Saturday, December 17, 2022

Wet, Wild and Windy! Masters Races at 2022 Club Cross Country Championships


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 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.

The Indiana Athletics Elite J Davis, B Lindsay, T Burns, M Jackson, J Poray, J Zeha, R Awe made it two in a row in M40+, defending their Championship with a classic team effort, placing their top 5 runners in 4-7-13-14-16 to total 54 points and a more comfortable win than last year.

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 Zeha, Thomas Burns]

In 2021 they edged West Valley Track Club M Richards, P Gilmore, M Fraioli, N Davey, A Touchstone, J Marsh, T Rose, T Haxton, B Koss by just 3 points; their margin on Saturday was 27 points. West Valley had their hands full repelling Team Run Flagstaff C Gomez, A Gallo, R Baker, J Troxler, M Madsen, D De Heer, S Baker 81 to 86. The Bowerman Track Club was in 4th

M50+ went to West Valley I Lieben, M Yuen, D White, C Mullane, M Callon, E Randolph, J Erskine, R Fairles, D Glenn. They scorched the opposition with 39 points from 1-3-4-6-25! Last year in Tallahassee, the Garden State TC R Falcone, J Frieder, T Wiley, J Hegge, M Cardoso garnered their Silver Medals without a front runner, relying instead on a very tight pack. Missing one of their key runners this year left the outcome in doubt. They made up for a slightly looser pack with a front runner, who took 2nd. The result was a repeat in the silver medal position at 70 points. They repelled a strong challenge from the Boulder Road Runners G Mays, F De Simone, K Konczak, J Probst, R Granquist, C McDonald, J Borthwick whose 79 points landed them in third, 46 points ahead of Bowerman in 4th.

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

M60+ The TC Twin Cities Running Company J Van Danacker, R Class, P Billig had a tight pack that ran close to the front. Their 4-5-7 gave them 16 points and a handsome margin over the 2nd place team, the SRA Elite J Nur, I Mickle, C Little with 37 points from 2nd, 13th and 22nd. Club Northwest T Young, J Bisignano, P Abdalla, D White-Espin, D Villeneuve lacked a top ten finisher but kept it tight otherwise, with 12-17-19 for 48 points, to finish 3rd ahead of Cal Coast with 62.

M70+ Initially reported as won by the River City Rebels, the team stepped up to let the officials know that one of their team members had inadvertently missed the final loop of the course and should be moved back. The team competition was actually won by the Jamul Toads G Wilson, R Pfeiffer, D Dunbar, R Wells, D Diehr with a 2-3-8 for 13 points. The Toads won comfortably as the Club Northwest S Harvey, L Sharpe, D Longmuir, D Foster, R Zerbe team came 2nd with 7-9-15 for 31. The Rebels R Qualls, P Linn, D Stancliffe took the Bronze with 1-9-24 for 34 points. They just nipped the Syracuse TC by two points.

M80+ This was actually the tightest team competition in the M60+ race. Florida Track Club/West J Callaway, J Metts, P Rowat, R Williams took the win with 1-5-6 for 12 points. The San Diego Striders B Melendy, K Wetterer, L Smith were just 4 points back on a 3-4-9 run of places. They edged the Atlanta TC E Bligh, A Sherwood, A Craven for 2nd by a single point!

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 M Earle, N Bliss, E Lozano, V Barana, K Mueller 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. With 1-7-13 they captured the team title with 21 points. They had to fend off a stern challenge from Red Lizard. With each of their first two runners coming in ahead of their counterpart Red Lizard, they could withstand the #3 Red Lizard finishing just ahead of their #3. Red Lizard C J Heineck, C Query, R Gordon gave it all they had and came just short of the win; their 4-9-12 for 25 points earned the silver medals! The Janes V Hyman, G Twist, C Wu, T Gamliel, T Hetzel proved tough competitors. Each of their scoring runners was pushing the scoring Red Lizard runner. Their 5-10-18 gave them 33 points and the bronze medals. Garden State finished 5th last year and moved up a spot this year. Thay will have their sights set on the podium next year!

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 Athletics, Janes Elite, Garden 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. Northwest G Lapham, D Simon, S Empey, D Fletcher, J Puzon parlayed a neat 4-5-7 into a spot atop the podium. Garden State F Bayly, H Aliaga, K Aspholm, W Wang followed a new 'recruit' of their own into 2nd place with 2-6-21 for 29 points! Sirius R Hopkins, M Landers-Pott, J O'Grady, J Luft, L Johnson had their hands full staying ahead of the Impalas. Their 1-13-24 gave them 36 points, enabling them to snatch the final podium spot by just 2 points! 

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, made sure they 'seized the day!'  By placing their top 3 all in the top 6 of the tam competition, Northwest A Tower, K Sleavin, M Neal, K Kruell, G Hall held off a spirited crew from Impala. Northwest enjoyed 3-4-6 for just 13 points and a three-point margin of victory--hard fought indeed! Impala S Cordes, E Brennan-Erler, S Gibbs had finishers in 2-5-9 for 16. Last year they were running with the 50's team; this year getting the silver medals in their own race was sweet. The Liberty Athletic Club made sure their trip across the country for this cross country classic was worthwhile. Neither wind nor rain nor dark of cloud could stop them from their appointment on the podium. Following their front runner in, Liberty's M Cass, V Bok, D Pratt-Otto1-7-30 gave them a 7-point edge over the San Diego TC.

W70+ Team Red Lizard brought the same team back that went 1-2-3 for a dominant win in Tallahassee. But they expected a tougher battle this time with new teams in the fray. They got the tougher battle but were still able to come out atop the podium. Red Lizard was again able to take 1-2. That was critical because the Impala Racing had a tighter pack. In the end Red Lizard J Groesz, S Ray, C Olsen got the win with 1-2-9 for 12 points, a 2-point win! The Impalas J A Rowland, D Chan, T Rourke, I Herman, M Fillmore had to be satisfied with a highly competitive effort that came up just short. Their 3-5-6 gave them 14 points and the silver medals, ahead of the Lake Merritt Joggers & Striders K Stewart, K Stevenson, J McFarland whose 23 points from 4-7-12 gave them 3rd place, with a 9-point margin over Atlanta


The Women got things underway over 6K. There was a splendid battle, at the front of the field, between Meriah Earle San Diego TC, first American Masters Woman at the Chicago Marathon this year, in 2:38:39, and Maggie Shearer Cal Coast, winner of the Masters 10 Mile Championship. Earle and Shearer ran in a tight pack through the first two kilometers, along with Megan Heuer Club Northwest  and Jessica Hruska Crown Running. 

The San Diego Track Club Womenb's 40+ Team, one of many that got to test their rain gear before and/or after the race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo posted on FB by Natasha Bliss

Over the next three kilometers, Shearer would surge; Earle would quickly close any gap that formed but first Heuer and then Hruska were dropped. Earle pulled away over the last kilometer to take Gold by 20 seconds in 22:15. Shearer, almost spent from her struggle with Earle, grittily held on for 2nd in 22:35, as Heuer’s strong closing kick pulled her past Hruska, but left her one second short of Shearer at the finish.

From left; Jessica Hruska, Maggie Shearer, and Meriah Earle, after a successful run [4-2-1 overall; 3W40, 1W45, 1W40]   at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo posted on FB by Maggie Shearer 

The Men’s 60+ race, over 8 Km, had five primary contenders.  Dan King Athletics Boulder 63 broke just about every 60-64 middle distance record on the track in 2020. He has also been the fastest athlete 60 and over at the last five USATF National Cross Country Championships. Nat Larson Greater Springfield Harriers broke two American 60-64 Road Records last month. On November 13th he cracked a 16:35 5K and 11 days later hit 27:35 for the 8K. Rick Lee Shore AC, who runs races of all distances at a fast pace, is the current 60-64 American Record holder at 50K and 50 Miles. He also ran 2:47:58 at Boston this year and clocked a 1:18:32 Half Marathon to win the 60-64 Gold Medal at the World Masters Championships in Finland. Jacob Nur  SRA Elite would provide more of a challenge than one would think possible from a 67-year-old. But he has been breaking American 65-69 Records all over the place, from a 17:00 5K to a 35:42 10K to a 58:34 10 Mile and a 1:18:00 HM! Steve Schmidt Ann Arbor Track Club, 62, was one of the first two members of the 6DSR3 club that Amby Burfoot wrote about, clocking a sub-3 hour Marathon in early 2020, his sixth decade doing so!  Schmidt showed his range by winning double Gold in the 5000 Meters 17:37 and the 10,000 Meters 36:20 at the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships this summer. 

Loop #1- From Left: Iain Mickle #821 SRA Elite 14thHenry Notaro White Shore AC singlet 11thPete Magill #491 Cal Coast 7thJoe Mora background, maroon GVH singlet 9thDan King #367 Athletics Boulder 10thPatrick Billig #867 TC Running Co 8thSteve Schmidt #365 Ann Arbor 2ndDoug Keller #877 TC Running Co 17th traversing mud and puddles and jockeying for position in the M60+ Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo posted on Strava by Dan King

Larson led from the start, with Nur, Lee, and King in close pursuit; Schmidt started more cautiously. Larson started to open a gap as they coursed around the Meadow near the 2 Km mark. Larson enjoyed a 16 second lead by the 5K mark. Nur led the chase pack, with Lee and Schmidt a few strides back; King had taken a fall and was a few places further back. Larson never eased up, winning by 19 seconds in 29:24. Schmidt bided his time, surged in the final kilometer and captured 2nd in 29:43. Nur outlasted Lee by a single second to take 3rd Overall in 29:51.

The M40+ race, as noted, was run, after a 45-minute delay, as a 7.75 lap race around the Polo Field ‘track’ a hard gravel/tarmac surface. The lead pack was expected to include Ben Bruce HOKA Naz Elite, Jesse Davis Indiana Elite AC, Sergio Reyes HOKA Aggie RC, and Malcolm Richards West Valley TC, with the possible addition of Chris Gomez Team Run Flagstaff. Bruce, an Assistant Coach and Pacer for the HOKA Naz Elite, had finished 2nd to Riley Cook at the 12 K Masters Championships. Davis won Club Cross in Tallahassee and Reyes had taken the crown at Cross Nationals in San Diego a month later. Richards had run faster than Davis as an Open athlete at Tallahassee and had lost to Reyes in the Pacific Association XC Championships by just two seconds last month. Gomez won the overall Masters 5 Km XC Championships in Boulder but there was some uncertainty as to how that altitude win would translate to sea level. Reyes and Richards looked like they would do another 1-2 as they had done at the PA Championships. Reyes delivered, in the end, with a 28:55 win! But Joshua McAdams, who finished 5th at Tallahassee last year, was able to crash the party, breaking away to take 2nd in 29:05. Richards followed 5 seconds later, with Bruce, Davis and Gomez claiming 4th through 6th!

Top Age Graded athletes included Joanne Siegler Golden Valley Harriers 65 25:37 in the Women’s 6K race; her 92.84% eclipsed Jeanette Groesz Team Red Lizard 73 29:50 89.11 and Fiona Bayly Garden State TC 55 23:41 88.81 who finished 2nd and 3rd. In the 8K race it was Jacob Nur SRA Elite 67 29:51 at 92.24% who prevailed over Steve Schmidt Ann Arbor TC 62 29:43 88.39% and Nat Larson Greater Springfield Harriers 60 29:54 87.76%. The 10 K race featured Peter Hammer Boston Athletic  Association 56 32:08 achieving a 97.41% to edge Jaime Heilpern HOKA Aggie RC 52 31:08 97.06% and David White West Valley57 32:37 96.83%. [The improvised circuit was not measured but, according to some officials, was probably short.]


Women’s Race 40-44 Meriah Earle San Diego TC 22:15 and Megan Heuer Club Northwest 22:36  went 1-3 Overall; they go 1-2 in this division. Jessica Hruska Crown Running 22:40, the 2022 Masters National Grand Prix 40-44 Champ, closed off the podium, finishing 4 seconds behind Heuer and 11 seconds ahead of Carre Joyce Heineck Team Red Lizard in 4th. 45-49  Maggie Shearer Cal Coast 22:15 finished 2nd Overall but won the division championship by 40 seconds! Crystal Query Team Red Lizard 23:15 and Gwendolen Twist The Janes Elite Racing 23:21 battled all the way, with Query taking Silver Medal honors. Amy Alzina Team Montecito was 3 seconds off the podium. 50-54 Chris Lundy Impala Racing 23:19, the reigning Women’s Dipsea Champion took the tile in 50-54 with 19 seconds to spare. Karolyn Bowley Boston Athletic Association 23:38 was unable to repeat as winner but took 2nd by a comfortable margin. Rachel Hopkins Sirius Athletics 23:55 pulled away from Cassandra Henkiel Unattached to take the Bronze Medal by 6 seconds. 55-59 Fiona Bayly 23:41 celebrated her debut with the Garden State TC by taking first in this division by almost a minute and a half! Aeron Arlin Genet HOKA Aggie RC 25:10 took 2nd by a 15 second margin over her teammate, Patricia Bellan 25:25. Tania Fischer The Janes Elite Racing was 11 seconds back in 4th. 60-64 Mary Cass 25:36 Liberty AC took top honors in this division, enjoying a 40 second margin of victory. Allison Orofino 26:16 Buffalo Chips took the Silver Medal by 11 seconds over Masters Hall of Famer, Carmen Ayala Troncoso 26:27 unattached, with Suzanne Cordes 22 seconds off the podium. 65-69 Joannie Siegler 25:37 Golden Valley Harriers took the win by a huge margin. Nora Cary 27:33 Shore AC broke the 65-69 American 8K Record on the roads but, on this Cross Country course, on this day, she was no match for Siegler. Ernestina Martin 29:16  San Diego TC and Lenore Bergenske had quite a battle, with Martin taking the final spot on the podium by a single second. 70-74 Jeanette Groesz 29:50 Team Red Lizard took the win. Jeannie Rice 31:09 unattached, 2019 Masters Athlete of the Year, finished 2nd, with Suzanne Ray 32:13 Red Lizard 3rd. Jo Anne Rowland was 23 seconds back in 4th.  75-79 Deborah Bliss 40:03 Finger Lakes and Andrea McCarter 51:23 Atlanta went 1-2 in the division. There was no 3rd finisher. 80-84 Edda Stickle 43:59 Tamalpa took this title unopposed. At 82, though, it was no small feat to finish the race on a weather day like we had!

MEN 60+ Race 60-64 Nat Larson Greater Springfield 29:24, Steve Schmidt Ann Arbor 29:43, and Rick Lee Shore AC 29:52 went 1-2-3 overall and in this division. John Van Danacker TC Running Co was 7 seconds off the podium. 65-69 Jacob Nur SRA Elite 29:51 finished 3rd Overall in the 60+ race and took this division crown by a wide margin. 

From Left: Dan King, Jacob Nur, and Rick Lee chasing Nat Larson on one of the stretches along the Polo Field Track in the M60+ Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo posted on Strava by Dan King

David Westenberg Greater Lowell 31:29 is better known as a middle-distance runner. At his first Indoor Track meet of the season last week, he broke the American 65-69 Record for the Mile with a 5:10.61. Westenberg opened up a 20 second lead in the first 5 Km and pulled away over the final 3 kilometers to take the Silver Medal. 

David Westenberg swings wide to navigate a huge mud puddle as he drops down from the Polo Field for the final 3 Km on his way to the M65 Silver Medal at at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo posted on Facebook by David Westenberg

Daniel Johnson TC Running 32:06 took 3rd with John Barbour Greater Lowell in 4th, 14 seconds back. 70-74 Robert Qualls River City Rebels 34:39, who took the Gold Medal in the 70-74 Cross Country race at the World’s in Finland this year, pulled away for the win. Greg Wilson Jamul Toads 34:50 did not go down without a fight, finishing 2nd just 11 seconds back.  Rick Pfeiffer Jamul Toads 35:18 claimed third by a comfortable margin; Ted Larison Syracuse TC finished 4th. 75-79 Defending division champion, Ron Wells Jamul Toads  38:29 took it out hard from the gun, with David Longmuir Club Northwest 38:35, who took the 70-74 title at Lexington KY in 2017, staying close. Gary Ostwald Boulder Road Runners 38:28 who had finished 3rd behind Wells at Cross Nationals in San Diego last January, was content to let them run. At the 5K mark, Wells had 9 seconds on Longmuir, but over a half minute on Ostwald. But Ostwald had plenty left a she first closed on and passed Longmuir and then gained steadily on Wells, passing him just before the finish line to enjoy a 1-second victory. Longmuir took 3rd and Dave Glass Atlanta TC who won every 75-79 national championship at 10K and over this year, and who finished 2nd to Wells in Tallahassee, took 4th. 80-84 Jim Callaway Florida TC/West 45:47, who took 3rd at Cross Nationals in San Diego, claimed the win. Thirteen seconds back was Masters Hall of Famer, Doug Goodhue Ann Arbor 46:00, coming back from knee surgery, who took 2nd. Ed Bligh Atlanta 48:32, who won the 75-79 division at 2019 Cross Nationals in Tallahassee, claimed third. Hans Schmid Tamalpa, who took the crown in this division at San Diego this past January, finished 4th. 85-89 Adrian Craven Atlanta 1:02:33, defending Champion and winner of the 1 Mile and 12 Km Championships for 85-89 this year, repeated his Tallahassee win. Several minutes back, Richard Williams Florida TC/West 1:11:49 was happy to finish the race in one piece and claim the Silver Medal!

MEN 40+ Race 40-44 Sergio Reyes HOKA Aggies 28:55, Joshua McAdams Boise Betties & Billies 29:05, Malcolm Richards West Valley 29:10, and Ben Bruce HOKA Naz Elite 29:18 took 1-2-3-4 Overall and enjoyed the same finish in the 40-44 division. 45-49 Peter Gilmore West Valley 30:25, who finished 2nd Overall at the last two Club Cross Championships, led this division all the way, with Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast 30:57, Overall Champion of multiple Cross Country National Championships races, tracking him over the first few laps. Mike Jackson IndianaElite 30:38, who took 3rd in the division at the 2022 5 km Masters Championships in Atlanta, bided his time and came on strong over the last laps to take 2nd. Sallberg used a strong kick to fend off a last-minute challenge from Jason Troxler, who finished 4th, a single second behind Sallberg. 

Jacques Sallberg #495 Cal Coast has Michael Morgan #699 LRC Nebraska in his sights circling the Polo Field in the Men's 40+ Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo posted on FB  by Cal Coast Track Club

50-54 Jaime Heilpern HOKA Aggies 31:08, who finished 2nd in the division at Club Cross last year, enjoyed the win this year. Ivan Lieben West Valley 31:40 took 2nd a half minute back, with Richard Falcone Garden State 32:11 another half minute back in 3rd. Mark Yuen West Valley, the defending Champion, took another stride on the comeback trail, finishing just 7 seconds off the podium. 55-59 Peter Hammer Boston Athletic Association 32:08 won his 7th consecutive Club Cross Division championship, an amazing string at such a competitive event. Half a minute back, David White West Valley 32:37 fended off a challenge from Craig Godwin Bowerman 32:42, claiming 2nd with 5 seconds to spare. 

JT Service #654 HOKA Aggies M40, Luis Agricola #476 Cal Coast M40, Edan Rosenberg #596 Garden State M40, and Joe Borg #714 Pacers/GRC Running M40  lead one of the several chase packs, with Christian Cushing-Murray green singlet, white cap Cal Coast M55 and David White #946 West Valley M55 working in with them at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo posted on FB  by Cal Coast Track Club

Christian Cushing-Murray Cal Coast 33:52, who finished 3rd in the division at Cross Nationals in San Diego and at the Masters 5 Km XC Championships in Boulder, took 4th.

This was a Championship that required resiliency; it will be talked about for years to come! Hats off to all who competed and finished. The M40+ Men were denied their chance to run a true Cross Country course. Their adaptability is to be applauded. The others ran through the mud and over the soft, squishy grass, along the gnarly track and up and down. It was a day to survive and a day to be remembered!

Note: Pacific Association/Tom Bernhard videos of the three races can be found here:

XC Relive the USATF Clubs National Cross Country Champs, thanks to Tom Bernhard’s race videos and Phil Yearian photos! | PAUSATF

Next up are the Masters Races at the USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond, VA on January 21, 2023. There are Women’s and Men’s races for Masters, U20, and Open.

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