May 21, 2023 This mid-year review of the 2023 USATF Masters National Grand Prix focuses on the Women's Individual Grand Prix. Subsequent articles will address the Men's Individual Grand Prix and the Team Grand Prix.
Background Info: The 2023 Masters National Grand Prix MNGP has two components, an Individual and a Team competition. Detailed scoring rules for Teams/Clubs are here; those for individual athletes are here. The basics are that whether team or individual, the scores from the best five events are added up to get a final score. Three is the minimum number of events to qualify for an end of year award. A team or an individual can compete in more than 5 events but only the best 5 scores are added up.
The 2023 schedule is comprised of the following events:
December 10, 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships, San Francisco, CA shortened names: Club XC, Clubs, San Francisco; January 21, 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships, Richmond, VA shortened names: Cross Nationals, Richmond; February 25, 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships, Atlanta, GA; March 26-April 1, 2023, WMA Indoor Championships - Non Stadia Events, Torun, Poland shortened names: WMA, WMA Non-stadia, Poland; April 2, 2023 USATF Masters 10 Mile Championships, Sacramento, CA; April 16, 2023 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships, Syracuse, NY; April 30, 2023 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships, Dedham, MA; June 24, 2023 USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships, Indianapolis, IN; September 17, 2023 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships, Highlands, NJ; October 7, 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships, Boca Raton, FL shortened names: 5 Km XC, Boca
The 1Mile, 5Km, 10Km, 12Km, 10 Mile, and Half Marathon Championships are road races; the other three are Cross Country. I refer to them sometimes as turf contests or on the turf. I refer to the road championships often by the distance run or by the city/town in which they are located.
The Masters National Grand Prix End-of-the-Year Awards Ceremony is scheduled for the 2023 Club Cross Country Championships on December 9th in Tallahassee, FL.
INDIVIDUALS: For individual athletes, 7 of the 10 scoring events have taken place. But 300 points, potentially, are still up for grabs.
40-44 The podium last year was Jessica Hruska Crown Running, Alison Schwalm Greater Philadelphia Track Club and Maggie Shearer Cal Coast Track Club. Schwalm and Shearer have aged up to 45-49 and will be considered there. Hruska is currently in 3rd place with her third at Clubs 90 pts, and a sixth in Atlanta 70 pts, giving her 160 points. She does not yet have the minimum 3 events but is well placed to move up should she choose to compete. Hruska started running for the Garden State Track Club at Atlanta this year, making it more likely she will have added events from the final three championships. Three athletes have the minimum of 3 events; they are the leaders. Alyson Barrett West Valley Track Club has 200 points from a 15th at the highly competitive Club XC Champs, a 5th at the 10 Mile Championships and a 3rd at Dedham.
|Alyson Barrett finishes off her 40-44 podium effort at the USATF Masters 10 Km Championships, earning 90 Masters National Grand Prix points Photo Credit: Pam Fales|
Barrett's two West Valley teammates, Shawnessy Dusseau and Angela Knotts have 105 and 85 points from the same three events. Barrett is likely to be in the hunt for this MNGP podium. The chief threat is, no doubt, the defending champion. Hruska runs for Garden State as the 'Out of Association' athlete on the team; she resides in Dubuque, IA. It will be interesting to see if she runs in Indianapolis. That is much closer to her than the last two championships, in New Jersey and Florida. Among the athletes with two events completed, April Lund GYS Track Club leads at 200 points, from a first at Cross Nationals and either of her two firsts at WMA in Poland, the Cross Country or the Half Marathon. So far, Lund's main interest seems to be on the track and on the turf, with special emphasis on international competition. She has not yet contested a Masters LDR road championship in the US. That could change. If Lund chooses to compete in either Indianapolis or Highlands, NJ, that would be a sign of interest in competing for an MNGP title. If she skips those, but decides to compete on the turf at Boca Raton, she still might wind up on the podium. She needs a third event. Elizabeth Wakeling Garden State has 160 points. She finished behind Hruska at San Francisco on the turf but came in ahead of her at the 5 Km. She seems highly likely to gain her third qualifier. A resident of New Jersey it seems likely she would plan to compete for her team at their home state event, the 12 km. It is hard to read the tea leaves for this division. It seems as if West Valley is looking to score added points in the 40+ team MNGP. That means Barrett will probably score more points. Hruska and Wakeling should also add some points. Those three are likely to be on the podium but the order is highly uncertain. And, of course, Lund could enter one or more of the final three events and land on the podium.
Likely podium in alphabetical order:
Alyson Barrett Jessica Hruska Elizabeth Wakeling
45-49 As noted above, Alison Schwalm and Maggie Shearer who finished 2nd and 3rd in the 40-44 MNGP competition last year are now in 45-49. Schwalm has yet to compete in an event, suggesting she is either injured or focusing on other priorities. The same is largely true for Shearer. Her one event this year was Clubs, the most important team competition of the year. It was also on the West Coast. Last year Shearer traveled from her home base in Southern California to Tallahassee Florida for Clubs and then had Cross Nationals in San Diego and the 10 Mile in Sacramento. Shearer's choice to not travel to Richmond and not to compete in Sacramento this year, suggest she does not have her eye on the 45-49 MNGP race. The 45-49 podium last year consisted of Sara Girotto Wynnewood PA, Euleen Josiah-Tanner T.H.E. Track Club, and Kathy Wiegand Atlanta Tack Club; all remain in this division. Girotto won a close contest with Josiah-Tanner last year. This year things looked like they would shape up the same way.
|Sara Girotto winning the 2022 USATF Masters 5 Km Championship for 45-49, on her way to the 2022 45-49 Masters National Grand Prix win Photo courtesy of Atlanta Track Club|
But Girotto had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the start of the 5 km Championships in Atlanta, the first few rows of the half-road-width starting area became highly compacted when athletes pushed to the front right before the gun went off. There was a pile up! Girotto went down with a shriek, but bounced back up and eventually won the division in 18:564. But after the race she was seen with ice on her knee. Later reports indicated that she had to have surgery. That surgery was successful. But it is uncertain how soon she can return to competitive racing. The report noted that, "at least she avoided months of joint immobilization." In any case, at this point, she has no MNGP points beyond the 100 she obtained in Atlanta. Athlinks has no reported results for her either. Even if she is able to compete in all three of the remaining events, her maximum potential would be 400 points.
Girotto scored 485 to win last year by 25 points. Josiah-Tanner, the 2nd place finisher with 260 points last year, is in 2nd place in 2023. She has 230 points from a 13th place at Clubs, a third in Atlanta and 100 points for being the top American in any of the three non-stadia events at WMA in Poland. She was just off the World podium in the Cross Country, 10 km and half marathon events. Josiah-Tanner is also off of her pace from last year. She has a hundred fewer points from the USATF championships this year compared to last. However, with three events to go, she could still match her total from last year and gain the win.
Wiegand has competed only in Atlanta this year and did not run as well there, compared to past years. Her teammate, Hiroko Guarneri, came in ahead of Wiegand in Atlanta. Guarneri is the current leader. She has 4 events and 280 points from a 4th place finish at Richmond, a 6th at the 10 Km, an 8th at the 10 Mile Championships, and 10th in Atlanta.
|Hiroko Guarneri picking up vaaluable Masters National Grand Prix points at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond, VA Photo courtesy of Michael Scott|
Last year Guarneri did not compete after Dedham. If that is the case again this year, she is not likely to win. If Josiah-Tanner would compete in either the 1 Mile, the 12Km or the 5 Km XC, she would, almost surely, earn more than the 55 points she needs to move ahead of Guarneri. Running out of Atlanta, Josiah-Tanner is as close as most to those three venues in Indy, Jersey shore and Florida. Others who could break onto the podium include Jennifer Weston Oak Ridge, TN and Rebekah Kennedy Forest Hills NY. Weston and Kennedy have both scored points at Atlanta in the 5K and Syracuse in the HM, so they have range. Weston has outpointed Kennedy 195 to 175. Neither runs for a team that is chasing a club grand prix prize. Weston runs out of Tennessee. It will be interesting to see if she runs at Indy, a relatively short trip compared to Syracuse.
|Jennifer Weston powering her way to an Overall Bronze Medal, Gold in 45-49 and 100 points toward a 2023 Masters National Grand Prix award Photo courtesy of the Syracuse Half Marathon|
Kennedy, out of the NYC area, traveled to Louisville for the Masters TF Indoor Championships, so she might enter as well. Josiah-Tanner might show up as too. This race could be heating up! But let us wait a minute. Kennedy can run at Indy without aging up. If she does so and runs no more races, her final total would stay for the 45-49 MNGP competition. But then her max total would be well under 300 and the chances of making the podium would be slim. But there's the rub. If she competes in either of the final two events, it appears she will move up to the 50-54 division along with her 45-49 points.
Without knowing anyone's plans, it is hard to speculate. It looks like Guarneri, Josiah-Tanner and Weston are the favorites for the podium. If Girotto has recovered, is training now, and is able to start racing again soon, she could still make the podium. If Kennedy commits to a race or two and Weston or Josiah-Tanner does not, then that could switch things around too.
Likely podium in alphabetical order:
Hiroko Guarneri Euleen Josiah-Tanner Jennifer Weston
50-54 The top three last year were Abby Dean Greater Philadelphia Track Club, Ingrid Walters The Janes Elite, and Kimberly Aspholm Garden State TC finished 1-2-3 last year. Walters does not seem to be pursuing the Grand prix title this year. She earned 50 points for her 11th at Club Cross but has not competed since then. Last year it was an easy commute down to San Diego for Cross Nationals; this year it required a trip to Richmond VA. Walters did not make the trek to Atlanta and Sacramento, as she did last year. Aspholm is further down the totals this year with , but that is primarily because it was much tougher to score points at Club Cross. Last year she scored 220 points in the Mile, the 12K and the 5 Km XC. If she repeats that feat this year, she should be in the mix for the podium. Dean is leading the way again this year; she has 390 points from a third at Cross Nationals in January, when she was not fully recovered from a hamstring strain, and wins at Atlanta, Syracuse, and Dedham.
|Abby Dean getting the job done in Syracuse NY-On her way to 6th place overall at the USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships and the 50-54 win for 100 MNGP points Photo courtesy of the Syracuse Half Marathon|
This year Dean has two other primary challengers. Hortencia Aliaga Garden State TC has 350 points from a 2nd place in Atlanta, a third at Dedham and an 8th at Clubs. She augmented that with 100 points from her being first American and 4th in the world at the WMA XC in Poland. Aliaga, too, will, almost surely compete in New Jersey. That alone would put her well over 400 points. Given Garden State's ambitions in the Club Grand Prix, I can imagine Aliaga may well compete in all three remaining championships. Dean is still the favorite. She needs to race in one more event to make it certain. If she wins, that prevents Aliaga from sweeping those three and winding up with 495 points. If Dean wins, she gets 100 points and, most likely, Aliaga gets 95. That would put Dean at 490 and Aliaga could not get above 490. Dean would own the tie-breaker with a head-to-head advantage.
|Hortencia Aliaga claims the 50-54 Bronze medal and 90 points toward the MNGP competition at the 2023 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships hosted by the James Joyce Ramble Photo courtesy of Pam Fales|
But let us not forget Samatha Forde Impala Racing, currently in third place with 320 points. Not only has she competed at Clubs and Sacramento on the west coast, but has also traveled to Richmond and Atlanta. An important runner on her 50+ team, it is likely she will compete in at least one more event and possibly two. If so, her total will also rise above 400 points and she would be in a strong position to make the podium. She may well need to be above 400 for third if Aspholm comes on strong in the last three races. As noted in 45-49, Rebekah Kennedy could age up into this division with somewhere between 250 and 400+ points depending on which championships, if any, she contests between now and the end of the season in October.
Likely podium in alphabetical order:
Hortencia Aliaga Abby Dean Samantha Forde
55-59 The top 3 in order last year were Suzanne La Burt Shore AC, Lisa Veneziano Fenton MI, and Fiona Bayly New York, NY. Second in the 4-event Grand Prix stretching over the Covid years, La Burt moved up to first last year. She outscored the field by 90 points. Her 475 points was based on a win at the 10K in Dedham, second place finishes at Clubs, the Half marathon and the 12K; and a third-place finish at Rochester. Veneziano won at the Half Marathon and scored 2nd place points at Cross Nationals, the 5K, and the 1 Mile in Rochester. Bayly scored most of her points in the 50-54 division, moving up to 55-59 with her final race of the year, a win at the 12 Km in NJ. Her 50-54 win at the Half Marathon contributed a full 100 points but her 3rd at the 5 Km and 5th at the Ten Mile left her just short of Veneziano's totals.
It has been a different story in 2023. Bayly committed to running the national championships. So far she has been at all 6, winning 5 and finishing second at the Ten Mile to the American Record holder. She has a perfect 500 points. You cannot score more points than that. La Burt is having another fine year, her last in the division. She has 285 points from Cross Nationals, the Half Marathon and the 10K. But I understand as soon as she scores additional points, La Burt moves up to 60-64, bringing her 285 points with her. So I consider her below. It is possible, but highly unlikely that La Burt is done competing for the year.
Veneziano has decided to focus on other racing. She has run in a few road races this year and finished 2nd in the 1500 Meters at the USATF Masters Indoor Championships in Louisville. But she has not raced in any MLDR championships.
So, with three events to go, Bayly has the winner's plaque virtually in her possession.
|Fiona Bayly on her way to the Bronze Medal Overall and the 55-59 Gold Medal in the Masters race at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond VA Photo courtesy of Michael Scott|
The others are vying for the remaining podium positions. Jacalyn Lembo Genesee Valley Harriers is currently in third with 245 points from a third at the Half Marathon, a 4th at Cross Nationals and a 7th at Dedham in the 10 km. She is virtually in 2nd, with La Burt moving up to 60-64 soon.
|Jacalyn Lembo finishes strong to take 7th in her division, gaining 70 MNGP points, and leading her GVH team to 50+ Team Gold at the 2023 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in Dedham MA Photo courtesy of Pam Fales|
Leslie Nowicki Shore AC is currently in 4th with 205 points. But 95 of those come from her being the 2nd 55-59 American at the WMA 10 Km. Brenda Osovski Genesee Valley Harriers has the same total as Nowicki but without any WMA boost. It is likely that GVH will contest at least the 12 K in New jersey but probably =also the 1 Mile in Indianapolis. If so, Osovski should get enough GP points to move ahead of Nowicki. Osovski has come in well ahead of Nowicki at the two events where they went head-to-head, Cross Nationals at Richmond and the 10 km at Dedham. It seems most likely that Lembo and Osovski will join Bayly on the podium, probably in that order. Carol Reif, their teammate, who is currently in 6th (but 5th with La Burt gone) could move up to the top 4. But she has not beaten either Lembo or Osovski yet this year so it would be a longshot for her to wind up on the MNGP podium in this division. But you never know; the races still have to be run!
WINNER: Fiona Bayly 500 points!
Likely 2nd and 3rd place in alphabetical order:
Jacalyn Lembo Brenda Osovski
60-64 Last year it was the Greater Philadelphia Track Club trio, Lorraine Jasper, Doreen McCoubrie, and Mary Swan going 1-2-3 with 495, 480, and 455 points respectively. They beat back a strong challenge from Stella Gibbs Impala Racing with 410 points. It is a different story this year. Jsper, ;last year, had competed in 5 national championships. Entering this season injured, Jasper was not fit enough to compete at her usual level in the two cross country championships. She did round into good enough fitness that she competed at a high level in the Indoor Track season. But she is not focused on the individual Grand Prix race; she has yet to run her first event. I expect her to enter the 1 Mile, though, in Indianapolis. That would give her the possibility of having 4 scoring events; Jasper could yet make the podium. McCoubrie is performing at the same level. At this time last year she had 285 points from 3 events; she has the same total this year, although she substituted Cross Nationals in January, which she won, for the 10 km championships in Dedham. Swan is performing at a higher level, partly because Jasper has not been coming in ahead of her at championships, but also because she and McCoubrie have mostly competed in different events. Richmond Cross Nationals was their only common event so far this year; Swan finished 2nd to McCoubrie. Swan is currently in 2nd with 290 points, just 5 points ahead of McCoubrie, currently in 3rd place.
|Doreen McCoubrie on her way to the 60-64 Gold medal [and 100 MNGP points] in the Masters race at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond VA Photo courtesy of Michael Scott|
The leader this year is Mary Cass Liberty AC who finished 5th last year with 340 points from four events. Cass has 395 points from 4 events; she has been both more active and more successful. She sent a message by winning the highly competitive Club Cross Championships, the first event of the season! She added a 2nd place finish at Atlanta, finishing ahead of McCoubrie, reversing their order of finish from 2022. She topped those off with wins at the Half Marathon and 10 Km, ahead of McCoubrie at the former and ahead of Swan at the latter. With just three events to go, Cass is clearly in the driver's seat.
|With a bounce in her stride and a smile on her face, Mary Cass finishes off her 60-64 win at the 2023 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships, worth 100 MNGP points Photo courtesy of the Syracuse Half Marathon|
Things will, necessarily, tighten up if McCoubrie and Swan compete enough this year to have the same number of events in their total as Swan.
How will La Burt's entry to the division affect things? She is basically coming in with points enough to tie McCoubrie for third. How are they likely to fare in the remaining events? Last year Cass, La Burt, McCoubrie, and Swah all competed in both the 1 Mile and the 12 Km, the two upcoming events on the circuit. La Burt, though in a different age division, competed in the same 1 Mile race in Rochester. The order across the finish line was McCoubrie 5:50, La Burt 5:58, Cass 6:17, and Swan 6:24. Cass is much fitter now this year than in 2022. She will surely get closer to McCoubrie and La Burt if they enter. But the time difference is great enough it seems unlikely she could catch McCoubrie. The Mile is one of her favorite distances. The distance to La Burt in the mile is not as great as Cass's distance to McCoubrie. But it is also true that Cass has not come close to beating La Burt at either the Half Marathon or the 10 Km, where they met head-to-head, albeit in different divisions.
|Suzanne La Burt finishes 12th Overall and 2nd in 55-59 for 95 MNGP points at the 2023 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in Dedham MA Photo courtesy of Pam Fales|
If McCoubrie can also reassert herself at the 12 Km, after losing the HM to Cass, she has a shot at the MNGP title. It will depend, in part, if any speed specialists enter the race at Indy and could add separation between McCoubrie, La Burt and Cass. Based on last year's race, La Burt is the one to beat at the 12 Km. If McCoubrie, La Burt and Cass enter at least two of those three events, it will be difficult for Swan to make the podium. Last year Swan was the only one of those four to compete in the Masters 5 Km in Bouder. If that should be true again this year with the event at Boca Raton, Swan's podium chances rise considerably. Cass remains the favorite to take the MNGP win, with La Burt and McCoubrie battling for 2nd and 3rd.
Likely podium in alphabetical order:
Mary Cass Suzanne La Burt Doreen McCoubrie
65-69 In 2022, Susan Stirrat Shore AC won the title last year with 440 points on her best 5 events. Alda Cossi Liberty AC and Helene Myers Potomac Valley tied for 2nd with 370 points from 4 and 5 events respectively. A tie-breaker is not applied for ties below first place. Cossi is not competing this year, but the story looks similar for Myers and Stirrat. Myers is currently leading with 420 points. She again brought back 100 points from WMA for being the top 65-69 American finisher in the 10 Km Championship. That has helped her stay ahead of Stirrat.
|Helene Myers starting up the Adams Street hill on the way to a 2nd place 65-69 finish, and 95 points, at the 2023 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships Photo courtesy of the Syracuse Half Marathon|
In the five championships this year in which they both competed, Stirrat has come in ahead of Myers each time.
|Susan Stirrat approaching the Finish Line with enthusiasm, winning her 65-69 division and collecting 100 MNGP points at the 2023 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships Photo courtesy of the Syracuse Half Marathon|
But Stirrat did not compete at WMA; that is the difference. Both Myers and Stirrat compete often; they have 6 and 5 2023 events respectively. If they both enter at Indianapolis, Stirrat can replace her low Clubs score with a much higher one and would likely move ahead of Myers. If Stirrat and Myers finished 1-2, respectively, as they did at the Half Marathon, Stirrat would move ahead, 470 to 460. Nora Cary Shore AC who would likely be competing for a top spot, broke her foot, in a non-running mishap, in February and had surgery in March. She hopes to start competing again sometime this summer, but probably not soon enough to compete in Indianapolis. She is in third with 195 points from a 2nd at Clubs and a win at Cross Nationals. If she cannot compete in Indianapolis, her maximum score, even if she would win both the 12 Km in Highlands and the Masters 5 Km in Boca, is 395, not enough to catch Stirrat and Myers. Trenice Mullis Dubow Atlanta Track Club and her teammate, Cynthia Williams, are in 4th and 5th with 160 and 145 points, respectively, from 2 events. Dubow has not competed much in the past outside of Atlanta and WMA. If that pattern is predictive for 2023, Dubow will not move up. But Williams has generally been more active on the circuit. In 2019, she competed in 7 events, finishing 2nd in the 60-64 Grand Prix. Last year she skipped the mile and the 12 km but competed in the 5 km XC. If that pattern repeats itself, Williams might not have enough points to move up into the top 3. But Indianapolis is a little closer to Atlanta than Rochester so perhaps Williams will enter there. If she competes at both Indy and Boca Raton, her chances of a podium MNGP finish become much better. The most likely outcome at this point is Stirrat to repeat as winner, with Myers repeating at 2nd. Cary looks likely for third if she returns to form by the end of the summer and competes in both New Jersey and Florida. If not, Williams could move up onto the podium.
Likely podium in alphabetical order:
Nora Cary Helene Myers Susan Stirrat
70-74 It was a very tight race between Team Red Lizard teammates, Jeanette Groesz and Suzanne Ray, with Groesz edging Ray for the title 490 to 485. Barbara Sauer Greater Buffalo Track Club finished 3rd with 355 points. Jeannie Rice Concord Township OH scored 300 points from winning at the 5K in Atlanta, the Half Marathon in Syracuse and the 1 Mile in Rochester. Rice, the 2019 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year, finished 4th in the Grand Prix. Rice is primarily focused on her marathons; any wins at USATF national championship races are icing on the cake. Rice moved up to the 75-79 division before winning that division at the Boston Marathon in just over 3:30. The story is similar this year. Groesz and Ray are 1-2 again. Sauer is not 3rd; she has aged up into 75-79. Groesz loves the turf; she won at Clubs, finishing ahead of Jeannie Rice. Groesz enjoyed 2nd place finishes in the 5K and Half Marathon. She brought back 100 points from WMA, finishing as top American and 2nd place in the world in the WMA Half Marathon, with her 1:47:21. Groesz has 390 points total from those 4 events.
|Jeanette Groesz on her way to a 2nd place in the 70-74 division, and 95 MNGP points, at the 2023 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships Photo courtesy of the Syracuse Half Marathon|
Ray has 285 points; she finished 3rd to Groesz at Clubs, behind Rice, and second American to Groesz, and 3rd in the World in 1:50:10. She won the Half Marathon in Syracuse, ahead of Groesz.
|Suzanne Ray finishing off her 70-74 division win at the 2022 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships Photo courtesy of Jason Timochko|
There is a wrinkle. Based on a comment made by Groesz at the most recent Club Ambassador Zoom call, it may be that Ray is injured. Ray was not mentioned by name, but the comment was about the difficulty of forming a team when one of your usual teammates is injured. That Groesz and a teammate are already entered for the 1 Mile at Indy, but not Ray, is consistent with the injury notion. We shall see how that unfolds. Rice is again only tangentially interested in USATF national championships. She competed at Clubs, as noted, finishing 2nd to Groesz. She has already entered the Mile as has Groesz. It may be Rice's chance to reverse the tables on Groesz. We shall see. Even if she does, it is not likely that Rice would overtake Groesz for the MNGP. The 12 K might fit as good prep race for either Chicago or New York, but the 5 Km XC on October 7th is not as well timed for athletes planning a major marathon in the fall. Kathryn 'Kathy' Martin, currently in 4th, has 200 points from wins at Cross Nationals in Richmond and the 5 Km in Atlanta. It is unclear which added championships she might compete in this year.
|Kathy Martin L #429 surges up a hill ahead of her younger rivals on the way to a 70-74 win and 100 MNGP points at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond VA Photo courtesy of Rick Lee|
It would be amazing to see Groesz, Martin and Rice, albeit now in 75-79, all competing in the 1 Mile Championships. That would be some race! The 12 Km seems, perhaps, more likely for Martin; it is much closer to her home base on Long Island. Kathleen Allen is currently in 3rd with 205 points from 13th at Clubs, 2nd at Cross Nationals, and 7th at Atlanta. If Ray is seriously injured, Allen is likely to make the podium regardless of whether Martin races in any more championships or not. To do so, Allen would have to either finish 3rd or higher in one added event or finish well in two events. Allen is not yet entered for the 1 Mile in Indy, so her participation in two events is not certain. This is a tough division to figure out the three most likely for the MNGP podium. Groesz seems a lock and will probably finish first. If ray can recover from her injury and rebuild her fitness over the summer, she ccan still do well, finishing as high as 2nd. But she would need good outings at both Highlands NJ in the 12 K and in Boca at the 5Km Maste0rs XC championships. Martin or Rice could wind up with 300 points or more and be on the MNGP podium, but it is unlikely to be a goal for either. Based on that, I will cross my fingers for a swift recovery for Ray if she is injured. She could outpoint Allen with a good outing at the 12 Km even if she did not race in Boca Raton.
Likely podium in alphabetical order:
Kathleen Allen Jeanette Groesz Suzanne Ray
75-79 Last year Andrea McCarter Atlanta Track Club and her teammate, Catherine Radle, were the only two athletes in this division to compete at three championships, the minimum to qualify for a prize. Tied at 285, McCardle took top honors on the 2nd tie-breaker, most wins in the year. Myrna Barnett Atlanta Track Club, yet another ATC teammate, had the third highest point total with 200 points from wins at Club Cross and the 5K in Atlanta. But with only two events, Barnett did not qualify for an MNGP award.
McCarter 76 has the lead so far this year but is battling two newcomers to the division who aged up from 70-74. Barbara Sauer finished 3rd last year in 70-74, with 355 points over 4 events. Jo Anne Rowland Impala Racing finished 11th with 175 points from 2 events. In 2023, McCarter has 290 points from a win at Cross Nationals, sandwiched between silver medals at Clubs and the 5 Km Championships in Atlanta. Sauer is currently in 3rd with 220 points from Clubs, a 5th place in Atlanta and a 2nd at Dedham.
|Barbara Sauer claims 4th place in a loaded 70-74 field at the 2022 USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships in Rochester NY Photo courtesy of Pam Fales|
Rowland has 185 points this year from the two West Coast championships, Clubs in San Francisco, where she was 4th, and the 10 Miler in Sacramento where she took the win. Rowland also traveled to Syracuse from her Bay Area residence to take top honors and gain 100 MNGP points. She is in 2nd place with 285 points. The last time Rowland made a real commitment to compete in national championships was 2017, her final year in the 65-69 division. She finished 2nd to Sabra Harvey, the 2017 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year, losing 435 to 500. That year she competed in Cross Nationals at Bend, OR, but also made cross-country trips to Flint MI for the 1 Mile, Syracuse NY for the 5K, Boston MA for the 5 Km XC, and Lexington KY for Club XC. If Rowland travels east for any two of the remaining three championships, she is likely to gain another 200 points and finish at 485.
|Jo Anne Rowland heading toward a 75-79 win and 100 MNGP points at the 2023 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships Photo courtesy of the Syracuse Half Marathon|
In their only head-to-head contest this year, at Clubs, Rowland came in a few minutes ahead of Sauer and Sauer came in many more than a few minutes ahead of McCarter, albeit in different divisions. As noted above, Jeannie Rice is now also in this division. She brings 95 points with her from Club Cross and is entered at the 1 Mile in Indianapolis. The current American 70-74 Record holder at 6:24, it seems highly likely that Rice would win and raise her total to 195 points. It is unlikely that Rice has any goals connected to the Grand Prix. Rice is primarily a Marathoner, although clearly with great range over distances from the 1 Mile to the Marathon, and the fall and spring tend to be devoted to Marathons.
|Jeannie Rice flying across the Finish Line to take 70-74 1st place at the 2022 USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships in Rochester NY Photo courtesy of Pam Fales|
Of course, the 12 Km in Highlands NJ is in mid-September. That would be too close to Berlin probably but could be a fine prep for Chicago or New York. But that's what Rice would be considering, not whether it would advance any Grand Prix standing. Last year Sauer competed in one of the three final championships, the 1 Mile, but that was in Rochester, near her1 home base of Buffalo. Will Sauer be willing to travel to Indianapolis for the 1 Mile or Highlands NJ for the 12 K? We shall see. It is important in that it would probably move her up past McCarter. But, even if not, it would protect her third-place MNGP standing from a late surge by Barnett, currently in 4th with her 100 points from the win in Atlanta over 5K. Rowland is the favorite to take the win with Sauer 2nd and McCarter third, and Barnett just off the podium. But they will have to make their travel plans and compete at the championships, so they get the needed points!
Likely podium in alphabetical order:
Andrea McCarter Jo Anne Rowland Barbara Sauer
80-84 Last year no one in this division competed in three events. It is likely to be the case again this year. Edda Stickle was the sole 80-84 competitor at Clubs, and Carolyn Slavich was the only 80-84 competitor at the Ten Miler in Sacramento.
85-89 Interestingly, one 85-89 competitor planned to compete in the three0 required events and made it happen. Edna Hyer, from the Buffalo NY area, traveled to Atlanta for the 5K, Greater Boston for the 10 Km championships and to Rochester for the 1 Mile. She won all three to take the MNGP 85-89 championship with 300 points. Hyer is not competing this year, but Joyce Hodges-Hite Atlanta Track Club, who just moved up from 80-84 late last year, already has three events completed. Like Hyer, she has not been averse to travel. She traveled to Richmond, VA for Cross Nationals and to Sacramento, CA for the Ten Mile Championships. She also competed, of course, at the 5 Km Championships in her hometown of Atlanta. With three hundred points from her three events, Hodges-Hite has the Grand Prix win almost locked up.
|Joyce Hodges-Hite on her way to completing one of her three wins this 2023 season at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond VA Photo courtesy of Michael Scott|
Tami Graf, currently in 2nd with 95 points, could move ahead of Hodges-Hite if she competed in all three remaining events and Hodges-Hite competed in none of them. There is no other way Hodges-Hite could lose although there is a very long shot that could end up with her tied for 1st. If a new competitor in the division ran in all three remaining events and Hodges-Hite skipped them all, that new competitor would also have 300 points from three events. They would not have met head-to-head and they would both have three wins. Both would receive a Champions 1st Place MNGP Plaque. The odds are against it to say the least. Most likely, Hodges-Hite will win it. The odds are against anyone other than Graf competing in the minimum of three events. There is a good chance that Graf will finish 2nd and have enough events to qualify for an award. She needs two of the last three.
Likely podium in alphabetical order:
Tami Graf Joyce Hodges-Hite