Friday, January 20, 2023


 January 20, 2023 Late updates--tips from either the runner themselves, a teammate, or a significant other.

1. Abby Dean Apparently, Abby Dean, the top favorite for the 50-54 title and a threat for the Overall podium is running primarily for the team. She tore her hamstring a few weeks back and has been training just for a couple of weeks ‘since PRP for her torn hamstring’ and probably won’t push it...but there was a hint of if she feels good during the race, she might just push it a little bit. We shall see.

2. Lorraine Jasper is not entered with her Greater Philly 60+ teammates. I was worried the injury she sustained last summer was still limiting her. One of her teammates said, no, that she had a prior commitment to an Indoor track event. Good news.

3. Chris Naimoli, who I wrote about as kind of a wildcard threat for the Overall win and 40+ division, is coming off a December leg injury. Naimoli is coming down to Richmond for the team as a substitute for Darryl Brown who had a snow-boarding mishap that will keep him out of the race. With Naimoli limited right now, what would have been a roughly equal substitution, is now a weakening of the team. But Naimoli says watch out for Scott Burns, one of his Greater Philly teammates, who beat Naimoli at the Rothman 8K on Philly Marathon weekend...before Naimoli sustained his leg injury!

4. Jan Frisby will run, but just for the sake of the Boulder Road Runners 70+ team. Frisby has not fully recovered from a glute issue; he ran a 36:00 plus 4 Miler recently to test things out. He feels anything under 9:00 a mile would be fine progress. He also reports that Jeff Dumas will not be making the trip after all for Boulder. That opened up a spot for Frisby to run as #5. It is always good to have insurance! If everything goes to form, the substitution will make little difference to the 70+ team outcome. But I had picked Dumas for third in 7z5-79. That opens a spot for either Keith Yeates or Jim May to move up to challenge for that last podium spot.

That's it for rumors, tips, and late-breaking news--although I am sure there is some news I have not heard about. May the races be spirited!

January 17, 2023. Each day brings us closer to the next Cross Country excitement, the USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond, VA. 

It is a selection event for the Open and U20 races, where the top finishers are offered the chance to compete for the USA at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia the weekend of February 18-19, 2023. The top Overall winners of the Masters Women's and Masters Men's races will be offered funding in the form of reimbursement to compete in the WMA Cross Country Championships that same weekend on the same site at Bathurst, Australia. Given the late notification the possibility of any funding for Masters athletes seemed slim; this funding should be the precursor of future USATF funding for WMA XC events across age divisions as is the case for the WMA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. The 2024 WMA XC Championships will be in Croatia, with the 2026 Championships to be held in Tallahassee, FL.

The weather forecast for the Masters races in Richmond is holding up so far. At 11 AM on Saturday, Jan 21: 43 F, with 5 mph winds, 57% humidity, under clear skies. In the run up to race day there was just 0.1" of rain on Wednesday and on Thursday it was mostly cloudy with a few minor rain showers with no measurable precipitation. With mostly sunny weather on Thursday and sunny on Saturday, any moisture will have a chance to dry out. Considering weather in January, it looks like fine cross country conditions. It will be interesting to see how soft the grass is under foot. The Women's race is at 10:30 AM, the Men's at 11:30 AM.

In the first article I previewed the Overall Masters Races; this one has a focus on Age Division contests first and then Age Grading.


Start of the Women's Masters Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo Credit: Pam Fales

WOMEN 40-44 The preview of the Overall Race works for this division as well. The podium prediction for Overall contains three 40-44 athletes: Brett Ely Notch Brewing RunnersApril Lund GYS Track Club, and Kara Rubinich Greater Philadelphia. As noted, other athletes could factor into the podium race, including Erika Holroyd and Jennifer Langford.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Brett Ely     April Lund     Kara Rubinich

45-49 A late registrant has jumped into this division and is likely the division favorite unless others enter before Wednesday midnight. Brennan Liming Bull City could also challenge for the Overall podium. She has two Top 5 Club Cross finishes to her credit, in 2017 at Lexington KY and in 2019 on the Lehigh course in Bethlehem, PA. She has no recent Cross Country results at the national level but she is still plenty fast. She clocked a 1:03:28 10 Miler last October and ran a 29:45 8K on Thanksgiving. The former is age grade equivalent to a 38:36 10K, and the latter to an 18:21 5K. Kathy Wiegand Atlanta is a very solid 45-49 division runner. She finished 4th in the Division at Tallahassee in '21 and 5 months later took a 4th place in the 45-49 10 Km Championship in Dedham, MA. Last fall her 5K's were in the 24–25-minute range, but she finished 7th in the Masters 5 Km Championships in February 2022 in 20:32. Kimberly Dietrich Greater Philadelphia does not have recent national experience in Cross Country, but she finished 7th at the Masters 12 Km Championships in 54:04, age grade equivalent to a 44:40 10KM. But Dietrich also ran 59:53 over the 8.4 Mile Schuylkill River Loop in December, age grade equivalent to a 43:36 10K. Dietrich and Wiegand seem closely matched on the roads. Will Wiegand's more extensive experience on the turf settle the matter? Should any of those three have an off day, Wiegand's Atlanta teammate, Hiroko Guarneri Atlanta and Catherine Moore unattached will not be far back. Guarneri finished 2 and a half minutes behind Wiegand at Tallahassee and a few minutes back in Dedham. Moore ran the Richmond Marathon last year in 1:39:44.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Kimberly Dietrich     Brennan Liming     Kathy Wiegand

50-54 Abby Dean Greater Philadelphia, the 2022 Masters National Grand Prix winner, was mentioned as having an outside shot at the Overall win. That would be a longshot but winning the division would not be. Samantha Forde Impala Racing will give top effort, but Dean has been too fast on the roads, coming in over 3 minutes ahead at the 12 Km Masters Championships and the better part of two minutes ahead at the 5 Km Championships in Atlanta. They have not met on the turf, but both have competed at USATF Cross Country championships before. Dean finished top 20 overall and 4th in the division at Tallahassee. Forde finished 6th in the division at the 5 Km XC Championships in Boulder and 14th W50 at Clubs in San Francisco. We know Forde can race on mile high turf and race through a torrent of wind and rain! Other podium contenders include Dean's Greater Philadelphia teammate, Patricia Heppelman, who took 4th in the 45-49 division at the 12 Km Championships with a time a minute and a half slower than Forde. Brenda Hodge Unattached has not run in recent XC Championships but, in 2014, when she was 43, she finished just outside the top ten in the 40-44 division at the 2014 Club Cross Championships at the Lehigh course in Bethlehem PA. More recently she ran 5K's last year in 20:52 on Thanksgiving and 21:50 on New Year's Day. Earlier in the year she clocked a swift 1:11:03 10Miler at the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. If she can channel that kind of energy into Saturday's race on the turf, she can push Heppelman for the podium. As of now, though it looks like Dean, Forde and Heppelman are the ones to beat.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Abby Dean     Samantha Forde     Patricia Heppelman

Leading Women at the USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships at Boulder CO Photo Credit: Dave Albo

55-59 There will be fireworks in this division. Marisa Sutera Strange Shore AC took the division crown at the Lehigh Club Cross in Bethlehem; Suzanne La Burt, also Shore, took 2nd at Tallahassee behind Michelle Rohl (not entered at Richmond); and Fiona Bayly Unattached won the division at Clubs in San Francisco where she ran for Garden State

In one of those, 'It can't be!' moments, Strange, at age 55, won the Overall Masters Championship at 2019 Cross Nationals in Tallahassee! That is even more unlikely this time around at 59, but it gives an idea of what a strong runner Strange is on the turf! For what it is worth, and that is not much in XC, Bayly had the fastest time over 6 Km of those 3 recent turf efforts with a 23:41, followed by Strange's 23:55 and La Burt's 24:39. But each of those Championships had their unique characteristics and challenges. San Francisco definitely had the most wind and rain, but I would classify Lehigh as having worse mud under foot than San Francisco. Tallahassee had neither, but it was very warm. As in the old fable about the contest between the Wind and the Sun to get a hiker to remove his coat, warmth will cause runners to slow down more than mud or rain or wind, perhaps!? Bayly definitely has the greater speed on the roads. She clocked two 5K's last fall a tick over 18:30; Strange clocked 19:29 at Freihofer's, and La Burt had 5K races at 19:54 and 19:58. If there has to be a favorite, I suppose it is Bayly, but it will be a treat to see these three terrific athletes battling for the 55-59 crown on Saturday! With those three likely leading the way, it will be tough for two other fine runners to make their way to the podium. Terri Rath Greater Philadelphia ran a 22:00 5K on Thanksgiving and a 23:06 on New Year's Day. Deelyn Robinson Colonial Road Runners turned in a 1:37:30 at the Richmond Half Marathon a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and a 22:19 5K on New Year's Day. They appear to be closely matched. It should be a great duel.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Fiona Bayly     Suzanne La Burt     Marisa Sutera Strange

60-64 With Lorraine Jasper Greater Philadelphia absent, perhaps still on the mend from last year's injury, it appears that Suzanne Cordes Impala Racing and Jasper's Greater Philadelphia teammate, Doreen McCoubrie will be contending for the top spot. McCoubrie's work commitments peak in December; she can rarely make it to Club Cross. She did compete at Cross Nationals in Tallahassee in 2018, finishing a good two minutes ahead of Cordes. Whether that was an off day for Cordes or not, she has been on recently. She went up to Boulder and brought back the top 60-64 prize, and then took 4th at the highly competitive Club Cross Championships in San Francisco. Based on that history, McCoubrie should have the edge, but Cordes will not concede an inch. Mary Swan, also of Greater Philadelphia, will be in the hunt as well. She finished just 12 seconds behind Cordes at Tallahassee in December 2021 and 39 seconds back at Boulder. If any of those three have an off day, the third Greater Philadelphia runner, Julie Hayden, will not be far back. She took 10th in 60-64 at the Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta with a 22:56. On paper it looks like the most likely order will be McCoubrie, Cordes, and Swan, but that is why we run races. We will know by 11 am on Saturday.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Suzanne Cordes      Doreen McCoubrie     Mary Swan

Second Wave of Women Runners in the Masters Race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee Photo Credit: Michael Scott

60-64 In September 2021, Nora Cary Shore ACat the age of 66, broke the 65-69 American 12 K record with a 51:09 effort. This past November, at the age of 67, Cary broke the 65-69 American 8K record with a sterling 34:18. Cary has speed to burn on the roads, but she is a strong XC runner as well. At Clubs in San Francisco, Cary could not keep up with the new kid on the block, 65-year-old Cross Country Ace, Joannie Siegler (not entered for Richmond), but she beat the rest of the field by the better part of two minutes! Susan Stirrat Shore AC cannot keep up with her teammate, Nora Cary, but she looks to be the next strongest runner with a good shot at 2nd place. The 2022 65-69 Masters National Grand Prix Champion took 3rd in the division at Tallahassee. She also finished 4th at the 10 Km Masters Championships in Dedham in April with a 52:09. Stirrat found stiffer competition at Boulder and San Francisco where she finished farther back. But Stirrat is a battler who will not give up. Apart from Cary, the runner who is likely to give her the most trouble is Deborah Snagg Unattached. I cannot find recent results for Snagg, but in November 2019, she ran in the Footlocker Cross Country South Regional, Masters Division, clocking 24:47. In November 2022, she ran again, clocking 24:12. As both races were on the McAlpine Greenway course in Charlotte, NC over 5 Km, they are as comparable as any two XC results are. Snagg is, apparently, a dedicated XC runner. One cannot compare times reliably across different courses and years, but those two times are certainly faster than Stirrat's 5 Km XC times at Boston and Boulder. Cary, in 2019, ran in the New Jersey Association XC Championships over a 5 km course in 22:16. And her 26:09 at Lehigh Clubs in 2019 over a 6 km xc course equates to a 21:40. With all of the usual caveats, both efforts hold up well compared to Snagg. If any of those three should falter, Helene Myers Unattached could find herself on the podium.

On second thought, I am leaning towards a finishing order of Cary-Snagg-Stirrat but, as always, it will be enlightening to see how the race turns out!

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Nora Cary     Deborah Snagg     Susan Stirrat

70-74 When Kathryn 'Kathy' Martin's Unattached name appeared on the Status of Entries page on Wednesday, January 18th, this division preview had to be rewritten. Martin has not been at a national cross country event since 2016. She won the division at San Francisco Clubs in 2015 and at Lehigh in Bethlehem PA in 2014.  From 2002-2016 Martin was the Women's Masters Harrier of the Year 11 times, an extraordinary achievement. Did I mention that she was also elected to the Masters Hall of Fame for both LDR and Track and Field accomplishments. Although she has not been active on the national scene, she has continued to race in her home area of Long Island and the vicinity. In 2022, she ran 21:28 and 21:51 5K's, as well as a 34:56 5-Miler. Two weeks ago, she ran a 12:31 3000-Meters on the Armory track in New York City. Suffice to say she is fit! She is a strong favorite to win her division on Saturday. Kathleen Allen Atlanta TC has been a reliable turf runner for her team. She won the division at Lehigh in 2019 with a 36:27. She ran a similar time in Tallahassee, finishing 5th in the division. She was among a few flatlanders who braved the altitude at Boulder, finishing 7th in the division. Her 30:18 time in the Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta, where she took 4th in the division, is useful for comparing to her competition. Kathleen Doswell Unattached apparently has some lake swims and triathlons in her background but has stuck to the roads recently. This past year, Doswell finished 10th in 70-74 at the Masters Ten Mile Championships in Sacramento with a 1:45:28. That equates roughly to a 30:41 5K, which is comparable to Allen's time in Atlanta. Apart from the general difficulty of comparing a ten mile and a 5K time, Allen's 5K was on an 'Atlanta Flat' course, meaning only a little bit hilly, while the ten-mile course in Sacramento was pretty flat. Also, both before and after that effort, Doswell's time in a 15K and a different 10-Miler were at a bit slower pace. For that reason, along with her experience on the turf, Allen looks like the favorite in this duel of the Kathleen's. But it is clear she cannot take Doswell for granted. Martin's credentials trump both.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Kathleen Allen     Kathleen Doswell     Kathryn Martin

Masters Women Sprint to the Finish Line at the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships on the Lehigh University Course at Bethlehem PA Photo Credit: Michael Scott

75-79 Andrea McCarter Atlanta TC, the 2022 Masters National Grand Prix winner in this division, is unopposed. Last year she won at the Road Mile Championships in Rochester, finished 2nd on the Mile high turf at Boulder, and finished 3rd at the 5 Km Championships in Atlanta. She is on a roll; she also competed at Club Cross in San Francisco, earning a 2nd place with her 51:23. Unless someone else in this Age Division registers before midnight PT on Wednesday, Mc Carter will have a win in the bag for the 2023 MNGP contest to go with her silver medal in San Francisco.

Podium Prediction:

Andrea McCarter

80-84 No entries.

85-89 With two runners entered, this division is more competitive than 75-79 and 80-84. I do not find any recent evidence of Cross Country events for Joyce Hodges-Hite Atlanta TC so Tami Graf Potomac Valley TC has the advantage there. She took 3rd in her 80-84 division at Club Cross in Lehigh in 2019 and won her division at the 2021 Masters 5 Km XC Championships in Boston. On the roads, they appear to be close. Graf and Hodges-Hite met on the streets of Atlanta in the 5K. Although they were competing in different divisions, 80-84 for Hodges-Hite and 85-89 for Graf, they started at the same time and ran the same course. Graf finished in 47:47 with Hodges-Hite at 49:49. So Graf has the edge there also. But Hodges-Hite does run a lot of races, including 8K's and 10K's. That added endurance could help. Still, Graf must be viewed as the favorite for the win.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Tami Graf     Joyce Hodges-Hite 

MEN 40-44 The preview of the Overall contest suggests that the top 40-44 men are: Benjamin Bruce HOKA Naz Elite, Neil McDonagh Square State Striders, and Kevin Shirk Garden State TC. See that article for a more complete discussion. At that time, Chris Naimoli Greater Philadelphia TC had not entered. Naimoli is a very strong triathlete. He has also done well on the roads, winning the 2019 Masters 15 Km Championships in Tulsa with a nifty 48:37 and took the silver medal in the 2021 Masters 12 Km Championships with a 40:19. Naimoli has not yet replicated that success on the turf, finishing 12th in this age division at Lehigh in 2019 and 14th in the division at Clubs in Tallahassee in 2021. It would be a mistake to ignore him, but if Naimoli could make the podium on Saturday, that would be a breakout performance on the turf for him. As noted in that earlier Overall article, Naimoli's Greater Philadelphia teammate, Darryl Brown, could also be a factor in the race for the podium.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Benjamin Bruce     Neil McDonagh     Kevin Shirk

Not Sure If It is Cross Country but it was an Amazing Race-The Men's 40+ Race Over 7.75 laps of a 1200 Meter track-At the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Photo Credit: Pam Fales

45-49 David Angell Blacksburg Striders, Brock Butler Greater Philadelphia, Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast TC and Michael Wardian HOKA, from this division were all mentioned in the Overall preview. That makes them the favorites within this division. Jason Holroyd Greater Philadelphia TC, who ran for the Boston Athletic Association before a move to Philadelphia, could also be a factor. Between fall 2018 and January 2019, Angell finished 1st at the Masters 5 Km XC Championships in Buffalo, 3rd at Clubs in Spokane and 2nd at Cross Nationals in Tallahassee. Butler has strong credentials on the roads, winning the Masters 12 Km Championships in 2021 and competing well at Clubs in 2019. From 2015 through 2019, Sallberg ran in several national Cross Country Championships and won the Overall Masters prize at all but one, Club Cross in Spokane. He won in Boulder in 2015, twice at Bend, once in San Diego, and once at Lehigh. In terms of the overall Championship, he has been further back in the last two Club Cross Championships at Tallahassee and San Francisco. But even there he took 2nd and 3rd in the division. In between, he took the division crown at Mission Bay Park Cross Nationals in San Diego, while finishing third Overall. Sallberg is the favorite in this division. Angell and Butler have both battled injuries in the past few years. It would be great to see them back on top of their game again! As the earlier article made clear, Wardian is a seriously competitive runner but also a bit of a wild card at 49. Will the Ultramarathoner and record holder in the Abbott World Marathon Challenge (7 Marathons, 7 Continents, 7 Days!) break onto the podium? We will find out on Saturday! Holroyd had a more modest outcome at Clubs in Tallahassee in 2021, finishing 11th in the division. But the warm conditions may have led to a tough day. Holroyd showed on the streets of Dedham this past April that he can be a factor to be reckoned with. His 33:36 10K effort over the rolling hills of the James Joyce Ramble course netted him the division win! As noted, Sallberg is the favorite. After that it is hard to pick between Angell and Butler. If Angell's heel holds up, I give him a slight edge on the turf over Butler.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

David Angell     Brock Butler     Jacques Sallberg

The Leaders of the Men's 60+ Pack Encounter the First Major Mud Puddle in their path around Golden Gate Park at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photo Credit: Pam Fales

50-54 The two most prominent names on the entry list are Ahrlin Bauman Bowerman TC and Philippe Rolly Unattached. Bauman competed in Clubs at San Francisco last month in the 45-59 division, his 39:18 over the 9.3 Km course earning a 20th in M45. Had he been in 50-54 then, it would have landed him in 5th, just seven seconds off the podium. Bauman has been a mainstay of the Bowerman XC machine for years. Generally functioning as one of the chief Bowerman soldiers, this may be his chance to have a breakout XC result as an individual. Rolly, by contrast, has been able to shine as an individual. In 2015, he captured the Silver Medal at the Masters 12 km national championships in Alexandria VA in 39:48. In 2018 he surprised many by taking the Gold Medal at the 15 Km Championships in Tulsa in 50:40. Rolly has not been as successful on the turf. His high point from Clubs at San Francisco in 2015, Tallahassee in 2016 and Lexington in 2017 was his 3rd place finish in the 45-49 division at the 2017 affair. Both Bauman and Rolly competed on the turf at those three Championships. it suggests they should have a good reunion on Saturday. Bauman finished 18 seconds ahead of Rolly at both San Francisco and Tallahassee Clubs. But then Rolly reversed it at Lexington, coming in 50 seconds ahead of Bauman. This weekend is a chance for Rolly to pull even. Over those three championships just 14 seconds separates their cumulative times. Do not doubt that Rolly is fit. He did not compete in national Masters championships last year but he did run 2:37:42 at the Indy Monumental Marathon and a 54:19 at the Army Ten Miler. There are several other strong runners in the age division, but it is hard to see them rising to the level of those two. Tim Harte Greater Philadelphia TC and John Lomogda Colonial Road Runners probably have the best chance of the rest to break onto the podium. Harte, like Holroyd in 45-49 used to run for the B.A.A. but has been running for GPTC for a couple of years now. Harte won this division at the 2021 Masters 5Km XC in Boston, coming in well clear of a group of strong XC runners. His last national XC event was at Tallahassee where he came in 15th in the division, a minute and change behind Bauman. He kept his hand in with cross country, though, finishing 7th overall at the 5 Km Belmont Plateau XC Classic in August in 18:00. Add to that Harte's 35:43 at the Cooper Norcros Bridge 10K and a 28:03 8K at Philadelphia's Marathon weekend in November, and it is clear that Harte was clicking on all cylinders. I have less information on Lomogda but the information suggests he belongs in the 50's lead pack. He ran 35:07 at the Elizabeth River Run 10K on Memorial Day in '21. In June he ran a Corporate 5K a few ticks under 17 minutes and on Thanksgiving and the run up to Christmas, he clocked two 5K's a couple of ticks over 17. Others who might factor in the 50-54 podium contest include unattached runners, Duncan Sheils and Peter Sherry. Sheils was 3rd in 50-54 at the Gate River Run last March in 58:06 and his 37:41 allowed him to match that finish at Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K in Richmond in November. Sherry's credentials include an 18:11 5K on the 4th of July and a Thanksgiving 10K at 37:29. Despite all that talent, the most likely order of finish seems to be Rolly-Bauman-Harte with a coin toss as likely to predict the 1-2 shakeout as anything else.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Ahrlin Bauman     Tim Harte     Philippe Rolly

Leaders of the Men's Race at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boulder CO. Photo Credit: Dave Albo

55-59 Christian Cushing-Murray Cal Coast TC and Michael Nahom Greater Springfield Harriers who finished 4th and 5th some 23 seconds apart at Golden Gate Park last month are back to see how Pole Green Park in Richmond will treat them. Seasoned rivals on the turf, Nahom had the edge at Tallahassee, finishing almost a minute ahead of Cushing-Murray, at Lehigh it was Cushing-Murray by a minute and a half, and they were only two seconds apart at Spokane, with that one going to Nahom! This division is never just a 2-man race. There are several others who will try to break up the Cushing-Murray/Nahom party. Alexander Hetherington Unattached enjoyed a 2:45:17 at Boston last April, ran a 1:18:35 Half Marathon in September, and capped it with a 59:19 at the Army Ten Miler in October. Dean Thompson Chattanooga TC is not a regular on the national circuit, but he ran Tallahassee last December, finishing behind Nahom and ahead of Cushing-Murray. This past fall, Thompson found time to post an 18:07 5K, a 35:23 10K, and a 59:06 10 Miler! Mark Zamek Shore AC had a great season in 2019 when he finished 2nd in the 5K Masters Championships in Atlanta in 17:05, took the Road Mile Championships in Flint in 4:55 and capped the year with a 55-59 2nd place in this division at Lehigh. After spending the 2nd half of 2022 in rehab mode, it looked like Zamek would be back with us again. But after a 17:20 rust buster 5K just before Christmas, the calf started to act up and has not responded quickly to rehab. If I get to pick a wild card, I might go for one of Nahom's Springfield teammates, Mark Hixson, who has been largely out of action. But he used to run close to Nahom and Cushing-Murray, usually a few steps back, but occasionally, as at Lehigh in 2019, a few steps ahead. Even though not all the way back, he finished 7th last year at Tallahassee, a minute and change behind Nahom and closer to Cushing-Murray. I saw a 21:07 for Hixson from December and my first thought was--too bad, must have aggravated an injury. But then I saw it was not a 5K but a 3.5-mile run. That makes the effort roughly equivalent to an 18:39 5K. That is not the kind of speed Cushing-Murray has. He won the M50 Championship at Atlanta last year with a 16:42, but 18 and change in a 5K is plenty of speed for a tried-and-true 55-59 turf trotter. Of course, as soon as I mention Hixson, I have to mention another Springfield teammate, Francis Burdett. One can never be quite sure which Burdett will show up. Will it be the Burdett who can win the 55-59 division at the TD Beach to Beacon 10 K in 37:03 last August, or will it be the Burdett who shows up a month later who has a niggling injury and runs 46:20 to finish 8th in the Division at the 12K. Burdett competes no matter what! He finished 5th in the division at Boulder, just 19 seconds back from Cushing-Murray. Six weeks later in San Francisco, he finished 36th in the division, over 4 minutes behind Cushing-Murray. It will be interesting to see what Burdett brings on Saturday. Never count him out! And, by the way, I have a hot tip that Cushing-Murray plans to lead the Overall race, for the first 100 meters. From photos I have seen I am pretty sure it was accomplished in Spokane and in Tallahassee in 2021. And then he only has to protect the lead for another 79 of those 100-meter races patched together!

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Christian Cushing-Murray     Michael Nahom     Dean Thompson

One Hundred Meters Into the Start of the Men's 40+ Race at the 2021 USATF Masters Club Cross Country Championships at Tallahassee. Photo Credit: Michael Scott

60-64 This division is not quite as loaded as it was in San Francisco but there is still plenty of speed up front! Nat Larson Greater Springfield Harriers will look to keep the ball rolling! He has not lost a national championship race since March and won the 2022 Masters National Grand Prix with wins at both 55-59 (Half marathon, 10 Mile, 10 Km and 1 Mile) and 60-64 (12K) age divisions. He also won the 60-64 Silver Medal in the 10 Km Road Race at the WMA Outdoor Championships in Tampere, Finland with a 35:21. Larson took the win at Golden Gate Park with a 29:24. He also broke two American 60-64 road Records in November, speeding to a 16:35 at the BIGGSTEPS Boston 5K, and then racing to a 27:34 at the Ashenfelter 8K in New Jersey. That is speed! But Larson cranks it up on the turf as well; he either won outright or was co-winner of the Men's Masters Harrier of the Year Award in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Steve Schmidt who was 2nd to Larson is not making the trip to Richmond, but Rick Lee Shore AC, who finished 3rd a half minute back from Larson, is entered. John Van Danacker Unattached, who finished 2 seconds behind Lee in 4th at San Francisco, running for the TC Running Company, will also line up. Van Danacker also finished 5th in 55-59 at Clubs in Tallahassee in 38:06.  And if having Larson, Lee and Van Danacker in the field were not enough, we have three others who will be nipping at their heels, ready to soar onto the podium if anyone has an off day.   Lee's Shore teammate, Henry Notaro, finished 10th at San Francisco, 46 seconds behind Van Danacker. He started the year off with a 56:07 15K at Gasparilla, ran 2:55:51 at the Boston marathon, and finished the road year with a 2nd place 60-64 finish at the 12 Km national championships with a 44:19. Mark Neff Shadow Project TC was 2 minutes behind Notaro in 4th at the 12 km Championships but may be better on the turf than the roads. He finished 11th in 55-59 at the highly competitive 2019 Lehigh Clubs. Tim Ensign Chattanooga TC clocked a 38:54 10K in February and a 38:41 in October. Chuck Shields Greater Philadelphia TC finished 5th at Lehigh and would, ordinarily, be listed as a podium contender on a turf championship. But Shields put himself on the B team at first and is now listed as 'Unattached', suggesting he is far from peak fitness. If Larson, Lee and Van Danacker run true to form, Ensign, Notaro and Neff will have to raise their game to make the podium.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Nat Larson     Rick Lee     John Van Danacker

Two Hundred Meters into the Men's 60+ Race at the 2021 USATF Masters Club Cross Country Championships at Tallahassee FL. Photo Credit: Michael Scott

65-69 Ken Youngers Atlanta TC is perennially one of the strongest runners in his age division. He broke the American 12 Km 65-69 Record at the September 2021 championships in New Jersey but lost most of the following winter to injury. Nonetheless by late February 2022, he was back in good form, taking second at the Masters 5 km Championships on his home roads in Atlanta. When he followed that performance with a nifty 37:48 division win at the 10 Km Championships in Dedham it appeared he was ready to roll. He ran well at the Road Mile Championships in late spring, but by the fall, Youngers was in the injury boat again. Apparently, he has successfully rehabbed whatever was holding him back. It will be good to see him out racing on the turf again. His last national Cross Country Championship was the 2021 Masters 5 Km in Boston at Franklin Park. He won the 65-69 division with a cushion of almost a minute and a half, running 19:30. In 2019, he finished 9th in 60-64 with a 30:38. Of course, it may be that he is primarily running to get his team some points before he is really ready. If so, all bets are off. David Westenberg Greater Lowell Road Runners has made his mark more on the track than the turf, but he has definitely advanced as a Cross Country runner. It has certainly not hurt him on the track. In early December, at his first Indoor Track meet of the season, he broke the American 65-69 Record for the Mile with a 5:10.61. His first experience on the turf was as at Lehigh where he finished a minute behind Youngers but still made the Top Twenty, not bad for your first turf outing as a masters athlete. He has obviously come a way since then. At Clubs in San Francisco, he sensibly laid off from the pace that multiple American record holder, Jacob Nur was setting, waited for his chance, moved into second in the division and held it all the way to the finish! His 31:29 enabled him to take 2nd with a good half minute to spare. Tim Conheady may well be able to run with those two. He finished three seconds ahead of Youngers at Lehigh in 2019. He ran four sub-19:20 5K's last year and capped them with a 39:50 10K in November. Greater Philadelphia declined to make the coast-to-coast trip to compete at Clubs this year so we have no recent read on his XC fitness. But we will find out soon! Pete Gibson Colonial Road Runners has been running well this fall after struggling with injuries off and on. In the fall, Gibson ran a 19:33 and a 19:14 5K after running a 40:12 and 40:26 10K over the summer. If he retains that fitness, he will be a factor! Stephen ChantryGibson's Colonial teammate and primarily a Middle-Distance track guy, finished 3rd in this division at the Road Mile Championships in Rochester with a 5:39 and clocked a couple of sub-20 5K's in 2022. Robert Reynolds Greater Philadelphia claimed third in 65-69 at the 12 Km Championships with a 50:52 and clocked 1:06:26 on a fast Blue Cross Broad Street 10 Mile Run. 

If Youngers shows up ready to roll, then I go with Youngers, Westenberg, and Conheady. If Youngers is not fully fit and taking one for team, then I would substitute Chantry into the mix.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Timothy Conheady     David Westenberg     Ken Youngers

Start of the Men's 60+ Race at the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championship on the Lehigh University course in Bethlehem, PA. Photo Credit: Michael Scott

70-74 Robert Qualls Unattached seems to be holding all the cards in this division right now. He finished 7th in 65-69 at Clubs in Spokane, and 4th at Lehigh, but then his name stopped appearing in entry lists. He has roared back in the 2nd half of 2022. A top performance at Worlds was followed by a string of 70-74 wins at Highlands NJ in the 12 Km, the Master 5Km in Boulder and Clubs at Golden Gate Park a month ago, when he led his River City Rebels team to 3rd place in the team division. On the roads and on the turf, Qualls is at the top of his game. There is no reason to think he is ready to fall back. Doug Bell Boulder Road Runners is a bit more up and down recently, partly due to occasional back issues. But when he is on, he is a force. He took the 70-74 crown in Tallahassee and was 2nd to Qualls at Boulder. But he was far back at San Francisco; something must have been off. A couple of years back, Gene Dykes Greater Philadelphia TC was the favorite for the division title whenever he stepped to the line, whether it was an ultramarathon, a marathon, cross country, or a 3,000-meter indoor track race. A mixture of injuries and the ever-present niggling of 'ol' man time' had Dykes jokingly complaining, after the 12 Km Championships this year about needing to '...get away from these 70-year-old, young whippersnappers!' Even with all those misgivings, Dykes seemed on the comeback trail towards his 2018-19 form when he was a threat to World Records in the marathon, his best distance. He won the 70-74 Masters Half Marathon Championship in Syracuse and took the 10-Mile crown in Sacramento. He had to sit out Worlds to continue rehab on an injury sustained in a Scandinavian Ultra. At the 12 Km he ran up against Qualls, the new kid on the block and had to be satisfied with 2nd. After a tough turf run at altitude in Boulder, Dykes finished better in San Francisco but not in contention.  Based on Strava posts, his overall feeling at the end of 2022 was that something was not quite right medically. After consulting with the medics, it appears Dykes was right and is now on a treatment that seems to be helping. It was a good start when he won his age division at the Naples Half Marathon last week in 1:31:44. Although that pales in comparison to the times he was running a few years back, it is an improvement over his winning time at Syracuse. We hope to see him taking a few more strides back toward the front of his age division in Richmond this weekend. By the end of the spring, he will be in 75-79, and will have new goals in sight. Others in the hunt include Rick Katz Boulder Road Runners, John Kilduff Shore AC, Kirk Larson Atlanta TC, Jerry Learned Atlanta, Don Morrison Greater Philadelphia, and Eugene Myers Potomac Valley. In early 2020, Katz was awarded the division first place in a close contest with Terry McCluskey [not entered at Richmond] at the Masters 5 Km Championships in San Diego. In Tallahassee, after recovering from an injury in the Covid-down period, Katz finished 6th at Tallahassee. But the was well back at Boulder this October so perhaps not at the top of his form. Kilduff was 13th at Clubs in Lehigh, finishing a few ticks behind K Larson. He was not at Boulder or San Francisco but ran a 1:14:41 at the Army Ten Miler in October. Larson has run more sparingly in the past and is also not at the very top of his game. He finished 2nd at the 10 Km Championships in 43:58, ran some low 20 to mid 21 5K's locally and then ran at San Francisco, finishing a bit further back than his norm, in 21st. Learned, the 2022 Masters National Grand Prix 70-74 Champion, ran in every grand prix race last year and ran them well. Learned is always a podium contender; he is either earning it himself or nipping at the heels of those who made it. On the turf, Learned was 5th at Clubs in Tallahassee and Boulder, with a nifty third place. He was 17th at San Francisco. On the roads he had three podium performances. Morrison won the 70-74 division at the 2021 Masters 12 Km Championships in Highlands in 54:43. This year he has run a bunch of 5K's under 22 minutes and clocked a 35:23 8K. Myers finished 6th out of 46 competitors and well ahead of Dykes, Larson, and Learned. Before that in 2022, Myers's best performance was on the roads by the Jersey Shore where he took 4th in the 12 km. He seemed to have found another gear at Golden Gate Park, perhaps it was the 'through mud puddles, into the roaring wind and rain gear. Apart from Qualls, picking a podium from this bunch of talented runners is not easy. In addition to Qualls, I will go with Bell. Unless he is injured, I think this course is one he will like. Off of Dykes's performance in Naples, I wil go with him as well. Any one of the others could break into the top though. If Myers has another day like he had in San Francisco, he is a likely spoiler for the podium! But with just a slight modification on which race to refer to, that could apply to a number of others!

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Doug Bell     Gene Dykes     Robert Qualls

A Hundred Meters Into the Men's 40+ Race at the 2018 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Spokane, WA. Photo Credit: Carl Combs-FB post

75-79 Gary Ostwald Boulder Road Runners had a terrific outing at Golden Gate Park, trailing Ron Wells [not entered for Richmond] by a half minute at the 5Km split and nailing him at the tape for a 38:27 win, with Wells at 38:28! That was a bit of a surprise after Dave Glass Atlanta TC went onto the turf at high altitude Boulder and came away with a win, beating Ostwald by 45 seconds! But every race is different, especially with Cross Country, and no one would say that San Francisco was ordinary. Hats off to Oswald for navigating the puddles and conquering the wind and rain better than any of his division competitors. Glass will be happy to have another shot at Ostwald so soon, and Ostwald will enjoy the chance to show that San Francisco was a better measure of his XC prowess than Boulder. Of course, both of these fine runners have a long list of accomplishments. Glass, like his teammate, Learned, competed at every national championship last year. He won all four of the road National Championships of 10 Km and longer, plus the Masters 5 Km XC, to win the 75-79 Masters National Grand Prix with a perfect score of 500! Ostwald did not compete as frequently and, except for Cross Nationals in San Diego, enjoyed somewhat less success, coming in behind Glass at the other three events where they met head-to-head. At San Diego, Ostwald finished 3rd. It was Glass's worse race of the year; he finished 5th. That gives you an idea of how good a year 2022 was for Glass! Ostwald's Boulder teammate, Jeffrey Dumas, and Genesee Valley Harrier teammates, Jim May, and Keith Yeates, will do their best to break up those two front-runners. Failing that, one of the three should take the last spot on the podium. Dumas finished behind Glass and Ostwald at Boulder, two minutes back from Ostwald, but a minute ahead of Yeates and May, who were just separated by 8 seconds. Still, that was at altitude Richmond is a 'flatland' race. The only meeting I can find otherwise was at 2017 Club Cross in Lexington KY. Dumas came in 46 seconds ahead of May but 40 seconds behind Yeates. And Yeates will tell you that he does not always beat May by a long shot. One other runner who is back should be mentioned. Jan Frisby Boulder Road Runners missed Boulder and San Francisco but will be back in action in Richmond. At that race in Lexington, he split Yeates and Dumas, finishing closer to Yeates. Frisby, who was an Age Division Runner of the Year a couple of times when in his fifties, is very dangerous when he is on, and everything holds together during the race! He finished 4th at the Masters 10 Km Championships in 49:08 and might well have finished higher except something, perhaps a calf, gave out on the long, gradual haul up to the finish. Frisby also took a 4th at the 10 Mile Championships and a 6th at Atlanta this past year. His best recent Club Cross outing was at Lehigh in 2019, where he finished 3rd in this division. Since Dumas has the most recent honors in head-to-head, I will add him to the predicted podium and give Yeates, May and Frisby a chance to prove the prediction wrong! I recall after Clubs at Spokane, a conversation between May and one of his new rivals who had just run against him for the first time and beaten him. May gave him all credit, but reminded him, "Don't think that it's over!" May knew they would likely lock horns again, and it could come out differently!

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Jeff Dumas     Dave Glass     Gary Ostwald 

The Field in the Men's 40+ Race Climbs the first hill in the 2017 USATF Club Cross Country Championships at Lexington KY. Photo Credit: Michael Scott

80-84 Finally, there is a men's division that is easy to predict. Ed Bligh Atlanta TC finished 5th at 2018 Clubs in Spokane and 3rd in San Francisco. Somehow no one else entered for Richmond. When Bligh crosses the finish line, he will have the division Gold Medal. But Bligh is no stranger to 1st place finishes at national championships. In 2019 at Cross Nationals in Tallahassee, he won the 75-79 championship against a full slate of rivals.

Podium Prediction:

Ed Bligh


There are no special age-grading tables for cross country; the one's derived from road racing data are applied. The presumption is that they serve the purpose of reasonably evaluating performance across ages within a given race. Like comparing finishing cross country times across courses and time, doing an age grading comparison across races and time is also questionable. The age grading exercise computes a percentage for each runner with 100% representing a top performance for one's age and sex, and going down from there. On the roads, the shorthand of 90% World Class, 80% National Class is often suggested. Any such terminology should not be applied to cross country. Course measurement is generally less precise for XC so a course could easily be long or short relative to its name. And, of course the terrain and footing under various weather conditions are also highly variable.

With those caveats in mind, it is important to note that the age grading percentages do a good job of identifying the runners that a fair-minded observer of the times and ages might well come up with.

WOMEN If we take a look at the Age Grading results at Cross Country Championships to see who of our Richmond entrants have done well, we get Fiona Bayly and Nora Cary from 2022 Clubs at San Francisco who finished 3rd and 4th. Suzanne Cordes was 12th at San Francisco, but finished 5th at Boulder and 8th at San Diego. Suzanne La Burt took 4th at 2021 Clubs in Tallahassee, with Cordes 6th. At Lehigh in 2019, it was Cary 1st and Marisa Sutera Strange 2nd. At the 4 Club Cross competitions from 2015 through 2018, Strange netted a 2nd place, and two 3rd places. Kathy Martin finished 1st in 2015 and 2nd at Tallahassee in 2016. Clubs are emphasized because they tend to be most competitive. It is clear these are all fine runners but from year to year and championship to championship there are variations. Doreen McCoubrie is at a disadvantage in this way of analyzing the question because she can rarely compete at Clubs due to work conflicts. In the 2018 Cross Nationals in Tallahassee when McCoubrie did compete, Strange took 2nd and McCoubrie 3rd. Put that all in a pot and what do you get? It seems likely that Martin, an 11-time Masters Harrier of the Year, will rise to the top again and be a top contender for the podium. Cary has been up more than down, but Bayly did come in ahead of her at her first national XC championship competition that I know of. Strange has tended to make the podium when she competes on the turf. Certainly Cary, Cordes, La Burt and McCoubrie could all prove me wrong, but I will go with:

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Fiona Bayly     Kathy Martin     Marisa Sutera Strange

MEN Consider a similar exercise for the men entered for Richmond Cross Nationals. It is more complicated. About twice as many men as women enter, although the percentage varies. At the largest events, Club Cross Championships, there are typically two races for men, one for 40+ over 10 Km, and one for 60+, over 8 Km. At Cross Nationals Championships, it has typically been just one race over 8 Km for the Masters men, as in Richmond. There will only be a podium of three individuals for the Men, just like for the women. And Clubs at San Francisco had the odd format of being a 9.3 Km race of 7.75 laps around a 1200-meter rough surface track. We get Jacques Sallberg who finished 10th. From the 60+ race which was wild, but still a recognizable cross country race, we get Nat Larson, 3rd and Rick Lee, 4th. John Van Danacker was 8th. Robert Qualls took 4th at Boulder but was 24th at San Francisco. At Cross Nationals in San Diego to start the year, it was Larson in 4th and Sallberg 5th. At 2021 Clubs in Tallahassee, it was Dean Thompson in 8th and Sallberg 9th in 40+ and Lee 8th out of 60+. Ken Youngers shows up at 8th in Lehigh, 9th at Spokane and 3rd at Lexington, all from 60+ races. Larson shows up in 1st 40+ at Lexington and Spokane, with a 2nd place at 2016 Clubs in Tallahassee. Doug Bell finished 3rd that same Tallahassee year out of 60+. Gene Dykes, who has been on many age-grade podiums, especially at the longer road races, is left out of this exercise. He would have to show us that he can do it on the turf. Taken all together it looks like Larson should make the podium and probably Sallberg. Lee might be the third runner on the podium. Any of the others could shake things up. Special Note: If they would do age grading for the 1st hundred meters, Christian Cushing-Murray might well be a lock.

Podium Prediction in Alphabetical Order:

Nat Larson     Rick Lee     Jacques Sallberg

These previews and predictions are good fun; let the races on Saturday decide the true Masters Cross Nationals Champions of 2023!

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