Friday, March 18, 2022

Masters Long Distance Runners Head to Syracuse for First National HM Championships Since 2018

March 18, 2022. Another record crowd of Masters athletes is heading to a National Championship this weekend. This time it is the USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships hosted by the Syracuse Half Marathon. The Race is regularly praised by participants as one of the most runner-friendly half marathons for its swag, its excellent organization, and its post-race refreshments and celebration in the On Center. The last time a National HM Championship was hosted by the Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon in June of 2018, 120 competitors gathered; this time there are already over 200 entered. Teams and individuals from upstate New York have shown up big! And competitors from California to Oregon to Florida and in between will contest the outcome and try to earn national championships!

The race organizers control everything they can; no one controls the weather. It will be the first day of spring! That should mean good weather or, if not good, at least not much of the fluffy white stuff that upstate NY is known for. The race goes off at 7:45 AM. The 4-day-ahead forecast calls for start time temperatures of low to mid-40's with a 50% chance of showers and winds around 10 mph. If the showers hold off, conditions are very good for a half marathon. I had heard that the course itself is hilly. From athlete reviews, it appears that the course climbs right from the start with the steeper part after the first mile. Once that first climb of about 47 meters (154 feet) is completed, it is rolling hills over the next 6 miles and then a drop down to the original level, with the last few miles fairly flat. It is challenging, so times may be slower this weekend, but having the big climb early should help.

With four years elapsing since the last Championships and the venue shifting several hundred miles to the east, we can expect a new set of Champions. It will be entertaining to see who they are.


WOMEN In 2018 Melissa Gacek White Bear Lake MN took the overall crown in 1:25:03, pulling away over the rolling hills of the DXA2 course ahead of Michelle Simonaitis Draper Utah 1:28:02 and Doreen McCoubrie West Chester PA 1:30:11. Gacek is entered, but I learned from her that parental commitments will keep her away this coming weekend.Simonaitis is not entered, but McCoubrie, who recently entered the 60-64 division, will toe the line Sunday morning. The primary contenders appear to be Silvia Bagge Rockville MD, Fiona Bayly New York NY, Abby Dean Wilmington DE, Kasie Enman Huntington VT, McCoubrie, and Lisa Veneziano Fenton MI. Jennifer Bigham Pittsburgh PA, Jessica Hruska Dubuque, IA and Carly Shea Lewisburg PA cannot be overlooked. 

Melissa Gacek taking the 2018 USATF Masters Overall Title Photo courtesy of


Gacek, as well as being the 4-year ago defending champion, ran a 2:59:19 at Grandma's Marathon and a 2:57:54 at the St. George UT Marathon. But her daughter has the lead role in a School play this weekend and no travel scenarios could make it work for her to appear at both venues. Baage has two impressive Marathons of her own, the 2022 Chevron Houston Marathon 2:51:29, and a 2:47:55 at the Richmond Marathon last November. She also has the fastest Half marathon time among the netrants with a 1:18:37 at the Mortgage Network HM. Bayly has a 2:56:51 at the California International Marathon (CIM) and a 1:03:40 at the Bronx 10 Miler last year. Her two recent Championship efforts, at the 12 km last September and at the 5 km in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, both had some hiccups. Bayly will be looking for clear sailing this weekend. Dean ran 2:55:28 in the Philadelphia Marathon last November and had a 1:25:45 half marathon effort at the Philadelphia Distance Run. Her 1:01:30 at the fast BCBS Broad Street 10-miler is age grade equivalent to a 1:20:25. Enman ran 2:52:45 at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. This year Enman was the first runner of any age to finish the Loon Mountain Run, a 6.02 mile trail race. She burnished her credentials by outlasting Maggie Shearer to take first at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km XC Championships in Boston in 18:20. McCoubrie, as noted, took third in the 2018 HM Championships. Still finding her fitness in the fall, McCoubrie ran 3:22:26 at Boston, and 50:57 at the 12 km Championships in New Jersey. It would be a stretch for her to make the Overall podium this year. Veneziano is coming off a strong 2021. At the 12 km Championships in September, she ran 46:13 to break the American 55-59 Record held by the legendary marathoner, Joan Benoit Samuelson. That time is age grade equivalent to a 1:22:52. She clocked 2:56:13 at the Philadelphia Marathon and 2:58:23 at Boston. With Gacek out and McCoubrie not at 100%, it appears the podium battle should be waged by Bagge, Enman, Dean, and Veneziano. Bagge has the fastest current marathon of the group. Enman ran almost as fast on a much tougher course, but that was two years ago. Still she ran strong at the Loon Mountain Race and at the Masters 5 km XC. Will those efforts be good signals of Half Marathon success? Dean outran Veneziano by 45 seconds at the Philadelphia Marathon. Those two are very close; it could come out differently in a rematch, especially over half the distance! If the Loon Mountain race counts, that gives the edge to Enman over Dean as Enman won and Dean came in 15th. Bayly is a game runner; she could break up that foursome and land on the podium! Hruska won the 5000 and 10,000 meter races on the track at Ames last summer and took the 5 km Overall crown in Atlanta ahead of Dean and Veneziano. Her most recent long distance credential, a 3:01:13 in Boston last October, is not as strong as some of these others. But she can try to stay with them and use her strong kick if she is close at the end. As she showed in Atlanta, Hruska knows how to run hills. Shea too, has a strong 37:09 10 km outing at the fast Great Race in Pittsburgh and a 1:04:33 at the Capital 10 Miler, equivalent to a 1:24:50 HM. Bigham has a 10 Mile effort in Pittsburgh that is only a little slower than Shea's at 1:05:17, as well as a 1:22:28 at the Buffalo Creek HM.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Silvia Bagge          Kasie Enman      Abby Dean

MEN  In 2018, Gregory Mitchell McMinnville OR ran away from David Angell Blue Ridge, VA 1:11:20 and Olivier Vrambout Bayport MN 1:13:28 to take the title in 1:10:36. 

Gregory Mitchell taking the 2018 Overall Title at the 2018 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships hosted by the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run Photo courtesy of

 Vrambout is not entered; Angell is taking time off from racing to recover fully from a recalcitrant heel problem. Mitchell was able to make it to San Diego where he took 4th overall on the turf. I look forward to seeing how he fares in the 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento where he is entered. The Indiana Elite AC look to play a big role again. The main contenders are: Eric Blake West Hartford CT, Thomas Burns Westfield IN, Jesse Davis Indianapolis IN, Chip O'Hara Auburn NY, James Osborn Ridgefield CT, John Poray Fishers IN. 

Davis, a 2-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier and  5th place finisher for Team USA at the 2015 World 50 Mile Championships, has to be the favorite. He led the way at the Club Cross Country Championships, leaving top runners like Blake and Peter Gilmore to fight for 2nd and 3rd. 

Jesse Davis pulling away from Peter Gilmore right and Eric Blake left  at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photo courtesy of Michael Scott


The Half Marathon should be even more to his liking; he clocked 1:07:38 at the fast Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. Blake's credentials include a 1:11:01 at the Kelley Memorial Half Marathon in August and a 2:30:17 at Boston in October. He won the 2019 USATF Masters Overall 10 Km Championship at the James Joyce Ramble in 32:17. Osborn ran 1:12:31 at the Wineglass Half Marathon in October and finished 6th overall at the 12 km Masters Championships in Highland NJ in 41:16. Davis's teammates, Burns and Poray, have solid credentials in their own right. Burns clocked 2:36:11 at Boston and Poray authored a 1:09:37 at the Indiana Monumental HM. O'Hara turned in a 1:13:16 Half Marathon at the Louisiana Marathon, and has a 1:12:51 on this Syracuse HM course from 2018. More impressively, he turned in a blazing 2:25: 36 at Boston in October! Several others moight have a shot at the podium if they have a good day or if any of the above falter. Jerry Faulkner New York, NY , who finished 7th overall at the 5 km in Atlanta, has a 50:41 at the Ted Corbitt 15K, equivalent to a 1:12:12 HM effort. David Gramlich North Canton OH has a 1:15:06 at the Columbus OH HM as well as a second HM in 1:15:33. From the 55-59 division, Jim Park Buffalo NY stands out as a possible threat for a top finish. Parks's fine 56:07 at the Lockport 10-Miler is age grade equivalent to a 1:14:20 HM. 

If Club Cross is a guide, Davis will try to drive the train, and Blake and O'Hara, at least, will try to stay with him as long as possible and see if they can make a move in the last few miles. It will be interesting to see how big a pack there is at mile 9 when they descend for the final few miles. Poray's sub-1:10 from last November stands out among the others, but he was still a bit off his game in Atlanta. Will he be at 100% when he toes the line in Syracuse? 

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Eric Blake     Jesse Davis     Chip O'Hara


WOMEN 40-44   Baage, Bigham, Enman, Hruska and Shea, all mentioned as contenders for the Overall title, will also contend in 40-44. Baage and Enman should make this podium. 

Kasie Enman taking the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km Cross Country Overall Win at historic Franklin Park in Boston MA Photo courtesy of Michael Scott


Between Bigham, Hurska and Shea I will go with Hruska. She is the  reigning National Masters 5 km Champion and has success over hills. 

Jessica Hruska taking the Overall Title at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 km Championships Hosted by the Atlanta Track Club


 Her speed could come into play if she can do well on the hills and hang with the leaders onto the flat.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Silvia Bagge          Kasie Enman     Jessica Hruska

45-49 Gacek would be the favorite. In her absence it looks to be a battle between Sara Girotto Wynnewood PA, Rebeccah Wassner New York, NY, and Heather Webster Honeoye Falls, NY. Girotto won the division at the 5 km Masters Championships inAtlanta with a 19:05. More relevant is her 2nd place division finish at the 12 km Masters Championships in New Jersey. Her 48:32 is equivalent to a 1:27:30. 

Sara Girotto taking the 45-49 title at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 km Championships hosted by the Atlanta Track Club


Wassner is primarily a triathlete who runs her 10 km sections of the triathlon in the low 42 second range. In 2019 she ran a 39:11 for a straight-up 10K, Webster focuses mostly on racers of 10 km or shorter, but she has done very well at those. Her most recent effort was a 2nd place division finish at Boston last October in the 5 km Masters XC Championship. Her 12 km effort at the Masters Championships in Highlands NJ was not her strongest. She finished 5th in the division with a 50:10, which is age-grade equivalent to a 1:29:41. None of these runners focus on the longer distances. That means a runner like Debra Vertoske, who ran a 1:34:28 at the Wineglass HM might find herself in contention.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Sara Girotto     Rebeccah Wassner     Heather Webster

50-54 Bayly and Dean, mentioned in the overall preview, should battle for the W50 win. Bayly, in her last year in the age division, has a number of notable National Championship wins, including three over 15K in Tulsa. Dean finished 10 seconds ahead of Bayly in Atlanta, on chip time. Dean's 2:55:28 at the Philadelphia Marathon was a minute faster than Bayly's time at the CIM. And her Broad Street 10 Miler was a couple of minutes faster than Bayly's Bronx 10 Mile time. Dean has the edge, but Bayly did well with Tulsa's hills. Perhaps that magic will work for her in Syracuse? 

Abby Dean finishing 4th Overall at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 km Championships Hosted by the Atlanta Track Club


It is hard to see anyone else staying with those two. 

Fiona Bayly Charging up the Early Hill on the
way to her Overall Victory at the 2018 USATF Masters 15 Km Championships Hosted by the Tulsa Run Photo courtesy of the Tulsa World


Contenders for the final podium spot in the division include Brenda Hodge Lancaster PA, Jennifer Malavolta Reeders PA, Alexandra Marzulla Red Bank, NJ, and Kristin White Manlius, NY. Hodge ran 3:29:56 at Boston and had a 1:33:52 at the Philadelphia Distance Run. Malavolta finished 3rd overall at the 2018 USATF Masters 15 km Championships in Tulsa, running 59:59. She finished 6th in this division at the 5 km Championships in Atlanta last month. Marzulla finished 6th at he 12 km Championships last September in 51:45 and followed that up with a 1:36:07 Halloween Half Marathon. White, a triathlete, ran a 1:39:11 Half Marathon as part of a 70.3 Ironman competition. In 2015 she ran 1:30:18 on this course in Syracuse. It is hard to choose among such an impressive foursome but I will add Hodge to the podium picks and let the others prove me wrong.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Fiona Bayly     Abby Dean     Brenda Hodge

55-59 If recent history has anything to teach us, it appears that Lisa Veneziano, mentioned in the overall preview, will be at the head of this division.  

Lisa Veneziano closes in on the Finish and her 55-59 American record in the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships hosted by USATF-NJ at their By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko


Suzanne LaBurt will give her a run for the money but Veneziano has been in record-breaking form for the past six months. Her  46:13 at the 12 km Championships set the American Record. She ran two sub-3 hour marathons later in the fall and began this year with a 2nd place effort behind Michelle Rohl at the 5 km Championships in Atlanta. That mix of endurance and speed makes her a strong favorite. LaBurt finished 2nd to Veneziano at the 12 km in 49:36 and had equally fine outings at the Halloween Half, 1:29:21, and the Cherry Tree 10-Miler at 1:06:50. 

Suzanne LaBurt closing in on her 55-59 Silver Medal at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships hosted by USATF-NJ at their By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko


I cannot find recent performances for Elizabeth Randell but her 2019 Wineglass Marathon of  3:32:38 suggests she should be in the mix for  the podium if current fitness is near her 2019 fitness. Kerry Gaughan ran a 1:39:06 Miami HM in 2016. More recently she ran 1:00:58 at the 12 km Championships, equivalent to a 1:49:30 HM. That she is (initially) listed on the 'B' team for Shore AC makes me suspect she is not at 100% fitness. Joanne Wilcox has both a 1:50:39 HM at Fort Lauderdale and a 3:56;15 at the Chevron Houston Marathon. Two others have Marathons just under or just over 4 hours: Bonnie Lindblom 4:01:59 at Salisbury MD last March, and Christina Morganti 3:58:57 at Boston in October. Morganti also ran 1:14:11 at the CUCB Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in D.C. last fall, equivalent to a 1:37:44 HM. I am going to guess that Morganti will have the fitness to emerge from that group.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Suzanne La Burt     Christina Morganti     Lisa Veneziano 

60-64 As noted, Doreen McCoubrie has the strongest credentials of this division even though not quite at 100% last fall. She ran 3:22:26 at Boston, a good six minutes slower than her two previous outings in Boston. But that suggests low to mid 1:30's for a Half Marathon which should be good enough to bring home the win. Her toughest competition may come from her two Greater Philadelphia teammates, Lorraine Jasper and Mary Swan. Jasper has had the edge over the last six months on the turf and at shorter distances. But at the 12 km last September, McCoubrie finished six seconds ahead of Jasper. 

Doreen McCoubrie finishing 7th Overall, and 1st 55-59, at the 2018 USATF Masters 15 Km Championships hosted by the Tulsa Run Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Sports Commission/Tom Gilbert

A few weeks ago, Jasper edged McCoubrie in Atlanta by just a few strides. But McCoubrie thrives at the longer distances, while Jasper's strengths are more on the turf and the track. Swan is typically their reliable number 3 runner and that will probably be the case on Sunday as well. Swan ran 53:35 at the 12 km and had a 1:12:43 at the Mountain Goat Ten Miler. Both suggest a Half Marathon in the upper upper 1:30s should be well within Swan's grasp. If any part of the Greater Philadelphia train does not perform as expected, Ann Martin who ran 1:56:43 at the Gorges Ithaca HM, might mount the podium.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Lorraine Jasper     Doreen McCoubrie     Mary Swan

65-69 With just two entrants, there is little doubt that Suzanne Ray and Susan Stirrat will find themselves on the podium at the end of the day. Ray is an accomplished long distance runner. In this, her last year in the 65-69 division, she ran a 1:54:55 HM in March and clocked a 1:16:46 15K in December. That 15 k time suggests breaking 1:50, at least on a flat course, might well be possible for Ray. 

Suzanne Ray winning the 2018 USATF Masters Half Marathon  65-69 and Overall Age Grading Titles-hosted by the DXA2 Run-Photo courtesy of

 Whether that will happen on a hilly course like Syracuse is another question. Stirrat, on the other hand, is more at home on the track, the turf, and the shorter distances. But she has a good coach in her husband, Reno, and a lot of mental toughness. She ran 1:05:23 at the 12 km Championships in Highlands NJ and followed that up with a 2:08:53 at the Halloween Half. That Silver medal should be plenty of incentive to help her over the final miles to the finish line.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

 Suzanne Ray     Susan Stirrat

70-74  There is one entrant for each spot on the podium in this division. The favorite is, no doubt, the 2019 Masters Athlete of the Year, Jeannie Rice. Rice excels at the longer distances; she holds American 70-74 records at every distance from the 20 km 1:34:36 through the HM 1:37:01 to the Marathon 3:24:48. She is not likely to run that fast on Sunday but will not need to do so to claim another national title. Last year she ran 3:36:05 at the Cowtown Marathon and clocked a 1:40:12 Half Marathon in May. She claimed a 70-74 Gold Medal a few weeks ago, running a 23:57 5K over the Atlanta hills. 

Jeannie Rice  takes yet another Masters National 70-74 Title at
the 2022 USATF Masters 5 km Championships Hosted by the Atlanta Track Club


Mary Harris and Barbara Sauer appear to be closely matched for the battle for Silver and Bronze. Harris ran a 1:43:53 10-Miler last April and a 2:18:27 HM in November. Sauer clocked a 1:46:29 [mis-reported in Athlinks as a 1:07:55] in a  10-Miler last month that is described as a tough race. She also ran a 57:27 10K in October. Between those two efforts, I give Sauer a slight edge. Running that 10 miler in February in upstate NY has to be tougher than running a 10-miler in April. But I do not have to favor one over the other now that I no longer pick 1-2-3 but just the podium.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Mary Harris     Jeannie Rice     Barbara Sauer

MEN 40-44 As noted in the preview, Blake, Burns, Davis, O'Hara, Osborn and Poray should all be toiling up James Street in the lead pack. At Tallahassee, Davis decided to drive the train once things settled in. He challenged everyone to stay with him. Blake and Gulmore did for much of the race. In the end, even those two had to fall back. 

John Poray opening up an Early Lead at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 km Cross Country Chmpionships at historic Franklin Park in Boston MA Photo courtesy of Michael Scott

Will he use that tactic again or will Davis be content to let asomeone else push the pace for the first miles? As the Overall race turns out, so will this division. Echoing the picks for overall, I have:

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Eric Blake     Jesse Davis     John Poray

45-49 The 45-49 contingent does not appear to be quite as strong as the 40-44 group but it is a very deep field. It should take a sub 1:20 to make the podium, even on this hilly course. Neil Chandler finished 5th in 45-49 at the 5 km Championships in 16:57 but may be stronger at longer distances. 

Neil Chandler finishing just ahead of Jerry Snider to take 4th 45-49 at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 km Championships Hosted by the Atlanta Track Club


He just clocked 52:58 [chip] at the Gate River Run, apparently nipped at the finishing tape by his First Coast teammate, Jeff Tomaszewski who was given the same gun time 53:01 and the same chip time 52:58. Two weeks later they will be at it again! This time a National Championship is on the line! Their teammate, Matthew Conant does not have as impressive a recent 15 K time, having clocked 56:57 at the Stockade-a-thon in November. But the year before, in November 2020, he clocked a 1:17:54 at the Upstate Classic HM in Albany, New York. Harley Johnson could be leading the way in the division. He clocked 1:16:59 at the Madison WI Marathon HM in November. Aaron Knobloch came in two minutes ahead of Conant at the Stockade-a-thon with a 54:56. Six weeks before that he ran a 2:53:23 at the Virgin Money London Marathon. Hernan Rozemberg ran 1:17:47 at the 3M Half Marathon in January. That was one month after a 1:21:15 effort at the RnR San Antonio HM. The January version of  Rozemberg will have to show up to have a good shot at the podium. Rozemberg also clocked 2:40:16 at Grandma's Marathon in 2018. I have to mention Jake Stookey as well. His 2:39:07 at  the Hartford Marathon and a 52:27 att he Stockade-a-thon, both in 2019, show that he is a dangerous competitor in this field. Having said that it appears he was on the comeback trail in 2021. He ran a 1:40:39 HM in April and a 3:02:19 Marathon in October. That suggests a trajectory that could have him in shape to challenge for a division podium spot. It will be interesting to see where he is. I would not be surprised to see any of those 7 on the podium, although it would be a very nice achievement for Stookey to cap off his comeback with a podium finish at a national championship! I will go with the two fastest recent half marathoners plus Tomaszeski who showed he can edge Conant and may have a little more incentive since he missed out on a medal in Atlanta.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Harley Johnson     Hernan Rozemberg     Jeff Tomaszewski   

 50-54 Eric Anish, Elliott Frieder, Jonathan Frieder, and Gregory Putnam look to be the strongest half marathoners in this division. Although he finished a half minute behind the Frieder twins at Tallahassee, Anish has a 1:16:51 on the fast Buffalo Creek Half Marathon course, and a 2:49:08 at Boston the week before. E. Frieder ran 42:52 at the 12 K in September, finishing 23 seconds ahead o fJ. Frieder. The outcome was closer in Philadelphia at the Brod Street Run a month later, but the order was reversed. J Frieder clocked 57:37 to E. Frieder's 57:38. The twins clocked 37:06 EF and 37:10 JF at Tallahassee, ahead of Anish's 37:36. Putnam, on the other hand, competed at the 12 km Championships at Sandy Hook in NJ, clocking a 41:52 to take the division 2nd place ahead of the Frieder's. 

Greg Putnam claims 2nd in 41:52 at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships hosted by USATF-NJ at their By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko


Coupling that with a 58:31 int he Mello 10-Miler suggests that Putnam may be the one to beat in the division. Richard Falcone finished ahead of the Frieder's at Club Cross but I can find no recent distant event results. A fast 15K in 2015 is too long ago to be relevant. Andrew Reed could challenge that foursome; he ran a 1:20:53 Half Marathon at the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon in October. He also ran a 1:21:14 HM in April so his recent efforts have been consistent. Chris Taylor is also in a position to challenge; he ran 1:21:08 at the Naples FL Half Marathon in January. From their Strava posts, it is clear the Frieder's have been putting in strong training efforts over the winter. They will be looking for some rewards this spring. Mark Callon Stinson Beach, CA is a late entry.  He ran a 1:16:14 at the RnR San Jose HM in November 2018. Three years older age grade equivalent would be 1:18:14. Callon finished behind E Frieder and in front of J Frieder at Club Cross. He is likely to find himself in their company for a portion of this race as well. 

Elliott Frieder finishing off his 42:52 effort at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships hosted by USATF-NJ at their By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko

To make it even more tantalizing, Callon finished one second behind Putnam at the 5 km Cross Country Championships in Boston. Those finishes should not be very relevant, given the distance and surface. But given the closeness of their potential at the HM distance, it could be relevant. It would not be amazing to see Callon on the podium and one of the three off but I will stick with my first three.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Elliott Frieder     Jonathan Frieder     Gregory Putnam  

55-59 Top runners entered in this division include Michael Collins South Bend IN, Alan Evans Beaver Dams NY, Keith Guilfoyle Commack NY, Nat Larson Amherst MA, Jim Park Buffalo NY, and David Putney Newport NY. Collins took the division 15 Km crown in Tulsa in 2019 and the 5000 and 10,000 meter titles on the track at Ames last summer. He added a Silver Medal to his collection at the 5 km in Atlanta last month. Unfortunately his hamstring flared up and he will not make the HM Championships. Evans races over almost every distance for his Genesee Valley Harriers team but prefers the longer distances. He took 1st in the 55-59 division at Grandmas Marathon in June with a 2:51:54. At the 12 km Championships in September, he finished 7th in the division in 45:01. The Marathon and the 12 km results suggest a low 1:20's HM time.  

Nat Larson left leading Jonathan Frieder 50-54 into the Finish Line for 2nd in 55-59 at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships hosted by USATF-NJ at their By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko


Guilfoyle was only 20 seconds behind Larson at the 12 km in Sandy Hook, running 43:33. He also turned in a 56:36 at the Stockade-athon. Larson has generally run faster than Evans on the turf and in shorter runs. But Larson is no slouch at longer races as well. He ran 1:16:07 at he New Bedford HM in 2019 and finished 2nd at the 12 km in 43:13. A sub 1:20 for Larson is not guaranteed but it would not be surprising even on this course. Park ran a 28:57 8K in March 2020, equivalent to a 36:23 10K. But what caught my eye was a 56:07 at the Lockport 10 Miler, which is self described as one of the toughest races in Western NY. If so, running a time that is equivalent in age grading to a 1:14:20 Half Marathon, is mind-boggling. Maybe that time is too good to be true? It is hard to imagine Larson not being on the podium. It seems Guilfoyle should be able to stick with him. If Park's Lockport time is right, he will be leading the way. But Evans and Putney will run fine half marathons and could wind up on the podium.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical order:

Keith Guilfoyle     Nat Larson     Jim Park

60-64 This division should come down to Rick Lee vs. Roger Sayre. When they met at Sandy Hook in September, Sayre was still not back to 100%. It will be interesting to see how these two match up on Sunday. Lee took the 12 km division title in 44:13; Sayre was over a minute back edging Joe Mora for 2nd. It is not long distance and it is on the turf, not the roads, but in December Sayre ran a half minute faster than Lee at the Club Cross Country championships in Tallahassee. In October Sayre ran a 1:23:05 Half at the Colorado Marathon at latitude. In January he turned in a 39:45 10K, also at altitude. 

Roger Sayre finishing off his 60-64 Bronze Medal effort at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photo courtesy of Michael Scott


Lee has been training for a trek across the desert where he has to carry a pack with fuel and other supplies. That does not stop him from racing, which he does often. In Atlanta he ran the 5 km Championships on Saturday, finishing 3rd in 18:05. He ran the Publix Atlanta Marathon the next day, clocking 2:52:53, only three minutes slower than his Boston Marathon in October of 2:49:29. 

Rick Lee finishing off his 60-64 Victory at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships hosted by USATF-NJ at their By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko


Everyone marvels at his ability to keep up that kind of racing schedule which must punish the body. Lee is favored over Sayre at the half marathon distance but it will likely be close. It will probably take a sub 1:30 to be the third athlete on this division's podium. Who will it be? Adam Feerst ran the Horsetotth HM at altitude in 1:29:28 last November. Lawrence Sak ran a 1:27:25 Half Marathon in May and the Holland to Haven Marathon in 3:06:21, equivalent to a 1:28:52 HM. Michael Salamone finished 5th in the division at the 12 km national championships in 47:27 and turned in a 1:27:41 at the Halloween HM. Donald Schwartz, Salamone's teammate, was almost 4 minutes behind Salamone at the 12 km Championships. In November he ran a 1:29:32 Half Marathon at the Philadelphia Marathon. Anyone of those four could capture the final podium spot. I will go with Sak.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical Order:

Rick Lee     Lawrence Sak     Roger Sayre

65-69 Kevin Dollard, Norm Larson, and Reno Stirrat should make up the podium if nothing goes wrong. Dollard finished 5th M60 at the 2019 15 km Championships in Tulsa in 1:03:36, age grade equivalent to a 1:30:51 HM. That course, like Syracuse is hilly so the comparison is relevant. Last September he finished 5th in M65 at Sandy Hook with a 51:27 12K, equivalent to a 1:33:12 HM. Larson ran a 1:06:28 10-Miler last month, equivalent to a 1:28:10 HM. At the 2019 10 K Masters Championships in Dedham, Larson finished 2nd in M60 in 37:13. Stirrat earned an M65 Bronze in 40:05 and Dollard ran 40:54. A 10K is not a Half Marathon, but that differential is probably still relevant. 

Norm Larson white cap closing in on Francis Burdett 50-54 and the Finish Line where his 37:13 earned the 60-64 Silver Medal at the 2019 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships hosted by the James Joyce Ramble Photo courtesy of Michael Scott


Stirrat has had to overcome a number of barriers to strong running over the last two years, most recently the after-effects of a Covid infection. In Atlanta, Dollard took 3rd in 19:58 with Stirrat 5th in 20:34. If any of those three have an off day, then Bill Beyerbach or Aaron Pratt would likely move up. Beyerbach ran a 1:42:31 on this Syracuse HM course in 2019 and Pratt ran two HM's in the low 1:44 range last year.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical Order:

Kevin Dollard     Norm Larson     Reno Stirrat

70-74   Gene Dykes races everything from the 5 km to ultra marathons and everything in between. In addition to recent efforts at the Richmond Marathon 3:20:40, Boston 3:30:02, and Naples, a 1:41:22 HM, he found time to race the Forgotten Florida 45 mile Trail Run, which took over 10 hours. Low to mid :40's seems a reasonable projection for this course. That must feel incredibly slow to the man who regularly ran sub-3-hour Marathons in his early 70's but some injuries have slowed him down. As long as everything is functioning properly Dykes might even get down into the 1:30's if he would need to.

Gene Dykes racing to a 1:26:34 to win the 70-74 Division at the 2018 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships hosted by the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run Photo courtesy of

The biggest threat should be Jerry Learned, who finished 45 seconds behind Dykes at the 5K in Atlanta. Learned is not so keen on the longer races but he runs them when he needs to. His most recent 15 K, in 2019, was a 1:14:55 but he was not at 100%. The year before he ran 1:12:59, age grade equivalent to a 1:44:25. In September he ran 55:33 to take 2nd in 70-74 at the 12 km Championships. That is age grade equivalent to a 1:40:52. Of course an equivalency from a 12K is not as tight as it might be from a 15K or 10 Miler. If Learned is at 100%, a time in the mid 1:40's seems a safe projection. 

Jerry Learned closing out his 70-74 Silver Medal Effort at the
2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships hosted by USATF-NJ at their By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko

Most of the other entrants are running for their team. They  rarely run long races n their own, at least not recently. There are two athletes who have run longer races recently. James Foster ran a 3:57:52 Marathon in Erie PA last September. Timothy Leonard ran a 2:02:29 HM last month, and Timothy Riccardi ran one in 2:15:05. Foster has the better time of the three and is known as a tough XC runner. He should break two hours.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical Order:

Gene Dykes     James Foster     Jerry Learned

75-79  Dave Glass and Ezequiel Garcia have been competing tightly at 75-79 championships since last September. Glass prevailed when they met at Sandy Hook, with a 56:16 to take the Championship 46 seconds ahead of Garcia. Each time Garcia challenged, Glass had an answer. At Boston in the 5 km Crpss Country, Glass edged Garcia by 36 seconds. But the margin grew again. In Tallahassee it was 5 seconds and in Atlanta last month over 5 km the margin was 1:10. Garcia has run half marathons recently He clocked 1:48:16 at the Shades of Death HM in 2019; this past October he ran 1:48:12 at the Halloween HM. Glass  runs the MVP Healthcare Stockade-a-thon in upstate NY every year. His most recent efforts are a 1:08:12 in 2019 and a 1:11:02 in 2021. That 1:11:02 is age grade equivalent to a 1:41:45 HM. He won the 15K national 70-74 championships in Tulsa in 2017 and 2019. He races half marathons less often. The only one in recent years was the 2018 USATF HM Championships in Dexter-Ann Arbor. He ran 1:39:18 and took the Bronze Medal behind Dykes and Lloyd Hansen


Dave Glass cruising to an M75 Win at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships hosted by USATF-NJ at their By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko

It seems likely that Glass can run a mid 1:40's HM and that should be enough for the win. Seven other runners are entered; none of them are likely to challenge Glass or Garcia in their current condition. Dennis Sears seems most likely to be the individual who steps up for the third place effort. Last November he ran a 51:22 10K and a 1:52:37 at the One NY HM. But in late November he ran much slower, 49:50 for an 8K. That is age-grade equivalent to a 1:33 15K. Sears also ran slower before November, clocking 1:44:19 in the Utica Boilermaker, a 15k, age grade equivlent to a 2:298 HM. That suggests some injury or other condition that sometimes limits Sears's effectiveness at running and sometimes not. If Sears can run anywhere in the low 1:50's he is likely a lock for third place. But it gets more complicated if his pace falters from that level. Paul Carlin, your author, ran 48:37 in a 10K last April. But shortly after that, ran into Achilles problems that limited training severely for the rest of the year. After Physical Therapy and rest worked its magic, I resumed regular running the week before Christmas; it was slow and only on alternate days. The pace gradually picked up and,eventually, the number of days per week of running. In Atlanta, I ran a 26:19 (chip time) 5K, so about 5:16/km, slower than Sears's 10K pace from last November. I finished in the middle of the pack and figured the best I could hope for would be to move into the top half of the pack for the HM and try to move up the rest of the year. To my surprise and delight, I might actually be in a race! A week after Atlanta, I was able to run a 1:20:04 15K at 5:20/km pace, only slightly slower, over a much longer distance. Admittedly Atlanta is hilly and the 15K was pretty flat, but there was a 20 mph headwind to work against from time to time. The 1:20:04 is age grade equivalent to a 1:54:40, not that I expect to run that well, especially on a hilly course. But I am reasonably confident that if nothing acts up, I should be able to run in the high 1:50's or better. That might be fast enough if Sears is not at his November level. Przemek Nowicki has often been a formidable competitor in the past but he is dealing with injuries. He was not able to come in ahead of me in Atlanta, so I think it unlikely in Syracuse. Nowicki also indicated in a conversation that he might not make it to Syracuse.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical Order:

Ezequiel Garcia     Dave Glass     Dennis Sears



Age-grading is the top prize awarded for the best performances relative to age across all Masters Age Divisions. WOMEN Jeannie Rice 73, the 2019 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year, finished third in this category in Atlanta. But the Half Marathon is closer to her preferred Marathon distance. Other contenders are likely to be Fiona Bayly 54, who ran 2:56:51 at the California International Marathon last December: Doreen McCoubrie 60, who still holds the 50-54 American Mile Record at 5:18; and Lisa Veneziano 55, the 55-59 American 12 km Record holder. 

Podium Picks in Alphabetical Order:

Fiona Bayly     Jeannie Rice     Lisa Veneziano 

MEN Favorites include Davis, Nat Larson, three-time USATF Masters Harrier of the Year; Rick Lee 60, who broke the American 60-64 50 km record last year; and Roger Sayre 64, the 60-64 Gold Medalist in the Half Marathon at the 2019 World Masters Athletic Championships in Torun Poland. Gene Dykes 73, although not 100%, is still a threat to medal in age grading; he holds the American 70-74 record in the Half Marathon at 1:25:05.

Podium Picks in Alphabetical Order:

Nat Larson     Rick Lee     Roger Sayre 


WOMEN 40+ Green Mountain Athletic Association Enman, one of the Overall favorites has strong support from Katie Jewett and Kimberly Lord. That should be enough to ward off the challenge from the Genesee Valley Harriers  

50+ Shore AC La Burt should be able to lead Shore to the title by finishing first among the 50+ team runners. Alexandra Marzulla should be top 5 with Alysia Puma not far back. They will be pushed by the Checkers AC and GVH but should have the strength to win out.  

60+ Greater Philadelphia Track Club There is no room for error with just three runners but, barring the unexpected, GPTC's Jasper, McCoubrie, and Swan  should go 1-2-3 in the team contest. They have no opposition, but it is hard to imagine a team in the country that can really run with GPTC 60+ right now,

MEN 40+ Indiana Elite Athletic Club Indiana, right now, is as dominant as any club has been in Men's 40+ for some time. Their closest rivals, the West Valley Track Club could not match Indiana at Club Cross and are not entered here. Indiana won handily in Atlanta and they look set to do so again in Syracuse. They are not likely to go 1-2-3 but they have a good chance of placing their top three in the top 6. First Coast Runners and Manchester Running Company will press them, but it does not seem like First Coast is strong enough to stay with Davis, Poray and Burns and the same is true for Manchester which is also not quite as deep as the other two squads.  

50+ Garden State Track Club Garden State has the strength up front and the depth. As they did at Club Cross, GSTC is likely to have a strong pack with the Frieder twins running up front along with Richard Falcone. Should any of those three falter, Todd Wiley provides strong support. Checkers AC may be their biggest challenger. If Park runs as well as his Lockport 10 Miler suggests, he could win the team race individually for Checkers. Whether Duffy, Hulme, and/or McMahon can stay close enough to the GSTC train is doubtful.  

60+Boulder Road Runners Boulder is likely to finish first but it is a little precarious. They need each of three guys to deliver. They will be pushed by Shore AC. It should be Lee vs. Sayre for the top spot. Lee had the edge last September for the 12 Km Championships. But Sayre beat him on the turf at Tallahassee...and Sayre loves the HM distance. He won the 60-64 World Championship in 2019 in Torun Poland. It could go either way and may depend as much on what other races Lee has going on right before and right after the championships. Feerst should be Boulder's #2. He ran 1:29:28 at the Horsetooth Half in Fort Collins. He should deliver an HM just under 1:30. Even if Lee edges Sayre, a sub-1:30 time should get some of the time lost to Lee, perhaps all of it, back. Dollard should run under 1:35, but that is also true of Fronsoe. In better days, stirrat would be well under 1:35 but probably not this Sunday. This may well be the closest team race of the day. Riccardi and Van Kerkhove probably can't match up with Boulder and Shore but they should give GVH enough firepower to hold off the Ann Arbor Track Club for the Bronze team medals. Without their top runners, Ann Arbor will likely have to settle for 4th.

70+ Syracuse Track Club There is no doubt that Atlanta has the top two team runners in this division in Glass and Learned. They could both crack 1:45; they will both be well under 1:50. The question is whether Syracuse or GVH can pack three runners tightly enough ahead of Atlanta's likely third runner, Sam Benedict, who is likely to arrive somewhere around 2:25! It looks like Syracuse is not quite there. They are not a usual HM crew. But Foster can maybe run around 1:55 or so. Leonard should be just under 2:00. Riccardi should finish around 2:15. If Glass, Learned, and Benedict run as suggested, Syracuse can only beat them if one or more of their team raise their game. GVHat least right now and at this distance, does not have the star power up front to beat those two teams. GVH is likely to take home the bronze medals.


It will be fun to see how all of these races actually turn out on Sunday, March 20th!


One final pic, just for fun!

A 'Golden Oldie Pic from the 2014 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships in Melbourne FL Courtesy of Pam Fales

Yours Truly, the Running Professor white t-shirt, heading for the HM Finish Line in Faster Days, taking the 2014 M65 HM Championship, at the age of 68, in 1:29:29


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