June 1 2023 This mid-year review of the 2023 USATF Masters National Grand Prix MNGP focuses on the Team Grand Prix. Previous articles addressed the Women's and the Men's Individual 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 [Individual Only-Not for teams] 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 (or area) 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.
TEAMS: For teams, 6 of the 9 scoring events have taken place. No team points were available from the WMA Non-Stadia event; the only team in competition at that event is Team USATF. Three hundred points are still up for grabs. Prognostication for teams is a difficult exercise. It is not always clear whether a team is totally committed to the Grand prix series or is just focused on doing well in a few championships. At the same time the dynamics within a team increase the complexity. And those dynamics interact with events as they unfold. How resilient will the team be to an injury of one athlete or the difficulty another teammate has with balancing family, work and other1 responsibilities? Nonetheless I go ahead and pick a likely podium based on what is known right now, with three events to go.
40+ In 2022 the Impala Racing Team San Francisco Bay Area rolled to their 2nd straight Grand Prix title. They skipped the first two Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL and San Diego CA but collected 340 points from 4 road events. Their final total was 430 points, with a 150-point margin of victory. Cal Coast Track Club Greater Los Angeles, Team Red Lizard Oregon, and, to keep it from being an entirely West Coast affair, the Atlanta Track Club ATC Atlanta GA contested for the podium. Cal Coast's 280 points left them comfortably in second at the end of the season. Red Lizard finished 3rd at 220 points, just ten ahead of ATC, 4th in the MNGP.
|Start of the Women's Masters Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco CA Photo compliments of Pam Fales|
This year the Impalas would have to finish strong to win the Grand Prix. They are currently in 4th with a 7th place finish at Club Cross and a win in Sacramento. Their 150 points leaves them 50 points behind another Bay Area team, the West Valley TC. West Valley finished two places behind the Impalas at Clubs but gained third place points at both Sacramento and Dedham. Shore Athletic Club SAC New Jersey is the only other team that has competed in three events. In this division, where it can be harder to put together a travel team, Shore AC has learned to adapt. At Club Cross, they asked their two top runners from the 65-69 division to drop down and compete, along with one 40's runner, for the 40+ team. It worked. Three athletes finished for team points. They got just 5 MNGP points, but that gave them a nice start toward obtaining the required minimum number of events to qualify for an award. In 2022, only 4 teams managed to get the required three events in. Shore added a 4th place finish at Cross Nationals for 70 points and a 2nd at the 10 Km in Dedham for 90 points. Their total score of 165 points leaves them in 3rd overall, but in 2nd among teams that already have three events. The Garden State TC New Jersey has five more points than Shore from a 4th place at Clubs and a win in Atlanta. But will they get a third event in? The answer is probably yes. They should be able to get a 40+ team to commit for the 12 Km at Highlands in their home state. But nothing is guaranteed, especially with this age division. It is true of all divisions but seems to be a bit tougher for 40+. Everyone has their own priorities, responsibilities and conflicts to juggle. No one wants to be undertrained for an event; it is harder to find the time to be well-trained for a 12K compared to shorter distances.
Those four teams are the favorites for the podium but they have to keep an eye on two teams in the rear-view mirror, the Greater Philadelphia TC with 100 points from a win at Cross Nationals and the Genesee Valley Harriers Greater Rochester0 GVH with 80 from their third place at the Half marathon. They may not cobble together three events but they both have the potential to do so. In 2023 GVH had a 40+ team that contested 6 events on the Masters Grand Prix circuit.
|Start of the Women's Race at the 2022 USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships Hosted by the Rochester Mile in Rochester, NY Photo by Mike Nier, courtesy of the Rochester Mile and the Genesee Valley Harriers|
It would be surprising if West Valley's appearance at Dedham MA was their last one this year. It seems more likely that they committed as a team to try to make at least five events. It will be interesting to see if they enter the team competition in the 1 Mile at Indy or the 12 Km at Highlands. If they were inspired by the West Valley M50+ team claiming the MNGP title last year, they may have focused on that NJ race, as the M50+ team did last year. Then they could be prepared to run the 5 Km XC at Boca Raton if they need the points. Shore and Garden State are well positioned to score more MNGP points. Shore won it last year, but Garden State did not enter a team. But the level of commitment can change dramatically from year to year. Sometimes it just takes one sparkplug! The 40+ team GSTC sent to Clubs and the 5 Km is a much stronger collection of runners than they had available in 2022. I will go with West Valley-Garden State-Shore AC.
Likely Team Podium
West Valley TC Garden State TC Shore AC
50+ Last year Shore AC had to beat back challenges from two West Coast clubs in this division, the Impalas and the Janes Elite Greater Los Angeles. The Janes Racing team was the more successful at the championships they entered, winning two, the 10 Mile and 12K, and finishing 2nd at two others, Clubs and the 5K at Atlanta. But with a final total of 4 events, they could not keep pace with the Impalas who finished 2nd based on 2nd place finishes at the 10 Mile and 5 Km XC championships in Boulder, along with a 3rd at Cross Nationals, a 4th at the 12 Km and a 6th at Clubs. The Impalas edged the Janes for 2nd place in the Club MNGP 385 to 380. Greater Philadelphia skipped the two XC events at the start of the season but came on strong with wins at Atlanta and Rochester, and a 2nd at the 12Km. Their 4th place finish at the Masters 5 Km XC at Boulder left them with 360 points total, 4th in the MGP, twenty points behind the Janes. Shore matched the Janes in earning two wins on the circuit, at the Half Marathon and 10K; they had no 2nd place finishes but notched three bronze medal finishes at Atlanta, Rochester, and Highlands. Their 440 total points gave them a comfortable win in the 50+ Club MNGP in 2022.
|Start of the Women's Masters Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photo courtesy of Michael Scott|
This year the Impalas were quick out of the gate, scoring MNGP points in each of the first four championships, Clubs, a 4th, Cross Nationals, a 3rd, Atlanta, a 5th, and the 10 Mile, a win. Even though they skipped the Half Marathon and the 10 Km, they are in the lead with 310 points. GVH seized the opportunity given them by the Impalas, adding a 2nd at Syracuse and a win at Dedham to their 4th place points from Cross Nationals and their 10th at Clubs. That gave them 290 points and a tie for 2nd in the MNGP at this stage. Greater Philadelphia has two more events completed this year than last year at a comparable spot and they are tied for 2nd. If they can finish strong like last year, they should have a good shot at the win. They have a 2nd at Cross Nationals and wins at Atlanta and Syracuse, to notch the same 290 points that GVH has. The picture is not complete without the two clubs from New Jersey, Shore AC, the winning 2022 team, and the Garden State Track Club. Both have two events at this point but could easily add the 12 Km at Highlands NJ in their home state to get the 3-event minimum. Traveling to Indy for the 1 Mile and/or Boca Raton for the 5 Km XC is not out of the question for either team. Shore demonstrated that kind of motivation for the 50+ MNGP series last year when they traveled to Tallahassee, Atlanta, Syracuse and Dedham. Garden State has not previously exhibited that commitment in 50+, but they have new athletes who may be pushing the envelope. Last year they traveled to Tallahassee and Rochester but did not put together travel teams (or home teams) beyond that. So far this year, GSTC scored a 2nd at Clubs and a third at Atlanta. This could be their first year in a while to make a run at the MNGP podium. GSTC has 170 points and is in 5th place. Shore is in 4th with 20 more points than Garden State; they won at Cross Nationals and finished 2nd at Dedham.
Who looks good for the win? The Impalas have the lead and 4 events; those are both plusses. But among the top 5 clubs they have the most travel in order to compete at additional events. That can affect not only the number of events they participate in but the quality of the team they are able to send. Things will be clearer after the Mile. We will know who made that commitment, but no one in 50+ is showing their cards yet. It will be fascinating to see how this contest plays out; for now, I will opt for GPTC-Impalas-Shore.
Likely Team Podium
Greater Philadelphia Track Club Impala Racing Shore Athletic Club
60+ From 2013 - 2018 one thing was certain; The Athena Track Club would win the Club 50+ Grand Prix. In 2019, their last year as a Club, Athena finished 3rd. Most of their athletes moved to the Greater Philadelphia Track Club. in the 2020-21 Grand Prix that spanned covid and beyond, GPTC again found themselves in first place. In 2022 GPTC had their three aces, Jasper, McCoubrie and Swan, entering the 60+ world together with all three healthy. They got their ducks in a row and knocked them off. They competed at Clubs, the 5 Km, Half Marathon, 10 Km, 1 Mile and 12 Km Championships. They won them all! They had a perfect 500 points from their 5 best events, 600 points in all, to capture the 60+ MNGP title. The Impalas won the two XC events that GPTC skipped, Cross Nationals and the Masters 5 Km XC. They also captured 2nd place finishes at the 5Km and 10 Mile championships. They wound up in 2nd place with 380 points, thirty ahead of the Liberty Athletic Club out of Greater Boston. Liberty AC took 3rd at the 5 Km in Atlanta and paired that with three 2nd place finishes at the 10K, 1 Mile and 12 K. The Atlanta Track Club was 140 points behind in 4th.
|Contesting the Masters Women's Championship at the 2022 USATF Cross Country Championships at Mission Bay in San Diego CA Photo courtesy of Michael Scott|
Hampered by injuries initially, GPTC barely got started this year. They skipped Clubs and won at Cross Nationals, but that was it for the 60+ team. They could still finish strong but, at best, they would only have 4 scores. The Liberty AC, on the other hand, entered the year with enthusiasm and a commitment to the MNGP. They traveled to San Francisco to take third at Clubs and followed that with a 2nd at Atlanta and a win at Syracuse in the Half Marathon. They finally got a 'home' event and took the honors in the 10 Km at Dedham MA. Those 370 points leave them in first with a solid 100-point lead over Impala. The Impalas have three silver medal finishes at Clubs, the 10 Miler at Sacramento and the Half Marathon at Syracuse. The Impalas can get close if they compete at one more event before Liberty does. Of the teams with just 2 events so far, Atlanta, in 4th with 130 points, is probably the most likely to contest at least one more event. Last year they contested Clubs and the 5 Km in Atlanta, as they did this year, and then they competed at the 5 Km XC in Boulder. This year they are the closest team in the top 5 to the 5 km Championships in Boca Raton. The Lake Merritt Joggers & Striders are in 3rd place on points with 155. But all of those points come from a win at the 10 Mile in Sacramento and a 6th place finish at Clubs. Apart from Club Cross Country, Lake Merritt has not traveled much in the past to compete at national championships. Liberty has a good head of steam; with four events completed, they have to be considered the favorites to take the 60+ MNGP title. The Impalas cannot catch Liberty with just one more event, even if they win that championship. A hundred points for a win would tie them with Liberty's current total, but if it ended there, Liberty would win on the head-to-head tiebreaker, 2-0. If the Impalas roll the dice at Indy, and Liberty does not, it could get very interesting very quickly. At present, I would see Liberty-Impalas-Atlanta as the most likely finishing order.
Likely Team Podium
Liberty AC Impala Racing Atlanta Track Club
70+ In 2022, Team Red Lizard took the MNGP 70+ title with a perfect 500 points. They won the first two events, Club Cross and Cross Nationals, and the last two, the 12 Km and the 5 Km XC, and sandwiched the 10 Miler win at Sacramento in between. Atlanta took 2nd on 370 points, with wins at Atlanta and Rochester, a 2nd at Clubs and a 3rd at the 5 Km XC in Boulder. No other teams contested the necessary three events. That was Red Lizard's first MNGP victory since the core of the current 70+ team was on the 60+ team that won the MNGP in 2018.
|Winning Women's 70+ Teams at the Masters 5 Km Champs in Atlanta--Atlanta Track Club A and B teams plus teammates from 80's and 90's Photo by Creagh Cross-Courtesy of Atlanta Track Club|
This year Atlanta is off to the best start with 270 points from 3 events. A 4th place finish at Clubs, followed by wins at Cross Nationals in Richmond and the 5 km in Atlanta, leave Atlanta TC with a 70-point lead over Red Lizard. Red Lizard has had more trouble putting traveling teams together. They contested Clubs in San Francisco but then skipped the next three events before sending a team to Syracuse for the Half Marathon. That was a good move; they came home with a win and 100 points to bring their total to 200. I thought they might contest the 10K in Dedham MA; they did so in 2018 and 2019. But I have heard a rumor that one of their key athletes is injured. If so, that would obviously have an effect. The Impalas are only ten points behind Red Lizard; they finished 2nd at Club Cross and won at Sacramento. It remains unclear if they can put together a team for one of the three remaining championships, all of which are east of the Mississippi. I will be an optimist and predict that Impala will get at least one more scoring event and qualify for an award. Still, the most likely order of finish right now seems: Atlanta-Red Lizard-Impala
Likely Team Podium
Atlanta Track Club Team Red Lizard Impala Racing
40+ 2022 was the year of the Indiana Elite Athletics Club. The core of the team joined the masters ranks in 2020 and 2021; they also have a couple of veterans in their mid-forties. Their toughest challenge was their first one. They traveled to Tallahassee to take on the West Valley Track Club at Club Cross. Winning that contest by just 3 points, 85 to 88, they were never headed. They won consecutive championships at Atlanta, Syracuse, Dedham, and Highlands NJ for a perfect 500 points and the Masters National Grand Prix win! After the 2nd place finish at Clubs, West Valley won the 10 Miler at Sacramento and traveled up to Boulder to capture 6th place. The 55 points that came with that finish gave them just enough total points, 245, to edge the Cal Coast Track Club for third by 10 points. The Garden State Track Club started with a 9th place at Tallahassee Clubs for 40 points. But they finished the season strong, piling on 250 points in the last 3 road championships in Dedham, Rochester, and Highlands. Had West Valley been able to win in Boulder, they would have tied Garden State, but they did not. GSTC nailed 2nd in the Grand Prix with 290 points.
|Start of the Men's Masters Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo courtesy of Michael Scott|
In the first event of the 2023 season, it was Indiana Elite taking on West Valley again. This time it was not nearly as close; Indiana took the win, 54-81. Indiana is not looking for a repeat. They have not entered a single championship since then. I expect them to defend the home roads in the 1 Mile Championships though. Four runners with Indiana Elite affiliation are entered. My guess is that most of those will wind up on a 'B' team once everyone is entered. Who knows, that could inspire them to contest either Highlands or Boca or both. Or they could be satisfied with the MNGP win last year, and the Clubs and the 1 Mile this year. West Valley has evidenced no more interest in the MNGP than last year. They added a win at Sacramento like they did last year, but that is it. They are the leaders on paper with 190 points. But no team has the 3 events necessary for an award yet. The Genesee Valley Harriers are second in points with 155. After missing the first 4 events of the season, GVH has now traveled down the road from Rochester to Syracuse for the Half Marathon, where they took 1st and to New England where they finished 9th for 55 points. GVH can stay in the lead if they compete at Indy, even if the Indiana Elite take the win and jump from 100 to 200 points. The next four teams on points all have 2 events; they are the Boston Athletic Association, the Cal Coast Track Club So Cal-Greater L.A., the SRA Elite Sacramento, and the HOKA Aggie Running Club Nor Cal-Davis. Their points range from 115 to 135. The only one of those teams who have contested sufficient events to be a factor for the podium is Cal Coast. The last time they were on the podium was 2017 when they won the Masters Grand Prix. They finished 4th last year but it was from competing at Clubs, as they typically do, and competing in San Diego and Sacramento. This year they competed at Clubs and traveled to Atlanta for their points. Do they have another trip or two in their plans, perhaps to Indy for the Mile or to Boca for the 5 Km Masters XC? Recent experience suggests that none of those four other than Cal Coast will compete in many more events. The main worry for GVH is Indiana Elite.
|Start of 2022 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships Hosted by the James Joyce Ramble in Dedham MA Photo courtesy of Michael Scott|
The only other worries for this division appear to be two teams that have only one event so far. The Greater Philadelphia TC won at Cross Nationals; they have the ability, but will they commit to the Grand Prix? Atlanta picked up 90 points at the 5 Km, but that was on their 'home course'. They have not traveled otherwise this year. Shore AC picked up 90 points at Syracuse in the Half Marathon by having two athletes drop down from 50+ and 60+ to run with a 40-44 athlete. One presumes Shore will race at Highlands; they finished 5th there last year in this division. Will they try either the 1 Mile at Indy or the Masters 5 Km XC in Boca? One has to predict GVH for the podium at this point. The Indiana Elite will have two events, almost for certain, after the 1 Mile at Indy. Most expect them to have 200 points as well. That makes them a likely team for the podium, even if they only contest one more event after the 1 Mile. There is much unknown at this point, but the most straightforward projection acknowledges GVH's lead and that Indiana is already entered in the 1 Mile and would, given the strength displayed in the 2022 Grand Prix and at Clubs last December, have a strong chance of winning. Shore seems to have as good a chance as any and better than most to get a third event in addition to Syracuse and their likely repetition of competing at Highlands: GVH--Indiana Elite--Shore AC.
Likely Team Podium
Genesee Valley Harriers Indiana Elite AC Shore AC
50+ Last year West Valley TC dominated the division for most of the year but had to withstand a push from the Garden State TC at the end of the year. They earned 300 points form Club Cross, Cross Nationals, and the 10 Mile in Sacramento. At that point GSTC had just 190 points from a 2nd place finish at Clubs and a win at the Half Marathon in Syracuse. Garden State added another 180 points at Dedham and Rochester before West Valley got another win. After the Mile, GSTC had the lead with 380 points. But it did not last long. West Valley won the final two events of the year, totaling a perfect 500 points to take the MNGP win. GSTC finished 2nd to West Valley at Highlands, giving them 470 points and 2nd place in the Grand Prix. In the race for third, Atlanta got off to a good early start and then GVH overtook them. But Atlanta was able to pull away over the 4 events from early April to mid-September. In the end, Atlanta had 440 points and the MNGP third place, 70 points ahead of GVH.
|Turn Two of the Men's Race at the 2022 USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships, Hosted by the Rochester Mile in Rochester NY Photo courtesy of the Rochester Mile and the Genesee Valley Harriiers|
Cross Nationals were on the West Coast last year and the East Coast this year. So it is hard to know whether West Valley's positioning at this point, 3rd behind Atlanta and GVH, represents a different commitment to the MNGP or simply a decision to travel to other championships rather than Cross Nationals. West Valley cannot score 500 points this year, but they could still win the MNGP if they choose to. It appears that SRA Elite may have the only team capable of running with them, and SRA Elite has not competed, as a 50+ team, away from the West Coast except for Club Cross. If West Valley decides to compete at the 1 Mile in Indianapolis, the 12K in New Jersey and the 5 Km XC+ in Boca Raton, they will likely get their 2nd straight Grand Prix win. But any commitment less than that means that Atlanta or GVH will probably get the win. Atlanta, too, could get to 490 points by winning the final 3 events. If their best team shows up, it does not appear GVH is quite strong enough to deny them the top spot. It is not hard to imagine that both GVH and Atlanta might compete at the remaining three events. It will, therefore, be interesting to see if West Valley enters a 50+ team at the 1 Mile Championships. If not, they are not attempting to compete for a second consecutive Grand Prix win. The most successful M50+ team so far, the Greater Springfield Harriers, managed to win four consecutive Grand Prix Club Championships from 2017-19 plus the blended 2020-21 MNGP. At this point the most likely order of finish seems to be Atlanta-GVH-West Valley.
Likely Team Podium
Atlanta TC Genesee Valley TC West Valley TC
60+ Starting in 2017, Shore AC has been on the MNGP 60+ podium every year. They took the win last year for the first time; it was a hard-fought battle with the Boulder Road Runners. Boulder got off to a quick start with 450 points from their first 5 events. At that point, Shore was over 200 points behind; they had 2nd place finishes at Atlanta and Syracuse. Shore roared back with 300 points at the 10Km, the 1 Mile and the 12 Km; that gave them 480 points from their best five and put the MNGP title out of reach for Boulder. Even though Boulder won the final event of the season, the 5 Km XC, they finished with 470 points and 2nd place. The main battle for 3rd was between Atlanta and GVH, although Athletics Boulder finished 2nd at the final event to pull within ten points of 4th.
|The 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships--a few seconds after the gun sounded with Men 50's and 60's competitors in Atlanta Georgia Photo by Joaquin Lara, courtesy of Atlanta Track Club|
Shore is in the thick of the 2023 MNGP contest but faces, by and large, different rivals this time.
Boulder has not gone away but is competing at a slightly lower level, in part because they lost one of their top runners to relocation. Boulder is currently in 5th with 225 points on an 8th place finish at Clubs and 2nds at the 5Km and 10 Mile runs.
GVH is again in the mix, currently 4th. A tenth at Clubs, 7th at Cross Nationals, a 2nd at the Half Marathon and a 5th at the 10 Km gives them a total of 235 points, just ten ahead of Boulder in 4th.
The Ann Arbor Track Club AATC has a long history in the 60+ division of the Club Grand Prix. The first three years of the Club Grand Prix were 2012 through 2014. The AATC took the top 60+ prize in each of those three years. Their last MNGP 60+ podium finish was in 2015 when they finished 3rd. By 2018 some of the key players on the early 60+ teams were on the 70+ AATC team that won its first MNGP that year. But this year, AATC 60+ has become active again with new runners and a few veterans forming the core of the team. A 13th place finish at Clubs was an inauspicious beginning to the year. but the team persevered, picking up 55 points from a 6th place at Cross Nationals and 70 from a 4th place at the 5 Km. They hit their high point with a win at Syracuse in the Half Marathon and managed another 4th place finish at the 10 Km. They sit in 3rd place with 315 points.
Shore started with a 6th place at Clubs and built that up with third place finishes at the 5 Km and Half Marathon, and still more with 2nd place finishes at Cross Nationals and the 10 Km. Shore sits 2nd in the MNGP with 395 points.
Atlanta, despite their top runner struggling with health problems, has put together a great run from a tight 3-man pack that has run consistently well this season. Finishing just ahead of GVH at Clubs in 9th, Atlanta shot up the board with four consecutive wins at Cross Nationals, the 5 Km, the 10 Mile and the 10 Km. Those 440 points leave them with a sizable lead over Shore and AATC.
Last year Shore won the 1 Mile and 12 Km Championships. They need to do something similar this year. If their top runners show up, and if they win two championships out of the last three events, and Atlanta fails to improve their current total, Shore could shoot into the lead. But, of course, Atlanta can improve their current total by finishing in the top nine at one event. If they can finish at least 2nd, their total increases from 440 to 490 and they are out of reach. AATC also has room to improve their total considerably. They will probably need to do so to keep their current spot on the podium. If AATC can finish third in one of the final three events, their total rises to 375 and their third place would be a bit more secure.
|Front of the 60+ Men's Race, running through the deluge at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA Photo courtesy of Pam Fales|
But it appears it will definitely be a 'dog fight'. Boulder, GVH and Shore have already signaled their intent to go after team points at the 1 Mile Championships in Indy. If AATC competes at Indy with their top two runners and some support, they should withstand the challenge. Atlanta actually looks pretty secure for the MNGP win as long as they can keep their tight 3-man pack intact. Atlanta has not signaled their intent for the 1 Mile yet, but that could be a knockout blow if they can finish on the podium. Shore has to do well at two remaining championships to have a chance to overtake Atlanta. But they too look pretty secure for at least a 2nd place. Boulder has a complete team, including two strong runners, entered for Indy. GVH can move up as well; they also have a complete team entered for the one mile. At this point there is no reason to move AATC out of podium contention. If all of their top runners show up, they are quite strong, as they showed with the win at Syracuse. I will go with Atlanta-Shore-Ann Arbor and let Boulder and GVH try to prove me wrong.
Likely Team Podium
Atlanta TC Shore AC Ann Arbor TC
70+ Last year Boulder took the MNGP title in an exciting contest with Atlanta. Atlanta led, after 8 events, with 470 points from 1sts at the 10 K and 1 Mile and 2nds at the 5K, Half Marathon and 12 K. But Boulder had 390 points from wins at Clubs, the 5K and the 10 Mile along with a 2nd at the 1Mile. Boulder was favored to win the last event of the season, the Masters 5 Km XC on the home turf at Boulder. If Atlanta pulled off an upset and won at the 5 Km XC, and Boulder finished 2nd, they both would wind up at 480 points and Boulder would win on the tiebreaker 3 -2 on head-to-head competition. So Atlanta needed to win and get some help from another team beating Boulder as well. It did not matter though; Boulder delivered on their home turf. The 100 points for the win gave them the MNGP title as well, 490 to 470 for Atlanta. GVH finished 3rd with 370 points from their best 5 events. The San Diego Striders, Syracuse Track Club, and Shore AC finished 4th through 6th.
This year Atlanta has competed at the first 6 events, amassing 440 points from their best 5 events, a win at the 10K, 2nds at the 5K and Half Marathon and thirds at Cross Nationals and the Ten Mile championships.
|M70+ Team Podium at Masters 5 Km Champs in Atlanta-From Right Boulder RR  then Atlanta TC  then Ann Arbor TC [1-others dealing with a medical issue]. Photo by Creagh Cross, courtesy of the Atlanta Track Club|
Boulder came in ahead of Atlanta at Clubs, finishing 5th for 60 points. They captured the gold medals at the next three events, Cross Nationals, the 5K, and the 10 Mile Run. That gives them 360 points from 4 events. They can move into the lead if they win the next event, the 1 Mile at Indianapolis. Boulder has entered a strong team; it appears they will be the favorites for the win. The Syracuse Track Club Syracuse has altered their traditional behavior this year. In the past they basically competed at Club Cross wherever it was and competed in other national championships that happened to be located in New York. This year they competed at Clubs in San Francisco, netting 70 points from a 4th place effort, competed in the Half Marathon in their home city, where they won, and competed at Dedham in Massachusetts where they took 2nd. They have 260 points on those three events and are in third place, 50 points ahead of GVH. Perhaps Syracuse is done now as none of the remaining three events is in their home state? GVH enjoyed a 5th place finish at Cross Nationals, followed by a 3rd at the Half Marathon and a 4th at the 10 Km. As noted already, Boulder has a team entered for the 1 Mile Championships. GVH has also entered a team; they will increase their total and move ahead of Syracuse if that team refrains from competing. Ann Arbor TC will enter their third event, but the team is just entering races they feel like racing. Indy is a comparatively short trip from Michigan. AATC took the 70+ MNGP title in 2018 and 2019. So far, at least, there is no overarching strategy or plan for 2023. Unless something surprising happens, Boulder should take the 70+ Grand Prix lead at the 1 Mile Championships and hold it. Atlanta should have no trouble taking 2nd if they do not win the MNGP. Syracuse has a strong enough team they might be able to come in ahead of GVH if they committed to the MNGP contest. In years past they have not so committed. My best guess is that Syracuse will continue that strategy and be done with MLDR Championships until Clubs at Tallahassee which is on the 2024 Grand Prix schedule. If they do, then GVH should take third place.
Likely Team Podium
Boulder Road Runners Atlanta Track Club Genesee Valley HarriersThat ends my series of mid-year reviews. The 2023 Masters National Grand Prix will now play out in real time. Some of the Individual Grand Prix contests are settled already but most are in play. All of the team contests are in play. It should be an exciting three-event finale! The first installment is coming up fast; we will know a lot more about likely Grand Prix outcomes after the 1 Mile Championships in Indianapolis on June 24th.