel and Leonard Korir. Make no mistake about it, the top athletes, Masters and others, will be firmly  focused on their own races and there should be some dandy ones among the Masters Athletes, for both Overall and Age Division crowns. It should be a perfect XC day, with the forecast calling for mid-50's, cloudy skies, turning to partly sunny, and gentle zephyrs off the bay at 2-4 mph. 

Comparatively few East Coast teams made the trip to compete in San Diego. Luckily there are many rivalries along the Pacific Coast from San Diego to Seattle that will play out on Saturday! The timing of this race was advanced in order to pick athletes for events that will now, at least for Masters athletes, and, perhaps, Open, not happen. Following hard on the heels of time away from work for the holidays made this trip a harder choice for some. Perhaps some are looking forward to a transcontinental trip to San Francisco for Club Cross this coming December, so coming to San Diego seemed less compelling or too expensive. Also the hope is that Covid will be endemic by then, not pandemic. We had hoped to be past Covid by now but some Masters athletes are staying away, perhaps because of fear of the more contagious Omicron variant, or because they could not get a negative Covid test, or because they did not want to risk paying for flight and hotel without a guaranteed ticket to the starting line. 

Please let us all do what we can to lick the Corona Virus; it is time to give Covid the boot! We do not want to lose another 840,000 fellow Americans to this scourge. And we want to be able to compete with our very best rivals! My 2 cents--enough, and now off to the races!


Note; Team affiliations did not always make it to the 'Status of Entries' so rather than refer to those listed without affiliations as 'Unattached', I used the term 'Uncertain' expecting that some of those team affiliations will appear before the gun sounds.

WOMEN Maggie Shearer has become a constant at these races since joining the Cal Coast Track Club. At the 12 km in New Jersey, the 5 km Cross Country in Boston or at Club Cross in Tallahassee, she shoots off from the gun and challenges the best runners to stay with her. She fought hard in each of those and landed on the podium each time! No one will be surprised to see her running stride for stride with her chief rivals along the shores of Mission Bay. Will she have an extra edge from having the race just down the coast from her home? We shall see. The only woman who beat her at Club Cross had a 'home course advantage'. Perhaps that can work for Shearer. It will definitely be a battle! 

Lorilyn Bloomer with a comfortable lead at the USATF Cross Country Championships at Mission Bay in 2020 All photos courtesy of Michael Scott unless otherwise specified.


Three women who will be competing for the win are: Lorilyn Bloomer Bowerman TC, Hilary Corno Prado Racing, Carre Joyce Heineck and Renee Metivier both from Team Red Lizard. Bloomer is going for a repeat. She came down the coast from Oregon to take the title at this event in 2020, running 24:14. Bloomer went to Boston this year to contest the Masters 5 km XC and, admittedly, did not have as strong an outing as one would hope for, finishing 7th, a good minute off the winning time. But one race does not define an athlete. Saturday she will be on a familiar course, one she knows how to win on. She is certainly dangerous. When Bloomer was winning this race in 2020, Corno, also a resident of Southern California who runs for the local Prado team, was probably on a long training run. At the end of that month she competed in the Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. She is coming off another successful marathon season, a 2:45:07 at the Boston Marathon in October. Marathoners are always a threat on Cross Country courses; Corno is familiar with the course as well. She won a San Diego Association Masters Championship on this same course in 2016, running 23:23. More relevant, she won the Dirt Dog San Diego XC Championship here in November with a 23:47. Heineck competed gamely at Tallahassee last month, running alone for most of the race but never giving up more ground than she had to. In the end she finished 3rd, just  8 seconds back from Shearer. She will enjoy getting another shot at her so soon under different conditions. Heineck's teammate, Metivier, is the 'new kid on the block' for Masters competition. At Tallahassee she competed in the Open Championships for the Red Lizards; she runs for the Masters team for the first time. She ran on the same course as Shearer at a slightly different time of day and with different athletes around her. The weather was warmer and more humid when Metivier ran. On the other hand, she was surrounded by other fast Open athletes the entire time she was running. Shearer had only one other runner to focus on, running right next to her the whole time. Metivier could be swept along with the crowd. In any case, Metivier ran more than a minute faster than Shearer. It will be fascinating to see how she fares in this setting. Will there be a team strategy for Heineck and Metivier that will help both? Lots of questions! And there is always someone else. Who might it be? One possibility is an athlete in her 50's, Chris Lundy Uncertain, who had the fastest women's time at the Double Dipsea race this year. Renowned among trail runners, it is quite a challenge in terrain, with steep climbs and descents, even stairs to negotiate! And, of course, there is no terrain to speak of at Mission Bay, just a few little hills, quick rollers, so that does not favor a Dipsea champion. I should not overlook Kimberly Mueller San Diego TC either. 

Kimbetrly Mueller heading for the finish line at Mission Bay in 2022


She finished 8th overall at Spokane in 22:58. In June she finished 7th Masters at the 25 km Black Mountain Trail Run. I am not sure if that is a plus or a minus, but she also finished 3rd behind Corno at the Dirt Dog Championships in 24:00! So she is ready to roll at Mission Bay. Even though she is now in the 55-59 division, can you mention a Masters Cross Country event and not list 4-time Olympian Colleen DeReuck as a contender? She is still fit and fast, no doubt. She ran a 19:51 5K last Thanksgiving and ran a 1:35:54 Half Marathon as the 3rd leg of a 70.3 Ironman, both at altitude.    Podium picks in alpha order.

Hilary Corno    Renee Metivier    Maggie Shearer

MEN The conversation has to start with Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast TC. He has won the last two national titles on offer at Mission By, a course he likes. He won the 5 km Masters Championship in October 2019 in 15:54, and came back the third week in January to win the USATF XC Championships in 26:52. Coming off a disappointing outing at Club Cross, I expect Sallberg will be tough to beat at Mission Bay. Peter Gilmore West Valley TC who had the better day in Tallahassee, will not be here, but his new running rival in the north, Sergio Reyes Uncertain, will be. Gilmore nipped Reyes by a single second at the Pacific Association XC Championships. Like Metivier on the Women's side, Reyes ran in the Open competition. Because the Masters Men ran later in the morning than the women, the conditions for the Open Men were not  significantly worse than for the Masters Men. Ryes's time was not as fast as that of Jesse Davis, the Masters winner, but was faster than Gilmore's time. Reyes and Sallberg should be the two main rivals. 

Start of Men's Race at USATF XC Championships at Mission Bay in 2020


Others who will be in the mix and could tumble those two favorites include: Jesse Barragan Uncertain, Roosevelt Cook Cal Coast, John Howell Bowerman TC, Greg Mitchell Bowerman, and Jeff Tomaszewski Uncertain. Barragan and Tomaszewski are probably longer shots than the others. But both have had impressive Marathon times at the CIM, Barragan a 2:34:47 in 2019 and Tomaszewski a 2:40:36 this past December. Barragan's is faster but Tomaszewski's more recent. Marathoners often do better than one might think at XC. On the other hand, Barragan had a shot at Reyes in the Pacific Association Championships this past fall, and finished 5th, more than a minute back from Reyes. Every course is different and a couple of months of training can move runners' fitness levels around, in either direction. Cook, with a 1:07:30 HM to his credit, has been knocking on the door for the last several Masters Championships. A knowledgeable source has told me that he thinks the only guy around who could possibly out-kick Sallberg at the end of a race is Cook. 

Roosevelt Cook, Adam Dailey, Jacques Sallberg, Neville Davey and Mark Yuen lead the field at the 2019 USATF Masters 5 km Championships at Mission Bay Photo courtesy of Cal Coast TC


Will he get the chance to kick for a win ahead of his teammate, and all others? Every other outing has found him derailed by the time they reach the latter stages of the race. At the 5 km Masters in October 2019, he finished 2nd to Sallberg, a 16:05 to Sallberg's 15:54. At Club Cross at Lehigh, Cook finished 6th, a half minute back from Sallberg. At Tallahassee last month, he took 4th, ahead of Sallberg, but over a half minute back from the winning time. This is, arguably, Cook's best chance yet for a National Individual Championship! Howell and Mitchell, coming down from Oregon are also long shots, based on recent performances. They have been on the podium so often in the last half dozen years, one can never count them out. Mitchell won so many national XC championships from 2014 through 2016 and Howell finished 6th at Club Cross in Tallahassee in 2016, followed by 2nd at Lexington and 5th at Spokane. Will there be another surprise, perhaps from Northern California's Charlie Brennaman SRA Elite, who ran  2:29:18 at Boston in 2019, or Cory Smith Hoka Aggies who clocked a 15:43 at a 5K in August and a 21:17 in a 4-mile race in November? We will find out on Saturday.      Podium picks in alpha order.

Roosevelt Cook    Sergio Reyes    Jacques Sallberg


WOMEN 40-44  See above. When I saw that Colleen and Darren DeReuck were bringing their Colorado Racing Club athletes, including several women in the 40+ race, down from the Rocky Mountains, I thought they would be contesting for the win. Unless the race results lie, the 40+ CRC runners are coming primarily to compete and enjoy the event.

It seems safe to add Heineck to the duo from this division listed for overall podium,  Metivier and Shearer. Renee Gordon, a teammate of Heineck and Metivier ran an Open time of 23:34 at Lehigh that was a top 7 time for the Masters race. She ran 19:31 in the Gold Race at the Willamette  XC Invitational.       Podium picks in alpha order.

Carre Joyce Heineck    Renee Metivier    Maggie Shearer

From Left: Maggie Shearer locked in a duel for the lead with Kasie Enman at the 2021 USATF Masters Cross Country Championships at Franklin Park in Boston


45-49 Bloomer, Corno, and Mueller, previewed in the Overall section, stand out in this division. A newly transplanted easterner and Cal Coast  recruit, Christy Peterson, could make things interesting should any of that trio falter. In 2018 she finished 2nd in this division at the USATF Masters 5 km Championships in Atlanta, running 18:47. Her most recent outing at her former hometown race, the Blue Cross Broad Street Run, this past fall, suggest her fitness is not at that level. Still, as a former high school and college ace at cross country, one can never tell.      Podium picks in alpha order.

Lorilyn Bloomer    Hilary Corno    Kimberly Mueller

50-54 Having listed Chris Lundy Uncertain as having an outside chance at the Overall win, I have to include her as a podium favorite for this division. Elizabeth Guerrini Cal Coast, Megan Kossar Impala Racing, and Wendy Terris Team Red Lizard should all be in the mix. Guerrini ran 3:12:07 at CIM and had a 40:24 at the Seal Beach 10K. Kossar won this division at the Pacific Association XC Championships over 6 km in 26:41. She finished 5th in the division at both the 12 km National Masters Championships in 51:03 and at the Masters 5 km Championships in Boston in 21:05. Terris finished 7th in the division at Club Cross a month ago in 24:50.      Podium picks in alpha order.

Megan Kossar    Chris Lundy    Wendy Terris

55-59  There are some heavy hitters in this division. Colleen DeReuck Colorado Racing Club, noted in the Overall section, is one. But three time Masters Harrier of the Year, Marisa Sutera Strange Greater Philadelphia TC, and the new 12 km W55 American record holder, Lisa Veneziano Uncertain, are the two others. Strange does not appear to have the fitness she had in early 2019 when she took the Masters Overall title at the 2019 USATF XC Championships in Tallahassee in 23:31. Strange also took the W55 title at Leigh in 23:54. At her most recent outing at the 5 km XC Championships in Boston, she appeared to be enjoying the fun and camaraderie of her team. She finished 2nd to her new GPTC teammate, Michelle Rohl, running 20:23 over the traditional Cross Country course at Franklin Park. Veneziano is clearly in top form; she set a new W55 American Record at the 12 km Championships in New Jersey. Her 46:13 eclipsed the record held by Joan Benoit Samuelson. Since then she ran two Marathons, a 2:58:23 at Boston, finishing second to record-breaker, Jenny Hitchings, and a 2:56:13 at Philadelphia in November, where she took first by over 18 minutes in 2:56:13. With six weeks to recover, she should be ready for a new challenge. I do not see any recent XC results for Veneziano but I expect her to run strong at Mission Bay. Others who might factor into the race for the podium include Tania Fischer Janes Elite, Hronn Gudmundsdottir Impala Racing, and Laura Stuart San Diego TC.

Tania Fischer finishing off her 202 USATF Cross Country Championship run at Mission Bay


Not so long ago, Fischer's 24:21 at Spokane netted her 2nd place in the division. She ran 24:52 at Lehigh to finish 7th W50. Fischer won the 2021 SoCal XC W50 title over 6km  in 28:44, suggesting her fitness may have been off. That appeared to be the case at Tallahassee as well, where she clocked 26:23 to finish 5th. One can never count Fischer out of the running; she is familiar with the Mission Bay course where she finished 2nd W50 in 26:46 at the 2020 USATF XC Championships. At the 5 km XC Championships on this same course a few months earlier in 2019, Fischer finished 48 seconds behind Gudmundsdottir and 52 seconds ahead of Stuart. Stuart has a recent outing on the turf; she won the W50 title at the Dirty Dog USATF-SD Championships in 28:10 this past fall. Gudmundsdottir appears to have been the stronger of these three in the recent past; she took 2nd in the division at Lehigh in 24:15. With no recent outings it is hard to know her current fitness. Is she coming to contest for the win or simply to help her Impala's 50+ team?     Podium picks in alpha order.

Colleen DeReuck    Marisa Sutera Strange    Lisa Veneziano

60-64 Lorraine Jasper appears to be the strongest runner in this division. Her closest pursuer at Club Cross in Tallahassee was Nancy Simmons Impala Racing who did not make this trip. Jasper clocked 25:51. Although Simmons did not make it, her Impala teammate, Stella Gibbs, did. Simmons was a minute faster than Gbbs at the 12 km Masters Championships but that can easily be reversed on the turf. 

Lorraine Jasper stretching her lead at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships at Tallahassee


The only cross country results I can find with both Simmons and Gibbs competing were the ones from the SCTC Challenge over 4.25 miles. Gibbs came in 9 seconds ahead of Simmons. That suggests that Jasper is still the one to beat, but Gibbs should have a chance. Gibbs's Impala teammate, Suzanne Cordes could have a shot at the podium; she was about a minute back from Gibbs at the Pacific Association XC Championships. Jasper's GPTC teammate, Mary Swan, finished 11 seconds behind Cordes at Tallahassee.       Podium picks in alpha order.

Lorraine Jasper    Stella Gibbs    Suzanne Cordes

65-69 Suzanne Ray Team Red Lizard is the strongest runner in this division. She focuses more on roads than XC, but she did run at Lexington, finishing 2nd in this division in 27:46. Four years and change later, can she finish as well or better? I find no recent cross country results for Ray but I do find a 1:46:12 Half Marathon and a very recent Jinglebell 15K in 1:16:46. That is age-grade equivalent to running a 29:08 6K on the roads. Ernestina Martin San Diego TC finished 2nd W65 at Spokane in 30:52.  Of the other entrants, Tina Breen San Diego TC or Joanna Harper Team Red Lizard seem likeliest to fill out the podium. Breen ran a 1:12:28 at the Balboa Park 8 miler, equivalent to a 1:25:18 15K effort or a 32:27 6K effort, both on the roads. Harper was faster than that in 2019, running a 50:22 10K. But I find no recent outings for Harper, not even in the Stumptown series that often attracts runners from the Portland area. Given that uncertainty, I will put Breen on the predicted podium and let Harper or anyone else prove me wrong.        Podium picks in alpha order.

Tina Breen    Ernestina Martin    Suzanne Ray 

70-74 Jeanette Groesz Team Red Lizard should dominate this race as she did Tallahassee. At that race the only runner who could stay close was her teammate, Sharon Gerl. Gerl kept things close as long as she could but, in the end, Groesz had a hundred meter lead, clocking 30:23. Jo Anne Rowland Impala Racing will try to throw a monkey wrench into that prediction. She won the division at the 12 km National Championships in 1:03:51, but that is roughly equivalent to a 30:45 6 km on the road and likely somewhat slower on a 6 km XC course. 

Jeanette Groesz on her way to a Red Lizard team win, an Age Division Silver Medal and 4th place Age-Grading at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee


At Lexington in 2017, Rowland finished 4th in W65 at 30:20, but Groesz finished 2nd with a substantial lead over Rowland. Should any one of those three falter or not make it to the race, Impala teammates, Donna Chan and Irene Herman would have to duel for the third podium spot. Chan's Spokane outing at 31:06 just 14 seconds out of 2nd place, was more impressive in terms of timing that Herman's Lehigh outing of 36:51 which, nonetheless, earned her a 2nd in W70. More recently Herman was able to outrun Chan by three minutes on the roads in New Jersey, clocking a 1:12:01 12 km at the Masters Championships.     Podium picks in alpha order.

Sharon Gerl    Jeanette Groesz    Jo Anne Rowland   

75-79 & 80-84 No entries

85-89 Suzanne Falco will have to finish the race to claim the win in this division.  

MEN 40-44 This division belongs to Roosevelt Cook Cal Coast and Sergio Reyes Uncertain, as explained in the overall preview. My third pick for the Overall podium came from 45-49 so I  need to add Jesse Barragan, Charlie Brennaman, or Cory Smith. Based on the analysis above, I will add Smith to the predicted podium on the grounds that Barragan has already had a chance for a National Championship on the turf. 

Roosevelt Cook drives for the finish line ahead of Neville Davey at the 2019 USATF Masters 5 km Championshps at Mission Bay Photo courtesy of Cal Coast TC


Barragan turned his outing at XC Nationals in San Diego in 2020 into a third place finish at a National Championship. Brennaman went to Spokane and came up a bit short, despite running well. Let's see what Smith can do!                      Podium picks in alpha order.

Roosevelt Cook    Sergio Reyes    Cory Smith 

 45-49 Even if Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast should have another off day, it seems almost impossible that he would not be on the podium. He is certainly the favorite to win this division. He won handily the last time this Championship was settled on this course in 2020, as well as at the Masters 5 km XC Championships in October 2019. At Tallahassee, on his off day, Sallberg ran 34:22 to finish 11th overall and 2nd in this division. No one else in this field who ran at Tallahassee ran as fast. Others with good chances at the podium include: John Howell, Gregory Mitchell both of Bowerman TC, Okwaro Raura boom-MILESTONE, Orin Schumacher Bowerman, and Jeff Tomaszewski Uncertain. Howell and Mitchell were discussed in the Overall section. But Mitchell was well over a minute ahead at Tallahassee so that gives him the nod. Schumacher, the other member of the 45-49 Bowerman trio, was within shouting distance of Mitchell and a good minute ahead of Howell at Tallahassee. 

Jacques Sallberg gets the win at the 2019 USATF Masters 5 km Championships at Mission Bay Photo courtesy of Cal Coast TC


A few weeks of training could make a difference, but it seems safer to go with Tallahassee's prediction. Raura finished 4th overall at the USATF Masters HM Championships in San Diego in 2017, clocking 1:11:49. More recently, Raura ran a 26:32 5-miler last November, equivalent roughly to a 33:07 10K. Even though that would likely be slower on the turf, he clearly has good fitness at present. He also ran a 22:49 over the Balboa Park 4 mile circuit; that is roughly equivalent to a 28:29 8K over similar terrain. That is not as fast as Sallberg at his best, but it should be fast enough to run with all the others. Tomaszewski had a good Marathon time at CIM but his turf ability comes into question somewhat with his 19:18 time over a 5 km XC race in Florida.                  Podium picks in alpha order.

Gregory Mitchell    Okwaro Raura    Jacques Sallberg 

50-54 Based on his performance at Tallahassee, Mark Yuen West Valley TC is the strong favorite for this division. He took the win at Tallahassee in 34:07, a good minute an a half of his West Valley teammate, Ivan Lieben, who took 2nd. 

Mark Yuen building an early lead in the M50+ Division that would stand up to the end at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships at Tallahassee


No one else from the field entered here was much inside the top 20 at Tallahassee. Some may have had an exceptionally off day at Tallahassee, perhaps because of the warm, humid conditions. Because of that it is hard to predict that Christian 'Cush' Cushing-Murray Cal Coast or Matt Farley Bowerman are likely to short-circuit the 1-2 duo of West Valley. David Mastro Uncertain ran a strong 2:35:22 at CIM and clocked 16:17 at a 5K in November. In 2019 he finished 1st in M45 at the UC Santa Cruz Cross Country Challenge over 4 miles. That translates, roughly, to a 30:22 8 km effort. That suggests Mastro may not be able to keep wup with the best runners int his division. We shall see on Saturday. Cushing-Murray beat Farley by a second at Tallahassee and by 11 seconds the last time the two met at Mission Bay in 2020.                            Podium picks in alpha order.

Christian Cushing-Murray    Ivan Lieben    Mark Yuen

55-59 Despite an off day due to the conditions, Nat Larson still turned in a strong performance at Tallahassee, finishing  in 38:25. Larson, the 'Grand Old Man' of 55-59 in his last year in the age division was, nonetheless, hanging tight with the 'new kid on the block' Peter Hammer, through 8000 meters, about 70 meters ahead of David White West Valley, heading for a likely time around 36 minutes. But then the warmth and humidity apparently got to Larson. White was still 50 meters back at the 9000 meter mark but closed and passed after that, taking 2nd in 36:40. Larson and White meet again at Mission Bay; it will be interesting to see how their race within the race goes. I expect Larson to be back on top of his game and to have the edge on White. But we will have to run the race to find out. 

Nat Larson cruising along the shores of Mission Bay, building his lead on the way to an M55 win at the 2020 USATF Cross Country Championships


In his prime, Darren DeReuck was a 2:16 Marathoner and a 1:04 and change half marathoner. As recently as 20 years ago, he ran a 30:07 10K. But more recntly he has not been training for national competition. He ran 19 and change at a Turkey Trot 5k in November. He may not have been very serious but it suggests DeReuck is out for a good run and the fun of competition, not to take any medals home. Paul Smith Bowerman seems likely to figure into  the podium battle. He finished 9th at tallahassee, just 11 seconds back from Larson. He ran a similar time at Lehigh in 2019 so he ahs been consistent at that level. Jeff MannUncertain ran a 4:46 1500 Meters at Ames this past summer and clocked a 16:59 5K this past fall.                 Podium picks in alpha order. 

Nat Larson    Paul Smith    David White

60-64 This division is the Dan King-Joe Sheeran show. I expected a showdown at Tallahassee but Sheeran was coming back from an injury and was not yet at the level he wanted in order to compete. He seems confident of a good race at Mission Bay. Joe Sheeran Club Northwest has been unbeatable in this division since he entered it for Club Cross at Lexington. Sheeran takes off at the sound of the gun and dares anyone to stay with him. King starts hard, but not quite that hard usually. He can usually close on anyone in the middle of the race and then move as necessary. Not so with Sheeran who gets out in front and dares anyone to catch him. So far King has not been able to. Will it change on Saturday? One could argue that despite being willing to come and compete, Sheeran might not be at his very top form. He is coming as part of a Club Northwest team that looks to take home the team 60+ trophy one more time.

LATE NEWS FLASH: Note from Joe Sheeran: "I won't be in San Diego after all because the mountain pass was closed over Cascades due to heavy snow so missed my flight.   We have 3 ft of snow here in Ellensburg so its challenging taking care of horses and getting them fed." 

Joe Sheeran charges along the shores of Mission Bay, with Dan King in the background, on his way to an M60+ win at the 2020 USATF Cross Country Championships at Mission Bay


Dan King Athletics Boulder has had a superb last 18 months, breaking American and one World middle distance record on the track. He has also shown his usual form on the turf, winning his division at both the 5 km Masters Championships in Boston and at Club Cross in Tallahassee. He was not seriously challenged at either race. He played it cautious, however, in Boston, waiting until the last third of the race to move away from the field. King is a master at recovering , even when it seems he is very sore from his exploits. So far that has been true. Will it hold true through Mission Bay? Most likely it will although King has posted that he expects to take some well deserved time off after that to heal his wounds. On the other hand, ski season has begun and the deep powder may have already started to heal his wounds. It is hard to know who to add to the predicted podium. Here are a few candidates; Mike Blackmore Jacuzzi Boys AC, Iain Campbell Colorado Racing Club, Ray Knerr Cal Coast, David Litoff Athletics Boulder, David Olds Cal Coast. and Donald Stewart Empire RC of Sonoma

Dan King races to M60+ victory at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships


Blackmore took 2nd at Tallahassee's 2019 USATF XC Championship, clocking 28:12 in a fine effort. It is hard to find confirmation of that kind of conditioning in recent results. I found a 5.06 mile Portland Trail run in 34:25. Unfortunately without knowledge of terrain, it is hard to know if that is fast or slow. He won his division but that does not tell us much. I was able to look at a topographic map of race #5 (but Blackmore was in race #2). That race seemed to mostly follow the contours and avoid sharp ups and downs, but Blackmore may have chosen a more challenging outing. [Late update: Mike alerted me just now to a couple of 18:20 5km XC races but then injured his lower back.] Although my comments above suggested that the Colorado Racing Club folks are out for the fun of running rather than aiming for medals, their Iain Campbell is serious enough to have clocked a 2:57:45 at the Sprouts Mesa Marathon in 2020. He ran a 19:13 5K in November. Knerr ran 36:51 to finish 7th M55 at the 2015 Club Cross Championships in San Francisco. This past November, he ran an 18:12 5K. Litoff has been chasing his teammate, King, around on Cross Country races this past fall, finishing 28 seconds back in 5th place over 5 km in Boston and a minute and a half back in Tallahassee, finishing 10th. But that was still a darned fast 31:27 under warm, humid conditions. In 2016 Olds took 5th in M50 at the USATF XC Championships in Bend OR, running 30:40 up and down the side of a cinder cone for 8 km. A year and a half later at Club Cross in Lexington, Olds took 9th M55 in 37:57 on a frigid day. This past fall he has been running his 5K's in 21 and change. In November, Olds got serious about the turf and took the M60 crown at the Southern California XC Championships in 24:40 over 6K. 

From left: David Litoff leads Kevin Ostenberg, Rick Lee and, in the background, Tim DeGrado and Roger Sayre at the end of the first fo 4 loops at the 2021 USATF Club XC Championships at Tallahassee


That is roughly equivalent to a 33:10 8K over similar terrain. That is probably not fast enough to stay with Litoff. Stewart's claim to be included rests on his performance at Double Dipsea where he clocked a very respectable 1:03:57. He was 3 minutes back from Dan King but there is no shame in that! Still, as mentioned elsewhere the challenges of Dipsea are very different from the challenges at Mission Bay. Podium picks in alpha order.

Dan King    David Litoff    Joe Sheeran     

65-69 Rick Becker Club Northwest and  Jacob Nur look like the top competitors in this division. A three time Masters Harrier of the Year, Becker is seldom beaten on the turf. The last time Nur and Becker met was in Spokane. Becker took the honors there by 21 seconds. But Nur seems to be running better than ever. He clocked 35:42 on a certified, record eligible course, a 10K in November, breaking the American 65-69 record just weeks after Brian Pilcher broke the record in Houston. He also ran a fast time at Clarksburg, clocking 1:18:29 in the Half Marathon, but that course was apparently shortened by accidental mis-placing of race cones. Does that mean Nur can beat Becker on the turf? Maybe, but Becker was also in record breaking form this summer. He took down the American M65 10 km record on the track in 37:27! My money is still on Becker on the turf, but he will be pushed. Based on performance at Tallahassee, Tomas Rodriguez Cal Coast looks like a good bet. He clocked 34:46 to take 4th place in this division. 

Rick Becker charges to the finish as the M60+ Age Grade Champion at the 2018 USATF Club Cross Country Championships at Spokane WA


Kyle Hubbart Boulder Road Runners returns to the fray after an absence of a couple of years. Hubbart ran 20:05 to finish 16th in M60 on a challenging 5 km course in Atlanta in 2018. That field was packed; the first four runners all broke 18 minutes! A couple of years before that Hubbart finished 9th at the USATF XC Championships in Boulder with a 32:20. This past November, Hubbart ran 20:47 in a 5K at altitude. Kevin Taylor Bowerman finished 29th in M60 at Spokane in 33:20 but I find no recent results.    Podium picks in alpha order.

Rick Becker    Jacob Nur    Tomas Rodriguez

70-74 It seems likely that David Dunbar Jamul Toads and Rick Pfeiffer San Diego Striders will continue the duel they engaged in at Tallahassee. There Dunbar got out early but was eventually caught and passed by Pfeiffer as they finished 2-3 in 36:28 and 36:32! The difference is that this time they will be going for the win. Jerry Learned Atlanta TC finished 5th int hat race a couple of minutes back from Dunbar, but Mike Wien, who finished 4th, is not entered at Mission Bay.  Learned ran better in Boston, clocking 22:57 over the 5 km course; that equates roughly to a 37:15 8k over similar terrain. Most would argue the terrain at Franklin Park is more challenging than the terrain in Tallahassee but the warm, humid conditions at Tallahassee were more challenging for many. 

From Left: David Dunbar, Greg Wagner, and Rick Pfeiffer at the 2.7 km mark of an 8K race at the 2021 USTAF Club Cross Championships


Still it is very possible that Learned will run closer to Dunbar and Pfeiffer than he was able to do in Tallahassee. It will be interesting to see. Dunbar told me that he expects Pfeiffer to be even faster at Mission Bay because he is coming back from an injury. One of these days, 'Coach' Bill Sumner Cal Coast, will really get back in shape and push the pace, like he did in his prime! But he does not appear to be competitive. His 5K's on the road have been in the 23:30 to 24 minute range.    Podium picks in alpha order.

David Dunbar    Jerry Learned    Rick Pfeiffer 

75-79 This division should come down to a battle between the two runners who finished 1-2 at Tallahassee, Ron Wells San Diego Striders and Dave Glass Atlanta, and the runner who was not there, Don Porteous Tamalpa Runners. Wells, who took the Club Cross M70 crown in 2016 came back 5 years later to do the same in the M75 division, clocking 37:58. Glass took 2nd in 38:35. Glass will enjoy the conditions more in San Diego but that will, arguably, be a home course for Wells who should be at  his best. Still, Glass, who is a very tough and savvy competitor, may well stay closer to Wells this time around. It may not do him much good. Porteous appears to be in good form. He finished 2nd in the M70 division at Club Cross in Lexington the year after Wells took it in Tallahassee. He took first M70 in the Pacific Association XC Championships in 37:44, so he is right there with Wells and Glass, and perhaps a bit ahead. But every course is different as are conditions. 

From Left: Ron Wells opens up his lead in the M75 division , with M65 runners, Aaron Pratt and Mitch Moore, and further back, M75 Ezrquiel Garcia and M70 Rick Katz

It seems like the conditions in San Diego will be as fair as one can get--sea level, but moderate temperatures, little humidity and little wind in the forecast. Gary Patton, the celebrated middle distance runner on the track, continues his 2022 road race circuit with an appearance at Mission Bay. He set himself up for 2022 by breaking the American M75 Road Mile record at Lincoln NB, running 5:56 on July 11th. He may not finish any higher than the 4th he managed at Tallahassee. He would rather be on the podium, no doubt. But these events are giving him insurance points towards a Masters National Grand Prix Award. These races on the turf over 8K are not in his sweet spot although he won at Bend in 2016; he will aim for better results in Atlanta, Rochester, and Boulder, perhaps, all 5k or shorter. Patton, as noted, finished 4th in Tallahassee in 39:45, a fine time for a middle distance specialist!   Podium picks in alpha order.

Dave Glass    Don Porteous    Ron Wells

80-84 Hans Schmid Tamalpa, the celebrated Ultra, Trail and Road runner returns to the turf for a national championship. Although known for his longer races, Schmid held the 10 K American Record for a couple of years in the middle of the 20-teens before Jan Frisby lowered it; Gene Dykes demolished it in 2018. But records are made to be broken and it is a tribute to Schmid that he broke someone else's record! I can find a couple of races for Schmid in 2019 but nothing more recent. Most of the runners I report on for this event that are trail runners run Double Dipsea if they run that race at all. Schmid ran Quadruple Dipsea in 2019, a 28 mile long race up and down, over and around Mt. Tamalpais north of the Golden Gate Bridge. He also found time to run 37:55 on the UC Santa Cruz 4 mile XC race as part of the Pacific Association Grand Prix. Had those races been run in 2021, I would immediately make Schmid the favorite. But we have to look at the others first. Roland Cormier won the Masters 12 km race in New Jersey in 1:17:11. 

Roland Cormier on his way to a Silver Medal finish in M80 on the Franklin Park course in Boston - 2021 USATF +Masters 5 km Championships


He also took 2nd in Boston over the 5 km Franklin Park XC course in 31:41, at an average pace of about 10:12 per mile, and another 2nd in Tallahassee with a 53:01 over their 8 km course, at about a 10:45 pace per mile. James Metts Florida TC West ran a faster 12K than Cormier, 1:13:31, but that was in 2019. This past year he ran a 1:02:21 10km in the Huntsman Games, which is equivalent to a 1:15:51 12K, so again a bit faster than Cormier. On the other hand, I have heard that the road races in St. George UT, where the Huntsman Games are located, tend to have overall downhill courses. So that raises a question as to whether that time is actually faster. Cormier's time was on a certified, record eligible course. Perhaps more importantly, Metts ran in the San Diego TC's 4 mile XC race on September 4th, clocking 42:57, an average pace of about 10:45 per mile.  Peter Rowat Florida TC West ran a superb race in 2018, clocking 55:52 in the Scripps Ranch 10K. But that, too, was in 2018 and I find no recent results for him. My guess is that it will sort out as Schmid-Cormier- Metts but let the race begin on Saturday and we will see.   Podium picks in alpha order.

 Roland Cormier    James Metts    Hans Schmid

85-89 There are two entries, Elmo Shropshire Tamalpa and Richard Williams Florida TC West and the finishing order will probably be similar to the last time they met in 2018 on this same Mission Bay course but for the Masters 5 km XC Championships. Shropshire took the M80 crown in 29:44, with Williams in 3rd, 3 minutes back. Shropshire took the M85 title at the Pacific Association XC Championships last November over an 8 km course in 53:01. That suggest Shropshire may have slowed a little, but he is definitely still active. That is equivalent over the same terrain to a 33:00 5 k. Williams ran a 27:57 Jingle Bell 5k so he is no slouch either. How much that time would slow if Williams had to run it over the turf is anyone's guess. We will get a hint when they run the race on Saturday. My money is on Shropshire but it looks like the race will be closer than I might have thought.  Podium picks in alpha order.

Elmo Shropshire    Richard Williams


If the past is any guide, the main contenders for men's age-grading prizes are: Dan King and Joe Sheeran from the 60-64 division; and Nat Larson, from 55-59. Given his performances over the last year, let's add Jacob Nur, from 65-69, to that list of contenders as well. And I should not forget that Jacques Sallberg finished 2nd to Sheeran in Age Grading the last time they ran at Mission Bay. Podium picks in alpha order

Dan King    Nat Larson    Joe Sheeran

 For the women, the chief contenders are: Colleen DeReuck, Marisa Sutera Strange, and Lisa Veneziano from the 55-59 division, and Jeanette Groesz from the 70-74 division. Other high age grade performances are likely from Lorraine Jasper, 60-64, and Suzanne Ray, 65-69. Podium picks in alpha order.

Colleen DeReuck     Jeanette Groesz    Marisa Sutera Strange



I do not have time for an in-depth look at the team contests and I am somewhat hampered by the status of Entries not including team affiliations, presumably due to teams not having renewed for 2022 at the time the athlete signed up for the race. The following previews are, necessarily, somewhat impressionistic. I rely heavily on Tallahassee team outcomes when available and relevant.


40+ Cal Coast dominated at Tallahassee, with the Janes Elite and Team Red Lizard well off the podium. But two of Cal Coast's top runners, Audrey Kroot and Laura Osman are not entered for San Diego.  Carla McAlister can sub for Osman as they finished only a few seconds apart at Tallahassee. Cal Coast has a new member, though, in Christy Peterson, Peterson should be a good substitute for Kroot. Will that be enough? Red Lizard has a new top runner to add to their squad in Renee Metivier. That gives them two of the top 3 runners overall if predictions are fulfilled. Renee Gordoni is no slouch either. The Red Lizard  team will be tough to beat. The Janes are always tough but they  did not have the firepower needed at Tallahassee and it does not look like they have added much for this race, unless one of the unaffiliated runners I can't place turns out to be on the Janes. Bowerman may have a teram as well which is hard to know. Bloomer will be among the top finishers. I could guess that Crystal Query is also with Bowerman because of Stumptown results, but that is not definite. She could also be Team Red Lizard. So if they have a team, they may factor in. Podium picks:

Team Red Lizard       Cal Coast TC      Janes Elite

50+ The Janes are not listed among the teams entered but they are entered as individuals so I am guessing the team affiliation will get straightened out. The Janes finished far ahead of Impala at Tallahassee. But their top runner there, Shannon Stryker, is not running in San Diego. The Impalas, on the other hand have essentially replaced their Tallahassee squad with a strong 50+ team. The Impala50+ team at Tallahassee was composed entirely of 60+ runners. I assumed they were entered in 50+ because there was initially a 50+ runner or two they were joining. But then that or those 50+ runner(s) could not make it. They did well as a 60+ team competing against 50+ squads. The 50+ squad for San Diego includes strong 50+ runners, Hronn Gudmundsdottir, Megan Kossar, and Angela Longworth, along with Gina Edwards who should provide good insurance. Greater Philadelphia is bringing two strong 60+ runners, Lorrain Jasper and Cheryl Bellaire to run with Marisa Sutera Strange in this division. At the moment, Mary Swan is left alone at 60+. I assume she will join the others for an even stronger 50+ team. With Colleen DeReuck leading the way, Colorado Racing Club will be formidable for the team award. If Strange were at her best, she might come in ahead of DeReuck but her conditioning seems a little off. But Strange would lose, at most, on  point to CRC. How the other CRC  athletes will do is a little hard to predict as they focus more on triathlons and trails. My guess is that Jasper and, perhaps,  Swan can run with the other CRC's but that is just a guess. The same goes for the Impalas. Kossar came in just ahead of Jasper at he 12K, but Jasper could reverse that outcome on the turf. If Gudmundsdottir has the fitness she exhibited at Lehigh, and Kossar can stay ahea dof jasper, they could win it all. There are many imponderables.   Podium picks:

Colorado Racing Club      Greater Philadelphia TC      Impala Racing

60+  With all or most of the GPTC 60+ runners moving down to 50+, the Impala Racing should have an easy time winning this division with theri 1-2-3 of Stella Gibbs, Suzanne Cordes, and Eileen Brennan-Erler. If Team Red Lizard had a runner to spare from the 70+ division, that runner could drop down to run with Joanna Harper and Suzanne Ray. They could then probably finish 3rd behind the San Diego TC. Team Red Lizard has a 4th 'insurance' runner who could be droped down but then both 60+ and 70+ would have the three runners minimum required to score, with no insurance. As it seems likely that Ray, now 69, may move up to the 70+ squad later this year, their main focus will be on being sure to get full points fo rthe 70+ squad. We shall see.   Podium picks:

Impala Racing      San Diego TC      Team Red Lizard?

70+ As noted, Red Lizard has the 1-2 combo of Jeanette Groesz and Sharon Gerl. Once Ray ages up, they will have their strong 1-2-3 that was so strong in 60+ a few years back. Their main competition comes from the Impala Racing team. They are very solid, with Jo Anne Rowland  leading the way along with able support from Irene Herman and Donna Chan. Rowland should certainly take 3rd. But even if Herman and Chan can come in ahead of the Red Lizard #3 runner, that would not be enough. They would lose 9-12. If at least one other team had entered, it might be a different story.   Podium picks:

Team Red Lizard      Impala Racing 


40+ It appears this is essentially a dual meet between Bowerman and Cal Coast, another in a long line of duels! Everyone in the top 5 for Cal Coast at Tallahassee is entered in San Diego. Bowerman is missing their top runner from Tallahassee, Peter Bromka, but have #'s 2 through 6. If everyon shows up at the starting line and everyone finishes in the order they finished in Tallahassee, then Cal Coast wins 26-29. Does anyone really exopect that to happen? No, but it is as good a predictor as any and better than most. I think there must be some other teams entered, Prado perhaps but no complete teams other than these two are currently listed.     Podium picks:

Cal Coast TC      Bowerman TC 

50+ West Valleyhas the core of the team returning from their Tallahassee romp. Mark Yuen, Ivan Lieben and David White give them a likely 1-2-3 in the team competition. Admittedly they are missing their #4 and 5 runners, but have #'s6-8. Bowerman is missing their #1, Craig Godwin, and #4. So the edge there goes to West Valley. Cal Coast moved their 50+ guys into 40+ and did not enter a 50+ team at Tallahassee. They are entering one here. My guess is they are competitive with Bowerman but may fall just short. And what about the Colorado Racing Club? It does not seem to me they have enough runners in the top half of this group. But it can be tricky to evaluate some who are more oriented toward trail or Tri's.     Podium picks:

West Valley TC      Bowerman TC      Cal Coast TC

60+ Athletics Boulder finished 2nd to the Boulder RR at Tallahassee. But the top 2 runners from the Tallahassee BRR squad are not San Diego. Dan King, David Litoff and Rick Bruess give Athletics Boulder the same 1-2-3 they had in Tallahassee. They are the team to beat. Club Northwest has Joe Sheeran and Rick Becker, but apparently no third runner. If that is just an affiliation proble that will be resolved at packet pickup, they would be formidable as well, depending on how strong that 3rd runner would be. With the addition of Ray Knerr and David Olds, the Cal Coast 40+ team is stronger. Knerr ran an 18:12 5K last November and was a lynchpin of the 2015 Club Cross San Francisco 50+ team when he finished 7th in M55.  Olds has been running his 5K's in the 21+ range, but he ran 24:40 in the SoCal XC Championships over 6 K. That equates roughly, if the terrain and conditions are the same, to a 33:10 over an 8K course. Or one can note that he finished 4 minutes ahead of Cal Coast's 5th runner at Tallahassee, Keith Witthauer. If Olds had run at Tallahassee and run 4 minutes faster than Witthauer, he would have run 31:50. So Cal Coast is defintely stronger; Knerr-Olds-Brian Nelson give them a solid 1-2-3 punch. With the addition of Jim Walsh who ran 26:01 over the Balboa Park 4 mi XC course this past fall, the Jamul Toads atre stronger, but still not as strong as Band Cal Coast. LeBold ran 33:22 at Tallahassee but David Dunbar, dropping down from M70, may be their #3 runner. They will have to worry about the Genesee Valley Harriers. With the addition of John Van Kerkhove, who should run between Timthy Riccardi and Mark Rybinski, they could have a very solid pack in between Lebold and Dunbar. Kyle Hubbart would have to run very strong for the Boulder Road Runners to have a shot at the podium.     Podium picks:

Athletics Boulder      Cal Coast TC      Genesee Valley Harriers

70+ If Tamalpa's Len Goldman had been able to make the trip, they would be the favorites. They may still win, but it will be close. Dave Glass and Jerry Learned came in within a second of each other in 38:35 for Atlanta. Their 3rd runner, Sam Benedict, is one of the finest guys you'll ever want to meet, but he is not competitive at that level. Ron Wells should finish either first or 2nd for the San Diego Striders; he ran 37:58 at Tallahassee. Their two other runners, Steve Doyle and Daniel Diehr ran 43:10 and 43:40. Both should come in ahead of Benedict, but well behind Glass and Learned. Don Porteous could well win for Tamlpa although Wells is a very swift runner who will be hard to beat. Their 2nd runner, John Hirschberger, is probably on a par with Glass and Learned. Joe Schieffer is not as fast but could well come in ahead of Diehr and Doyle.     Podium picks:

Tamalpa Runners      SanDiego Striders      Atlanta TC


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