Wednesday, February 22, 2023

First look at Overall Contenders and Other Illustrious Competitors in Atlanta-2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships

February 21, 2023. Atlanta welcomes back Masters athletes from across the country to compete in their 5 Km race on Publix Atlanta Marathon Weekend. Three years after the thrilling Olympic Marathon trials were held in Atlanta, marathon hopefuls will pour into Atlanta from throughout the South and across the country to forge their own memories of marathon success.

Saturday, February 25th, between 7 and 8 am, the time of the Championship race, had been shaping up to have near-perfect weather for a 5K! The temperature forecast for the upper 50’s is holding but now there is almost a 50% chance of some rain. Of course, the flip side of that is a slightly better than 50-50 shot at no rain. Right now, it seems that even if there is rain it would not be a downpour. But, as always, check the weather before heading to Centennial Olympic Park on race day morning.


Perhaps the most illustrious of the competitors this year is the Hometown Heroine, Betty Lindberg Atlanta GA, back at age 98, to see if she can lower the 95-99 World Record that she set last year. She is a sure thing to win the 95-99 division!

Betty Lindberg, 97, Crosses the Finish Line at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta GA, Breaking the 95-99 World Record Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Track Club

Michelle Rohl Mansfield PA, Greater Philadelphia TC fills two roles. She is also illustrious, the holder of the Women's 55-59 Outdoor 1500M and 800M American Records. And she just ran faster than the American Indoor 55-59 Mile Record at the Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile, clocking 5:16.70. She has that record, pending ratification. Rohl is also a contender for the Overall Women's Championship. 

Michelle Rohl claims Third Overall at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta GA Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Track Club

Rohl finished 3rd last year in 18:32 (gun time) behind Jessica Hruska Dubuque IA 18:15 (gun time) and Jill Braley Atlanta GA, ATC 18:21 (gun time). Hruska registered on Tuesday, March 21st, now running for the Garden State Track Club. She assumes the favorite’s role as defending champion. 

Jessica Hruska claims the Overall Win at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta GA Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Track Club

Hruska has also run well recently, finishing 4th overall at the highly competitive Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco. This will be her second outing of the year in the 2023 Masters National Grand Prix. Will she able to repeat her 2022 Masters National Grand Prix win? She is off to a good start. 

One of her other returning rivals from last year, is Abby Dean Wilmington DE, Greater Philadelphia TC 18:43 (gun time). Dean suffered a hamstring tear over the holidays and had a PRP procedure in early January. She ran for team points in the USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond on January 21st, although she probably should have sat that one out. She will run faster in Atlanta but contending for the Overall win probably not in the picture. She seems a good pick for winning the 50-54 division, although nothing is ever certain in such a competitive group. Dean clocked 32:21 on a hilly 5 miler last weekend and is looking forward to the competition at the front of the 50’s division.

Abby Dean crosses the Finish Line in 4th Overall at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta GA Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Track Club  


Others who are likely to contend for the Overall win include:

Hidi Gaff Three Rivers Racing. She did not run here last year but she and Braley ran against each other in the 5000 Meter event on the track at the USATF Masters Outdoor TF Championships in Lexington KY last summer. Gaff edged Braley for a Bronze medal by just 3 seconds!

Elizabeth Wakeling Garden State TC, finished 7th at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco, CA. That race is, typically, our most competitive of the year. Hruska, the Champion here last year, finished 4th, just 16 seconds ahead of Wakeling. Wakeling clocked a 29:22 to win the Women's title at the Ashenfelter 8K in NJ. That time is roughly equivalent to an 18:06 5K.

Jennifer Weston Oak Ridge TN clocked 36:45 at the Expo 10K in Knoxville TN on the Memorial Day weekend last year and ran an 18:33 5K in November.

There are some very strong runners in the 50 and up divisions, but most do not rise to the Michelle Rohl level. The strongest has the bad luck to be in Rohl's division. Fiona Bayly New York City had an off day last year and still ran 18:57 at age 54. This past year she has stopped the clock at 18:21 and 18:32 at two or the NYRR's races in New York and was the first American Masters finisher in 37:41 at the Mastercard NY Mini 10K. She will compete! If she has a good day or if Rohl, perish the thought, has less than a good day, Bayly could turn the tables from last year.

Podium Pick-Overall Race in Alphabetical Order based on entries through Tuesday, February 21 at 9:40 pm:

Jill Braley     Jessica Hruska     Michelle Rohl


As of now, the Men's Race looks wide open; none of the top finishers from last year are back. Bryan Lindsay Zionsville IN, Indiana Elite AC won last year in 15:38 (gun time) but has not entered. 

One of his teammates, John Poray Fishers IN, is returning. He finished 10th last year in Atlanta on an off day in 16: 36 (gun time). A better indicator of his ability is the 2nd place finish he registered in the USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in April, where he finished in 33:05.

John Poray finishing off his 2nd Place Run Overall at the 2022 USATF Masters 10 Km Championship at Dedham MA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Other top contenders for the Overall win include:

Benjamin Kassell Davidson NC ran 16:11 at the Race for the Grasshopper 5K in South Carolina on January 7th, and a 15:45 5K last November in North Carolina. He also finished 5th in the Masters division at the AJC Peachtree Run in 34:29.

Bradley Merner Auburn, AL, a Professor at Auburn University, finished top 5 Masters at the Philadelphia Marathon last November with a 2:36:10 effort. He has a 15:46 5K in Ohio on his resume from 2021.

Last year, Luke Mortensen Athens GA Athens Road Runners won the Community Race that started a few minutes after the Masters Championships started. His 16:11 would have netted him 7th place in the Masters Championships had he been a few months older. He has not been idle in the interim. He registered a 1:14:04 time at the Athens GA Half Marathon in October and stopped the clock at 26:45 for an 8K in November, roughly equivalent to a 16:34 5K.

Brendan Prindiville Boston MA. Boston Tracksmith Hares last competed in a Masters National Grand Prix road championship in 2019. He clocked 33:14, finishing 3rd overall at the 10 Km Championships in Dedham that year. His last three 5 K outings, as reported in Athlinks, are remarkably consistent, a 16:13 at the B.A.A. 5K in April, a 16:10 at the BIGGSTEPS Boston 5K in November, and a 16:12 at the Super Sunday 5k earlier this month. 

Brendan Prindiville heading for the Finish Line and 3rd Place Overall at the 2019 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in Dedham MA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Now in the 55-59 age division, Christian Cushing-Murray Orange CA, Cal Coast TC, was an elite Open runner in the 1990's, running a 3:55.4 Mile at Eugene, OR in 1995 and a 3:37.94 1500 meters in 1992. His best performance on the roads is his 14:04 at the Carlsbad 5000 in 1996. 'Cush', as he is known, still has the fire to compete, especially for his team. He finished 10th Overall and won the 50-54 division here last year, at the age of 54, in 16:45. He returns this year in a new age division and is a threat to finish in the top ten again this year. He ran 16:27 at Carlsbad this past May and stopped the 10K clock at 34:21 at the Dana Point Turkey Trot in November.

Christian Cushing-Murray claims a Top Ten Finish Overall at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta GA Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Track Club  

Podium Pick-Overall Race in Alphabetical Order based on entries through Tuesday, February 21 at 9:40 pm:

Benjamin Kassell     John Poray     Brendan Prindiville


Some Other Illustrious Competitors:

Rick Lee Bayville NJ, Shore AC 61. Lee came to elite Masters running late in life. Lee is one of a kind in his enthusiasm for running and racing fast at all distances. In addition to winning his age division at the Boston Marathon, Lee also owns the American Record for 50 Kilometers 3:31:44 and 50 Miles 6:27:30. He finished 2nd here last year at the age of 60 in 18:05. This past summer, he ran two sub 17:30 5K's. He also finished 2nd in his division at the Masters 1 Mile Championships on the road in Rochester, NY, losing the 60-64 title by a single second! He ran in a 4 x 400 meter relay on an indoor track a few weeks ago and, last I heard, was learning the proper way to get a good start out of the starting blocks.

Rick Lee #568 moving up through M50+ runners to claim a podium spot at 2023 Cross Nationals in Richmond VA Photo Credit: Rick Lee & Associates


Steve Schmidt Clarkston, MI, Ann Arbor TC. Schmidt is famous for being one of the first two runners to join what Amby Burfoot called the 6DS3 club. He has run a sub-3 hour marathon in each of six decades, a pretty impressive accomplishment for someone who is just 62. His most recent sub-3-hour Marathon was a 2:52:52 at the London Marathon last October. He showed his ability at shorter distances, taking 2nd in the division at the highly competitive USATF Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco last December, finishing 9 seconds ahead of Lee.

Gene Dykes regularly wins his age division in Marathons by a half minute or more, even the most prestigious of the Abbot World majors. But he is renowned for his assault in 2018 on the supposedly unapproachable 70 and up World record of 2:54:48 set by the legendary runner, Ed Whitlock of Canada. After his 70th birthday in 2018, Dykes made his first attempt at Rotterdam in the Netherlands in early April, coming within three minutes at 2:57:43. His next attempt would be on the same course on which Whitlock set his record, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October. In between, he set an American 10K record of 39:02 while winning the national championship in Dedham, MA, and took the 5 Km National Championship for 70-74 with a 19:20 in Atlanta. At Toronto, he crept closer but still could not quite close the deal; he ran 2:55:17, a half minute off. It looked like everything was in place for him to break the record at the Jacksonville Marathon in mid-December. And it was, almost. He ran faster than Whitlock, clocking 2:54:23. Dykes’s research had led him to believe that, not only was the Jacksonville course certified and record eligible, but that the event was sanctioned by USATF. All three are required for World Masters Athletics to recognize a performance as a new World Record. The first two were good; the last was not. No World Record for Dykes! His Toronto performance still stands as the American Record. There were some minor injuries and slow recoveries after that, and over the next few years. Dykes was not able to make another serious attempt at the record. He has had difficulty coming back all the way but there have been flashes of the old Dykes. He finished 2nd here last year in the 70-74 division, running 20:43. A month later he won the Half Marathon national championship over a hilly course in Syracuse NY in 1:32:37; 2 weeks later he claimed the ten mile championship in Sacramento in 1:07:43. But since that time he has not consistently been able to train without injury and the injuries have been slower to heal. Some medical lab work suggested a treatment to adjust his platelet count and that appeared to pay dividends. He won the 70-74 division at the Naples Half Marathon in early January in 1:31:43. But on the run up to this championship he suffered an abdominal strain that is keeping him from his normal training routine. He may show up ready to challenge for the 70-74 division title before aging up to the 75-79 group, or he may not be competitive at all. Dykes is amazing; he almost always runs if there is a chance, whether he can run fast or is forced, by circumstances, to run slow.

Gene Dykes finishing off his American Record setting run at the 2018 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in Dedham MA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Doug, the ‘Silver Bullet’, Goodhue, now 80, is returning to the racing scene. Already in the USATF Masters Hall of Fame for his running in his 50’s and 60’s, Goodhue was a force to be reckoned with through his 70’s. In 2019 at the 5Km Championship in Atlanta, as part of the Atlanta’s Finest 5K, Goodhue won the 75-79 championship in 21:24 (net time), good enough to be recognized as among the top 5, over all age divisions, in terms of age grade score. He closed off the year by finishing 2nd in his 75-79 division at the highly competitive Club Cross Country Championships on the Lehigh University course in Pennsylvania. 

Doug Goodhue rounding the Final Turn on His Way to a 75-79 Win 

at the 2019 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta, GA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Goodhue also captained his 70-74 team to the Club victory, clinching their second consecutive 70+ Masters National Grand Prix title. He competed throughout that period with a gimpy knee. Last year he went under the knife. Goodhue was rehabbing through the fall, using an alter-G to reduce the strain on the knee, and gradually working in more running. He decided to run with his old team for fun at the Club Cross Championships in San Francisco. Apparently, it was fun, despite the torrential downpour, high winds, and blown over trees. The official results show him finishing 2nd at those Championships, despite having a large lead on the 80+ field at the 5 km split. In any case, he is back for more. Goodhue is coming to these championships a little more trained up. We will see how things go.

Look for a more complete preview of age divisions and teams in a couple of days (I hope).

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