Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Masters Athletes Bring Home Medals from Bathurst, Australia

 February 18-19, 2023 BATHURST, AUSTRALIA  Benjamin Bruce and April Lund earned the honor of representing the USA at the first ever WMA XC Championships by winning the Overall Masters Championships races at Richmond, VA on January 21st. At the inaugural WMA XC Championships in Bathurst, Australia, on Saturday, the Mixed Relay team of April Lund and Ben Bruce brought home Silver Medals for the USA. They were competing on the same challenging course used for the WA Cross Country Championships in Bathurst. Substantial elevation changes, a muddy pit, a chicane to weave through, and 90-degree plus heat tested the two Masters athletes, each of whom raced a 2 km loop. Battling the home team squads from Australia for the medals, Bruce and Lund clocked 14:11. Their 3:32 per kilometer pace enabled the American duo to break up the top two Australian teams, finishing 21 seconds back from the gold medal team, and 25 seconds ahead of the Aussie team chasing them. It was a terrific start for a historic weekend of racing!

Ben Bruce powers uphill in the Mixed Relay Race where he and his teammate, April Lund, won the Silver medal at the 2023 WMA Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Team USA, All Smiles after their Silver Medal Mixed Relays effort at the 2023 WMA Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia Photo Credit: Mike Scott

April Lund, on her way downhill to the tricky 180 degree turn and the upslope through the chicane of tires, a challenging ending to the 2 Km loop at the 2023 WMA Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia Photo Credit: Mike Scott

The following day, Bruce and Lund toed the line for individual races. This time it was three loops each for a 6 Km grind up and down around the Mt. Panorama layout. Again, their chief rivals were Australians. Facing the same tough course and conditions two days in a row were a challenge. Both Bruce and Lund rose to the challenge, Bruce finishing 2nd overall in the Men’s race in 20:30, averaging 3:50/km. Lund clocked 23:53, averaging a tick under 4:00/km, finishing 3rd overall. 

April Lund sprints uphill after slogging through the Mud Pit at the Billabong
 on her way to a 40-44 Gold medal at the 2023 WMA Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia Photo Credit: Jeff Lund

WMA recognizes Masters level as age 35 and above; in the US, LDR considers Masters status not to start until age 40. Bruce came in ahead of all runners except a 40-year-old Aussie. Hence he finished 2nd Overall and 2nd in his age division. Lund came in behind two athletes from the 35-39 division but ahead of all others in the 40-44 division. She finished third overall but earned a Gold Medal in her division.

There were two other members of the team, David Cooke 40-44, and Derek Froude 60-64. They finished 16th and 7th, respectively, in their divisions. Despite the small size of the American team, they finished 3rd in medal count with three one Silver-40-44 Mixed Relay, one Gold-Women's 40-44, one Silver Men's 40-44. Australia led the way, followed by their neighbor, New Zealand. The British, Canadian, and French teams earned two medals each.

The next WMA Cross Country Championships will again be on the same site over the same weekend in 2024 in Croatia. If they keep the same structure as in these Championships, it would be nice if there were fuller participation and if reimbursement funding or 'pay for medals' were possible for more age divisions than just 40+. Perhaps the best way to organize funding, if it is available, would be to fund the best female/male pairs of runners in the same 5-year age division. If both are strong runners, there is a good chance for three medals from the pair. Age Grading could be a useful tool in that selection context. And as greater funding would become available, one could move to the age division f/m pair with the next highest age grade combination, and so on. As is generally the case with Cross Nationals as a selection event, if the top pair turns down the offer, you go to the next pair. If one of the pair turns it down, the male for example, and the other accepts, one would first see if there is a male who is close in age grading to the one who turned down the offer and see if he would accept. It would be more complicated, but could be accomplished as long as someone who is reasonably good with spreadsheets and a laptop is available to assist the Masters LDR liaisons with the task. The task could also be made easier by including a question in the registration process, "If you would be selected to receive $X of funding to compete at the World Cross Country Championships in Croatia, the weekend of February Xth-Yth, how likely would you be to accept: Choices: Definitely yes, probably yes, uncertain, probably no, definitely no.

It will be interesting to see what is organized for Cross Nationals for next January in Richmond.

The 2023 WMA Indoor Championships are from March 26 to April 1st. There are the same Non Stadia events that were staged in Finland last summer, a Cross Country event, a 10 km road race and a Half marathon road race. The Cross Countyr event is on Monday, March 27th; the 10 Km event on Wednesday, March 29th, and the Half Marathon on Saturday, April 1st, no fooling! Registration has already closed as has the window to apply for funding. Best of luck to all who will be competing!

There are no national cross country championships now until October 7th in Boca Raton, Florida. This coming weekend we begin the road portion of the Masters National Grand Prix. We have the 5 Km Championships in Atlanta.

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