Friday, February 24, 2023

Preview of 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships-Age Divisions

 February 23, 2023 The USATF Masters 5 Km Championships will be under way at 7:30 AM ET this Saturday, February 25, 2023 in Atlanta GA. The race will be run over the same course as last year. Starting on Marietta Street near Centennial Olympic Park, looping down to Georgia Tech and back up the Luckie Street Hill to the park. It is as flat a course as they could lay out in Atlanta and hence is referred to as being 'Atlanta Flat.' The weather is cooperating. Temperatures at race time should be in the mid-50's; the chance of occasional rain showers has disappeared from the forecasts; we should be racing under cloudy skies. 

The first post looked at Overall Contenders and a few additional illustrious competitors; I focus, today, on the highly contested age division races, with reference, where relevant to the earlier posting.

Note: I had gotten away from predicting the order of finish in age division contests. in part, because a very small number of competitors said they felt too much pressure from their friends and teammates mentioning the prediction; it took away from their enjoyment of the race. Since then, a slightly larger number has said they miss the predictions. So this one is a hybrid. I speculate on the order of finish in the writeup, but the final podium prediction is alphabetical. Please think of it as being just for fun and a great way to celebrate past successes and enjoy the current race. I love it when a runner exceeds all expectations and proves me wrong with an excellent performance I had not anticipated! But I know everyone shows up at the race with different levels of fitness than one might expect. Some have had a great training block; others have been hampered by barriers of various kinds from injuries to busy careers or family responsibilities. Understood!

Update on last minute entrants: Ben Bruce got back from the WMA XC and decided to hop into the race. He was, literally, the very last athlete to enter before online registration closed on Wednesday. Not only did he win the recent Cross Nationals overall title in Richmond, VA last month, he clocked a 14:55 5K at the Abbott Dash to the Finish Line race in NYC last November. He becomes the favorite to take the Men's Overall and 40-44 titles. Kathryn 'Kathy' Martin, a Masters Hall of Famer already, is back in action on the roads too. After an unheralded late entry at Cross Nationals, Martin signed up for this one too in the last couple of days. She won her division at Cross Nationals and took the Age Grading championship. She is highly likely to do both here as well.

WOMEN 40-44 Jessica Hruska Dubuque IA, Garden State TC is the defending overall and 40-44 champion. She won last year with a gun time of 18:15. The second place finisher, last year, Jill Braley Atlanta GA,.Atlanta TC 18:21 also returns to see if she can alter last year's order of finish. New contenders for the 5 Km title in this 40-44, identified in the earlier post, included Hidi Gaff Ft. Wayne IN, Three Rivers Racing, and Elizabeth Wakeling Maplewood NJ, Garden State TC [GSTC]. I will add Gaff to the potential podium list on the basis that she was able to edge Braley on the track last summer over 5000 meters. My general approach in picking winners has always been-If you're the champ, you're the favorite, until someone knocks you off the pedestal. That goes for Hruska, but also for Gaff over Braley. Gaff is, right now, the 'champ' of the two of them. So Hruska-Gaff-Braley seems a reasonable picking order.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Jill Braley     Hidi Gaff     Jessica Hruska

45-49 Sara Girotto Wynnewoof  PA, Philadelphia TC took the division crown last year in 19:07. This year she will have to find a faster gear as she goes up against Jennifer Weston Oak Ridge TN, mentioned as a contender for the Overall win. Her credentials include two 5K's last year that were a few ticks over 18:30. She also recorded a 36:41 at the Expo 10K in Knoxville TN. Girotto is a fighter though; she landed on the Overall podium at the 12K Masters Championships and raked in a number of ag0e division wins. Euleen Josiah-Tanner Atlanta GA, T.H.E. TC is a serious contender. She finished a half minute behind Girotto last year but clocked an 18:48 to take 4th in 45-49 at the WMA Outdoor Track Championships in the summer. Josiah-Tanner will have to handle the hills but has the speed to move up if she is close at the end. It will be interesting to see how one 'race within a race' shakes out. Last year, Rebekah Kennedy Forest Hills NY, Central Park TC, Amy Koepp Cumming GA, Atlanta TC, and Kathy Wiegand Tucker GA, Atlanta TC finished 5th, 6th and 7th with just 6 seconds between them, ranging from 20:31 to 20:37. If any of the top three falter, one of these runners could move up. The numbers say it should be Weston-Girotto-Josiah-Tanner but the muscles and sinews on the day may tell a different story.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Sara Girotto     Euleen Josiah-Tanner     Jennifer Weston

50-54 Abby Dean Wilmington DE, Greater Philadelphia TC [GPTC], Ingrid Walters not entered, and Fiona Bayly aged up to 55-59 finished 1-2-3 last year with times 18:43, 18:54, and 18:57 respectively. The 4th place finisher was over a minute back. So with Walters and Bayly out of the 50-54 picture, it should be a cakewalk for Dean, right? Wrong! Dean suffered a hamstring tear towards the end of the holidays and had a PRP treatment in early January. She ran at Cross Nationals to help her team with points but was well off her best. It is a month later and I understand that she has been able to increase mileage but did not really resume workouts until the week of Valentine's Day. Based on a 5-miler last weekend, it looks like she will be competitive within the division but a win is certainly far from guaranteed. Her main rivals this year include Hortencia Aliaga Garfield NJ, Garden State TC, Samantha Forde Santa Cruz, CA, Impala Racing, and Rachel Hopkins Athens GA, Sirius Athletics. Aliaga did not compete here last year but clocked a 19:07 5K last June and a 19:51 in August. Her 5:41 Mile netted her third place in this division at the Masters 1 Mile Championships in Rochester last spring. Forde ran last year and finished 4th in 45-49, but was well over a minute behind Dean. However, Forde was able to win the division at Cross Nationals in Richmond last month, with a lead of almost a minute and a half over Dean. Dean's relative speed will be faster this month, but will it be enough faster? Rachel Hopkins should be even tougher. She came in a minute and a half ahead of Forde at Club Cross in San Francisco this past December, taking 3rd in the division. A fourth runner to watch out for is Kimberly Aspholm Haworth NJ, Garden State. She finished 20 seconds ahead of Forde last year at these championships, taking 4th in 50-54. She was a half-minute back from Forde at Club Cross but that was cross country, not roads, and a 'home course advantage' for Forde. Aspholm will also be in the podium hunt! With the uncertainties surrounding Dean, it would be tough to pick a 1-2-3. Hopkins should be able to come in ahead of Forde, but whether Dean can come in ahead of both, split them, or come in behind then in 3rd is anyone's guess. And will Aspholm be a spoiler?!

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Abby Dean     Samantha Forde     Rachel Hopkins

55-59 There will be fireworks a-plenty in this division. Michelle Rohl Mansfield PA, Greater Philadelphia TC is the defending champion in this division. She finished 3rd overall in 18:28 and took the division crown by a minute over 12 Km American 55-59 Record holder, Lisa Veneziano not entered, This year she will have to worry about Fiona Bayly New York NY who has aged up from 50-54. Bayly had an off day last year and still ran 18:57. Among other things, Bayly gave away a few seconds by thinking it would be net time, not gun time that would determine the winners. She will not make that mistake this time. Bayly has twice turned in 5K times this past year close to Rohl's. She ran 18:32 at the Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K on November 5th and a week later ran just 1 second slower. In addition, she was the top American Masters finisher, after Edna Kiplagat, clocking 37:41 in the New York Mini 10K. Kris Huff Newnan GA, Atlanta TC and Annabelle Broadbent Perkasie PA, Greater Philadelphia will vie for the final podium spot. Huff should have the edge. She finished 4th in 55-59 here last year in 21:08; she also finished 6th at the Masters 10 Km Championships in 43:36. Broadbent was a minute slower than Huff last year so she would need to elevate her performance to claim the final podium position. Most likely it will be Rohl-Bayly-Huff, but we need to run the race to find out!

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Fiona Bayly     Kris Huff     Michelle Rohl

60-64 This should be one of the divisions with a big winning margin. Even with a field of 19, Doreen McCoubrie's West Chester PA, Greater Philadelphia name rises to the top. She finished 2nd here to her teammate Lorraine Jasper not entered last year in 20:25. McCoubrie added a third-place finish at the 10K Championships in 42:36, and a 60-64 win at the 12 Km Championships in 51:31. The two closest competitors may be teammates, Mary Cass Westport MA, Liberty Athletic and Lauren Leslie Warwick RI. Cass finished 6th here last year in 21:42, with Leslie following her across the finish line nine seconds later in 7th. Cass seemed to turn a corner during the year; she had better results anyway. Her 43:48 10K over the rolling hills of Dedham MA suggests she could be much closer to 21, or even under, for a 5K. She had a sub-20 at one of the Turkey Trot races and ran a nice 20:10 at the Super Sunday 5K that was the USATF-NE Championship. Leslie was almost a minute back from Cass at the Super Sunday 5K.  But I should not ignore Kristine Clark Salida CO, Athletics Boulder. Her nifty 43:11 at the Bolder Boulder 10K on Memorial Day demands respect. It is at altitude and the course itself is on the difficult end. So that stands up well to Cass's mark at Dedham. I might have thought that the outstanding middle distance trackster, Lesley Hinz Atlanta GA, Atlanta TC, would be a wild card choice, but Atlanta has her on their 'B' team so either she is facing some training/fitness challenges right now, or she is focusing on the Indoor Track season and just wants to run the 5K as a solid time trial/workout. There are lots of other runners who are just a few ticks off of the performances. these four have turned in. It should be very competitive through the first seven at least. If I had to pick a finishing order, I would go with McCoubrie-Cass-Clark, and let Leslie (and/or someone else) prove me wrong!

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Mary Cass     Kristine Clark     Doreen McCoubrie

65-69 Kitty Musante New Smyrna Beach FL, Shore AC is the defending champion; she took the title last year in 22:23. She should be the favorite but there happens to be a 'new kid on the block' who came in ahead of her last year. Patrice Combs Johns Creek GA, Atlanta TC was in 60-64 last year. She ran almost 45 seconds faster than Musante in finishing 4th in 60-64. Cynthia Williams Dallas GA, Atlanta TC finished 4th in this division last year in 25:28, That makes her the favorite for the final podium position. Susan Stirrat Rockaway NJ, Shore AC is right there should she have an especially 'on' day or any of those others have an 'off' day. Stirrat, the 2022 60-64 Masters National Grand Prix champion, picked up a 6th place finish here last year in 26:16. Most likely it will be Combs-Musante-Williams.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Patrice Combs     Kitty Musante     Cynthia Williams

70-74 Unless something surprising happens, Kathryn 'Kathy' Martin Halesite NY will take the 70-74 5Km crown this year. An Age Grading champion throughout her career on the track, the turf and the roads, Martin showed no diminution of her talents at Cross Nationals. Her winning time of 27:14 in the 70-74 division had her in the top half of all competitors and first in age grading at 94.7%, two percentage points higher than the 2nd place age grade finisher, Nora Cary not entered who also has a few American records. Did I mention that Martin still holds ten 60-64 American LDR records in distances ranging from 1 Mile to 50 Km. Until Martin entered, I expected the battle for first to be among the two teammates, Jeanette Groesz Redmond OR, Team Red Lizard and Suzanne Ray Jacksonville OR. Groesz is the stronger runner of the two on the turf. Groesz took first at Club Cross in San Francisco in 29:50. Ray is no slouch; she took 3rd. But Groesz finished over two minutes ahead of her. Ray tends to be better on the roads, at least at distances over 10 km. For example, she finished 1st and Groesz 2nd at the 12 Km Masters Championships in Highlands, NJ, with over two minutes between them. But which is better at a shorter distance on the roads, like a 5K? They did not compete here last year; it will be interesting to find out! Barbara Sauer finished 2nd here last year in 28:14, with Norma 'Nonie' Hudnall Spartanburg SC, Atlanta TC 3rd in 29:23. Mary Lewis Tega Cay SC did not compete here last year, but she did turn in 5 Km Performances of 27:55 in June, 29:26 in August and 27:54 in September. It looks like a spirited battle for 4th, 5th and 6th even if the podium picks are right. Martin should win it. I still think Groesz and Ray are the next two. If pushed, I would probably opt for Groesz 2nd and Ray 3rd, just because the distance is more in Groesz's wheelhouse than Ray's.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Jeanette Groesz    Kathy Martin     Suzanne Ray

75-79 The three Atlanta Track Club teammates, Myrna Barnett Snellville GA, Andrea McCarter Duluth GA, and Catherine Radle Atlanta TC entered last year. Like last year they have no rivals. Last year it was Barnett, Radle and McCarter in 35:12, 36:24 and 36:59. It could be, and probably will be, different this year but I have no way of knowing. So I go with the same order as last year, Barnett, Radle, and McCarter.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Myrna Barnett     Andrea McCarter     Catherine Radle

80-84 No entries

85-89 Joyce Hodges-Hite Millen GA is unopposed in the race. She beat everyone by showing up! Last year she won 80-84 the same way but there were two entrants in 85-89. Perhaps next year...

95-99 You guessed it! Betty Lindberg Atlanta GA is back! After setting the 5 Km World record for 95-99 at 55:48, Lindberg is back at the age of 98 to try to lower it further.

MEN 40-44 There's something about a 14:55 5 Km run that gets your attention! Ben Bruce has one from last year. Since turning 40 he has become almost a regular at the Masters National Championships. He clocked 38:37 while finishing 2nd at the 12 Km in New jersey, 4th in a tough field and tougher weather conditions at Club Cross in San Francisco and a nifty win in Richmond, VA at Cross Nationals. After winning a couple of Silver Medals at WMA XC in Bathurst, Australia, he's back in action this weekend. Bruce loves to race! He also turned in a 30:45 to capture the Mesa Marathon 10K in early February. A few others have times in the 15's but none are threatening the 15-minute barrier. As noted in the first preview of the Overall race, the top three before Bruce entered were listed as:  Benjamin Kassel Davidson NC, John Poray Fishers IN, Indiana Elite AC, and Brendan Prindiville Boston MA. It is not an easy call, but I will drop Prindiville off of the predicted podium list to add Bruce. Expected order is Bruce first but then it's a tough call. I'll go with Poray over Kassell because he knows how to land n a Masters national podium. In addition to the 2nd place finish in the 10 Km at Dedham, Poray also took 2nd at the USATF Masters 5 Km XC Championship at Boston in 2021. So best guess is Bruce-Poray-Kassel.

 Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Ben Bruce     Ben Kassel   John Poray

45-49 I just dropped Prindiville off of the 40-44 podium prediction.. I can make it up to him by placing him atop the predicted podium for 45-49. Given his 16:10 at Boston BIGGSTEPS and 16:12 on Suer Bowl Sunday, it is almost a 'no brainer'! Other contenders include: Matthew Di Pretore Newtown Square PA, GPTC, Christopher Hernandez Charleston SC, Genesee Valley Harriers [GVH], Shawn Williams Bloomfield NJ, GSTC, and Matt Yacoub Northville MI, Cal Coast TC.  Di Pretore finished 9th in 40-44 last year in 17:09, finishing just 3 seconds ahead of Williams, also in his first year at 45-49. That will be one fun matchup to watch! Hernandez did not compete here last year but he did take a 6th in this division in 43:23 at the 12 Km Championships in New Jersey, and a 3rd at the Mile in Rochester in 4:48. At that race, he finished 7 seconds ahead of Di Pretore. Will an additional 3.5 km change the order of that outcome? Yacoub ran at Tallahassee in 2021, finishing 27th in the division in those highly competitive championships. In addition he has a 34:34 10K and a 1:17:44 HM from last year and a 16:38 at a Super Bowl 5 Km this year. This should be highly competitive all the way through 5th place, if not further. Richard Jennings or Paul Jones could make the prediction look bad. Let's go with Yacoub next, after Prindiville, and, perhaps, Hernandez.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Brendan Prindiville     Matt Yacoub     Christopher Hernandez

50-54 Mark Andrews Rochester NY, GVH finished 2nd here last year in 16:51, a result that was, no doubt, disappointing to him, although an amazingly successful accomplishment to others! After winning a 10 Km Overall National Championship a few years ago, Andrews reported that when he saw a runner pass him late in the race, he recovered, accelerated past, and won the race. He said something like: "I had to do it! It would have been bad enough to lose the overall race, but he was also in my age group; I couldn't go home without at least an age group win!" He is the favorite, but Andrews knows you can never take anything for granted in Masters National Championships. In September he won this division at the 12 Km National Championship in 41:25 and in October clocked a 16:47 5K. Marco Cardoso Sayreville NJ, GSTC did not compete here last year, but was a couple of minutes behind Andrews at the 12 Km Championships. He had clocked a 16:53 5K in August. Brent Fields Covington GA, Atlanta TC finished 3rd here last year, a half minute behind Andrews. He also ran 35:54 at the 10 Km Masters Championships in late April. His teammate, Steve Bell finished 20 seconds behind Fields here last year, but then finished 4th at Dedham MA in the 10 Km Championships in 34:18. If he brings that kind of fitness to t0he Championship this Saturday, a sub-17 5K is surely in his grasp. John Fernandez Canton OH ran a 17:10 5K in 2021 and clocked a 17:41 last year. Reading the tea leaves, or goat entrails, depending on your tastes, it looks like Andrews-Bell-Cardoso, with apologies to Fernandez and Fields. Time to prove me wrong!

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Mark Andrews     Steve Bell     Marco Cardoso

55-59 Christian 'Cush' Cushing-Murray Orange CA, Cal Coast won the 50-54 in 16:42 last year; he is the guy to beat! He seems ready to roll. He clocked 16:27 at Carlsbad in April last year and then in November had a 16:59 outing. He came up just short at Cross Nationals in Richmond last month, taking 2nd in 55-59 at 28:57. His rivals will have to hope that, in the attempt to repeat his Top Ten Overall finish from last year, he goes out to fast and becomes vulnerable on the run up the Luckie Street hill toward the finish. Ryan Shrum Chattanooga TN, Chattanooga TC finished 5th here last year in 17:50. Scott Grandfield Rehoboth RI, Central Mass Striders was 5 seconds behind him. How will that duel play out this year? Kristian Blaich Decatur GA, Atlanta has competed sparingly in the past few years, spending more time running with his kids than in serious training. With his son running at college now, and a daughter soon to be, no doubt, Blaich may be able to focus more on his own racing again. He has not been idle though; he has to keep up with, or at least keep close to, his son. He ran an 18:13 5K in October and uncorked a 17:37 in November! Mark Zamek Minneapolis MN, Shore AC should also factor into the race. He has been dealing with various injuries and other barriers to consistent training. But he has, nonetheless, posted some fine times over the last year, while in rehab. Splitting his time between Minnesota and Florida, he ran a 16:57 and a 17:14 5K in the summer and then, this past December, clocked a 17:21. Zamek knows the course, except for the last half kilometer; he finished 2nd over a highly similar course in 2019, clocking 17:06. He seems determined to race even though his rehab is still in process. When the 'war horse' hears the bugle, it is hard to restrain him! Cush should win. On paper, if all goes well, Zamek should take 2nd and Blaich third, with Grandfield and Shrum not far back should they see a chance for the podium.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Kristian Blaich   Christian Cushing-Murray     Mark Zamek

60-64 In the 1960's there was a group of film stars and entertainers called the 'Rat Pack.' The 60-64 division has its own version. Maybe they should be called the Jet Pack. They  do not all show up at every event but some of them are at every event so far...and they are 'jet pack' fast! Three members showed up for Atlanta this weekend: Rick Lee Bayville NJ, Shore ACSteve Schmidt Clarkston MI, Ann Arbor TC, and John Van Danacker Rockford MN, T(win) C(ities) Running Co. And Lee is doing it as a detour on his way to Gasparilla, followed by a Florida 'vacay', and then a date with the 'Green Monster' at the Gate River Run. At Club Cross, it was Schmidt, Lee and Van Danacker, in times from 29:43 to 29:59. At Richmond, it was Van Danacker and Lee chasing another Jet Packer, Nat Larson not entered, finishing 2nd and 3rd with Van Danacker at 29:15 and Lee 26 seconds back. This will be Schmidt's first Masters National Road Championship, but he showed his turf cred at Golden Gate Park last December and last summer he took the 60-64 honors at the 5000M on the track in 17:37. That puts him in the role of 'favorite'. Lee has the advantage of knowing this 'Atlanta Flat' course; he finished 2nd last year in 18:05. Like Schmidt, Van Danacker is new to the course. But I have no doubt that they both have hills they like to train on! There are a host of other fine runners entered; 60-64 is loaded. But it is seems unlikely that runners like Lester Dragstedt Atlanta GA, Atlanta TCGary Droze Atlanta GA, Atlanta TC, Adam Feerst Denver CO, Boulder RR, Casey Hannan Atlanta GA, Atlanta TC, David Lee Bogart GA, Athens RR, Jay Littlepage Boulder CO, Athletics Boulder, and Robert Whitaker Yorktown VA, Colonial RR can rise to the level of the jet pack. But they could prove me wrong! There is no doubt they will race great; the competition for 4th through 10th will be amazing! And it can always happen that one or more could break onto the podium. As Schmidt took the honors in San Francisco and Van Danacker came in ahead of lee in Richmond, I will go with an order of Schmidt-Van Danacker-Lee.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Steve Schmidt     John Van Danacker     Rick Lee

65-69 If all is well, John Barbour West Roxbury MA, Greater Lowell RR, Paul Beers Roanoke VA, Roger Sayre Golden CO, Boulder RR, and Ken Youngers Tucker GA, Atlanta TC should all break 20 minutes and some, or all, of them will break 19 minutes! Barbour has run so many great Cross Coun8try races over the years, one can hardly recount them. He has had a few years battling injuries; it was good to see him running flat out for the finish line in San Francisco! He finished just off the 65-69 podium in 32:20. Barbour also turned in two sub-20 minute performances, 19:34 at BIGGSTEPS Boston 5K in November and a 19:38 at the Super Sunday 5K earlier this month. He also ran an 18:32 5K at Paddy's run in October. But I will make a wild guess that was not a certified course. Sayre was the only other of these three to compete in San Francisco. In one of his last races in the 60-64 division, Sayre clocked 31:23 to finish 14th in that ultra-competitive division. He ran 19:09 in the Denver 5K in September. That is at altitude, so it translates to sub-19 at sea level. Youngers finished 2nd here last year in 18:27. At Richmond last month, he finished 2nd in the division on the turf. He has had some challenges related to medical issues but so far seems to be able to compete at a very high level. He may not be up to the level of his 37:48 10 Km Masters Championship win last April, but you never know! Beers has not competed in any recent Masters National Championships that I know of. He ran 1:26:52 at the Aramco Houston HM last month. Before that, he clocked a 19:40 5K in a hometown race and recorded a 39:46 at the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond VA. Tom Dever Panama City FL celebrates a new age division by jumping into a national championship! He ran 19:20 at Carlsbad for his first big run as a 65-year-old. He followed that with a 40:36 10K in November. Two guys who have run continuously, both before, and up through their Masters years, at an elite level, are returning to this competition at something approaching their normal fitness. Both have had long rehab stretches in the last couple of years. Mike Anderson Tucker GA, Atlanta TC ran this race last year in 24:29. This past November he clocked 21:59 and by New Year's Day, was able to turn in a 21:33 at a Resolution Run. Sub-20 may be out of reach still, but he might get close. Reno Stirrat Rockaway NJ, Shore AC has been able to run at closer to his potential over this period, but not at his usual level. He finished 5th at these championships last year in 20:34. He clocked 41:11 in finishing 3rd at the 10 Km Masters Championships at the end of April. A month later he was competing at Rochester strictly for the team, completing what must have been an agonizing mile in 8:28. Although still no this best effort, it seemed like he may have turned the corner at the 12 Km Championships in New Jersey. He finished 7th in the division in 54:21, roughly equivalent to a 44:45 10K. But at Club Cross, he was again way off his normal pace. Richmond was better; that time he came in ahead of people he had been finishing behind. Perhaps even more importantly, his training has continued well after that. If he can get c lose to the 20:34 he registered last year, that would be amazing! Anything under 22 would represent very solid progress! Kevin Dollard Hopewell Junction NY, Stirrat's teammate, finished 3rd here last year in 19:58. He has run consistently all year; he should run well tomorrow, perhaps low 20's? Stan McCormack Shawnee KS, Kansas City Smoke finished 7th here last year in 19:36. He ran faster than Dever at the Masters Outdoor TF Championships, clocking 19:45 for the 5000M. The competition in this age division is also ridiculous! Still, Sayre looks like the best bet. After that maybe Youngers as long as his health is good. And then Barbour. But several others mentioned above have the potential to wind up on the podium.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

John Barbour     Roger Sayre     Ken Youngers

70-74 Robert Qualls Reno NV, River City Rebels, Doug Bell Greeley CO, Boulder RR, and Gene Dykes Bala Cynwyd PA, Greater Philadelphia TC stand out in this division as long as they are at or close to their usual fitness. There is no doubt about Qualls; he is the clear favorite. Qualls went wild at the World Masters Championships in Tampere Finland in the summer; he returned laden down with medals, Qualls has not been beaten since then. He had a shootout with Dykes at the 12 Km and emerged with the division win. The same held true on the turf, at Boulder, San Francisco and Richmond. Qualls led the way each time! He won by two minutes at Boulder; the other two were closer but winning by a minute and a half is not exactly a narrow win. At two of those, Bell was the 2nd place finisher. He was way back at San Francisco, but I am guessing Bell's back was perhaps not very happy with the weather. Bell came in 3rd here last year almost a half-minute behind Dykes. Bell loves the 5K distance but is probably less excited about hills. We will probably not see Dykes at his best. The question is whether he will be just a little bit off or way off. Dykes was breaking American records left and right in 2018 and nearly nailed the legendary, late Ed Whitlock's World 70-74 Marathon record. He did get the American Record. Since then he has had more difficulties with injuries and it was taking him longer to heal and then he would get injured again. He finally had blood work done late last year. It looked like he had turned the corner for good, perhaps. He ran 1:31:43 at the Half marathon in Naples FL last month. That was his best Half Marathon time since 2021 although nothing like the 1:25:10 he ran in 2020 before his difficulties started. Does that mean that Dykes will better the 20:47 he turned in last year? It could be. The problem is that he ramped up his training after the successful effort in Napkes and came up with an abdominal strain from a hill workout. Dykes should have rested but he had made a commitment to a training partner to compete in a 'couples' race on Valentine's Day and hated to disappoint. It was a struggle and he definitely needed to rest it after that. It is two weeks later and I have no idea if he is totally recovered or if it is still bothering him. Either way, Dykes will almost surely race. he loves to race and figured he would run this one with whatever fitness he can bring to the event. If he is past the abdominal strain and nothing else has acted up, the order of finish should be Qualls-Dykes-Bell. Others who might shoot past one or more of those three include Jerry Learned Gainesville GA, Atlanta TC, who finished 14 seconds behind Bell here last year, and Eugene Myers Columbia MD, Potomac Valley TC, who finished a mere second back from Learned. I found out at Richmond that Learned, the 2012 and 2022 Masters National 70-74 Grand Prix Champion, has been having some health challenges; his times have been suffering because his training has been uneven. Myers, on the other hand, has been running well. He uncorked a good one at Club Cross, finishing well ahead of Learned, Bell and Kirk Larson Atlanta GA, Atlanta TC. Larson has been a very solid performer for years but lost a bit of his enthusiasm after turning 70. He has been competing, but not as frequently, and his fitness has not been as sharp- as when he was a vital part of the M60+ team for Atlanta. He ran better at Richmond, though and this will mark his third consecutive Masters National Championship. Perhaps we will see the Larson of old mixing it up tomorrow. Terry McCluskey Vienna OH, Ann Arbor TC, the 2019 Club Cross 70-74 champion, returns to the fray. He ran for fun at San Francisco, but has trained a bit for this one. It will be interesting to see how he does. The last time he raced in Atlanta, in August 2019, he won the 70-74 division in 20:48. I would not expect that kind of performance but it would not be impossible for McCluskey to mount the podium, even off of short training. Picking 1st is easy. Qualls does not appear to have any close threats. If Dykes has recovered from his abdominal strain, he should take 2nd. I like Bell for third; he knows the course and has run well with the sole exception of San Francisco. McCluskey or Myers could also move up onto the podium depending on a variety of factors.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Doug Bell     Gene Dykes     Robert Qualls

75-79 The only runners in this age division that Dave Glass Glenville NY, Atlanta TC has had trouble with in the last few years, and then only at distances under 10K, are: Gary Ostwald, Gary Patton, and Ron Wells. None are entered. None of this year's entrants have given Glass any trouble since he emerged at the top of the division in September 2021.  Glass should win in the proverbial cakewalk! Keith Yeates Fairport NY, GVH should be the closest of the field to Glass. The last time Yeates ran in Atlanta it was 2019; he ran 23:42 to finish 6th in the division. He was over two minutes behind Glass at San Francisco and 1:22 at Richmond. But he was well ahead of all of the others at those two races.

A handful of the others, namely Jan Frisby Grand Junction CO, Boulder Road Runners, Przemek Nowicki Holmdel NJ, Shore AC, and your author, that's me, Paul Carlin Three oaks MI, Ann Arbor TC, have won national championships before. But it has been a few years. Frisby has done better than that; he ran well enough in his 50's to be awarded Masters Runner of the Year for both 50-54 and 55-59.  He won the 75-79 1 Mile Championship a few years back, perhaps 2019. In 2017, I was lucky enough to edge Glass for the Grand Prix 70-74 championship. He has now won the last two Grand Prix championships for 75-79. Glass has not lost a 75-79 race at 10 Km or over since racing resumed in the fall of 2021. He ran 22:36 here last year. Frisby finished 6th in 24:39. I was coming back from a May to December layoff due to an Achilles injury that was resistant to rehab; I ran 26:24. Nowicki, who has also had challenges, was at 26:53. Also he noted that he does not like hills. I was able to finish within a couple of minutes of Yeates at Richmond but that is the closest I have been since the 2021 resumption of Championships. That 26:24 is not representative of my ability. In November of last year, I ran a 24:58 5K. The course was not as hilly as this one in Atlanta but it was on a certified course. I have had a good block of training so I hope to run faster. Frisby and Nowicki were off their best at Richmond, finishing in tandem 4 minutes behind me. Frisby has made remarkable progress in short training blocks before; I have not heard of any new difficulties. He could challenge for the podium. If all goes well, the most likely order of finish is Glass-Yeates-Carlin.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Paul Carlin     Dave Glass     Keith Yeates

80-84 Hall of Famer, Doug Goodhue Milford MI, Ann Arbor TC, the 'Silver Bullett', is back in action. I wrote about him at length in the earlier preview. Coming back from knee surgery, he ran for fun in San Francisco. The official results placed him second, but ahead of anyone in tomorrow's field who was there. He has had a good block of training since then. In 2019 he won the 75-79 division in 21:28. He won't run that fast, but there is little doubt he will win the division, and by a large amount. David Turner Clarkesville GA, Atlanta TC won the division here last year in 29:11. He is a good bet for 2nd. Ed Bligh Alpharetta GA, Atlanta TC is probably next. He ran 28:56 on this course in 2018.He finished 2 and a half minutes behind Goodhue in San Francisco. Andrew Sherwood Atlanta GA, Atlanta TC, the 2022 Masters National 80-84 Grand Prix Champion will be there to compete and ready to step up to the podium if he has a good day.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Ed Bligh     Doug Goodhue     David Turner

85-89 Atlanta teammates, Adrian Craven Greenville SC and Sid Davis Atlanta GA, are entered in this division. Craven is generally faster than Davis. At Rochester last year, they met in the mile. Craven ran 10:40, Davis 14:04. If all goes as usual, Craven should win with Davis second.

Podium Prediction in alphabetical order

Adrian Craven     Sid Davis

Time ran out on me. Age grading and team competitions will have to go unanalyzed. It's after 9:30 pm and I have to race tomorrow.

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