April 6 2023. Torun, Poland. The World Masters Athletics (WMA) Indoor Championships were held from March 26th to April 1st. As has been the case in recent years, they included three non-stadia events, a Cross Country race (either 6 or 8 km), a 10 Km and a Half Marathon road race. On the track, middle distance racers [MDR's] competed in the 1500 and 3000 meter events and a few of our speedier MDR's competed in the 800 Meter Run. The Masters athletes who made the trip to Torun, Poland were ready to rock, and they did roll!
Day 1 March 26th. The first finals held were in the 3000 Meter run. Highlights for Team USA were a Gold, 2 Silvers and a Bronze. Jeanette Groesz, who has again been dominating our national Cross Country events, started things off with a Silver Medal effort in W70. She did battle with a German pair at the front of the field. One of the two German athletes was able to pull away for the win, but Groesz edged the 2nd German in a thrilling finish, capturing silver by a fraction of a second in 13:38.66! Michelle Rohl topped that by taking the Gold in W55, powering to an 11 second victory and breaking the American Record by 8 seconds in the process with a 10:27.11. April Lund finished things off with a W40 Silver medal, losing to a Polish woman by 3 seconds but finishing 20 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Her 9:47.05 lowered the American Record by 3 seconds. Robert Qualls ran with an Italian and Dutch athlete at the head of the field in M70. Despite his best efforts, Qualls could not quite stay with them on the final lap. It was Italy first, Netherlands 2nd and, less than 2 seconds later, Qualls in third. Qualls did set an American M70 3000 Meter record with his 11:04.37, lowering the existing record by 5 seconds! The 4th place finisher was 100 meters back when Qualls crossed the finish line.
Euleen Josiah-Tanner almost got there in W45 but had the bad luck of finishing just out of the medals in 4th. It was tough luck indeed as Josiah-Tanner was part of the lead group the whole way; she was three seconds away from silver and less than two from bronze.
Day 2 March 27th The Cross Country event included 6 Km races for Women and Men 70 and over, between 8 and 9 am, and 8 km races for the remaining Masters athletes, from 10:40 am until 4:30 pm. The weather was quite crisp for the first batch oof runners. The hearty batch of veteran runners set off at 28 degrees F, under mostly cloudy skies. Luckily, there was little wind. By the time the under-70's went off the temperature had climbed above freezing, but the winds had picked up to 8-9 mph. After the noon hour, the skies cleared, temps rose to the lower 40's, but the winds were pretty consistently in the 10-12 mph range. All of the runners were tested, no doubt! Individual medals eluded the Americans in the early race. Jeanette Groesz and Suzanne Ray, Red Lizard teammates back home in Oregon, tracked two Germans and an Irish athlete in W70, but could not stay with them over the final stretch, finishing 4th and 5th. But Groesz and Ray were teamed with Kathleen Frable, who finished 5th n W75. That team scored a W70 Team Bronze behind Germany and Great Britain. The first individual medal came from the Men's 70 race that went off at 9 am. The same Italian athlete who took Gold in the M70 3000 Meter run had his way again. This time, though, Robert Qualls was able to break up the strong Italian team, taking M70 Silver in 26:18, a good 16 seconds ahead of the third place finisher. Qualls also teamed up with Eugene Myers, 12th, and John Perez 31st, to bring home the M70 Team Silver a minute and 20 seconds ahead of the German team. Christine Kennedy in W65 and Mary Swan in W60 brought home Silver medals. Kennedy was a good 5 minutes ahead of the 3rd place finisher, from Ireland; her silver medal time was 38:23.
|Christine Kennedy headed for Silver in the W65 Cross Country race at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: Ian Wilson on facebook|
Swan, with a time of 37:08, was 22 seconds out of 1st but 14 seconds ahead of the bronze medalist from Canada. Kennedy also teamed up with two other W65 athletes, Trenice Mullis Dubow, 8th, and Helene Myers, 28th, to snag a Silver Team W65 medal. Germany won and there was no 3rd place finishing team.
The highlight of the 8 Km Cross, no doubt, was April Lund's Gold medal effort in W40, holding off two strong runners from Ireland to take the win in 30:33, eighteen seconds ahead of her closest rival. After taking the W40 WMA XC Championships Gold Medal in Bathurst, Australia, it is only fitting that she would match that effort with a Gold in Poland.
In a hotly contested team race, Team USA (Lund, Josiah-Tanner, and Alicia Martinez) finished 5th in Team W40, a minute and change away from the bronze medal position. In W50, Hortencia Aliaga finished 4th in 34:11, just 6 seconds off the final podium position. The men running in the 8 Km Cross had less success than the women. The closest they were able to get to the podium was a 6th place effort by the M60 team of William 'Hugh' Enicks, Dale Drueckhammer, and Kenneth Johnson.
Day 4 March 29 The focal point for Team USA LDR specialists on Day 4 was the 10 Km Road race. From online pictures and a weather summary it appears that temperatures were in the mid 40's with partly sunny skies and a brisk wind, not too bad for an early spring race. Men and Women all ran in the same race.
Robert Qualls was denied the top spot in the 3000 Meter Run; he was denied the top spot in the 6 Km Cross Country race. He would not be denied in the 10 Km Road race. Already with a Silver and a Bronze M70 medal, Qualls wanted the M70 Gold, and he got it! Qualls and a Spanish runner were able to distance themselves from a Polish rival who took the bronze, but which of them would get Gold and which Silver? In the end Qualls was able to prevail by 6 seconds in 41:12! April Lund earned her 2nd W40 Silver to go along with her Gold XC medal and her Silver 3000 meter medal. Lund and a Tunisian athlete were out three minutes in front of the field.
|April Lund leading the way in the W40 10K at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit:Todd Straka|
Try as she might, Lund could not achieve total separation. In a thrilling finish, the Tunisian athlete prevailed by a single second! It must have been disheartening to come so close to a 2nd Gold, but Lund cert1ainly should be proud of a Gold and two Silver individual medals in the first 4 days of competition! Euleen Josiah-Tanner took 4th in W45; it must have been frustrating to finish 4th for the 2nd time. They always say 4th place is the hardest place to finish, just off the podium. But to be in the top 4 at a World Championship is amazing! Two other US athletes finished in the top 5, Mary Swan, 5th in W60, and George Gilder, 5th in M80.
|George Gilder headed for a 5th place finish in the 10K race at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit:Todd Straka|
Day 5 March 30 The top division for the USA in the 800 Meter Run was W55. Michelle Rohl finished 2nd in 2:25.12; she was followed 0.6 seconds later by her teammate, Sue McDonald. And a third teammate, Dominique Saint Louis finished 5th in 2:29.07. Too bad there are no team medals in track events!
|Michelle Rohl and Sue McDonald go 2-3 in the 800M W55 Finals at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com|
That gave Rohl a gold and a silver in the two events she contested so far. The 2:25.12 also gave her another American Record, lowering the old one by over a second! I am guessing that McDonald must have had her 60th birthday during these Championships. Even though she was competing in the W55 division, where she finished 3rd, she must have been 60 at the time; she was credited with a WMA World Record for W60. And it was not close; she broke it by 7 seconds.
In what must have been an exciting race to watch, Masters Hall of Famer, Gary Patton settled in 2nd behind the furious pace set by the lead Dutch athlete. Edging closer on the final backstretch, Patton unleashed his kick coming off the final turn. That devastating kick has delivered many a Gold medal. But this time, the Dutch athlete had the answer, barely! He hung on to the finish line, edging Patton by less than 0.2 seconds!
|Gary Patton misses the Gold medal in the M75 800M by a half stride at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com|
In M70, another Masters Hall of Famer, Nolan Shaheed, was not able to stay with the Irish winner, but he and Anthony Fleming, along with a Dutch runner were vying for the oth1er two medals. Coming off the turn all three accelerated, but Fleming lost his balance on the kick into the finish and went down. Shaheed stayed up and was able to nip a Dutch runner for the silver medal in a photo finish; their times were 2:33.70 and 2:33.71! They definitely needed to look at the photo to figure that one out!
|Anthony Fleming L and Nolan Shaheed R battling a Dutch athlete for M70 800M Silver and Bronze, barreling for the Finish Line at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com|
Charles Novak also turned in a silver medal effort. In M55, Novak ran his heart out, with his 2:06.37 breaking the existing WMA mark by 0.04 seconds! The only problem was that the current record holder, running for Italy, ran just a little faster, taking the Gold in 2:06.10.
|Charles Novak has the lead coming off the final turn but in the battle of Blue against Blue, this time the Blue of Italy had the M55 Gold Medal by a lean--at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com|
|Lorraine Jasper strides toward her Silver Medal in the W60 800M at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com|
Williams, in M50, was even closer to Silver, losing in a photo finish; his time was 2:05.47. The silver medal time was 2:05.46!
|Mark Williams gives it everything he has, earning the M50|
Bronze Medal in the 800M at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com
Williams's longtime rival and running comrade, Peter Brady, was a second back in 4th.
Day 7 April 1 The final day of competition was reserved for the glamour event on the track, the 1500 Meter Run, and the longest Non-Stadia event, the Half Marathon.
The Half Marathon went off at 11 AM with temperatures in the mid-40's. It had rained lightly earlier but the historical weather report says it was cloudy with a brisk wind. The highlights were two Gold medals for the USA.
April Lund got her 4th individual medal and her 2nd Gold, taking the Women's 40 title in 1:17:54. Lund enjoyed a dominant victory; her closest rival, the Silver Medalist from Germany, was two minutes behind. Euleen Josiah-Tanner collected her third 4th place finish in W45 in 1:26:28,
|Euleen Josiah-Tanner finishing strong in the Half Marathon, scoring for the W40 Team Gold at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: Todd Straka|
but this time had the joy of dropping down a division to team up with Lund and Emma Whatley, 13th in W40 in 1:37:41 to take Team Gold in W40. In a tight contest, they edged the home team, Poland, by a minute! Christine Kennedy won her Women's 65 Gold in 1:31:38 with a similar margin. The big news was that she broke the W65 American Half Marathon Record pending ratification and the W65 Half Marathon World Record!
|Christine Kennedy attacking the course on her way to a W65 Gold medal & an American and World Half Marathon Record at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: Todd Straka|
Jeanette Groesz and Suzanne Ray took Silver and Bronze in W70, with times of 1:47:21 and 1:50:10. To top it off, Groesz and Ray dropped down to team up with Kennedy in the W65 Team competition and came away with a Team Gold. They came away with a two-minute victory over Ireland. No medals on the men's side; Qualls opted for the track. Eugene Myers was not far off, taking 5th in M70 in 1:39:55. Myers, too, had the satisfaction of dropping down an age division to team up with Tim Conheady, 11th in M65 in 1:29:15
|Tim Conheady finishing up his Half Marathon and scoring for the M65 Team Bronze |
|Gary Haga finishing up his contribution to the M65 Team Bronze |
1500 Meter Run It still does not have the cachet of the Mile in the British Isles and North America, but the 1500 Meteer Run is the closest we can get in this metric world. It is the premier event on the track for Middle Distance runners. Tracey Bernette got things started for Team USA by claiming the W65 Silver medal in in 6:19.27. She could not stay with the winning athlete from Great Britain, but she had 50 meters on the Canadian athlete in third place.
|Early in the Race before Tracey Bernette pulled away from her Canadian rival to claim the W65 Silver Medal in the 1500M at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com|
Lorraine Jasper kept things going in W60. Not able to stay with the Spanish athlete who won, Jasper made sure she was in position to fight for the Silver medal. She won that battle by a fraction of a second, 5:40.28 to 5:40.44 for the British athlete in 3rd.
|Lorraine Jasper's final kick propels her past the British athlete to her left as she takes the Silver medal in the W60 1500M at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com|
Team USA went 1-3-6 in W55! Michelle Rohl took the W55 Gold in 4:53.07, leaving her closest rival, a Spanish athlete, in her wake, 70 meters back when she took the tape for the win. Rohl noted on a FB post, "It was not the way I wanted to win." Her toughest rival, a German athlete, was DQ'd for passing Rohl and then cutting in too soon, impeding Rohl.
|German Athlete impeding Rohl at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com|
|Michelle Rohl crosses the line 2nd but is declared the Gold Medal winner when her German rival was DQ'd at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.com|
That lowered the American Record by over 5 seconds! Rohl wound up with two Individual Golds and a Silver on the track. Sue McDonald came across the finish line a second behind the Spaniard, giving Team USA Bronze as well as Gold.
|Sue McDonald closes strong for the USA, taking Bronze in the W55 1500M, behind the Spanish Silver medalist, and breaking the W60 World Record at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.co|
And, once again, Dominique Saint Louis finished 6th for a very strong American showing. As in the 800M, McDonald, though running in W55, snagged a new W60 WMA World Record, breaking it by almost two seconds.
Gary Patton won the first Team USA individual medal in the men's races in the afternoon, racing in M75. He again came up against Smeets of the Netherlands and the result was the same. It was tight from the gun again. This time Patton took the lead, running a pace that dropped everyone else. Smeets was able to stay with Patton, though, and kick past in the final straightaway, edging Patton by a half second.
|Gary Patton leading his Dutch rival a Merry Chase coming off the final turn as Patton took his 2nd W75 Silver Medal, this time in the 1500M at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.co|
At least in this race, Patton had the satisfaction of breaking the American M75 1500 Meter Indoor Record by almost 17 seconds--amazing! An Aussie athlete finished 15 meters back to take the Bronze. That gave Patton his second Silver of the Championships. In M70, the Irish athlete who won the 800M Gold and the Italian athlete who took Gold in the 3000 meters went 1-2. Robert Qualls could not stay with them, but he gritted his teeth and held everyone else at bay, leaving his closest rival, a second Italian athlete 15 meters back in 4th.
|Robert Qualls approaches the finish line, heavily taped up, claiming the M70 Bronze medal, with his closest rival far back, at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.co|
Qualls commented after the race that he had never imagined he could medal in the final event with a bum hamstring taped up. He credited advice from his teammate, Eugene Myers, to take it out hard and build a lead over the 4th and 5th runners so he could hold them off without having to launch into an all-out sprint. Apparently, it worked! That made Qualls a Bronze medalist in the premier track event, and it upped his overall medal haul to a Gold, 2 Silvers, and a Bronze! Nolan Shaheed finished 5th in 5:32.42. In M50, Peter Brady finished 5th in 4:13.21, with Mark Williams 7th in 4:19.42.
The biggest story of the afternoon came in M55 when Charles Novak toed the line. It was a talented and tightly packed field. At the end, no more than 5 seconds separated the first and tenth finishers. Novak avoided all trouble and when he made his move to the front on the backstretch, an Estonian athlete went with him. Coming off the turn, Novak had the lead, but the Estonian kicked just past Novak, and then Novak timed his final kick perfectly to deny the Estonian the victory. Novak crossed the line first in 4:22.67, two meters ahead of the Estonian athlete in 2nd and 8 meters ahead of the British athlete in 3rd!
|Charles Novak finishes first to claim the M55 Gold medal at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland Photo Credit: ShaggysPhotos.co|
It must have been sweet after missing Gold in the 800 meters by a fraction of a second, even after running a record time. This was not close to the record, but the race was more tactical; it was a terrific victory for Novak!
Note: Masters LDR recognizes as Masters those 40 years of age and up. On the track it is 35 and up. I typically stick to that definition in my coverage of Masters events but I note that Mark Husted notched M35 Silvers in the 3000M, 8:49.63, and 800M, 1:55.90, events and claimed Gold in the 1500M at 4:02.00.
There were tremendous performances by Team USA athletes at the WMA Indoor Championships, both on the Track and outside of it.
The official tally of medals left Team USA in 3rd place, behind Poland and Germany in terms of number of Gold Medals. In terms of the count that the USA usually emphasizes, the count of all medals, Team USA was fourth behind Poland, Germany and Great Britain.
The next international event is the WMA XC Championships to be held in February 10-11, 2024 in Medulin and Pula, Croatia.