Monday, December 5, 2022

Which Teams are in and looking good for San Fran Clubs? Men 40+ Teams

December 6, 2022. The biggest bash of the year for Masters LDR Teams is Club Cross. That's where Teams get their ultimate bragging rights. Last year things were settled on the turf at Tallahassee on an unseasonably warm and humid day. Conditions worsened as the day went on and several runners ran into trouble; others thrived! Before launching into prospects for Club Cross 2022 at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, let's take a look at the Team Podiums from last year's Club Cross contests. Those winners have had bragging rights in 2022! And, of course, the 2nd and 3rd place clubs have bragging rights over those who did not make the podium at Tallahassee. This post looks at the contests for the third race of the day in San Francisco, the Men 40+. Look next for the Preview of Individual Races and Updates on Women and Men 60+ now that registration is closed. 

2021 Tallahassee, FL. Weather Cloudy, low to mid 70's, humidity in the 80-95% range. Women 9 AM/Men 60+ 10 AM/ Men 40+ 11 AM. 

Note: Scoring in the Women's races and the Men 60 and over is the sum of the places of the top three (3) finishers. For Men's teams 40 and up, scoring is the sum of the first five finishers, as is traditional in Cross Country. Low score wins. The number in parentheses, after the gender/age identification, was the number of complete scoring teams in the division at Tallahassee. 

Race #3---Men 40+---11 AM---10 Km

Men 40+ (20) Indiana Elite Athletic Club 85     West Valley Track Club 88     Bowerman Track Club 121

Men 50+ (11) West Valley Track Club 29     Garden State Track Club 62     Central Mass Striders 93

Who's In For 2022?!

M40+ The top three teams at Tallahassee last year, the Indiana Elite Athletic Club, the West Valley Track Club, out of the greater San Francisco area, and the Bowerman Track Club, out of Oregon, have all entered complete teams of 5 or more athletes. Indiana's entries include their 1-5 and 7th runners from last year. Last year they were the new guys in town, although some had heard they were coming and were loaded. They delivered, although West Valley was awfully close! Just three points separated them at the end. Note: This preview has been updated to account for the several top West Valley team members who were registered but not declared for a specific team. With those considered, I revised my Team podium prediction.

Jesse Davis led the way for Indiana last year, as he did at every Grand Prix event they entered, except the 5 K. His 32:56 gave him the title with 17 seconds to spare. Davis, a two-time qualifier for the Olympic Trials Marathon and Team USA Ultra Marathoner, also took Masters Overall titles at the 10K, and Half Marathon this year, while finishing 2nd to his teammate, Bryan Lindsay in Atlanta. In Tallahassee, Davis drove the bus and, eventually, everyone fell away; it was the last 2-kilometer loop where he finally dropped his two most persistent rivals. Lindsay ran for BYU in college, clocking a 3:38.31 to finish 2nd at the NCAA 1500 meters his senior year. He used that speed to kick away from the field at the 5K Championships. He was Indiana's 3rd runner at Clubs, behind John Poray. Poray was a rock for Indiana, running second on the team in every race except the 12 K in New Jersey where Jeff Zeha came up big on a warm day in September. They figured they needed to put two guys in the top ten at Clubs and Poray gave them that, finishing 10th in 34:29. Lindsay took 16th, with Thomas Burns 25th and Jasen Ritter and Mike Cole 35th and 36th. Zeha finished ahead of Poray at the 12 K at Highlands, claiming 7th overall in 40:55. Burns had a great day at Chicago this October, running 2:30:22! Davis and Poray clocked 1:07:38 and 1:09:37 at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon in early November; they also look ready. Lindsay showed he still has speed, finishing 1st Masters and 2nd Overall in the 5K race at the Indy Mini Marathon in 15:25 this past spring. In early October he clocked 15:44 to easily win a local 5K in the Indianapolis area. Rob Awe, Michael Jackson, and Jasen Ritter signed up this past week for Indiana. Ritter ran 15:58 in an August 5K so appears to be fit. Cole is currently on the mend from, among other things, being hit by a vehicle while out on a run. That gives them #’s 1-5, along with Jackson, who recently clocked a 1:09:51 HM at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. They are loaded and looking to repeat, but they have strong challengers!

Two Hundred Meters into the Men's Masters 40+ 10Km Race at Tallahassee in 2021, one can pick out the All-Black look of the Indiana Elite, on the far side, the lime green of Cal Coast and in the foreground, the red and black of Bowerman, the yellow and black of Garden State and the blue and yellow of the B.A.A. -- only 9,800 meters to go! All photos in this post are courtesy of Michael Scott, unless otherwise indicated.

West Valley has 4 athletes entered as the 'A' team and six as the 'B' team, and as many others that are as yet undeclared as to A, B or C. After finishing a very close 2nd last year, they must be burning to take the title on their home turf! Their #3 and #5 runners from last year at Tallahassee, Benjamin Koss and Julian Marsh, are back. They appear to have a new #1 in the freshly minted Masters athlete, Malcolm Richards. Richards ran in the Open race at Tallahassee last year, clocking 31:16! That was a minute and a half faster than the winning Masters time. In April he ran in the Open portion of the Sactown 10, which served as the Masters 10 Mile Championships. He finished 5th Overall in 48:46, well ahead of Riley Cook's winning Masters time. His 2:16:15 at Grandma's Marathon exhibits his endurance credentials. His recent 2nd place finish to Sergio Reyes at the Pacific Association PA XC Championships over 8K in 23:58, losing by just two seconds, shows he is ready to roll on the turf! Andrew Touchstone, their 4th runner entered for the A Team, is not quite at the level of the other three, at least based on his 8th place 40-44 finish at Sactown in 56:03. But that may be misleading; he has good speed. He ran 15:46 and 15:36 on the track in the 5000 Meter run in the summer. If he can convert that speed to a good 10,000 meter run on the turf, as Lindsay did for Indiana, he could be an important part of their effort to take the title. Surprisingly, the West Valley runners who finished 6th, 7th and 10th at the PA XC Championships, ahead of Touchstone , are not entered. Mario Fraioli clocked 25:58 to finish 6th, Todd Rose, long-time anchor of West Valley's 40+ team, finished 7th just 1 second back. Marsh was 8th in 26:04, followed 8 seconds later by Neville Davey, who won the Overall Masters Championships at Lexington KY in 2017. Davey and Rose, as well as Marsh and Montgomery, made up West Valley's first four for Boulder. All are enteres, with Marsh for A, Montgomery for B and the other two undeclared. Jorge Maravilla, who was in their top 3 at Lexington, Spokane and Lehigh is working in Europe now. Peter Gilmore was their top runner at Tallahassee and Lehigh, but has not run for them this fall, either at Boulder or in the PA XC Championships. He did run a 2:22" Marathon at granma's in June but I can find nothing recent. He is entered but undeclared. Some of the B Team athletes could move up to A and vice versa. The Team Captain will have to decide by Friday. Jamey Gifford and John Montgomery were the #6 and 7 runners for West Valley last year. Bryce Lighthall who ran unattached last year, would have finished as their #6 runner, just one second behind Marsh. Brad Poore, currently listed for the 'B' team finished in the top ten at Lehigh in 2019 as West Valley's #3 runner. He has the history to run in the top ten or so, but, of course, may not have the same current fitness; he finished 2 seconds behind Gifford in the PA XC Championships a couple of weeks ago. West Valley will be very strong. If Gilmore has the usual fitness that he exhibits at Club Cross, he and Richards should give West Valley two in the top 5; that is a powerful start. Rose always runs tough at Clubs and Davey showed at Boulder that he can run with Rose, at least at altitude. 

The Bowerman Track Club has been battling West Valley and the Boston Athletic Association for a podium position at Club Cross for years before Indiana showed up last year to throw a monkey wrench into the competition. Bowerman edged the B.A.A. for third at Tallahassee by a single point! Their top 4 from last December, Peter Bromka, Greg Mitchell, Orin Schumacher, and Ahrlin Bauman, all entered early, but none of the #'s 5-9. Bromka ran a 2:31:30 at Grandma's Marathon in June. In early April, Mitchell ran 52:55 at the USATF Masters 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento, finishing 5th overall Masters. Six weeks later he took 3rd overall in the Masters race at Carlsbad, clocking 15:43! In mid-March, Schumacher finished 7th Overall and 1st Masters at Portland's Shamrock Run over 15K in 51:45. Bauman clocked a 1:14:04 HM at the Eugene Marathon and 16:26 at the Bowerman 5K in mid-September. Presumably all are ready to run although only Bauman competed in the USATF-Oregon XC Championships (Stumptown #4). John Howell, their 5th runner last year, finally entered on December 1. Howell was their #2 runner at Stumptown and has finished as high as 2nd at Clubs, in Lexington in 2017, He adds experience as well as strength. Their top finishing runner from Stumptown, who had the same time as Howell, is Brian Livingston. Livingston was also Bowerman's top Masters runner at the Bowerman 5K, in 16:14, twelve seconds ahead of Bauman. They are joined by Justin Banks who was Bowerman's top runner at Stumptown #4 in November 2020, ahead of Bauman. Darren Holland's focus on the Marathon paid dividends this past year with a PR at London at 2:37:45, followed by a very nice 2:39:16 at Boston this past April. It would be a bit tricky to project those marathon times forward into a strong effort of the turf as I find no recent XC races for him, not even in the Stumptown series. Oscar Bauman, who ran about a minute behind his brother, Ahrlin, at Stumptown, will try to reduce that gap in San Francisco. Assuming Bromka, Mitchell, Schumacher, and A. Bauman run as they did last year, the key for Bowerman may be whether Livingston can again finish ahead of A. Bauman and Howell.

What about the BAA? Have they improved? Eric Blake ran for the Central Mass Striders last year, finishing 3rd Masters overall at Tallahassee and 2nd at San Diego. But the Striders did not field complete teams at either event. This year Blake competes for the BAA, giving them a credible top-5 runner. On the downside, neither of their top three from Tallahassee, Alex Taylor, Brendan Prindiville, nor Dan Smith are entered now. Their #4 from last year, Aaron Price, and their #6, Peter Hammerwho was just a second behind #5, are back, along with #7, Mark Carroll. Larry Aller ran a 2:39:23 at Boston. In fall 2021, he finished a couple of minutes behind Price at the Mayor's Cup XC race in Boston. So, despite the addition of Blake, it appears the BAA may be no stronger and could even be a little less of a threat.

Lead Pack 500 Meters into Race at Tallahassee 2021-From right-Jesse Davis drives the bus and to his right (our left) Roosevelt CookEric BlakeAlex TaylorPeter Gilmore. Background left is Joshua McAdams green singlet and Jaime Heilpern white and blue. 

Cal Coast tied Greater Philadelphia on points but finished 6th on the tie-breaker. After watching Jacques Sallberg take the win at almost every Cross Nationals Championship since 2015 and win at Lehigh in 2019, it was a shock to see him finish 9th in the team race at Tallahassee, almost a full minute back from Roosevelt Cook, who finished 3rd for Cal Coast. It was a significant drop off from those two to their next two, Philip Gonzalez and Lucas Agricola who will return and be joined by Trevor Cox who fits in well with them. Cox ran 16:55 at Carlsbad in May, finishing a half minute behind Agricola, and later ran a 36:46 10K. The three of them provide very solid support. But it is hard to see either Cook or Sallberg finishing much higher than they did last year. That means top 5 for the team is certainly possible, but the podium looks like a stretch. As well as new front runners, there are some new teams entered. 

Team Run Flagstaff will come down from altitude to test their prowess at sea level. They had it all their way at Boulder, finishing first ahead of three other high-altitude teams and West Valley. It will be closer between Flagstaff and West Valley, of course, both because it is at sea level and in West Valley's backyard. Presumably West Valley can put together its strongest team. Flagstaff has entered everyone who competed in Boulder. Chris Gomez was able to pull away from his teammates and everyone else at Boulder. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in San Francisco. Up to this point he has made his name primarily on long trail runs. He has good speed on the roads as well, clocking 16:39 in a 5K at altitude. If you throw in a half minute for a 5K at altitude, as some suggest, you get a 5K close to 16 minutes. That makes Gomez not the fastest guy on the flat in this race, but fast enough so speed alone will not determine the outcome. His support crew includes Anthony Gallo who ran 16 seconds slower than Gomez in that 5K and a half minute slower in the Masters 5 Km XC. Ryan Baker has the equivalent of a 32:58 10K to his recent credit in Phoenix, showing these Flagstaff guys can race at lower altitude too! There was just 5 seconds between Gallo and Baker in Boulder. Their 4th and 5th runners, Dirk de Heer and Mike Madsen, were close as well, finishing ten seconds apart. But they were a half minute back from Baker, a time gap that, at a big race like Clubs, can allow lots of places to fly by. Madsen is no stranger to close races at National Championships; in 2019 he took the Silver Medal at the Masters Road Mile Championship, losing gold to a better lean at the tape by Chuck Schneekloth. If any of their top 5 has an off day, their other three, Sean Baker, Will Drexler, and Jason Troxler are all capable of stepping up. 

Team Red Lizard, out of Portland OR, finished 10th at Tallahassee but was 8th at both Spokane and Lehigh. They are also bringing a bigger team. Perhaps that is a sign of intent to move up? Their top two from the last few Clubs, Steven Short and Torrey Linbdbo are back, as is their reliable support runner, Daniel Bartosz. They have a useful addition in Jake Stout. This year Stout won the USATF Oregon State XC Masters Championship at Stumptown #4 over 8 Km, leading his team to first, ahead of the powerful Bowerman TC Masters team. In fact, Red Lizard took 1-2-3. Joshua Monda, who finished 2nd, is not entered currently but Torrey Lindbo, who finished 3rd, continues to represent the Red Lizard 40+ team well, even though he has graduated into the 50+ age range. But they were not a tight1-2-3. Lindbo was almost two minutes back from Stout. Steven DeKoker did not race at Stumptown, but he did head to NYC to finish 2nd in the Masters Race at the Abbot Dash to the Finish in 16:14. Everything points to Red Lizard being in the hunt for the podium. 

The Garden State Track Club finished 9th last year and hope to move up this year; the 2nd place finish of their 50+ team last year has inspired them. Their top two in Tallahassee were Kevin Shirk and Fabian Eduardo Daza, finishing 6th and 18th. But there was a 4-minute gap back to their #3 runner. They have added runners to fill that gap. Aaron Totten-Lancaster did not run last year for GSTC but did run 2nd to Daza at the 12 Km Masters Championships in NJ this September. He finished 1:25 back as Daza and he gave Garden State 5th and 13thEdan Rosenberg, Charles ‘Chuck’ SchneeklothSam Teigen and Shawn Williams will try to tighten up the pack so GSTC can move into the top 5. Teigen is back and rejuvenated after a couple of years away from national competition. He ran 27:04 at the Ashenfelter 8K last weekend. Shawn Williams may also contribute more this year. he was just ten seconds behind Teigen at that same 8K, running a minute and a half faster than he did in 2021. Schneekloth is a middle-distance runner who has not participated in many national cross country championships. In September 2019 he ran in the USATF-NJ Championships, finishing 2:26 seconds behind Dazain 2018 he finished 1:50 behind Williams in the same event. Top five could be achievable; top 3 seems a stretch.


Chase Pack a Kilometer into the race at Tallahassee 2021 from right, Matthew Waggoner #782, Joe Borg #797John Poray #1133Chris Naimoli #781, Ben Koss #1021Konrad Knutsen #1020David Wertz #800Thomas Burns #1128. Dickson Mercer overlooking the field ahead between, and just behind, Naimoli and Koss. This is where many points can be won and lost. It is vital to keep pace with the group!

The HOKA Aggie Running Club will have up front power. Sergio Reyes, still in the first year of transitioning from Open Elite, will headline the Aggies. He won the Masters race at Cross Nationals in San Diego this past January with almost a minute to spare. He will have to deal with West Valley's Malcolm Richards in the team competition. Both Reyes and Richards competed in the Open race at Tallahassee, with Richard running almost two minutes faster. But at the recent Pacific Association XC Championships, Reyes edged Richards by 2 seconds over 8K. It should be fun to see their rematch over 10K. But Reyes will, almost surely, finish in the top three, along with Richards and Benjamin Bruce, who is here without a complete HOKA Naz Elite Masters team. Bruce will not count in the team scoring. Jaime Heilpern ran without his HOKA Aggie teammates in Tallahassee last year, finishing 13th overall. If he can do that well this year, that would give them two runners in the top 15, an excellent start! Carolos Siquieros finished 4th Masters at the Urban Cow HM in 1:14:18 this October, with his teammate, Justin Patanana, 6th at 1:16:13. J.T. Service finished within a minute of Heilpern at the PA XC Championships and Sequieros was only another 25 seconds back. That is probably not tight enough for the podium. But if Patanana can stay close to Sequieros and Service, top 5 could be their reward.

Joshua McAdams and his Boise Betties and Billies team tested the waters at Tallahassee last year. McAdams finished 4th overall in 33:38; the team finished 15th. He got strong support from John Foster, the #2 runner for Boise. But the three minutes between them allowed 44 runners in. And it was another 50 runners before the #3 runner scored. They have done some recruiting to shore up the support team. With Kevin Everett, Zeb Perez, and Paul Davis added, they appear to have runners #3-5 who can finish much closer to Foster. But it does not look like they have a runner who can run much closer to McAdams. Top ten seems a reasonable goal for Boise. Top 5 seems a bit out of reach yet.

The Bull City Track Club, which finished 12th in Tallahassee last December, has entered. Paul Jones competed, finishing 52nd M40+ with a 37:06.  Other entries this year who competed at Tallahassee include: Jason Page 37:16  57th; Marc Jeulland 37:33 64th. Their #4 and 5 runners from last December, Tim Meigs and Aaron Hale are not entered. Two others are, Allen Baddour and Michael Bulleri. In 2021, Baddour ran London in 2:41:18 and the October Boston in 2:48:08. In that sense, Baddour would be a close substitute for Meigs, who ran the same race at Boston just 18 seconds faster. Bulleri would also seem a worthy substitute for Hale. Between July and October of this year, he ran an 18:28 5K, a 38:07 10K at the Beach to Beacon and a 1:00:36 10 Miler. It seems the team is about as strong this year as last; moving up into the top ten would seem a worthy goal.

The Dukes out of Albuquerque are also bringing a team; they finished 4th at Boulder. They will have Phillip Keller along, who did not compete at Boulder. He adds a third strong runner to their top two of Brantley Lutz and Brett Winegar but is not likely to make enough difference to launch them into top 5 contention. 

Sergio Reyes cap leads Roosevelt Cook sunglasses right on Reyes's heelsJacques Sallberg #221Wesley Reutimann #325 and Okwaro Raura #182 on the first loop at 2022 Cross Nationals in San Diego.

Club Northwest is in; they finished 5th at Clubs in Spokane but skipped the following year at Lehigh. Last year they were just outside the top ten in 11thDavid Simmons, who led the way at Tallahassee with a 20th place in 40+ at 35:15, had to wait 2 minutes before their #2 runner, Ian Fraser was able to cross the line. No doubt they are hoping for a tighter pack this year.  Paul Mannino, their #4 runner is back. They have several entries who did not compete at Tallahassee including: Mark Bloudek, Brian Houck, Gabriel Kliot, William Richardson and Lance Thompson. Will one or more of these 'new' runners launch Northwest into the top ten? Northwest did not compete at Lehigh, but Mark Bloudek did, running 36:59. Houck has a 2:53:05 Houston Marathon in January and a 16:08 5K on the 4th of July, good evidence of both endurance and speed. Kliot ran 2:32:48 in London last October and 2:29:42 at Chicago this October. Kliot should be capable of a very good Cross Country outing! Thompson ran 34:03 at Lehigh, finishing 9th overall. That was his high mark after a 24th at Spokane and a 19th at Lexington Clubs. Thompson finished 13 seconds behind Houck at the Pac NW XC Championships over 5 miles. Kliot was 5 seconds behind Thompson, with Mannino just 3 seconds further back. Will they sort out differently when under more pressure and over a longer distance? Simmons continued to run strongly through spring and summer, evidenced by a 32:30 10K in April and a 27:11 8K in late July. He has apparently not competed in their XC outings this fall. With five strong runners entered, they seem poised to manage top ten and possibly top 5. 

Pacers/GRC finished 7th at Tallahassee last year; they are back. Can they move up? One of their runners, Dickson Mercer had a good day again this year at the Masters 12 Km Championships on a warm day on the Jersey Shore. He finished 6th overall, coming in ahead of all of the Indiana Elite except for Davis. Mercer knows the Golden Gate XC course; he ran in the Open 'B' race there in 2015. Perhaps that will be a plus. They have acquired Charles Ban who ran in the Open race at Tallahassee last year. Had he run the same time in the Masters race, he would have finished 44th. So he firms up the middle of their team. Moving up into the top 5 could be achievable.

The SRA Elite, who finished 7th in Spokane, but skipped Lehigh and Tallahassee, are back. Konrad Knutsen was #4 runner for West Valley last year, finishing 23rd; he gives SRA at least one quality runner. Knutsen should get solid support from Jesse Barragan, Charlie Brenneman, Jedediah Soliz and Scott Abbott.  Barragan and Brenneman ran 1-2 for SRA at Spokane, finishing just 1 second apart in 26th and 29th M40. At the PA XC Championships last month, Barragan and Knutsen finished 4th and 5th, just 6 seconds apart. If Brenneman can stay close to those two, SRA can do some damnage. Abbott was a half-minute back from Brenneman in Spokane, in 46th M40. Galen Farris, who is now entered, ran a 16:40 5k a week ago and finished just a minute back from Barragan at the Masters 10-Mile Championships in Sacramento. Without a true front runner or two and/or a tighter pack, it will be hard for SRA to get close to the podium.

Three Hundred meters into the 2022 Masters 5 Km Championships at Boulder- from right Adam Rich #186, Neville Davey looking over Rich's right shoulder, Neil McDonagh#144, Anthony Bruns #34, Jonathan Huie #275, Anthony Gallo #91, Jerry Snider #214. Chris Gomez, the ultimate winner, appears to be right behind McDonagh, looking over his left shoulder--4700 meters and lots of fireworks to go! Photo Courtesy of Dave Albo

A number of other teams are back, with complete rosters, to test themselves against the strongest teams in the country. Empire Runners, Excelsior, LRC Nebraska, Movin Shoes, Pama Kids, Phoenix Free Soles, and TC Running Company. They have plenty of fast runners. But, unless I am mistaken, they do not have teams that are strong enough to be contenders.

Chris Gomez won the 2022 Masters 5 Km Men's Championship in Boulder CO, leading Team Run Flagstaff to victory
Club Cross will, as always, be a shootout among several top teams. It is hard to see Indiana Elite not making the podium. West Valley appears to need reinforcements in their top 5; they will be stretched to make the podium. I expected a few late entries; I wonder if the early close of registration made a difference. Bowerman, like Indiana, has all of their top runners back and appears to have a bit more depth than last year in the 4-7 slots, which can be important. Bowerman is poised to battle for the top three again. The B.A.A., as currently configured, looks to have lost ground, overall, to Bowerman, despite adding a front-runner in Blake. Team Run Flagstaff beat West Valley in Boulder but it was not a complete West Valley team, and they will not have the extra advantage from a high-altitude course. But they are a strong team, no doubt, and are staying with the same individuals that ran so well in Boulder. Garden State, HOKA Aggies, and Team Red Lizard have all improved and will pressure those teams for the podium. I will go, for now, with Bowerman, Indiana, and West Valley picked for the podium. But, as usual, with Clubs, I view there to be a high degree of uncertainty that will partly depend on what the weather does, if anything, and how teams handle it. A week in advance now, it looks like low 50's with a good chance of some light rain from Thursday evening through Friday night. As of now the forecast for Saturday morning shows a 50-50 chance of rain. Yesterday I was picking West Valley 40+ to finish off the podium on their 'home turf'; Davey, Gilmore, Rose and several others were undeclared so I missed them. Now that I know they are available for the A team of West Valley, I have to include West Valley for the podium. They, no doubt, feel they are the hometown favorite! I have to bump someone. I bump Flagstaff. It will be up to them on Saturday to prove me wrong!

Top 3 Contenders*: Bowerman Track Club     Indiana Elite Athletic Club     West Valley Track Club    

*For all divisions, in alphabetical order.

Men 50+ Last year the West Valley Track Club, the Garden State Track Club and the Central Mass Striders went 1-2-3 in the 50+ team competition. West Valley won with 29 points from 1-2-6-7-13, winning by 33 points. You can bet that West Valley aims to repeat! Their top 5 at Tallahassee were Mark Yuen, who was running out of this world, taking home the team 50+ win with a margin of over 90 seconds. His teammate, Ivan Lieben, took 2nd and was followed by David White, Charles Mullane, and Mark Callon. They went to Boulder this October and brought home the gold medals, coming in 9 points ahead of a strong Boulder Road Runners team. The main difference was that Yuen was #5, not #1. He must have had an injury or something else that interrupted his training between Tallahassee and Boulder. If he is actively on the comeback trail, as seems likely, he may be closer to the front in San Francisco than the Boulder results suggests. If not, it will be harder for West Valley to dominate the 50+ race as they did at Tallahassee. 

Finishing the second loop at Tallahassee 2021-From left: Gregory Putnam 50-54, John Howell 45-49, Craig Godwin 50-54 visible between Putnam and Howell, Mike Cole 45-49 #1129, Peter Hammer 55-59 visible over Cole's left shoulder, and Nat Larson 55-59 just visible looking over Hammer's left shoulder.

The Garden State Track Club finished 2nd last year. They made up for the lack of a true front-runner with a very tight pack! Taking 10-11-12-14-15, with just 40 seconds from their 1st to 5th runner, Garden State accumulated just 62 points, taking 2nd by a large margin. Their scoring runners were, in order, Richard 'Rocky' Falcone, Elliott Frieder, Todd Wiley, Jonathan Frieder, and Joseph Hegge. The big difference is that E. Frieder is limited now to training on the treadmill and cannot compete in San Francisco. Ordinarily that would be a devastating blow to the hopes of a team relying on a tight pack. In this case, however, it turns out that Marco Cardoso aged up into the 50's at the perfect time. At the 12 Km Championships at Highlands in mid-September, J. Frieder, Wiley, and Cardoso finished 21st, 22nd, and 23rd overall just two seconds apart! And Hegge was just a half minute back. Cardoso aged up between then and now and is entered as one of their 50+ team members. They would have been even better with E Frieder in the crew, but the GSTC tight pack returns! There is no insurance; everyone has to be on their game! 

And what about the Central Mass Striders? Third a year ago in 50+, they are not yet entered for San Francisco. I have heard that Gregory Putnam, their top runner, will not make the trip. Apparently, others have decided against it as well. That opens up a spot on the M 50+ podium!

Club Northwest was the 4th place team last year. Five of their top 6 return, but not their #2 at Tallahassee, Ben Sauvage. Their usual #1, Emmet Hogan, is back and in fine form. He won the Pac NW XC Masters 50-54 Championships in 28:10. Their #3 and #4 runners from last year, Blair Cossey and Jeff Hashimoto, also return, fresh off their 29:47 and 29:40 efforts to win M55 and finish 2nd in M50 at PNW XC. Their #5 and #6 runners from last year, Glen Weissman and Ben Brauer, did not compete at the PNW XC but are entered. Weissman has been active on the roads this fall, running a 1:24:53 at the St Jude RnR Washington HM and then a 1:22:37 at the Princeton HM in NJ. They were sandwiched around a 35:56 10 Km so Weissman seems ready to roll. John Leo was a minute and change behind Weissman at the HM. I cannot find anything for Brauer since Tallahassee. Steve Heaps and Sean Messiter, who are also entered, provided solid support at the PNW XC with Heaps a minute and a half behind Cossey and Messiter another 90 seconds or so further back. Club Northwest looks pretty solid for top three.

Leaders of the Garden State 50+ pack at Tallahassee 2021, Richard 'Rocky' Falcone #732 and Todd Wiley #752 keeping the pressure on with John Markell #1023 45-49, Jeff Zeha #1135 40-44 and Matt Yacoub lime green singlet 45-49.

The Bowerman Track Club was 5th at Tallahassee. Bowerman took 2nd in 50+ to Club NW's 3rd at Spokane. A year later it was Club NW in 2nd and Bowerman not participating. It was good to see that regional rivalry play out on the national stage again last year. Numbers 1-4 and #6 from Tallahassee are back for Bowerman, Craig Godwin ran 16:30 at the Bowerman 5K in mid-September. #2, Matt Farley, tested himself, and took M50 honors, with the 15-mile option of the Smith Rock Ascent in May, enjoying the 3,000' of vertical climb to the views from the rock. He and their #6 from last year, Gregory Coughlan ran the USATF NW XC Championships on the 20th of November, with Coughlan 4th M50 in 31:09 and Farley a half minute back in 5th. Eric Hartmann, #3 at Tallahassee, clocked 18:24 in the Bowerman 5K, finishing 7 seconds behind Coughlan, who seems to have moved up in their order, relative to Tallahassee. Paul Smith, #4 last December. ran a 44:30 12K at the Sound to Narrows race in June. With Coughlan performing better this fall, it may be that the loss of #5, Ian Berman, from last year's crew, is not a serious blow. A latish entry is Paul White. He competed at Cross Nationals earlier this year at San Diego in the 45-49 division, running 29:52. That suggests that had he run in Tallahassee as a 50-year-old, he might well have finished, individually, in the second five of the division. That makes them a good bet for the podium. Some late-breaking news is that Godwin appears to be experiencing some as yet undiagnosed health difficulties coming into Clubs. If Godwin is not at full strength or cannot compete, that complicates things for Bowerman.

Three of the top 4 runners from Tallahassee for the TC Running Company, out of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, are not entered. The crew finished 6th in M50+ last December. Matthew Waite and Jim Larranga, their #2 and #5 runners from Tallahassee are entered, but TC will surely miss Kelly Mortenson, John Van Danacker, and Allan Severude. Robert Economy, who finished just two seconds behind Larranaga at Tallahassee, finished a half minute ahead of him at the recent Minnesota XC Championships. That suggests Economy and Larranaga can be a good 4-5 combo for TC. TC has two new runners in Greg Hexum and Brent Roeger. All I could learn about Hexum was that in 2019 he clocked 8:43:26 to claim 2nd place Overall and 1st Masters in the Superior Fall 50 Mile Trail Race. Roeger, on the other hand, has some nice running from 2018 in the record, a 17:28 in the Brian Kraft 5K and a 2:42:43 in Grandma's Marathon, 2nd in 45-49 that year. If he retains that kind of fitness, Roeger can ably fill in for Van Danacker or Severude. Roeger looks like he could give them a good #3 runner. It is hard to translate Hexum's 50 Mile Trail Race result into a XC projection. Finishing 2nd overall is certainly an achievement, but there were only 129 athletes entered. It is hard to know how competitive the field was.  But it looks like TC's fall off may not be as drastic as it first looked. But they will need to be at their best to move up into the top 5.

50+ Chase Pack, slugging it out in the trenches with some 40+ runners-From Right: Craig Godwin #971, Nick Martin #975 40-44, Michael Nahom#665 50-54, John Montgomery #1025 45-49 and Todd Wiley yellow and black behind Montgomery.

What other complete teams might be in the mix? The Atlanta Track Club always has to be considered. They finished 9th at Tallahassee but should be more competitive this go-round. Their #'s 1, 3, and 4 runners from Tallahassee, Steve Bell, Michael Strickland, and Fred Weir, are back. They all seem ready to roll. Bell ran a 16:10 at the fast Macon Labor Day 5K, and a 16:31 at another 5K in October. He also took the 50-54 title at Peachtree with a 36:02. Strickland clocked 38:24 to take 2nd M55 at Peachtree and ran 45:55 to take 5th in 55-59 at the 12 km National Championships in NJ. Fred Weir ran 37:35 to take 5th in 55-59 at the 10 Km Masters Championships in Dedham MA. More recently he clocked 17:10 at the Macon Labor Day 5K. Importantly, Brent Fields and Brad Slavens have moved up from 45-49. Had Fields been running in 50+ last year at Tallahassee, he would have finished 9th. Slavens, based on comparisons with Fields across road races, looks like he might have finished somewhere around 25th-30th or so. Frederick Dolan and Scott Siriano appear to be good support runners. On October 8th, Dolan ran 2:50:19 to finish 1st in 45-49 at the Eversource Hartford Marathon in CT. The intervening weeks have not only given Dolan time to recover from the marathon, but time to celebrate his 50th birthday as well. Siriano started the year affiliated with West Valley but during the year transitioned from West Valley to Unattached and has apparently completed the transition to Atlanta. Siriano's most recent efforts include a 5:12 to take 6th in 55-59 at the 1 Mile Championships in Rochester; a 46:29 to take 7th in 55-59 at the 12 km Championships in NJ; and a 20:57 at the 5 Km Masters Championships in Boulder for 13th in M55. They shore up the #4 to #7 spots in ATC's order. Finishing in the second five seems a reasonable projection but if Dolan and Siriano have good days and push, or surpass, Atlanta's top 5, that could elevate Atlanta towards the podium.

The Boulder Road Runners finished 9th in Tallahassee. Flavio De Simone, John Probst, and Kevin Konczak return from their #1, #2 and #4 runner efforts for Boulder at Tallahassee. De Simone ran 19:14 to take 9th in M50 at the 5 Km Masters XC in Boulder and followed that with a 19:08 at the De Reuck XC Classic in November. Konczak ran a 1:26:46 Half Marathon as part of a 70.3 Ironman competition in July and Probst took on a 70.3 Ironman challenge at Couer d'Alene ID in June. John Borthwick, Rick Granquist, and Chris McDonald will provide solid support, as they did at the 5 Km Masters XC at Boulder where they finished 9th and 4th respectively in M55 and 11th in M50. That might enable them to move up within the top ten, but it appears unlikely they can move up to the top echelon unless they have an ace up their sleeve to enter yet.

The Cal Coast Track Club finished 10th last year but should move up with the addition of John Gardiner who has aged up. Christian 'Cush' Cushing-Murray has had a fine year and appears primed for a good effort. He went up to Boulder for the Masters 5 km XC and competed well at altitude, claiming 3rd in 19:15 behind Bowerman's Craig Godwin and West Valley's David White. He just clocked 34:21 in the Dana Point Turkey Trot 10K this past week. Gardiner ran 15:59 at Carlsbad in May. If his current conditioning is close to that, he should be able to lead the Cal Coast crew around GG Park. If Cushing-Murray races as well as his last few efforts, that 1-2 effort could propel Cal Coast up within the top ten. Whether it could get them into the top 5 depends on some of their support crew, Rob Arsenault, Bob Brisco, Frederick 'Rick' Herr, Thomas Schumann, or Matthew Underwood, stepping up and staying close to their top two. Perhaps a 9:57 guy in the 3200 Meters, Gray Mavhera, can run in their top three? There was over 4 minutes last year between Cushing-Murray and Cal Coast's next M50+ runner; if that happens again this year, Cal Coast will not be in the top 5.

On the first loop at the Mission Bay course in San Diego for 2022 Cross Nationals, Christian Cushing-Murray #211 50-54 sets the pace for Chris McDonald #188 50-54, Orestes Gutierrez #195 45-49 and two others

Excelsior will depend on Cliff Lentz and James Scanlan to lead the way. Lentz ran 2:47:20 at berlin this September and Lentz had three sub-1:20 half marathons this year including a 1:17:27 at the Kaiser Permanente HM in SF. Pamakids will test themselves against these other top teams.

Greater Springfield, the team that dominated this division in 2016-19, will not have a complete team. Nat Larson will compete for the top spot in a loaded M60+ race over 8K. Francis Burdett, Christopher Gould, and Michael Nahom will compete unattached. 

The HOKA Aggies did not field a team in Tallahassee. They have one here even though their strongest 50+ runner, Jaime Heilpern, will run with the 40+ team. They have a solid team but without a front runner like Heilpern, contesting for the podium would be a longshot.

The SRA Elite did not field a 50+ team at Tallahassee, nor in the last few, but they have a 7-man team entered that looks very solid. David Mastro ran a 16:35 5K and earlier in March, clocked a 57:01 at the NorCal 10 Miler. His Sactown outing was much slower; SRA needs Mastro to run as he did at the NorCal John Frank 10 Mile Run. Joe Van De Water outran Mastro at Sactown, clocking 1:00:05; he can provide good support. Darren Morgan ran a 16:48 5K this November and was 6th in the 50-54 division at the 10 Mile Championships at Sactown in 58:06. He ran 1:20:40 at the Urban Cow HM last year, but 1:29:36 this year. As with Mastro, SRA is counting on the Morgan who can crack 17 in the 5K and run a low 1:20's HM. He finished 20 seconds behind Van de Water at the PA XC Championships on November 20th. Marc Flores provides the important #4 runner. He ran a 17:52 5K this year and had a 1:25:12 outing at the Clarksburg HM. If Dan Mancini has the kind of fitness that he had in 2020 when he ran a 1:23:05 at the Davis Stampede HM, he provides another strong team member, perhaps stronger than Flores. But he was over three minutes back from Morgan at the PA XC Championships so that seems doubtful.  This is one of the teams that could move ahead of Cal Coast and have a good shot at a top five team finish. If Mancini's fitness remains off, Michael Aguilar, who ran 1:03:50 at Sactown, will need to step up and finish close to their first four. 

Mark Yuen, at the top of his game, ran away from the field and led West Valley to victory in the 50+ Team Competiton at 2021 Club Cross in Tallahassee

Other teams like Pama Kids, River City Rebels, and the Santa Cruz Track Club have many strong runners and will compete hard but will have a difficult time getting into the top 5.

As noted, it looks like West Valley 40+ will need their very best effort to make the podium. Not so with West Valley 50+. They are strong favorites for the win. Garden State is in good shape for the podium, but they have no room for error. All 5 of their runners need to be on. Club NW should make the podium, especially if Godwin of Bowerman is either absent or not at his best. If any of those three teams falter, there are others poised to move up!

Top 3 Contenders*: Club Northwest     Garden State Track Club     West Valley Track Club    

*For all divisions, in alphabetical order.

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