Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Upcoming USATF Masters 12 Km Championships at Sandy Hook-Records and Overall Championships

September 15, 2022. The 2nd edition of the Masters 12 Kilometer Championships will be held this coming Sunday at the Sandy Hook National Gateway Recreation area in Highlands, New Jersey. It is another record for participation. We had 325 registered last year; this year the figure is 330! Some of the swiftest Masters runners in America are assembling to enjoy the competition and camaraderie! 

Sandy Hook is a spit of land thrusting out into the Bays lying between Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Eastern New Jersey. The course is out and back, starting near Parking Lot E. at 3.7 meters above sea level, dropping at its lowest point, to sea level, and rising at its highest point to 7.3 meters above sea level. The forecast calls for sunny skies, 72 degrees and 73% humidity at the 9:30 AM start of the race, warmer than runners would like, but in the manageable range. It should not get up to 75 until almost 11 AM. For those who ran here last year, the temperatures are comparable, but the humidity will be less. They recently raised the forecast for wind to the 10-12 mph range. Let's hope that recedes back to single digits. 

Records Watch. 

2021. Last year three American Records were set. Lisa Veneziano set the Women's 55-59 record at 46:13, a 6:12/mile pace; Nora Cary the Women's 65-69 record at 51:09, a 6:53/mile pace; and Ken Youngers the Men's 65-69 record at 45:03, a 6:02/mile pace. The first two records still stand. Brian Pilcher, who finished 2nd to Youngers at last year's race, lowered the M55 record to 44:04 on a course in Houston designed specifically for record attempts at multiple distances.

2022. If the stars align this year, we could again have three or more American records set. There are five possibilities, One record is a sure bet, two are pretty likely, and the other two would appear to be long shots.

Jeannie Rice winning the Women's 70-74 Division at the 2022 Masters Road Mile Championships Photo courtesy oof Pam Fales

  • Jeannie Rice holds W70 American records at distances as short as a mile 6:24 and as long as the Marathon 3:24:48. She won the W70 Half Marathon Masters Championship in Syracuse in March with a 1:42:16, which age grades at 97.91%. If she would run an age-grade equivalent 12 kilometers on Sunday, that would be a 56:27, which would be almost 2 minutes faster than June Machala's 58:22 set over 20 years ago.
    Nat Larson finishes off his M55 Win at the 2022 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships at the James Joyce Ramble Photo courtesy of Michael Scott

  • Nat Larson has been looking forward to aging up to M60 this entire year. He did so just before the WMA World Championships. Last year at this time, Larson was still coming back from surgery. He ran 43:13 as a 59-year-old, finishing 2nd to Brian Crowley. Since then, he has not lost at a Masters National Championship. Some of his highlights include a win at the Masters Half Marathon Championships over a hilly Syracuse course in 1:16:30. That equates to a 42:18 12 Km effort. Larson followed with a 57:11 at the 10-Mile Championships, equivalent to a 41:55 12 Km. A few weeks later, he uncorked a 33:20 over the rolling hills of Dedham to claim the 10 Km Masters Championship ahead of Crowley, who ran a sterling 35:02! That one was age-grade equivalent to a 41:40! His latest effort, at the WMA's, a 10K in 35:21 is not quite as fast and is equivalent to a 42:54. Without knowledge of the terrain of that course, it is hard to compare that time to his earlier races in the spring. It is also worth noting that this was for a World Championship and Larson took the Silver Medal, just a few seconds behind a Spanish runner. What is significant about every effort except the WMA Championship is that Larson was consistently running times that translate via age-grading to 12 Km times anywhere from a half minute to more than a minute under the American Record. Tom McCormack set the current M60 record of 42:50 at the November 2014 Masters 12 Km Championships in Alexandria VA. Even his WMA time was equivalent to a 12 Km effort just 4 seconds over the record. There are no guarantees, but Larson looks well situated to take down the American Record this coming Sunday.
    Gene Dykes heads to the finish line and the M70 Win at the 2022 USATF 10 Mile Championships Hosted by the Sactown Ten Photo courtesy oof Sacramento Running Association

  • Gene Dykes and Robert Qualls will challenge each other for the M70 win and, possibly, an American record. Masters Hall of Famer, Doug Goodhue, set the 48:38 record 8 years ago at the 12 Km Masters Championships in Alexandria, VA. Had Dykes run a 12 Km in the year he came within a whisker of taking the legendary Ed Whitlock's M70 World Marathon Record, this would probably be out of reach. Since 2018, Dykes has had a few ups and downs. In the run-up to this race last year, he suffered an injury. He still ran the race but ran it as a workout. Dykes loves to race whenever he can! He has had better luck this year, and was returning to top fitness when he won the Masters 10 Mile Championship in Sacramento in 1:07:43. A few weeks later he ran even faster at the Blue Cross Broad Street 10 Miler in his hometown of Philadelphia. But neither of those times was quite age-grade equivalent to Goodhue's record. Had he not suffered any setbacks in between, he would have run faster times in Finland. As it happened, Dykes suffered a setback at one of his Utra Marathons in Norway and had to withdraw from the WMA Championships. Dykes has fully recovered from that setback and is running some very strong workouts now. I imagine he hopes to lay siege to Whitlock's M75 World Marathon record after he turns 75 next spring. Still, it is not clear if he has the fitness yet to age grade at 93.86% on a 12 Km course. That is what it will take for Dykes to hit 48:37 at age 74. But he has one other factor working for him and that is Robert Qualls. Qualls has returned to top fitness after a few years of struggle, an old story for Masters runners. He lost the M70 Road Mile Championship to Masters Track legend, Nolan Shaheed by a single second. More importantly he followed that up with a Silver Medal at the WMA 10 Km Championship in Finland, clocking 39:44. That age graded at 89.97% for the 70-year-old Qualls. If he runs 48:15 on Sunday, he can match that 89.97%. That would be 23 seconds under Goodhue's record. Perhaps Dykes and Qualls can push each other like Dykes and Bill Dixon did, when they both broke the American 10 Km record in Dedham in 2018. If so, the record could well fall.
    Michelle Rohl #294, along with Jennifer Bigham#248 , with Abby Dean right behind, leads out the field at the 2022 USATF Masters Road Mile Championships at the Rochester Mile Photo courtesy oof Mike Nier 

  • Michelle Rohl holds the W55 800m and 1500m records on the track. Her 18:18 5000-meter on the track at the WMA Championships in Tampere, Finland effort, was over 20 seconds faster than the existing American record. The 18:29 she ran to win the 55-59 division in the Masters 5 Km Championships on a hilly course in Atlanta would have been faster on the flat. That 18:29 age graded at 95.40%. If she could run an age grade equivalent time on Sunay, it would be a 45:54, nineteen seconds faster than Veneziano's record. The challenge for Rohl will be to carry a fast pace over a distance more than twice as long. Rohl has not raced at distances much over 6 km and when she has, the times have not been as amazing. It is probably also true that they were not serious attempts at a blazing fast time. But that may also be true here. Rohl's main goal is to help her Greater Philadelphia team win their division championship, not set a record.
    Nora Cary heads to the finish line, and collects an Age Grading Podium Award for her 43:40 at the 2019 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships at the James Joyce Ramble Photo courtesy of Michael Scott

  • Nora Cary will try to win her W65 division again this year. She is likely to succeed at that, but her times coming into this Championship are not quite as fast as her times last year at the same races. Race conditions also vary from year to year, but her time at a recent 5K, for example, was a half-minute slower this year. No one will count such a stronger runner out in terms of setting records, but it seems to be a long shot this year.
With a few rare exceptions, the winner of the overall Masters race comes out of the 40-44 or 45-49 divisions. There is no reason to think that will not be true at this Championship.
WOMEN. The top contenders out of the 40-44 division appear to be: Jacqueline Cooke, Karen dos Santos, Kristen Prendergast, Jeannie Sullivan, and Shawanna White. Sara Girotto from W45 can probably run with that group, and Melissa Gacek is not far off. If Abby Dean, out of the 50-54 division, can match the speed she showed in finishing 6th overall at the Masters 10 Km Championships in 38:01, she, too, could run with the leaders. [Late Note: Gacek is a likely scratch due to conflicts. Thanks for the update, Melissa!]
  • Cooke's strongest credentials are at shorter distances. Her recent 18:18 at the Stow Lake 5K, and her 24:10 at the Los Gatos CA Great Race 4 Miler suggest she might well be able to break 46 minutes. But her performance at the longer 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento, sows some doubt. Her 7th place finish overall in a net time of 1:03:11 is age grade equivalent to a 46:32. 
  • The main credential dos Santos brings to the race is her 3rd place finish at Sandy Hook last year in 48:09. But she also ran a 39:13 10K at the end of May, which is equivalent to a 47:28.
    Karen dos Santos leads a pack in the early stages of the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships at the By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko

  • Prendergast posted a very similar 39:17 10K in February, but then. in March, topped that with a fine 1:20:44 outing at the Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon at Virginia Beach. That was equivalent to a 45:15 12 K. She reinforced that sub-46 credential with a 23:54 four-mile performance in June, equivalent to a 45:35. Sullivan posted a 1:24:33 at the Bank of America Chicago 13.1 in June, equivalent to a 47:24. 
  • White finished 6th overall at the 5 Km Masters Championships in Atlanta, but her main credentials come from two classic 10 K races. She clocked 37:23 at the Cooper River 10K in April, equivalent to a 45:14 12 Km. She backed that up with a fine 38:17 performance at Peachtree, known for its hill and its warmth in July. 
    Shawanna White heading for the Finish Line at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships at the Publix Atlanta Marathon Weekend Photo courtesy oof Atlanta Track Club

  • Girotto ran 48:32 at Sandy Hook last year but has shown promise that she could better that mark this year. Her 5 Mile effort in June of 31:39 equates to a 47:57 12 Km and her early May Blue Cross Broad Street 10 Mile outing of 1:01:25 suggests a sub-46 12 K is possible if everything falls right for Girotto. 
    Sara Girotto heads to the finish of the 2022 Blue Cross Broad Street 10 Mile Run and a new PR of 1:01:25 Photo Credit Clay Shaw -posted on FB

  • Gacek's 1:24:50 at the Bjorkgren Half Marathon at Grandma's in June suggests a sub-48 is within her reach. [likely scratch]
  • Dean, as noted, finished 6th overall at the 10 Km Championships in a time that equates to a 46:04. That would put her level with or ahead of Girotto. If Dean has a perfect day on the roads, it will take a superb performance to run away from her. 
Prendergast and White look very strong, with Cooke perhaps a shade off. The strongest threats outside that trio are Dean, dos Santos, Girotto, and Sullivan.

Top Contenders listed in Alphabetical Order:
Jacqueline Cooke      Kristen Prendergast     Shawanna White

MEN. The top contenders for the Overall Championship out of 40-44 include: Darryl BrownBen Bruce, Riley Cook, Jesse Davis, Dickson Mercer, and John Poray. David Angell, Brock Butler, Christopher Shaw, and Nick Thompson out of 45-49 will do their best to hang tough and run with the lead pack. Brown brings some strong credentials from longer races. 
  • Brown's 2:19:26 at the Chevron Houston Marathon in January 2020 is a bit dated and may not be as relevant as more recent events. Brown showed he still has good speed with a 52:46 effort, as a 39-year-old, at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile run this past April. The Marathon equates to a 36:55 12 Km and the 10 Mile run to a 38:46. The latter is probably more indicative of current fitness. 
  • If Bruce, Assistant Coach and Pacer for the HOKA NAZ Elite group out of Flagstaff, thought he could come in to his first Masters National Championship under the radar, he was mistaken! Bruce still finds some time to race and is a welcome addition to the Masters ranks! At the almost Masters age of 39, Bruce cranked out a 1:11:06 at the UA NYC Half Marathon, equivalent to a 39:38 12 Km. His 2:27:34 effort at the Boston Marathon a month later equates, similarly, to a 39:03 12 Km.
    Ben Bruce at altitude Photo downloaded from

  • Cook announced his presence in the Masters ranks earlier this spring with a sterling win over Sergio Reyes at the USATF Masters 10 Mile Run in Sacramento, clocking 49:59 (net) for the win! That equates to a 36:43 12 Km performance. No one else has a faster 12 Km or equivalent! A month later, Cook cruised to an easy victory in the Ogden UT Marathon with a 2:25:45. That is still equivalent to a sub-39 but is probably not representative of Cook's best effort.
    Riley Cook cruises to the Overall victory at the 2022 USATF Masters 10 Mile Championship at the Sactown 10 Photo courtesy of Sacramento Running Association

  • Davis is no stranger to the Masters ranks, at least not any longer. Like Bruce and Cook, he had a fine career as an Open Marathon and Ultra Marathon runner. A 2-time qualifier for the Olympic Marathon Trials, the height of Davis's international accomplishment was represented by his 5th place finish at the 2015 World 50 Mile Championships for Team USA. He has stormed through this Masters National Grand Prix circuit, taking wins at the Club Cross, Half Marathon and 10 Km Championships. His winning 1:09:45 Half Marathon time over a hilly course at Syracuse equates to a 38:43 12 Km effort, and his winning 32:07 at the 10 Km Championships equates to a 38:56. His modus operandi so far has been to drive the train and dare others to stay with him. 
    Jesse Davis closing out his sub 1:10 winning effort at the 2022 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships at the Syracuse Half Marathon Photo courtesy of Syracuse Half Marathon

  • Mercer finished 5th overall last year in 41:12. He ran 54:07 at the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in early April, equivalent to a 39:45. His most recent effort is probably more indicative of his mental toughness than his conditioning. He clocked 1:16:00 at the Parks Half Marathon this past weekend with high humidity and pouring rain.
  • No One will Catch Dickson Mercer as he Sprints to the Finish Line and a Top 5 Finish at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championship at USATF-NJ's By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo Courtesy of Jason Timochko

  • Poray, Davis's reliable #2 on the Indiana Elite AC should be in the mix as well. His 33:05 for 2nd place at the 10 Km Masters Championships equates to a 40:05 12 Km. His 1:12:05 at the USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships this year, is equivalent to a 40:01.
    John Poray Kicks to the Finish, Claiming Third in 1:12:05 at the 2022 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships at the Syracuse Half Marathon Photo courtesy of Syracuse Half Marathon 

  • It is good to see Angell back toeing the start line at a Masters National Championship. He has been dealing with heel issues that kept him out of the lineup for a few months. From 2017 through 2019 he was a model of consistency, taking the Masters National Grand Prix title three years in a row! Covid restrictions robbed him of a possible 4th in a row in 2020. By the time Championships started up again, Angell fitness was less consistent. He still finished 2nd in the abridged Grand Prix of that 2019 (December) to 2021 season. After finishing 9th in this race last year in 41:31, Angell decided to take time away from racing to heel his injury. Angell has eased back into racing this summer after some strong training weeks; he appears ready to compete nationally again. He ran a 33:38 10K at Clarksburg WV, equivalent to a 40:47 12 K, and a 20:51 4-Mile race, equivalent to a 39:36. He reinforced those credentials with a 27:08 at the Crazy 8's 8K in Kingsport TN; that equates to a 41:17. Angell should be able to get a PR this year; it will be interesting to see how far below that he can go!
    David Angell claims the Overall Win at the 2018 USATF Masters 5 Km Championship at Atlanta's Finest 5K Photo Credit:

  • Butler is the defending Champion, winning here last year in 39:52. Butler, like most Masters athletes has had some niggling issues to deal with in running this year and has focused a lot on mountain biking. He ran 55:34 at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile run in early April, equivalent to a 40:48 12 Km effort. He then took 5th place overall at the end of May in the Memorial Main Street Mile in 4:38. He has not raced since then, at least as far as I can tell. He is reported to have worked hard on his running in August, logging many miles along with some speed work, interspersed with mountain biking. According to a likely source his rehab has not left him fit enough for a realistic title defense and is a likely scratch.
  • Shaw finished 4th overall last year in 40:34! He has nothing that fast in recent months over a comparable distance, but he did run a 34:33 10 K in April, equivalent to a 41:54. In June he ran a 16:37 5K so he was still in good shape. Last year he was a bit of a surprise in finishing 4th overall. Will he surprise us again?
    Christopher Shaw captures 4th place Overall at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championship at USATF-NJ's By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo Courtesy of Jason Timochko 

  • Thompson finished 7th overall last year in 41:19. He used this race as part of his prep for the fall/spring Marathon season. He ran Chicago in 2:37:33, New York City in 2:44:31 and then Boston in 2:37:23. The fastest of those is equivalent in age grade to a 41:38. Thompson does not appear to have raced in any major road races since then but there is no reason to think he cannot still break 42. Perhaps he can crack 41?!
    Nicholas Thompson drives to the finish line, to land comfortably in the Top Ten at the 2021 USATF Masters 12 Km Championship at USATF-NJ's By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo Courtesy of Jason Timochko  

This is an impressive field, but it appears most likely that the first part of the alphabet will be in the race for the tape, with Brown, Bruce, Cook, and Davis pulling away from the rest. Cook looked so good at Sacramento, it is hard to not see him as the favorite! Bruce had more success here than anyone else as an Open athlete and he continues to train with Top Open Runners at altitude. Davis is such a tough runner and has done so well at Masters Championships this year, it seems that he must be on the podium again! Those three are my picks for the podium. Nothing comes easy though and there is plenty of talent that will push them all the way.

Top Contenders listed in Alphabetical Order:

Ben Bruce     Riley Cook     Jesse Davis

That concludes the initial preview, focusing on Record possibilities and the Overall Race. Next Up will be the Age Division & Age Grading National Championships plus, as time permits, the Team Races.

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