Saturday, December 31, 2022

Detailed Recap of Masters Team Contests at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships at Golden Gate Park

 December 10, 2022. When the rain starts coming down in buckets and the winds pick up enough to blow over a huge tree, it must be time for a Masters Club Cross Country National Championship! At Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, the Women’s 6K race, over a soggy, wind-blown course, was already in the books. The rain kept falling and the wind got stronger. When the athletes in the Men’s 60+ race were finishing off their 8K, the tree got blown over, and the Park Service required a delay in the Men’s 40+ race until the winds calmed. During the delay, the Park Service negotiated with USATF over whether the remaining races would be allowed to be held. The City of San Francisco was officially closing Golden Gate Park until the winds died down! According to the National Weather Service reports, the heaviest rain fell during the Men's 8 km race, but the winds were strongest during the Women's race with 30 mph winds gusting to 45 mph. They died down to 28 mph, gusting to 40, for the 8K race, and were about the same for the Men's 40+ race.


M40+ RACE 9 may be declared, score top 5 for a team

The Men’s 40+ race was delayed. A huge tree fell near the Starting Line, due to the heavy limbs from the rain and the extra push from the windiest gusts. No one was injured but the City of San Francisco had decided to close the Park. 

The large tree that fell near the starting line, missing one of the race tents by just a couple of meters. Luckily no one was hurt! Photo posted by Marco Cardoso on FB

The negotiated alternative to cancellation of the Men’s 40+, and Open Women’s and Open Men’s races was to convert them from the usual course, mostly around the outside of the meadows and hills surrounding the Polo Field, into 7.75 laps around the 1200-meter-long Polo Field ‘track.’ I place the word ‘track’ in parentheses because it is not a ‘Track & Field’ Track. Clearly it is much longer, apparently well over a kilometer in circumference. And the surface is rough gravel and some gnarly tarmac. Suffice to say that many competitors wrenched out their spikes. Some of those who wore spikes had them twisted by the hard surface. The overall distance was likely short, although the preference to avoid puddles and swing out to pass slower lapped runners probably meant the course was a little longer than the straight 9.3 Km conversion suggests.

Last year, the Indiana Elite Athletics Club and West Valley, out of the San Francisco Bay area, battled over the Tallahassee Cross Country Course at Appalachee Park. Just three points separated them at the finish. Coming onto the home turf should have helped West Valley. They also had a new top runner in Malcolm Richards.  Indiana was coming with the same top 4 runners, but neither their 5th nor 6th runners from last year would toe the starting line. Would Mike Jackson be able to supply the missing points? On paper, Jackson looked solid, based on road races, but this was Cross Country under weird circumstances. When the gun went off, Richards took off along with Sergio Reyes Hoka Aggies and Ben Bruce. 

From Left: Malcolm Richards West Valley, Ben BruceHOKA Naz Elite, Sergio Reyes HOKA Aggies, Roosevelt Cook Cal Coast and Neil McDonagh Square State Striders at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships-Masters Men 40+ Race Photos courtesy of Pam Fales unless otherwise indicated

By the end of the first of the 7.75 laps, Roosevelt Cook Cal Coast was running with the leaders, with a small gap to Jesse Davis Indiana and Chris Gomez Team Run Flagstaff. Davis had a teammate, Bryan Lindsay, in 8th place. But Peter Gilmore West Valley and other Indiana support runners were further back. Things were clearer by the end of the 2nd loop. In terms of teams, it was Richards leading for West Valley, with Davis in 4th behind Reyes and Bruce.  Chris Gomez was 6th, with Eric Blake B.A.A. 7th, and Joshua McAdams 8th. In terms of the top contending teams, Indiana had Davis in 4th, followed by Lindsay and John Poray in 12th and 13th. 

From Left: Roosevelt Cook, Neil McDonagh, Jesse Davis at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships-Masters Men 40+ Race

West Valley had Richards in the lead but Peter Gilmore had started more conservatively and was back in the second half of the first 20. Flagstaff had Gomez in 6th and Anthony Gallo back with Gilmore. The early going seemed to favor Indiana with three runners in the top 15, but there were almost 7 km yet to go. 

From Left: Wesley Reutimann unattachedChris Gomez FlagstaffEric Blake B.A.A. behind GomezBryan Lindsay Indiana Elite behind BlakeJohn Poray Indiana Elite white singlet no capJoshua McAdams Boise Betties and Billies green singlet at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships-Masters Men 40+ Race

By the end of the 4th lap, and 4.8 km, Reyes had a stride on Richards, with a gap back to Bruce and then another gap to the trio of Davis, Gomez and McAdams, who could work off one another. Lindsay was in 11th, with Gallo in 12th. Gilmore had worked his way up to 13th, ahead of Poray in 14th, but was still 6 seconds behind Lindsay. Gilmore was intent on continuing his push forward to improve West Valley's chances. Poray, usually Indiana's #2 was having an off day. He probably did not know it, but another of his Indiana teammates, Thomas Burns, was now just 5 seconds back and closing. Andrew Touchstone West Valley was 5 seconds behind Burns. Another 7 seconds found Neville Davey, overall winner of the 2017 edition of Club Cross in Lexington KY, and West Valley's #4 runner. 

From Left: Kevin Shirk Garden State, Andrew Touchstone West Valley, Phillip Gonzalez Cal Coast, Peter Bromka Bowerman #430 at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships-Masters Men 40+ Race

His teammate, Mario Fraioli was just 5 seconds back. Another 9 seconds back was Indiana's #5, Jackson, with Flagstaff's #3 and 4 runners, Ryan Baker and Jason Troxler off his left elbow. It was 23 seconds back to Flagstaff's 5th runner, middle distance specialist, Michael Madsen. Madsen was moving smoothly though and could well move up. It was still anyone's game, but Indiana was making clear that they were going to win it unless someone took it from them. West Valley's chances to win depended on Touchstone, Davis and Fraioli being able to move up for and the same was true for Flagstaff, with Baker, Troxler, and Madsen. 

From Left: Jesse Barragan SRA Elite, Neville Davey West Valley, Gregory Mitchell Bowerman, Mario Fraioli West Valley, Anthony Gallo Flagstaff, Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast, Peter Gilmore West Valley at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships-Masters Men 40+ Race

As they came around the final bend and into the finishing straightaway. Richards had been passed by McAdams but still had a very valuable 3rd place at 29:10 to start off West Valley scoring. He had 17 seconds on Indiana's Davis but there were no scoring runners between them as Bruce, who took 4th overall, was not on a complete scoring team. Six seconds later, Gomez sped across the finish line to ensure that Flagstaff was on the board with 5 points. Three points for West Valley, 4 for Indiana, 5 for Flagstaff! Off we go! Gallo held strong, crossing the line at 29:55 and making Flagstaff the first team with 2 runners in and 11 points. Twenty seconds later it was Indiana's Lindsay cracking across in 7th to give Indiana 11 points on their first two. Gilmore equalized it all around the top 3 teams, with his 30:25 for 8th. Runners # 3-5 would play the decisive role! Now the athletes were streaming across the finish line. Between 30:32 and 30:36, Roosevelt Cook Cal CoastJesse Barragan SRA EliteEric Blake B.A.A., and Chikara Omine Excelsior finished for their teams. Cook was leading his team to a 5th place finish, Barragan the SRA Elite to 7th, and Blake the B.A.A. to 10th. A stride back from Omine, Indiana stormed in with Burns, in 13th, joined by Jackson who flew around the last lap of track to move up to 14th. Those two gave Indiana 38 points from their top 4. Four seconds later, Peter Bromka gave Bowerman their first finisher, but just behind him was the white singlet of Indiana's 5th finisher, John Poray in 16th place. It was all over but the counting! Indiana had 54 points! No one else could get close now! 

But there was still the fight to see who would take the two final podium spots, not to mention the bragging rights that go with 'Top 5' teams! Cal Coast and/or Bowerman would need a really tight pack to offset the advantage that West Valley and Flagstaff had from two runners in and just 11 points! R Baker gave Flagstaff the edge by finishing 17th, giving them 28 points from three runners in. Sallberg kept Cal Coast hopes alive with his 18th at 30:57. West Valley bounced back with Fraioli 19th. Flagstaff's Troxler answered with 20th, but then West Valley's Davies and Touchstone took 24th and 27th, too close together for Flagstaff to answer yet again. They had 81 points and the silver medals! Shortly thereafter, Michael Madsen slammed the door shut on the podium! His 38th gave them 86 points, just 5 shy of West Valley but a low enough score to rule out all others. Bowerman took 4th with their depth, placing all 5 scoring runners in the top 52 and their top 8 runners in the top 75. And, in case no one else noticed, their #2,#3,#5, and #6 runners are all 49. The West Valley 50+ crew will not have it all their way next year. It will be a smashup with Bowerman. With three runners in the top 25, Cal Coast had just enough power to hold off HOKA Aggie 230 to 234 and claim the final spot in the Team Top Five!

Indiana Elite Athletics J Davis, B Lindsay, T Burns, M Jackson, J Poray, J Zeha, R Awe 54 30:21 average 1st 5; 1:17 1st to 5th runner spread

West Valley Track Club M Richards, P Gilmore, M Fraioli, N Davey, A Touchstone, J Marsh, T Rose, T Haxton, B Koss  81 30:32 average; 1:57 1st to 5th runners

Team Run Flagstaff C Gomez, A Gallo, R Baker, J Troxler, M Madsen, D De Heer, S Baker .86 30:35 average; 2:00 1st to 5th runners

The Indiana Elite AC Champions of M40+ for the 2nd consecutive year-at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo posted on FB by USATF Indiana [From Left: John Poray,  Jesse Davis, Rob Awe, Bryan Lindsay, Mike Jackson, Jeff ZehaThomas Burns]

M50+ There was never much doubt about the top team in this division. Favored going into the race, Ivan Lieben West Valley went right to the front of the Team 50+ field. For a while it was difficult to sort out the 50+ runners among the host of 40+ athletes. By the third lap it was clear that West Valley was in very good shape. Lieben was the leader in the Team 50+ race. 
Ivan Lieben #940 leading his West Valley to the M50+ Team Championship at the end of lap 1 at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photos courtesy of Pam Fales unless otherwise indicated

The only 50+ athlete ahead of Lieben was Jamie Heilpern who was running for a 40+ team. Garden State's Richard Falcone was, as expected, up close, breaking up the West Valley train. But then it was West Valley's Mark Yuen, getting back closer to the form he showed last year when he won the division at Tallahassee, followed by his teammates, David White and Charles MullaneCraig Godwin was the lone runner for Bowerman in the top 10. 

Craig Godwin leading the Bowerman TC to a 4th place finish in the M50+ Team Competition at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Boulder's Glen Mays and Flavio DeSimone came next, separated by Jonathan Frieder. With 4 runners in the top 6 or 7, it seemed the race was West Valley's. But they did need a 5th runner. Ordinarily Mark Callon, who finished 2nd for them at Boulder, would be well up among their top 4. But not today. The entire Garden State train from Frieder through Todd Wiley, Joseph Hegge and Marco Cardoso passed the 2.75 mark before Callon came into sight. Callon was well over 40 seconds back from his usual spot with Yuen, White and Mullane. Something was wrong. Perhaps Callon came in with a niggling injury? He was fighting the good fight in any case. If he could keep it going, West Valley would be fine. And they had reinforcements behind Callon.

It played out well for West Valley. Not as dominant a win as one might have expected, but still a handsome margin of victory. They enjoyed 1-3-4-6 from Lieben, Yuen, Whita and Mullane. Callon kept it going the whole way, even moving up over the last few laps to finish in 25th place. 
Mark Yuen #957 West Valley singlet, ctr of pic among a host of 40+ athletes on his way to a solid contribution ot his teams M50+ win at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Their total of 39 gave them the win with dozens of points to spare. Garden State had Falcone's 2nd place finish, but also kept their pack together better than most, with Frieder 10th, Wiley 13th, Hegge 18th, and Cardoso 27th. That gave them 70 points and 2nd place. 
The 2nd place Garden State TC 50+ pack in action-Todd Wiley #601 Joe Hegge cap behind Wiley, and Marco Cardoso #591. Their teammate, Jonathan Frieder's head is just visible behind Club Northwest's Glen Weissman #534 at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Boulder claimed third with Mays and DeSimone claiming 8th and 9th. Their teammates, Kevin Konczak, John Probst, and Rick Granquist finished 17-19-26 for 79 points. They missed out on the silver medals but claimed the final podium spot with 46 points to spare over the Bowerman Track ClubClub Northwest was another 15 points back in 5th.

West Valley Track Club I Lieben, M Yuen, D White, C Mullane, M Callon, E Randolph, J Erskine, R Fairles, D Glenn 39 32:51 average; 2:55 1st to 5th runner spread

Garden State Track Club R Falcone, J Frieder, T Wiley, J Hegge, M Cardoso 70 33:39 average; 2:28 1st to 5th

Boulder Road Runners G Mays, F De Simone, K Konczak, J Probst, R Granquist, C McDonald, J Borthwick 79 33:55 average; 1:28 1st to 5th.

M60+ RACE 5 may be declared, score top 3 for a team

M60+ Nat Larson led the race from start to finish, but he was the only runner from his team in the 60+ race. Jacob Nur SRA Elite allowed Larson to open a small gap over the first few hundred meters but once they mounted the small, muddy hill up to the Polo Field, Nur closed the gap and ran even with Larson around the track. 

Nat Larson #631 pushes the pace in the early going with L to R David Westenberg dark cap,green shirt, Rick Lee white cap, and Dan King dark cap in hot pursuit in the M60+ Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photos courtesy of Pam Fales unless otherwise indicated

Nur's teammate, Iain Mickle was also in the top ten at that point; SRA was in the mix. But their 3rd scoring teammate, Chris Little, was further back, just inside the top 25. Rick Lee Shore AC was slotted in right behind Larson and Nur, and had a teammate, Henry Notaro, in 6th. Like SRA they did not have a 3rd runner in the top twenty, nor in the top thirty. Although it was not obvious at first, the pink singlets of the Twin Cities Running Company were well distributed in the second five to eight places. After they exited the Polo Field to run back past the Starting line and around the small meadow, Nur was still in the top 4 and Mickle about 10th. Little was around 22nd or so. 

Chase Pack in the M60+ Race- L to R: David Westenberg green shirt, Jacob Nur white singletRick Lee #793, and Dan King purple singlet at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

At that point they had around 35 points. TCRC had moved up. John Van Danacker had moved past Mickle into 7th; his teammates, Rob Class and Patrick Billig, were in 11th and 12th. That meant they were probably in the lead out on the course with about 30 points. If Class and Billig could stay close to the top ten over the final 6 km, TCRC could claim the championship. 

Pete Magill#491 leads an M60+ chase pack of Henry Notaro visible over Magill's left shoulder, Joe Mora behind Notaro, Richard Morrisey #894, and three TC Running Company athletes, John Van Danacker #883, Rob Class #870, and Doug Keller #877 at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

But SRA was not far back. It seemed likely Nur would stay in the top 5. If Mickle could hold his place around 10th and Little could move up, they still had a chance. There were also three Orange singlets belonging to Club Northwest in the top 25: Tony Young was around 13th, with Joe Bisignano just inside the top 20 and Paul Abdalla just inside the top 25. That gave them something like 55 points. Cal Coast had Pete Magill, returning to the fray after an absence of a few years, in 8th, but his running buddy, David Olds, was just outside the top 25 and Mike Fillipow outside the top 30. They were in the hunt, but Magill would have to stay in the top 10 and have either Olds or Fillipow move up to have a realistic shot at a podium finish. Shore had Lee and Notaro both in the top ten but it did not appear there was anyone else from Shore in the top 50. After they did another big loop alongside the JFK Drive and then swung back across a meadow toward the wood chipped climb up to the track, they passed the 5 Km timing mat. Larson had opened a gap on Nur and Lee who were running close together, now just a stride ahead of Steve Schmidt Ann Arbor TC. Schmidt's strategy of starting conservatively and moving up was working well, but his team would not be in podium contention. 

Doug Keller #877 leads L to R: Ray Rodriguez black singlet, Steve Schmidt white singlet, and Tony Young orange singlet in the early going at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Nur was the only runner among the leaders who had his team in the hunt for the podium. The gold medals were slipping away though. The TCRC had cemented their lead. Dan King had taken a fall and sprung back up but had lost a couple of spots. Van Danacker was now in 5th, a couple of strides back from Schmidt. His teammates, Class and Billig, were in 8th and 9th. Nur was in 2nd, but Mickle was now in 13th. Little had moved up to 21st but that left them with 36 points while TC's total had dropped to 22. There was not much distance left to close that big a gap. At least SRA had little close competition for 2nd. Club NW had Young in 16th, Bisignano 19th, and Abdalla 24th for 59 points out on the course. They could all move up; it would just take a few seconds to move a few places. But the runners they would have to pass were all warriors just like them and would not cede a second if they did not have to. Lee, 3rd, and Notaro, 5th, were keeping Shore's hopes alive. But Kevin Dollard and the rest of the Shore crew, despite their best efforts, were not in the top 60. Club Cross competition is killer! Cal Coast's Magill was in 10th, but Olds was now in 22nd and Fillipow in 38th. The podium would be a stretch. The HOKA Aggies were in a similar spot. Kevin Ostenberg was in 12th; his teammate, Jose Aispuro in 17th. Ivan Huff, their 3rd scoring runner, was in 31st. They were, plausibly, ahead of Cal Coast but it still could go either way. 

Another 11 minutes of running and they were pelting down the stretch of track on the southwest side of the Polo Field, straining for every meter. Nat Larson took 1st overall in the race but took no points in the team competition. Steve Schmidt finished strong to take 2nd overall and 1st in the Team Competition. Ann Arbor is rebuilding and may do more damage next year. They were not in the top ten this year. Nur held on for 2nd in the Team competition but that was not enough to deny the Twin Cities RC the victory. Van Danacker in 4th, Class 5th, and Billig 7th gave TC 16 points and a dominant win. 

SRA's Mickle added 13th and Little 22nd for 37 points and a comfortable margin over Club NorthwestSRA would enjoy the silver medals.  Young, Bisignano and Abdalla claimed 12th, 17th and 19th for 48 points and the bronze medals! Cal Coast rallied past HOKA Aggies in the final 3 km, with Magill 6th, Olds 20th, and Fillipow 34th. Magill moved up 3 spots and the other two one spot each. Their 60 points left them in 4th, just off the podium. HOKA Aggies were 5th with 64 and Shore AC 6th with 67.

Twin Cities Running Company J Van Danacker, R Class, P Billig, D Keller, D Johnson 16 30:06 average; 0:11 1st runner to 3rd spread.

SRA Elite J Nur, I Mickle, C Little, M Murray 37 31:04 average; 2:10 1st to 3rd.

Club Northwest T Young, J Bisignano, P Abdalla, D White-Espin, D Villeneuve 48 31:34 average; 0:50 1st to 3rd.

M70+ The scuttlebutt was that the Jamul Toads were loaded. They had picked up Ron Wells, a legend of XC running in Southern California, now in the 75-79 division, as their insurance runner. With Greg Wilson, Rick Pfeiffer and Dave Dunbar up front, they would probably not need Wells to score. Scuttlebutt or looking good on paper only counts for so much; you still have to run the race. And when conditions get wonky sometimes surprising things happen. But this time, the Toads made sure nothing surprising happened. 

Robert Qualls, of the River City Rebels, has been performing at the highest level since mid-year. After losing the Masters 1 Mile Championship in June by a single second to Track legend, Nolan Shaheed, he claimed a silver medal at the World Championships in Finland with a sparkling 39:44! After that he took wins at the 12 Km Masters Championships in New Jersey and in Boulder, CO. at the Masters 5 Km XC Championships. At Golden Gate Park, he and Greg Wilson, of the Toads, went to the front and by the 5 Km mat, Wilson still had a few strides on Qualls. Fifty meters back, Doug Winn, of Bowerman and Rick Pfeiffer of the Toads were running stride for stride. Winn's most recent Club Cross outing was Spokane, where he won the 65-69 Championship at the age of 68. But his team would not be a factor today. In recent years, Jim Foster has often led the way for the Syracuse Track Club but Ted Larison has had the edge this fall, and Club Cross was no exception. Eighty meters back from Pfeiffer and Winn, Larison had over a hundred meters on David Dunbar of the Toads, who had two Club Northwest athletes on his heels, Scott Harvey and Leslie Sharpe. Those three were sorting out 6th, 7th and 8th. Even if Dunbar took 8th, rather than 6th or 7th, at that point things were looking very good for the Toads. Finishing 2-4-8 would give them 14 points out on the course. No other team had three runners across the 5K mat. Sixty meters back it was Ron Wells, the 4th, insurance, runner for the Toads, battling for 9th through 12th with Qualls's River City teammate, Perry Linn, defending M70+ champion, Doug Bell, of the Boulder Road Runners, and Club Northwest's David Longmuir.  

Frank Drury #545, Kevin Dollard #791 and Doug Bell #410 blue shirt, Walter Paulsen #895 and Eric Farley #432 slogging through a mud puddly stretch in the M60+ Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Longmuir won the 70+ championship in Lexington, KY in 2017. Bell was the lead runner for Boulder at that point and Linn was #2 for River City. Longmuir was #3 for Club NW; if we give Harvey and Sharpe 7th and 8th, and Longmuir 12th, Northwest is at 27, in 2nd place with 3 Km to go! 

Ten seconds later, another trio of battlers crossed the mat. Larison's teammate, Foster, had Boulder's Mike Wien and Tamalpa's Arthur Beckert on his heels, contesting 13th through 15th. Syracuse and Boulder had their 2nd runner past the timing mat, but Beckert was leading the way for Tamalpa. Beckert's teammate, Don Porteous, was just ten meters back in 16th. 

Many athletes were happy to see Lloyd Hansen #360, former Chair of USATF Masters LDR, return to Competition as he battles Mesothelioma. Hansen was the 65-69 winner at the 2013 Club Cross Championships in Bend OR and at the 2014 Cross Nationals in Boulder, CO. 

It was another twenty meters back to the third Boulder runner, Gary Ostwald, in 17th. Boulder's point total at the 5 km mark was in the low 40's, leaving them in 3rd, but with hope for a higher finish. Fifteen seconds after Ostwald crossed the mat, Jerry Learned, running #1 for Atlanta at that point, crossed the mat with a few strides on Tamalpa's Len Goldman in 19th. The three Tamalpans had 15-16-19 for 50 points, still within striking distance of the podium. Atlanta's Dave Glass, who was 75-79 King of the Roads in 2022, was ten seconds behind Goldman. Then there was a hundred-meter gap back to Syracuse's all important #3 runner, Douglas Wood, in 21st place, two seconds ahead of Atlanta's Kirk Larson. Wood made it 5-13-21 for Syracuse, their 40-point total slightly better than Boulder's, but well back from Northwest. Larson's 22nd gave Atlanta 18-20-22 for 60. River City's 3rd runner, David Stancliffe was over 1:20 behind Larson in something like 24th. Some of the runners in between were from the 60's race, and others were on incomplete 70's teams. Counting Stancliffe as 24 gave River City something like 35 points, just ahead of Boulder in the race for the final podium spot. They were 8 points behind Northwest for 2nd, so either Linn or Stancliffe would need to move up.

The rain kept falling, the wind picked up and a tree near the Starting line toppled over, almost smashing a tent and endangering some of those gathering for the M40+ race and/or celebrating after the Women's race. No one told the 60's and 70's runners who were traversing the other end of the course. They were focused on moving up over the final 3 kilometers, if possible and, if not, holding their position. The Toads had no problems. Once the finish line loomed into site, it was Qualls claiming the #1 spot for his team. But the Toads had Wilson holding onto 2nd, Pfeiffer moving ahead of Winn to take 3rd and Dunbar staying ahead of Northwest's Sharpe for 7th. Their final total of 12 points was untouchable. Northwest's Harvey, Sharpe and Longmuir experienced no let-down. The three Northwesterners kept their total in the upper 20's. That was good for 2nd by a good margin. River City held their own, finishing 1-9-24 for 34 points and a slightly spread-out score, an unconventional podium finish. But it was a close thing! Syracuse moved up, with Larison finishing 4th, Foster, 11th, and Wood 21st. Over the last three kilometers, Syracuse reduced their point total from 40 to 36, missing the podium by just two points!

Jamul Toads G Wilson, R Pfeiffer, D Dunbar, R Wells, D Diehr 12 35:58 average; 2:54 1st to 3rd runner. spread

Club Northwest S Harvey, L Sharpe, D Longmuir, D Foster, R Zerbe 28 38:00 average; 1:00 1st to 3rd runner.

River City Rebels R Qualls, P Linn, D Stancliffe, M Buzbee 34 38:37 average; 8:22 1st to 3rd runner.

M80+ In the M70+ Team Race I relied heavily on the 5 km splits. available at: 

I intended to utilize those for this Team Race as well. But either the 5 km splits are wrong for several of the runners, or their 'final 8 km' time is wrong. Their pace over the final 3 km is implausibly faster than their pace up to the split (4:57/km for the last 3 km vs. 6:12/km for the first 5 km, for example). It is possible that in the confusion of the downpour and the wind, some runners were inadvertently directed onto the wrong path, and somehow ran a shorter distance than the 3 km that was planned. This has happened in other Cross Country Championships, without the added disruption of violent weather.  Older runners appear at a critical turn, without any other competitors around them, either before or after a course marshal is expecting to see them. The marshal does not actually realize which loop the runner is on. At Tallahassee one year, a 70+ runner was directed to finish off his race after the first 6 km and, once in the finishing chute, realized the mistake, broke out of the finishing area and took his last 2 km loop. At Lehigh, it was the opposite problem. At least one 80+ runner was directed to take an extra loop rather than head directly to the finish. It may have cost him the Age Division win.

Peter Rowat #588 and James Metts #587  set forth on a journey around Golden Gate Park that culminated in an 80+ Team Win at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Something similar may have happened in this race; at least one runner, who was initially placed first in the division, was disqualified for 'cutting the course.' Whether inadvertent or not, 'cutting the course' is subject to disqualification. The athlete is responsible for knowing the course. I am not aware of any protests apart from that case. I report the official results with the comment that I do not believe they are entirely accurate.  I do believe that Florida Track Club West had the strongest set of runners and would have won the contest had everyone been directed accurately around the course. Florida Track Club/West took the win with 1-5-6 for 12 points. The San Diego Striders were just 4 points back on a 3-4-9 run of places. They edged the Atlanta TC for 2nd by a single point!

Florida Track Club/West J Callaway, J Metts, P Rowat, R Williams 12 51:38 average; 9:21 1st to 3rd runner spread

San Diego Striders B Melendy, K Wetterer, L Smith 16 59:04 average; 17:05 1st to 3rd

Atlanta TC E Bligh, A Sherwood, A Craven 17 56:52 average; 14:01 1st to 3rd

WOMEN'S RACE  5 may be declared, score top 3 for a team

The Women were the first to sample the course under those crazy conditions. Undaunted, they tore off across the soggy meadow, heading toward the mud puddles on the way up to the Polo Field. They ran through the rain and the wind and in the end, team champions were crowned.

W40+ Last year Team Red Lizard and The Janes Elite finished middle of the pack. The San Diego TC did not compete in Tallahassee, but members had experience from Spokane and, in some cases, Tallahassee. San Diego had a runner at the front and a 2nd runner not far back; they needed one of their other three to crack the top 20. 

Start of Masters Women's Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photos courtesy of Pam Fales unless otherwise indicated

With a kilometer to go, Melissa Earle was in 1st, and Natasha Bliss in 7th; their #3 runner at that point was Eva Lozano in 16th. It was very tight between them and Red LizardCarre Joyce Heineck was the lead runner for Red Lizard in 4th. There were 8 seconds between the 2nd pair for Red LizardCrystal Query and Renee Gordon, but no scoring athletes. San Diego had the lead, 24 -25!

150 Meters Into Masters Women's Race From Left: Megan Heuer, Meriah Earle, and Maggie Shearer lead the field out at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

 The Janes occupied the bronze medal position on the course at 5 Km. Vivien Hyman was a couple of strides back from Heineck in 5th and Gwendolen Twist was in 9th, a couple of strides ahead of Query. Their third runner, Cambria Wu was a good 30 meters behind Lozano. At 32 points that left them solidly in third place; their only chance to move up would be if Wu could close strongly and pick off a few runners. That was a tall order given the quality of the runners in front of her! Club NW and Garden State were nip and tuck for 4th and 5th. 

At the 5 Km mark, Club NW had Megan Heuer in 3rd and Meghan Lyle in 19th, followed by Holly McIlvaine in 23rd. Elizabeth Wakeling was not at the very front for Garden State but was running ahead of Bliss in the chase pack. Her 6th gave GSTC a good base to build on. With Caoimhe pronounced 'Kwee-va' or 'Kee-va' in Ireland Kilroy in 16th their top two runners had the same point total as NorthwestGSTC's Mary Babcock was running thirty meters behind Northwest's McIlvaine, but there were no runners in between. Babcock just had to close things up. One kilometer more through the wind and rain and Earle was claiming first for San Diego. Bliss could not catch GSTC's Wakeling but let no one pass! Her 7th place was vital. They waited then for their third runner, Lozano. She had picked off three athletes on the run into the finish, claiming 13th and giving San Diego their winning total of 21 points! Heineck, of Red Lizard, held her own, finishing in 4th. Query moved up a spot and Gordon was passed by another. But as a team they still had a lock on the silver medals. Their 25 was still well ahead of the third-place team. Hyman, of the Janes, claimed the 5th place at the finish she had worked for the whole race. Twist was passed on the run into the finish, claiming 10th, but Wu held onto 18th, giving the Janes 32 points and third place by a baker's dozen of points. The final kilometer was good to Garden State. Their three top runners all held onto their position, leaving GSTC with 46 points. The athletes who had been in McIlvaine's slipstream had strong kicks that carried them past her. Her 23rd spot gave them 50 points, good for a top 5 finish!

San Diego Track Club M Earle, N Bliss, E Lozano, V Barana, K Mueller 21 22:58 average; 1:25 1st to 3rd runner spread

Team Red Lizard C J Heineck, C Query, R Gordon, C Sykes 25 23:13 average; 0:40 1st to 3rd runner

The Janes Elite V Hyman, G Twist, C Wu, T Gamliel, K Hetzel 33 23:22 average; 0:55 1st to 3rd runner

From Left: Jessica Hruska, Maggie Shearer, and Meriah Earle, leading the field, head off of the Polo Fields track down to the Meadow for the final 5K of the 6K Women's Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo posted on FB by Maggie Shearer

W50+ In Tallahassee, it was Sirius AthleticsJanes EliteGarden State and Club Northwest mixing it up at the head of the field. It was the same this year except that the 'home team' Impala Racing was also in the hunt. Northwest had their podium contender back but had added two 'recruits' who proved they could run close to the front. Although I use the term, recruits, both are in the category of being reactivated after not running with the team last year at Tallahassee. They are longtime Club NW runners. With a kilometer to go, Gwen Lapham was running 4th in 20:09 and her teammate, Dyan Simon, was 12 seconds back in 5th. And Susan Empey was hanging tough just 5 seconds back from Simon in 6th. That tight 4-5-6 trio gave Northwest 15 points and a commanding lead. The newest team member, Fiona Bayly, was leading the way for Garden State, in 2nd place at 19:43. With her GSTC teammates, Hortencia Aliaga, 44 seconds back in 7th, and Kimberly Aspholm in 21st, GSTC had 30 points, the lowest score among the rest. Impala and Sirius were not quite up with Garden State but were within striking distance. Chris Lundy was taking the one-point score up front 17 seconds ahead of Bayly. Samantha Forde was doing her work in the trenches, 14th in 21:09. Megan Kossar was the vital third runner, currently in 23rd place forty seconds back from Forde. That gave them 38 and a 1-point lead out on the course, ahead of SiriusRachel Hopkins crossed the 5 Km mat in 19:52, holding 3rd place. Melissa Landers-Potts was a minute and a half behind Hopkins in 16th, followed six seconds later by Jill O'Grady in 20th. Ingrid Walters led the Janes last year with a 1st place finish. She was the top runner for the Janes again this year but, for some reason, lacked the fitness she had last year. 

Start of Women's Race - Athlete at left front may be Karolyn Bowley B.A.A. and athlete with white cap and pink band is Ingrid Walters The Janes Elite at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Crossing the mat in 20:44, she was in 9th, followed a half minute later by Tania Fischer in 15th. Mary Lynch was the 22nd runner across the mat at 21:41. They were just 8 points behind Impala, currently holding onto third place! Everyone tried their hardest to move up over the final kilometer but no one as giving anything away. Garden State's Aliaga was able to push past Northwest's Empey for 6th place by two seconds. But that just added a point to Northwest's total. Lapham and Simon held onto their 4-5 finish. Empey's 7th place finish gave them 16 points and a big win! Bayly and Aspholm held on to 2nd and 21st. Aliaga's 6th left them 14 points shy of Northwest, in 2nd place. The top runner for Impala and Sirus held their spots. The big news was that Jill O'Grady won the battle in the trenches for Sirius, moving up from 20th to 17 and lowering their total to 36, good to just get past Impala for the final podium spot. Kossar moved up a spot and Forde lost a spot, so Impala stayed at 38, not enough for the podium, but still a solid top 5 finish. The Janes joined them in the top 5. Their top three all held onto their positions, totaling 46 points for fifth.

Club Northwest G Lapham, D Simon, S Empey, D Fletcher, J Puzon 16 24:26 average; 0:21 1st to 3rd runner spread

Garden State F Bayly, H Aliaga, K Aspholm, W Wang 29 24:46 average' 2:22 1st to 3rd runner

Sirius Athletics R Hopkins, M Landers-Pott, J O'Grady, J Luft, L Johnson 36 25:03 average; 1:42 1st to 3rd runner

W60+ Last year Greater Philadelphia had the goods to mount the podium. This year, between injuries and other claims on their time, they stayed home. Club Northwest, the 2nd place team last year, intended to 'seize the day!' Although they could not match the top runners from Impala Racing and Liberty ACAlyssa Tower and Kathi Sleavin were able to race into 3-4 over the first 5 Km, with Tower at 22:24 and Sleavin 11 seconds back. Michelle Neal was 49 seconds behind Sleavin, but only 1 rival runner filled that gap. The 3-4-6 positions gave Northwest 13 points with a kilometer to go. Things were looking good! Suzanne Cordes was in 2nd, six seconds ahead of Tower, and Eileen Brennan-Erler was in 5th, 9 seconds ahead of Northwest's Neal. The Impala's Stella Gibbs, who had impressive 60-64 wins in the 10 Mile and 10 Km road Championships this year, was in 9th place. But she had two runners just a stride in front of her, and Neal was only 6 seconds to the good. The Impalas were just 3 points behind Northwest at that point. If Gibbs could pass the tough competitors in front of her, things would get interesting! Liberty AC had to adjust to the absence of one of their top three runners, Alda CossiDrusilla Pratt-Otto who has made important contributions to the team in the past, did not have the current fitness she has had at past events. She would finish the race but that was about all that was guaranteed. That would be an important contribution if Liberty has its eyes on the 2023 Masters Grand prix race. But Liberty had not given up on a podium spot. Their toughest competitors would be the San Diego Track Club and the Impala 'B' team. If their top two runners, Mary Cass and Victoria Bok, had good days, they could still enjoy the bronze medal spot. San Diego, of course, had their own ideas about that.

Their top two got things going for Northwest; Tower was 3rd in 22:24 at the 5 km mark, with Sleavin just 40 meters backBut the Impalas were out fast too. Cordes was in 2nd at 22:18, enjoying a 6 second lead on Tower, and Brennnan-Erler was 5th, 9 seconds ahead of Neal. Fifteen meters behind Neal it was a threesome with Liberty's Bok and Northwest's #4, Kelly Kruell, running side by side in 7th and 8th, followed a second back by the Impala's' Gibbs in 9th at 23:30. Northwest was just a bit tighter, as reflected in their 13 points to the Impala's 16. The only hope the Impalas had of snatching the top spot from Northwest depended on Gibbs moving past Bok and Kruell, and they would still need another point, a tall order. In the race for third, Liberty was executing well. Cass was in 1st at 21:12, with a lead of over 200 meters. Bok, as noted, was in 7th. That gave them 8 points from their top two. San Diego could not match that but had their three runners much closer together. Ernestina Martin was a minute behind Gibbs in 12th, followed by Karyn Simonds in 15th and Anie Deioma in 19th. That gave them 46 points. How far back was it to Pratt-Otto? It was more than two minutes, but just 11 places. Adding Pratt-Otto's 30th to the point total of Cass and Bok, gave Liberty 38 points and an 8-point lead over San Diego in the fight for the final podium spot. 

Everyone tried to move up over the final kilometer, but the overall effect was hardly a change. Everyone hung tough and gutted it out through the wind and the rain. Deioma moved up one spot from 19th to 18th; everyone else kept their position. Tower, Sleavin and Neal delivered the thirteen points for the win. Impala Racing had 16 points, missing Gold by 3 points but claiming Silver with 22 points leeway. Liberty made their coast-to-coast trip pay off; they had their podium spot, 3rd with 38 points, just 7 points ahead of San Diego. Northwest not only had the top score, but the team had the deepest squad as well. Kruell finished 20 meters behind Neal, with Gail Hall about the same distance back from Kruell.

Club Northwest A Tower, K Sleavin, M Neal, K Kruell, G Hall 13 27:28 average; 1:09 first to third runner spread

Impala Racing Team S Cordes, E Brennan-Erler, S Gibbs, C Keller, M Bartley 16 27:40 average; 1:32 1st to 3rd runner

Liberty Athletic Club M Cass, V Bok, D Pratt-Otto 38 29:12 average; 8:10 1st to 3rd runner

W70+ Last year Team Red Lizard's Jeanette Groesz, Sharon Gerl, and Cande Olsen flew to Tallahassee and went home to Oregon with a 1-2-3 finish and a dominant win. Groesz and Olsen were back; longtime member, Suzanne Ray, who, as a 69-year-old, could not compete on a 70+ team in Tallahassee in 2021, joined them this time. Ray, a long-distance specialist, has not run often with the team on the turf. When she ran with them at Club Cross in Lexington KY in 2017, she was the top runner on their 60+ winning team! They did not expect much of a fall-off in their performance but knew there would be a tougher challenge. Jo Anne Rowland was leading a strong Impala Racing team. Rowland has been coming on since dealing with some injuries a couple of years ago. At Cross Nationals in San Diego this year, she finished 3rd to Groesz and Gerl. She was 1:12 back, but hoped to run closer to, or even ahead of, the #2 Red Lizard this time out. The #2 and #3 runners for ImpalaDonna Chan and Terri Rourke were not as strong as Rowland but might well run fast enough to come in ahead of Olsen. If Rowland could somehow break up Groesz and Ray, they might have a shot at the upset. The Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders cannot match either Red Lizard or Impala but had a good shot at the bronze medal position. Kate Stewart would be competitive up front and Karen Stevenson in the mid-pack. But there might be too much space between Stevenson and their solid #3 runner, Jane McFarlandLake Merritt had to make sure they stayed well ahead of the Atlanta Track Club, the other team aiming for the podium. Led by their steeplechaser on the track, Norma 'Nonie' Hudnall, Atlanta would press Lake Merritt in the middle of the pack. But in the end, Atlanta knew their #3 runner, Andrea McCarter, 76, was primarily competing to be sure that Atlanta had a complete scoring team.

The gun sounded and Groesz headed to the front of the 70+ field. By the time they had circles half the track and were near the 1 km mark, Groesz had 6 seconds on Jeannie Rice who was not competing in the Team Championship

Start of Masters Women's Race--Jeannie Rice 74 2019 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year far left/back from camera-pink singlet/black armsleeves runs easily among 40's, 50's and 60's athletes including Kris Huff far right/front-red singlet at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

Ray was running well, 2nd in the Team Competition, but was, nevertheless, almost a hundred meters behind Groesz. Perhaps more importantly, despite Rowland's best efforts, a gap of 30 meters had grown between her and Ray. By the time there was a kilometer left, all of those trends had played out. Groesz's lead over her teammate had ballooned to over 400 meters. At 26:58, Ray had over 50 meters meters on Rowlands who had a hundred meters on Stewart in 4th. Stewart was over 50 meters ahead of the Impala #2, Chan. That was hugely important for Red Lizard. Olsen would not be tight on Groesz and Ray; having the Lake Merritt ace break up Impala's top 2 would make a difference. There was over a minute between Chan and the Impala #3, Rourke, but no other team filed that gap. With a lead of over 40 meters to the 7th place runner, Impala looked good for 3-5-6 and 14 points. But had Stewart not broken u the Impalas, it could have been 3-4-5 for 12 points! Stevenson was in 7th for Lake Merrit, followed by Hudnall in 8th. A minute later at 30:39, Olsen crossed the mat in 9th. That gave Red Lizard 12 points and a two-point lead over Impala with just a kilometer to go! Atlanta's Kathleen Allen 32:00 was in 10th; Impala, Irene Herman, their 4th runner, displaced Lake Merritt's #3 runner. Lake Merritt still totaled just 23 points on the 4-7-12 standings. When McCarter became the 14th runner in the 70+ team race to cross the 5 Km timing mat, she gave Atlanta 32 points on the course. The final kilometer led to no lead changes. 

Team Red Lizard took the win with Groesz 29:50 and Ray 32:13 going 1-2 and Olsen 36:39 contributing a 9th place to close off their scoring at 12. Impala had Rowland 32:36, Chan 33:11 and Rourke 34:58 take 3-5-6 for 14 and 2nd place. Lake Merritt took 3rd with Stewart 32:47, Stevenson 35:16, and McFarland 41:59 at 4-7-12, holding their score at 23 for 3rd place. Atlanta took 4th with 8-10-14 from Hudnall 35:39, Allen 38:24, and McCarter 51:23

Team Red Lizard J Groesz, S Ray, C Olsen 12 32:54 average; 6:59 first to third runner spread 

Impala Racing J Rowland, D Chan, T Rourke, I Herman, M Fillmore 14 33:35 average; 2:22 first to third runner spread

Lake Merritt J&S K Stewart, K Stevenson, J McFarland 236:41 average; 9:12 first to third runner spread

That's it for Club Cross 2022! On to Richmond for 2023 Cross Nationals! Check it out at: 

2023 USATF Cross Country Championships | USA Track & Field

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