Friday, February 25, 2022

Running City USA Welcomes Masters Runners for First Road Race Championships of 2022!

February 24, 2022. The Atlanta Track Club looks forward to welcoming over 250 of the fastest Masters long distance runners in the country. The USATF Master 5 km Championships are this coming Saturday, February 26th. The race kicks off the road race portion of the 2022 USATF Masters National Grand Prix. Forecasts suggest the weather should be crisp, in the low 40's with a negligible probability of rain at the start time of 7:30 AM. Runners will congregate at and around the dedicated Masters Championships tent at Centennial Olympic Park. After team check-in and race day morning bib pickup, the runners will be directed to the front of the 5 km race. The Masters Championship race is expected to go off at 7:30 am with the community race starting a few minutes later. With the Club Cross and USATF Cross Country races in the books, many runners and teams will be looking to improve their standings in the 2022 Masters National Grand Prix.

The course presents a challenge. It has been described, with tongue in cheek, as 'Atlanta Flat.' That means it is about as flat as you can get in a city characterized by its hills.Those who ran it in 2018 and 2019 remember the nice, long hill up towards the end, which did not level off until you were ready to sprint to the finish. The course is different this year, but only slightly. The most significant difference is the finish. In previous years, the hill ended, there was a flat bit and then a slight downhill into the final turn and a slight up-slope to the finish on Baker Street. This year they are going for a more impressive finishing stretch!. When you get to Baker St., instead of turning left to the finish, runners will turn right, run up to Marietta, turn left and continue on a slight slope up to Andrew Young International before turning left to finish in Centennial Olympic Park. The elevation profile shows a significant, steady hill before the final climb, at about Mile 2.1, climbing about 78' [from 966' to 1,044'] in a 0.2 mile span, or about a 7% average slope. Runners return back down to 977' before starting a long, but uneven, climb to the finish. The course rises about 70' over a bit more than a half mile, from about 2.55 to 3.1, something like a 2.4% average slope, some parts steeper, some flatter. Those who have included a significant amount of hill work in their training will find it to their liking. Anyone who sets a record here will have something to brag about for sure!


 [Note: The three names after each section are my picks for the podium, listed in alphabetical order, not predicted place.]

WOMEN. Will Laurie Knowles Atlanta Track Club run away from the field like she did here in 2018 and 2019? No one could stay close in 2018. But in 2019, one of her teammates, the accomplished middle distance runner, Sonja Friend-Uhl, stayed close enough that a final kick brought her to within a second of the win. Knowles won in 17:29 and 17:33 in 2018 and 2019. If that trend were to continue, with 2.5 years, intervening, she might run a 17:43. She ran at Boston this past October, clocking 2:44:53; in November she ran a 1:18:21 Half Marathon. 

Laurie Knowles rounding the final turn to win the Overall Women's title at the 2019 USATF Masters 5 km Championships Photo credits: Michael Scott unless otherwise credited


The Half Marathon time equates, roughly, to a 17:45 5K. Friend-Uhl is not here this year, but several others will try to stay with Knowles. Jessica Hruska Crown Running took the Masters (40+) 10,000 meter title on the track with a 38:38 at Ames last summer. She finished 7th overall on the turf at Tallahassee in December and had a road 10K of 39:27 in November. Shawanna White Columbia SC ran a 2:53:02 Marathon in February 2020 and clocked 37:09 at Peachtree this past July. Jill Braley, another talented teammate of Knowles, ran 13 seconds faster than Hruska at Tallahassee and ran an 18:11 5K this January. Ginna Reid Asheville Running Collective could make some noise as well. She ran a 1:04:32 Ten-Miler in January, which is age grade equivalent to a 39:17 10K. It may be a stretch too far, but Fiona Bayly and Michelle Rohl have to be included as podium threats. Two years ago Bayly, now in the 50-54 division, ran 18:21 to finish 4th overall. She is focusing more on Marathons these days, but ran an 18:37 5K in NY last March and a 39:01 10K last month. Rohl has made her noise on the track and the turf but no doubt will do well on the roads at Atlanta. She set the American 55-59 record in both the 800 and 1500 meters on the track at Ames IA last summer. In XC, she finished 2 seconds ahead of Braley at the 5 km Masters XC in Boston in October to finish 5th overall. Braley reversed that outcome at Tallahassee, running a minute faster.

Jill Braley       Laurie Knowles       Shawanna White    

MEN Can Jesse Davis Indiana Elite AC drive the train like he did at Tallahassee? Can Chris Naimoli Greater Phildelphia TC leave everyone behind right from the start and cruise to victory like he did on the hilly 15K course in Tulsa when he took the title in 2019? Or will the cross country wizard, Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast TC, stay close enough to the leaders over the first 2.5 miles to work his magic on the closing hills? If Club Cross success is a good predictor of 5K prowess, Jesse Davis is the runner with a target on his back. He took the Overall Masters title at Tallahassee, over the 10 km course, in 32:55. The closest competitors last December who are entered in these 5 km Championships at Atlanta are: Bryan Lindsay Indiana Elite AC, Naimoli, John Poray, and Sallberg. Lindsay was 53 seconds behind Davis and a single second ahead of Naimoli. Both were 24 seconds behind Sallberg.  Poray was just 5 seconds back from Sallberg. Unlike Sallberg, Davis is not known as a Cross Country runner. His forte has been the Marathon and Ultras. As an Open Runner, Davis finished 5th at the 2015 World 50 Mile Championships, and qualified twice for the Olympic Trials Marathon. He ran a 1:07:38 Half Marathon last November. That he ran so well at Tallahassee suggests that he will not be surprised by anything that Atlanta has ready for him. 

Jesse Davis wins the Masters overall title at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL

Sallberg could be his strongest opposition. He had an off day in Tallahassee but rebounded to finish 2nd in San Diego. If that trend has continued for him, his success at XC suggests the final 0.6 miles of the course, with its significant hills, may well be to his liking. Sallberg has been the dominant Masters XC runner for the last 6 years, winning several Overall Championships, capped off by his win at Lehigh's Club Cross event in 2019. This will be his first USATF Masters National Championship road race. If Sallberg cannot make a strong move on the uphills, what about Poray? His plan at the USATF Masters 5 km Championships in Boston last October was to make a strong move up Bear Cage Hill and race down the other side and hold everyone off. It worked to perfection, as he observed after the race, except that 'I got caught', and finished 2nd. This time there is no downhill to speak of after the final hill. Whoever is ahead heading back up Marietta Street to Andrew Young International Blvd. is likely to win. If Poray can manage to be first at the top of that very last hill, he wins. His 16:40 at Boston on a XC course with a significant hill, along with a 32:08 road 10K last April suggests he has the speed. A 1:09:37 at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon last November suggests he has the staying power. Lindsay has less of a known history with Masters running, but it does include a fast 15:29 at a local 5K in Central Indiana. If this Atlanta course were flatter, I might give that more weight. Naimoli did well at Tallahassee but his performances on the road have been even more impressive. He finished 2nd at the 12 km Championships at Highlands NJ in October with a 40:19. That equates roughly to a 33:16 10K. In October of 2019, Naimoli was at the top of his game for the 15 km Championship on a hilly course in Tulsa OK. He ran away from the field and took the title in 48:37, roughly equivalent to a 31:43 10K. Until someone can show Davis cannot do it, he is the man to beat. Naimoli, who is also a successful tri-athlete, has the power and speed to do well. Sallberg is dangerous because of his past success over hilly courses. If he gets the rhythm of these hills right, he can do real damage. Poray is certainly no slouch. He had a niggle for a couple of weeks, but seems to be back at the top of his game. The Indiana Elite AC is here to win a team title. That three of their members are mentioned as contenders for the Overall Win suggests they can succeed at that; their top runners have the gravy of competing for the title of US Masters National 5 km Champion.

Jesse Davis       Chris Naimoli       Jacques Sallberg 


W40  Knowles, Hruska and White are all from this division so that discussion and podium picks from

Jill Braley finishes off her 6th place finish overall at the 2022 Club Cross Championships in Tallahassee

the overall competition apply here as well.

Jill Braley       Laurie Knowles       Shawanna White  

M40  With the exception of Sallberg, all of the runners mentioned for the Overall win come from this division. 

Chris Naimoli takes 2nd at the 12 km Masters Championships in Highlands NJ


I will substitute Poray for Sallberg for my picks for the division podium top three.

Jesse Davis       Chris Naimoli        John Poray

W45. Samantha Forde Impala Racing, Sara Girotto Philadelphia Masters, Euleen Josiah-Tanner T.H.E. Track, and Donna Mills-Honarva Burlington NC, stand out in this field. Girotto is probably the favorite, and has an outside shot at the Overall podium. She ran several 5K's in the 18:49 - 19:48 range in the summer of '21, and burnished those credentials with a 2nd place division finish at the 12 km National Championships in 48:32. That time is roughly equivalent to a 40:06 10K. Her 30:38 at the Rothmann Institute 8K in Philadelphia in November equates to an 18:53 5K. Forde clocked a 19:28 5K recently and ran a 19:55 5K as the run portion of an Aquathlon. That combination of speed and cross training strength may enable her to give Girotto a challenge.  Josiah-Tanner took the 5000 meter title at Ames IA last summer in 19:13 so she has speed. Her outing at the 12 km Championships, where she finished 1:42 behind Girotto may not be significant, given the distance. Over the 6 km XC course at Tallahassee, she managed a 24:30 to take the division win. When Mills-Honarvar lived onthe West Coast, she took 2nd overall and 1st in the 40-44 division at the 2017 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships in 1:24:26. Like this course in Atlanta, that course had significant hills over the closing third of the course. She is not in that kind of condition now. Last October she ran 1:30:47 in a HM but in July she clocked a 19:37 5k. Mills-Honarva should be in the mix.

Sara Girotto       Euleen Josiah-Tanner       Donna Mills-Honarva

M45. Sallberg,who was profiled for the Overall competition, should be the class of this division.But do not tell that to Brendan Prindiville Boston Athletic Association and Jasen Ritter. Sallberg finished at least a minute ahead of both at Tallahassee, and that was on an off day. But roads and Cross Country are different disciplines. In 2020 just before Covid shut races down, Sallberg clocked a 15:50 and a 16:13 5K. In April 2019 Prindiville rolled to a 4th place overall finish at the 10 km Championships at Dedham in 33:16. But he has struggled with fitness in the interim. Last fall he ran 26:04 at the Manchester Road Race over 4.75 miles, equivalent roughly to a 16:54 5K. Ritter, in an unexpected battle of unusual distance comparisons, ran 23:09 over a fairly flat 4.6 mile course, roughly equivalent to a 15:29 5K. Two months earlier he ran 16:34. That could be a sign that he was rounding into condition over the summer and fall. Both Prindiville and Ritter could have better outings than at Tallahassee. Ordinarily I would mention Brian Sydow Atlanta TC as a contender, He finished 3rd in these 5 km Championships in 2018 and 2019, running 16:25 the latter year. Sydow has struggled with injury and figuring out a way back with more cross training in his mix. But he is probably not all the way back yet. Others who could be heard from include Neil Chandler First Coast Runners and his teammate, Jeff Tomaszewski, as well as Sallberg's teammate, Richard Jennings. Chandler ran a 1:17:06 Half Marathon in late November, equivalent to a 35:24 10K. Tomaszewsk i finished 9th in the Division at San Diego last month, running 30:47 over that 8 km course. Jennings did not have a great outing at Tallahassee, where he finished 4 minutes behind Sallberg. But in 2019 he ran a 1:14:44 HM and a 16:05 at Carlsbad. He, too, may be working his way back from injury. It will be interesting to see how far he has come. Someone has to beat Sallberg before he drops from being the favorite. Prindiville and Ritter look to be the closest chasers. Sallberg is going for the overall win. If he does not get it and spends too much energy on the hills, Prindiville and/or Ritter could pick him off. That will not matter to Sallberg.

Brendan Prindiville       Jasen Ritter       Jacques Sallberg

W50. Fiona Bayly NY, NY, who was mentioned as an overall contender, should take the division title. Abby Dean Greater Philadelphia and Ingrid Walters The Janes Elite will make her earn it. In 2019, Dean was on the comeback trail, running 19:17 to take 3rd in the 45-49 division. She ran 39:01 at the Cooper Norcross 10 km and a few weeks later, uncorked an 18:26 5K. She also has an 18:38 5K to her credit from last fall. Walters, returning from Breast Cancer has been on fire this fall. She finished 16 seconds ahead of Dean at Club Cross where she took 2nd in 23:53 behind the B.A.A.'s Karolyn Bowley. Walters took the 50-54 crown at San Diego. She ran a 19:11 5K last September and should be ready to run faster than that. Three others are in the mix. Kimberly Aspholm Garden State TC, who clocked a 19:35 5K on New Year's Day and demonstrated her ability to win by taking the division crown at Highlands in the 12km Masters Championships. Amy Fakterowitz is always a threat. She ran her 5K's last summer in the 19:28 to 20:04 range. The 32:02 8K she ran in November was equivalent, to a 19:48. She was a bit further back than I would expect at Tallahassee but the warm conditions may have affected her performance. Jennifer Malavolta Reeders, PA ran a 20:35 5K in early December and a 20:02 5K on New Years Day. Combine that progression with the fact that Malavolta took 3rd in the 45-49 division in the 8 km at Virginia Beach in 2019 in 31:58 and ran 59:59 15K in Tulsa, equivalent to a 39:10,  to finish 3rd Overall at the Masters Championships. She could be a factor.

Fiona Bayly       Abby Dean       Ingrid Walters 

M50. The three names that jump out to me in this division are: Mark Andrews Genesee Valley Harriers, Christian Cushing-Murray Cal Coast, and Brent Fields Atlanta TC. Andrews took the 45-49 division title here in 2019 in 15:57. That same year he ran a 4:49 Road Mile to finish 3rd in the division in Flint. It appears that he ran a 22:10 4 miler in March 202 and then a 16:52 last September. As he is here without his GVH teammates, I surmise he is ready to defend his title! Cushing-Murray or 'Cush' as he is known has been a leader of the Cal Coast team for a long time. A sub-4:00 miler who competed on the global stage as an Open athlete out of UCLA, Cush continued to push the pace as a Masters athlete, ripping a 15:11, at the age of 48, to take the Carlsbad Masters title in 2016. He has not shown that kind of speed lately, but he is still fast. He ran a 36:06 10K last November and followed that up a few weeks ago with a 16:49 5K. Fields outran Cushing-Murray at Tallahassee this year. It is also home ground. He knows how to run hilly Atlanta courses; Fields ran Peachtree in 33:51 this past July! It is hard to see anyone else breaking up those three. Brad Slavens, a teammate of Fields, has a chance. He ran his 5K's last year in the low to mid 17's and ran 36:01 at Peachtree.

Mark Andrews       Christian Cushing-Murray       Brent Fields 

W55. Despite the presence of other strong runners, the three to beat should be Michelle Rohl Greater Philadelphia, her teammate, Marisa Sutera Strange, and Lisa Veneziano Fenton MI. Rohl was noted as a contender for the Overall win. Coming our of the 55-59 division, that says a lot. This division is very strong though so it will not be a 'cake walk' for Rohl, despite her American 55-59 records on the track and strong outings on the turf at Boston and Tallahassee. Veneziano set an American 55-59 Record when she took the division crown at the 12 km Championships in Highlands NJ last September, running 46:13. That is age grade equivalent to a 38:08 10K! Since then, Veneziano has clocked 2:56:13 at the Philadelphia Marathon and finished 2nd to 4-time Olympian and decorated tri-athlete, Colleen DeReuck, at San Diego last month. Strange is most dangerous on the turf, but Rohl has shown she can defeat her celebrated teammate on that surface, coming in a minute ahead of her in Boston. Strange won the Overall USATF Masters XC title at Tallahassee over a 6 km course in 2019 in 23:13. She ran a 19:10 5K this past September. Strange and Veneziano are fierce competitors. They met at the 1 Mile Masters Championships at Flint in 2018, where Strange edged Veneziano at the finish line for 5th overall; they both were given the same 5:39 time. The following year, Strange's fitness had improved more than Veneziano's as she took 3rd overall in 5:28, with Veneziano 7 seconds behind in 5th. But Veneziano apparently took an early retirement option and has focused more on her running since last summer, raising it to a higher level. It will be illuminating to see how that rivalry plays out on the streets and hills of Atlanta. The strength of those top three tends to obscure a very strong field of competitors. Tania Fischer Janes Elite and Kris Huff Atlanta TC finished just 3 seconds apart, taking 5th and 6th in the division at Club Cross in Tallahassee last December. Fischer ran a 21:49 5K in November, hit 20:49 in January, and 19:54 in February. If that is a true fitness progression rather than being due to course differences, the others may have to watch out. Huff knows how to podium on this course; she ran 21:18 to take 55-59 2nd place  in 2019 and ran 21:19 to take 3rd place in the division the following year.

Michelle Rohl       Marisa Sutera Strange       Lisa Veneziano 

M55. Nat Larson has dominated this division for the last fie years but this summer he will age up to 60-64. After a gritty attempt at Tallahassee to stick with Peter Hammer, the eventual winner of the 55-59 division, Larson had to ease in, finishing 8th in the division. But he had no problems at San Diego, finishing just 3 seconds back from David White, the winner. He is staying home for this event, for strategic reasons I hope. Some of his Greater Springfield team is here but not full strength. Michael Collins South Bend IN, Scott Grandfield Central Mass Striders, David Matherne Atlanta TC and Mike Nier Genesee Valley Harriers look to be the strongest contenders, although Larson's teammate, Mark Hixson, could break up that foursome. Collins introduced himself to Masters running with a 55-59 Division win in the 15 km Championships at Tulsa in 2019; he ran 57:38, equivalent to a 37:32 10K. He reinforced that last summer at Ames with division wins in the 5000 meters in 17:05 and the 10,000 meters at 35:50. That same summer he ran local 5K's in 16:28 and 16:34. Grandfield finished 5th in this division at the 5 km Masters XC Championships in Boston in 18:25. Earlier in the year he ran 37:02 at the Lone Gull 10K and 57:05 at the Frank Nealon Tune-Up 15K. Grandfield also ran a 17:30 5K in October. My guess is that his fitness may be better than that. He, too, is here without his team. Matherne has the home town knowledge; he finished 3rd in the division here in 2019, clocking 17:35. He ran 37:21 at Peachtree this year and nailed a 16:22 at the 2021 Macon Labor Day run which always seems to produce fast times. Nier edged Grandfield for 4th at Boston by 4 seconds. He adds to that a 17:33 5K in September. He took 4th in this division at the 12 km Championships in October, clocking 44:20, equivalent in age grade to a 36:33 10K. They appear to be closely matched; any one of the four could break loose and take control. Who will it be? Or will it be Hixson, who is coming back from some kind of injury or layoff? He finished 7th in the division at the 5 km Masters XC Championships in Boston in 19:02, a half minute behind Grandfield. He had improved enough by December that he maintained his Division standing at those very competitive championships, clocking 38:21 over the 10 km course, finishing well ahead of Nier. In 2019 Hixson finished 6th in 50-54 at Lehigh's Club Cross Championships over 10 km in 35:57. Earlier that year he took 2nd in 50-54 in the 5K Championships at Atlanta in 16:53; he knows how to run these hills. He is a formidable rival if he is getting close to full fitness. There are several others who are very strong and could be in the mix for the podium if any of those 4 have an off day. 

Michael Collins       Mark Hixson       David Matherne 

W60. Patrice Combs Atlanta Track Club is the 2-time defending champion, winning this division in 2018 in 21:44 and the following year in 21:20. This summer she will age up to 65-69; it is tough to win and even very tough to podium in the last year in an age division. Combs will give it her best shot though. Newcomers to the division have dominated the recent headlines. Lorraine Jasper Greater Philadelphia hit the XC trifecta this past fall and winter, winning the 60-64 division over 5 km at Boston in 21:38, over 6 km at Tallahassee in 25:50, and over 6 km on a spongy, and probably long, 6 km course in San Diego. Almost everyone who ran at both Championships had slower times in San Diego. Mary Cass Liberty AC finished just 8 seconds behind Jasper in Boston. She did not contest the other XC Championships but did clock a 42:58 at the Lone Gull 10K and followed that with a 42:44 10K in October. Doreen McCoubrie, Jasper's teammate,  was a few weeks shy of her 60th birthday when she ran a 3:22:26; no one in the 60-64 division ran faster. Her 50:57 12k brought her in 6 seconds ahead of Jasper; that time is equivalent to a 42:01 10K. I have found no good results for McCoubrie lately, but she should be ready to roll in Atlanta. Nancy Simmons Impala Racing will mix it up with Jasper and McCoubrie again. Simmons won this division at the 12 km Championships in Highlands NJ in 51:14, but that was 11 seconds slower than Jasper and 17 slower than McCoubrie, both of whom were in 55-59 that day. Jasper went right to the front at Tallahassee and Simmons never caught up; Jasper took the win by almost a half minute, with Simmons 2nd. Other contenders include Simmons's teammate, Stella Gibbs, who finished 3rd to Jasper at Boston and 2nd at San Diego; Lauren Leslie who ran 42:32 at the Lone Gull 10K; and Mary Swan Greater Philadelphia, who finished 2 seconds behind Simmons at Tallahassee and 49 seconds behind Jasper in Boston.

Lorraine Jasper       Doreen McCoubrie       Nancy Simmons

M60. Rick Lee loves to run and loves to run long distances. Like Gene Dykes, he hates to have a weekend without a race. Lee ran with Dykes at the USATF 50 km Championships on Long Island last June; Lee came home with the 60-64 American Record in 3:31:44 and 25 minutes later, Dykes took down the record for 70-74 year olds. Last September Lee ran at the 12 km Championships, taking the 60-64 win in 44:16, equivalent to a  36:28 10K. That should have set him up for better placements at the 5km XC in Boston and at Club Cross in Tallahassee. But Lee is always training for other, usually longer, events and he just fits these in as best he can. He finished 4th in the division at Boston and 8th at Tallahassee. It would be interesting to see what he could do if his sole focus this weekend were on the 5km. But he is running the Publix Atlanta Marathon on Sunday. Tim DeGrado finished well behind the Tallahassee winner, Dan King, but half a minute ahead of Lee. In July DeGrado ran a 37:27 10K at altitude. There is no doubt DeGrado could win in Atlanta. Lee could also beat him if he is focused on the task at hand, but Lee, so far, seems more interested in the joy of competing and does not worry so much about exactly where he places. That is admirable. King is currently rehabbing a skiing injury but would probably not have been competing here anyway. DeGrado's teammate, Sayre, who finished a few seconds back of DeGrado at Club Cross is entered at Syracuse but not here. Joseph Mora Genesee Valley Harriers took 3rd in the division at the 12 km a minute and a half behind Lee, but finished 13 seconds ahead of Lee at Boston and 17 seconds behind him at Tallahassee. The distance may favor Mora and the crisp weather may well be more to his liking than the weather at Tallahassee last December. Should any of those three have an off day, runners like John Douglas Asheville Running Cand was just ollective, who ran a recent 1:26:49 HM, or David Scott First Coast Runners  who ran a 19:11 5K last month

Tim DeGrado       Rick Lee       Joseph Mora

W65. Nora Cary is the favorite to take the Division Championship. She won the 12 km Divisional Championship at Highlands NJ last September in 51:09, setting a 65-69 American Record in the process. That is age grade equivalent to a 42:08 10K. She also clocked 35:22 for the Ashenfelter 8K last November, age grade equivalent to a 21:42 5K. Her chief competition should come from Alda Cossi Liberty AC, Kitty Musante w Smyrna Beach, FL, and Cindy Williams Atlanta TC. In 2018 Cossi was on the 60-64 podium at the 10 km National Championships in Dedham with a 48:44. More recently, she won the 65-69 division at the 5 km Masters XC Championships in Boston with  a 25:27. Musante runs lots of 5K's in Florida with most in the mid-22's to low 23's. This winter she hAas three 5K's, a 22:59 in mid-January followed by a 22:05 on the 22nd and  a 22:09 on the 29th. She ran a 46:24 10K in March and a 48:29 in September. Williams finished 4th in 60-64 in the 2018 Masters 5 km Championships in Atlanta, running 24:41. She finished 3rd at the 5 km XC Championships last October, a minute behind Cossi. She finished 2nd in the division at Club Cross in Tallahassee with a 32:03 over 6 km. Susan Stirrat Shore AC finished a minute behind Williams at the 5 km XC and finished 3rd at Tallahassee, just 42 seconds behind Williams. Should any of the above have an off day, Stirrat could work her way onto the podium again. Williams's teammate, Margaret Taylor was well back at Boston but finished just 2 seconds behind Stirrat at Tallahassee.

Nora Cary        Alda Cossi       Kitty Musante

M65. Based on recent performances, Jacob Nur SRA Elite, is the most illustrious entrant in this division. In 2021 he broke the American 10 km 65-69 Record with a 35:42 in November. Eleven days earlier he had apparently broken Brian Pilcher's new 65-69 American HM record by running 1:18:29 at Clarksburg. But it turned out that some cones were placed incorrectly; the course was not run as certified, shorter by a dozen or so meters; the record could not be certified. Still, it is a pretty fancy time for a (near) HM. Nur also ran a 1:01:00 10 Miler in September and won the 65-69 division at the USATF XC Championships at San Diego over 8 km in 31:42. Ken Youngers Atlanta TC, the new American 12 km Record holder for the division, would be a worthy opponent but he is not at 100%, coming back from a minor injury suffered while in the final stages of preparing for the JAX Half Marathon. His 12 km record time was 45:05, age grade equivalent to a 37:08. That compares well with the 36:47 he ran at Peachtree this year. Youngers is working his way back; he ran a 20:16 5K in mid-January and two weeks later clocked 38:55 in the Heart & Soles 10K. After a couple of years struggling with injuries, it looked like Pete Gibson Colonial Road Runners was back. In 2017 he finished 4th in the 60-64 division at the 8 km Championships, running 30:14.  From November through January he ran several 5K's in the low to mid 19's. In January he ran 38:36 on a 6-mile trail run and then on the last weekend in January, a 31:05 8K. That is age grade equivalent to a 19:05. But then I heard that he had tweaked something in his foot or arch during the sprint to the finish in that race and that might set him back a bit. We shall see on Saturday. In 2019 Reno Stirrat Shore AC and Joe Reda were locked in a battle to see which of them would take the 2019 Masters National Grand Prix Individual crown for the 65-69 division. Stirrat clocked 19:12, taking second at the 5 km Championships in Atlanta. Late that year he suffered an injury and spent much of the next two years off an on battling that and a subsequent injury. t appeared he was getting back in shape this winter and then he posted on Strava that he caught Covid. He has recovered, but will that slow him down? Time will tell. He ran a 33:25 8K in November, equivalent to a 20:31 5K, and followed that with a 43:02 10K in late November, and then took 5th in the division at Tallahassee in 35:01. The only other runner entered in this 65-69 5 km Championships with a faster Club Cross time is Stirrat's long-time running partner at Shore AC, Kevin Dollard, who finished 4th in 34:42. Dollard also finished 5th in the division at the 12 km in Highlands in September, running 51:29, equivalent to a 42:23 10K. Kyle Hubbart Boulder Road Runners is on the comeback trail and making progress. His 5K times skied at the Masters Championships from 18:15 in 2017 to 20:03 in 2018, dropping back down to 19:28 in 2019. More recently he ran 20:47 in a 5K at altitude and dropped down to San Diego to take 4th in 65-69 in 36:41 over 8k. Once we adjust for the course difficulty as revealed by slower times in San Diego, the time is only a little slower than Stirrat's time at Tallahassee.

Kevin Dollard       Jacob Nur       Ken Youngers     

W70. Jeannie Rice Concord Tnshp, OH, the 2019 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year, is back to try for more honors. She holds American Records for 70-74 from the Road Mile, 6:24, to the Half Marathon, 1:37:01, and the Marathon, 3:24:48. This past October she ran a 47:22 10K, and in December, clocked 3:28:50. It does not look like she is ready to hang up her running shoes anytime soon! Other likely podium contenders include Kathleen Allen, Atlanta TC, her teammate, Norma Hudnall,, and Barbara Sauer Greater Buffalo TC. Allen was 5th here in the 2018 5 km Championships, clocking 27:38. Hudnall finished in 3rd that year, a half minute ahead of Allen. Hudnall maintained that edge more recently when she ran 35:52 over 6 km to take 4th in 70-74 at Tallahassee. Allen finished 5th in the division with a 36:27. Sauer ran her 5K's this past fall from the low 27 to the high 27 minute range. This winter she has kept it up despite the raw winter weather in Buffalo, clocking 28:27 in January and 29:29 in February. The warmer weather in Atlanta should be conducive to a return to faster times, although the hills may work in the opposite direction! Those three look to be closely matched. I will go with Hudnall and Sauer to make the podium along with Rice and let Allen prove me wrong. I am always delighted when runners prove me wrong by exceeding my prediction.

Norma Hudnall       Jeannie Rice        Barbara Sauer

M70. Richard Larsen Greater Springfield Harriers has been clocking some terrific 5K times, with an 18:54 in November, a 19:41 in December and a 19:55 earlier this month. Were Gene Dykes Greater Philadelphia TC at the top of his game, they would have quite the dust-up. The American 70-74 Record Holder for both the Marathon, 2:55:22 and the 10 km, 39:02, Dykes could likely have broken 19 in the 5K. But that was 2018. A few years older and several injury/rehabs later, Dykes is still very fast, but not that fast. He has run his recent Marathons in the 3:30 to 3:20 range. He ran a 35;48 5-Miler in February. That is about 4 minutes slower than he was running in 2018 when he was 70. The other likely contender for the podium is Doug Bell Boulder Road Runners. A Masters Hall of Famer, Bell took the 70-74 title at Tallahassee, running 35:58 over their 8 km course. He also finished 2nd over the 5 km XC course at Boston, running 22:37. He ran a 43:35 10K at altitude. Others with good shots at pushing onto the podium include Jerry Learned Atlanta TC,  and Bell's teammates, Rick Katz and Mike Wien. Unlike many of the rest of us, Learned took time off from training during the latter half of 2020 and the first part of 2021. “I train to race so if there are no races, I have no reason to train.” But once he started training again, he moved to solid fitness by the time races did start up. He finished 2nd in this division at the 12 km Championships at Highlands NJ with a 55:36, equiv to a 45:45 10K.. He ran 38:34 to finish 5th in the division over the 8 km course at Club Cross in Tallahassee and followed that with a better outcome at San Diego, finishing 3rd in 39:52. He ran a 23:54 5K in January and followed that with a 47:16 10K in February. Katz is on the comeback trail. In Spokane in December 2018 for Club Cross, he ran 35:23, taking 2nd in 70-74. The following year, at Lehigh, he ran 34:56 to close out the M70 podium. This year he ran 38:37 to finish 6th in 70-74 at Tallahassee. If his fitness has continued to improve, he could be running under 24:00 and perhaps under 23 for a 5K without altitude or excessive hills.  Unlike Katz and Learned, Wien is relatively new to Masters LDR. He has focused more on triathlons. He had good success this past fall; he ran 3:29:34 to take the 70-74 title at Boston. Then he finished 4th in the division at Tallahassee, running 36:55.

Doug Bell       Gene Dykes       Richard Larsen

W75 Four athletes are entered. Myrna Barnett won this division at Tallahassee, coursing over the turf in 44:52. She ran a 34:02 5K in January and a 1:10:25 10K in February. Katherine Radle finished 2nd in the division at Tallahassee with a 45:49 effort. In November she ran 35:37 for a 5K. On New Year's Day she ran 50:13 over the same distance. It could be that the weather was bad or that she was just enjoying a 'fun run' with friends. Or it could be that her fitness suffered for some reason. We will find out tomorrow. Norma Thomas won this division in 2019 here in Atlanta over the 5K course with a 30:49. She ran a 33:25 5K this past November. Barnett and Thomas appear to be closely matched. Radle is just a few steps back in terns of recent times. Andrea McCarter ran a 39:00 5K in January and a 1:36:24 10K in February. Those efforts are admirable but unless she can find more speed, McCarter will probably land off the podium.

Myrna Barnett       Katherine Radle       Norma Thomas

M75  It is encouraging to see such a strong turnout of 75-79 year olds. In fact, at this competition, there are 17 entered in the 75-79 division compared to 10 in the 70-74 division.  So far in the 2022 Masters National Grand Prix Championships, Ron Wells San Diego Striders is unbeaten. He took the division title at Tallahassee by over half a minute in 37:57. He followed that up with a 38:59 victory in San Diego. Now we will see how he does on the roads. He ran a 22:08 5K in December. He is the runner to beat. Ezequiel Garcia Clifton Road Runners, Dave Glass Atlanta TC, and Gary Patton So Cal TC have been battling behind Wells. Glass and Garcia met last September at the 12 km Championships, with Glass taking the M75 honors, winning in 56:13, equivalent to a 46:14 10K. Garcia was 2nd in 46:59. At Tallahassee Glass finished 2nd to Wells in 38:24, with Garcia 3rd in 39:25. The celebrated middle distance runner, Gary Patton, made his 2022 MNGP debut at Tallahassee, clocking 39:44 over the 8 km to take 4th. As noted, Wells won at San Diego and Garcia did not contend. Patton, however, employed a tactic that is his specialty, hanging with a leader until he can unleash a kick near the end of the race. Once Patton got locked onto Glass, it was just a question of whether he could hold on for the full 8 km or not. The answer was 'yes.' Patton kicked away for a 2 second margin, taking 4th to Glass's 5th. Who else might be in the mix? Gary Ostwald Denver, CO cannot be ignored. He came in ten seconds ahead of both Glass and Patton in San Diego. He also took 4th at the 5 km Masters XC in Boston, running 24:35. Jan Frisby is always a threat, but he needs to have various niggling injuries under control to train and race well. Frisby claimed 3rd at Boston last October, edging Ostwald by 5 seconds. Frisby also contested Tallahassee but was well back in 7th; I guess that something acted up during the race and he was forced to take it easy to finish. Przemek Nowicki, who has done well in this division in the past is on the comeback trail. He ran 22:36 here in 2018 to take 7th M70 at the 5km Championships that year. He was three minutes back from Frisby at Boston but only 30 seconds back at Tallahassee. Your author, (that's me!) Paul Carlin Ann Arbor TC is returning from a layoff due to a recalcitrant Achilles heel. I was able to run a 48:37 10 K in April 2021, but then the Achilles acted up and next thing I knew, in terms of serious training, it was December. A few days before December I had my first serious training run. Things have gone well, but I have been careful, mixing running and cross-training, mostly the Exercise Bike on alternate days. Over the last few weeks I have added in a few 'junk miles' days. Where am I? I ran a 26:30 5K Time Trial on February 12th. I hope to run faster than that. I have two more weeks of training under my belt and competition usually brings out more speed. But the time trial was on a flat course and this one is 'Atlanta Flat' so that will steal back some time. I will be very happy if I can break 25, but that would be about the limit of my dreams for this race. So mid-pack at best; I hope to be more competitive at future events.

It will be interesting to watch the race unfold.  Will Patton try his tactic on Wells this time? It is a 5K and Patton may figure he needs a win against Wells to have any chance at a second MNGP title. I would not be amazed to see it. But will the extended uphill at the end work against that strategy? And what about Garcia and Ostwald? They will be involved as well and have their own ideas about how the race should unfold.

Dave Glass      Gary Patton       Ron Wells

W80 Joyce Hodges-Hite is the sole entrant. She ran a 46:07 5K last May and a 1:45:36 10K in December. Too bad she will not have anyone to compete with. But the up side is that she is a National Champion if she finishes.  

M80 Six athletes are entered. Stan Edelson won the division at Boston, clocking 30:47 over the 5 km of Franklin Park turf. He ran a 27:58 5K in December. In 2019, John Elliott took the 80-84 5 km title here in Atlanta with a 28:53 effort. This year he took the division title on the turf at San Diego in 51:13. Elliott knows how to win! He ran a 50:00 8K last July. That is equivalent to a 31:03 5k. Will Elliott have the speed to stay with Edelson? David Turner took 3rd in 75-79 at the 2019 5 km Championships in 26:15. But he does not have that kind of speed now. In January of 2021, Turner ran a 28:35 5K. But more recently he has struggled. At Club Cross in Tallahassee, Turner finished 4th in this division, over a minute behind his teammate, Andrew Sherwood. Sherwood ran a 1:04:41 10K last October, equivalent to a 34:41 5K. Edelson should be able t win, But Elliott will certainly make him earn it. Either Sherwood or Turner should take 3rd. Based on the most recent evidence, that is Sherwood, but Turner has bested Sherwood in earlier years.

Stan Edelson        John Elliott        Andrew Sherwood

W85 Tami Graf Potomac Valley has won several National Championships, including the 5 km 85-89XC Championship in Boston with a 52:38. She has not competed at Atlanta, but did win both the 8K and the 10K 80-84 Championships in 2019. Her most recent road 5K is a 52:34 effort in October. Hyer has not participated much since the 5 km Championships moved from Syracuse NY to Atlanta. In 2017 she finished 2nd in the 80-84 division in 41:20. Her fitness has not changed that much in 4 years. She ran 42:27 in November and 42:28 in December. It looks like Hyer should be able to take the title.

Edna Hyer        Tami Graf

M85. Adrian Craven is  the favorite based on his win at Tallahassee in 1:02:26 over 8 km. That is equivalent to a  38:51 5K. His chief rival is Steven Fuchs who has run his road 5K's in the 40-45 minute range. Sid Davis  ran a 50:12 5K on New Year's Day, consistent with his 1:40:05 over 10K at Peachtree last year.

Adrian Craven       Sid Davis       Steven Fuchs

W95. That is right, there is an entrant in the 95-99 division! Betty Lindberg won here in 2019, taking the 90-94 title in 51:26. She ran a 58:45 5K on New Years Day so she is ready to roll!

Betty Lindberg 

It should be a great day for outstanding competition on the flats and hills of the roads of Atlanta. It will be fun to see how so many of these races actually play out! 

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