Monday, October 16, 2023

Masters Athletes beat the Heat at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships

October 16, 2023 BOCA RATON, FL The sun was up and temperatures were climbing into the 80's. Runners who had found their way to the course were warming up or stretching and chatting with teammates and friendly rivals. By the time the Women's race went off at 9:30, temperatures to 83F, with 76% humidity. The dewpoint of 75 was the giveaway that the heat conditions were serious. A dewpoint at 60 is where conditions start to feel uncomfortable. The NWS Heat Index below shows that conditions had already gone from the Yellow 'Caution' area to the Orange 'Extreme Caution' range of the National Weather Service's Heat Index chart. The likelihood of heat disorders with strenuous activity had risen into the 90% plus range. Runners needed to hydrate early and often and, perhaps, dial down their ambitions--a very difficult task for Elite Masters athletes. 

For these Masters Elite runners gathered for a national championship race, extreme caution may just mean an extra bottle of liquid before the race, perhaps wearing a hat or visor, maybe slowing down a bit, although that would depend on where their rivals were! Luckily there were volunteers at the finish with fluids and ice bags!


All photo credits are to Michael Scott.

WOMEN At 9:30, the gun went off and the runners surged away from the starting line. A threesome drove to the front, two Florida Southeast Track Club teammates, Sonja Friend-Uhl and Jennifer Sober, and Euleen Josiah-Tanner, from the T.H.E. Track Club, out of Athens GA. This would be their chance to compete for a Cross Country podium. Sober, and her coach, Friend-Uhl, had competed on the track at the Masters Outdoor Championships but had not competed yet at Cross Country during this Grand Prix season. Josiah-Tanner, in contrast, had finished in the top 50 at the loaded Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco, and then competed in the 8 Km Cross Country race at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Torun, Poland in March. These three met on the track in July in the 5000 Meter run. On that day, Sober had the honors, running 18:59.38, to finish 7 seconds ahead of Josiah-Tanner. Friend-Uhl, running in the 50-54 division, had little competition and enjoyed a 15-second win in 20:11.12. But that was track, with a smooth surface and no terrain. Friend-Uhl is a veteran on the turf, with an Overall win in the Masters Race at the 2016 Cross Nationals Championships in Tallahassee, not to mention other podium finishes. Josiah-Tanner won her 45-49 division on the turf at Tallahassee in 2021. To my knowledge, this was Sober's first entry in a national Masters Cross Country championship. The three separated from the field and then Josiah-Tanner separated from the FTC-SE duo. Midway through the race, on the second loop, Sober followed Josiah-Tanner by a couple of dozen strides, with Friend-Uhl, conserving her energy, another dozen strides back. Josiah-Tanner stretcher her lead to well over a hundred meters by the time she took the tape in 19:59. It was her first overall win at a Masters LDR Championship on the road or the turf! 

Euleen Josiah-Tanner wins Overall Title at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

Friend-Uhl waited until the right moment to surge past her teammate, taking second in 20:30, with a three-second margin back to Sober. 

Sonja Friend-Uhl leads Jennifer Sober in the sprint to the finish at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

Suzanne La Burt and Mary Cass, out of the 60's division finished 4th and 5th in 20:51 and 20:55. 

Euleen Josiah-Tanner 19:59     Sonja Friend-Uhl 20:30     Jennifer Sober 20:33

MEN The conditions were just as deep into Orange by the time the Men's race started at 10:15, with more heat, 85F, but slightly less relative humidity, at 70%. The dewpoint was still in the mid-70's. Flying in under the radar, Christopher Miller University of Miami, surged to the front. David Angell Unattached, Virginia, an Overall Bronze medalist at the highly competitive 2018 Club Cross Country championships in Spokane, gave chase. Dirk de Heer, Team Run Flagstaff, in third, was a few strides back. de Heer had finished top 15 in a much larger field at the Masters 5 Km XC in Boulder last year. He was joined by Trevor Pettingill Unattached, Utah, and Jerry Faulkner Uganda/NYACLike Miller, Pettingill has few recent results to suggest that he would be among the top 5, but there he was. In 2016, Pettingill ran a 17:18 5K and a 1:19:42 Half Marathon, with no results in Athlinks since then. Faulkner's credentials included a recent 27:12 5-Miler and a 55:18 at the New Balance Bronx Ten Miler. Jesse Chettell, a teammate of de Heer's, and Gregory Putnam Central Mass Striders were easing into the race, back in the second chase pack, around 12th and 15th. Chettle's neatest credential is a sub-15-minute 5K clocking at Grandma's Marathon in June 2022. Putnam is almost always in the top ten overall at both road and Cross Country national championship races, even though running out of the 50's. A few strides back from those two were three more members of Team Run Flagstaff, Ryan Stevens, Sean Baker, and Ryan Guldan. Steven's clocked an 18:49 5K at altitude last October; Baker ran a 6-Miler in 33:24 last November, roughly equivalent to a 37:41 10K, also at altitude; and Guldan finished 11th overall in the Leadville Trail 100 in 2017. He also clocked 2:34 and change marathons at Chicago in 2018 and then in Berlin in 2019. By the second loop around the lake, Miller had dropped Angell, but de Heer had taken his place, running a few strides back. Miller's initial surge had been backed up by solid running. Perhaps Miller is known as a trail runner or for some other endurance exploits but it is hard to find anything definitive in Athlinks for a Christopher Miller who is 47 in October 2023 and a strong runner. Angell was a good 30 meters back from de Heer. Pettingill was solidly in 4th now, as Chettle had moved up to 5th. Chettle was followed by Faulkner, Stevens, and Putnam. de Heer gave it his best effort but, try as he might, he could not get even with Miller, who pulled away to enjoy the win with a hundred meters to spare. 

Chris Miller wins the Men's Overall Title at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott  

Chettle finished strong but de Heer had enough in the tank to hold him off, taking 2nd in 16:33, two seconds ahead of his teammate. 

Dirk de Heer holds off a charging Jesse Chettle to take the Men's overall Silver medal at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

Pettingill was 4th in 16:42. It was a 'war of attrition', but Angell toughed it out to claim 5th overall, another 30 meters back, in 16:49. Eighty meters behind Angell, Stevens held off Putnam to take 6th in 17:11.

Christopher Miller 16:12     Dirk de Heer 16:33     Jesse Chettle 16:35


MEN 40-44 de Heer and Chettle, who finished 2nd and 3rd went 1-2 in this age division. Stevens who took 6th is the next 40-44 runner. 

Ryan Stevens on his way to the 45-49 Bronze Medal at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

See overall discussion above.

Dirk de Heer 16:33     Jesse Chettle 16:35     Ryan Stevens 17:11

45-49 Miller, Pettingill, and Angell, all in the hunt for the Overall championship, came out of this division, 

Trevor Pettingill on his way to 4th Overall and the 45-49 Silver Medal at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

taking Gold, Silver, and Bronze in the 45-49 podium at the same time.

Christopher Miller 16:12     Trevor Pettingill 16:42     David Angell 16:49

50-54 Gregory Putnam, who finished 6th overall, headed out at the sound of the gun, with Steve Bell Atlanta TC matching stride for stride, and Bell's teammate, Christopher Harris, a few strides back.  But by the time they were well around the first loop of the lake, Putnam had pulled away and enjoyed a 40-meter lead on Bell. By the end, Putnam enjoyed a 150-meter lead as he sped across the finish line in 17:17. 

Gregory Putnam, striding his way toward 7th place Overall and the Gold Medal in the 50-54 division at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

The early pace had taken its toll; Harris closed up with Bell to ensure that no other team snuck a runner in between them. Bell finished second in 17:55, with Harris one second back. No worries, though, the closest 50+ runners were over a hundred meters back, and both wore the red and black of Atlanta; Frederick Dolan finished 4th in 18:24, with Brent Fields 3 seconds back in 5th.

Gregory Putnam 17:17     Steve Bell 17:55     Christopher Harris 17:56

55-59 Mark Callon finished just off the 50-54 podium at Boulder last year. This year he had no worries as he sped away from the starting line, with Jeff Conston Shore AC and Scott Siriano Atlanta right on his heels. Bell finished 5th in 50-54 earlier this year at Richmond and was looking for a better outcome now that he had aged up. Siriano took the 55-59 title in the 10,000M at the Masters Outdoor championships this summer. By the time they had looped the lake, Callon had over a hundred meters on his chasers, with Conston attempting to hold on, a few strides back from Siriano. By the time Callon hit the finish line, the lead was up to 200 meters! Callon claimed first in 18:06. 

Mark Callon in the final sprint for the 55-59 division win at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

Conston had rallied to pass Siriano for second in 18:49. Siriano was third, 6 seconds back. Paul Shuler Greater Philadelphia TC edged Dale Flanders for 4th by just 3 seconds in 19:24.

Mark Callon 18:06     Jeffrey Conston 18:49     Scott Siriano 18:55

60-64 This division always has one of the most anticipated matchups. In this case it was Steve Schmidt Ann Arbor Track Club vs. Mark Zamek Shore AC. Schmidt, known more for his Marathon prowess, finished 2nd in this division at the highly competitive Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco, beaten only by Nat Larson (not entered here). That established his reputation on the turf. Zamek, prior to Covid, had a similar reputation. In 2017 at Lexington KY and in 2018 at the course in Spokane WA, Zamek finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, both times coming in behind Larson. One thing in favor of Zamek was that he loves running in hot weather. Zamek missed competing much of the early part of 2023 as he was rehabbing a Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy PHT issue. But that allowed him to run very well on occasion and not at all at other times. He came in ahead of Schmidt at the Masters 10 Km Championships at the end of April. Two months later he ran at the Masters 1 Mile Championships in what he described as 'Tempo speed'. He still managed to finish 6th in the division, 16 seconds behind the winner. Schmidt did not compete at that event. I speculated that Zamek might be utilizing the same 'tempo pace' approach in this competition. Was I ever wrong! Zamek moved right to the front when the gun sounded and quickly opened up a 40-meter lead on Schmidt.  By the time they were looping around the lake, Zamek had enlarged the lead to 50-60 meters. After that, Schmidt limited the damage but had difficulty cutting into the early lead. Zamek took the win in 18:13 with Schmidt 13 seconds back in 2nd place. 

Mark Zamek kicking to the finish line and his 60-64 Gold Medal at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott   

Lester Dragstedt Atlanta TC has been the engine for Atlanta's M60 train all year long. He did the same in this championship, with a solid 19:35 to take the bronze medal with 1:29 to spare. Craig Williams Unattached Florida took 4th, a minute ahead of Eric Hawkins Mill City Running.

Mark Zamek 18:13     Steve Schmidt 18:26     Lester Dragstedt 19:35

65-69 Rick Becker Atlanta TC/Washington, three-time Masters Harrier of the Year, was back and looking for a good run. He had been very unhappy with his run at Clubs in Golden Gate Park last December. He was looking for a better outing this time. It would be his first race on the turf since then. In the early part of the year, he was riding the Elliptigo and rehabbing. But his workouts more recently were very strong. Ken Youngers Atlanta TC has been dealing with health issues that affect his ability to train. He ran at Cross Nationals in Richmond in January, helping out his team; he also took 2nd in 65-69 behind David Westenberg Greater Lowell Road Runners. Youngers finished 3rd at Atlanta in the 5K and then took an extended break from racing as he did a lot of biking/rehab. His time in the 2023 Macon Labor Day 5K was a minute slower than his time in 2022. Westenberg is healthy and injury free but has a lot of miles in his legs. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon with his daughter was one of his goals for this fall. Mission accomplished! But maybe not the best way to prepare for a 5 Km Cross Country championship. On the other hand, as Westenberg wrote in a note, "I like 5K's." I cannot imagine that either Becker or Westenberg, from the Pac NW and New England, respectively, cared much for the heat index. Youngers probably has more experience running in the heat than either of the other two. As they streamed away from the starting line and out onto the course, Westenberg settled in towards the end of the top 25 overall, with Becker 10 meters back, and Youngers starting more gradually, running with his 60+ teammate, Dragstedt. By the time they looped the lake for the first time, Becker had surged past Westenberg, who was hanging on gamely as they moved up through some of the younger runners in the field. Youngers, who was another 70 meters back, kept slogging, knowing that on a hot day, anything can happen in the last mile. When Becker is on, it does not matter if there is snow on the ground or the sun is baking you from above! He pulled away over the last mile, winning the division crown in 18:57, over 250 meters ahead of 2nd place. 

Rick Becker on his way to the 65-69 Gold Medal, leading Scott Siriano, Jeffrey Conston white singlet, and David Westenberg lime singlet at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

But it was Youngers, not Westenberg, next across the line. The heat had sapped Westenberg, who had a tough last mile. Youngers took 2nd in 19:57, with Westenberg 60 meters back in third. Michael Fussell, 4th in 21:12, outlasted Scott Lucking, 21:21 to take 4th.

Rick Becker 18:57     Ken Youngers 19:57     David Westenberg 20:13

70-74 Robert Qualls River City Rebels/Nevada has won every road and cross country 70-74 championship he has entered since summer of 2022. This was no exception. He went out with the runners ten to 15 years younger, never let up, and won the division by two minutes. The rest of the field enjoyed a tighter race. I had expected teammates, Doug Bell Boulder Road Runners and Douglas Chesnut from Boulder, to finish 2-3; they had gone 2-4 in Richmond, around Gene Dykes, who was too busy this weekend breaking the American 70-74 Marathon record to compete in Boca. Kirk Larson Atlanta Track Club, who came in ahead of Bell in the 2021 edition of this championship in Boston, might play a role, or Jerry Orange Unattached Florida, who finished 4th in 65-69 at 2019 Cross Nationals in Tallahassee. I had heard that Bruce Kirschner's Boulder Road Runners training had been going well. He ran a 17:58 4K on September 30th, which is age grade equivalent to a 22:44. But I was not sure that stacked up against Larson's 21:22 for a 5th place in Atlanta this past February, nor Orange's 46:14 10K in March. Streaming away from the start, things looked pretty much as expected. Qualls was out well ahead, with Bell a distant second, but ten meters ahead of his running partner, Chesnut. Kirschner was running just behind his teammate, Chesnut, with orange 5 meters back. Larson was another 20 meters back. Larson likes to ease into his races, but he is also affected by heat; he had to withdraw at Tallahassee in 2021. By the time they looped the lake, it was clear this would not be Bell's day. Chesnut and Kirschner were now running 2-3. Bell was in 4th but only 5-10 meters ahead of Orange. Larson was struggling, in 6th, behind Spider Rossiter Shore AC Washington DC, and had to withdraw. Qualls, of course, cruised to the win, clocking 20:28! 

Robert Qualls striding toward another victory in the 70-74 division at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott  

Whether the heat was a great equalizer, or Kirschner was just 'on', he was able to sprint away from his teammate, Chesnut, in the final 300 meters, to claim 2nd in 22:48. Three seconds later, Chesnut crossed the line in 3rd, with Orange 140 meters back, 4th in 23:35. Rossiter was 5th, with Bell 6th.

Robert Qualls 20:28     Bruce Kirschner 22:48     Douglas Chesnut 22:51

75-79 With Dave Glass deciding to skip the event after entering, it was clear sailing for Rick Katz and Jerry Learned. Learned, always game for a race, went out at the head of the division, with Katz easing into it ten meters back. By the time they looped the lake, Katz had closed on Learned. Learned is a competitor who does not give up easily; if you pass him, he will try to pass you back and often succeeds! But Katz was too strong. When he finally passed Learned, he made it count, and pulled away over the last mile. Katz won in 24:48, with Learned over 300 meters back in 2nd. It was a fine win for Katz, his first in the 75-79 division. 

Rick Katz heads for the finish line and the 75-79 Gold medal at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott  

Katz should have a chance at Tallahassee to measure himself against Glass again. At Tallahassee in 2021, Glass finished 5 seconds ahead of Katz, although they were in different divisions then. Two of the veterans of the Cross Country wars, Przemek Nowicki Shore AC and Morris Williams Atlanta TC/North Carolina finished 3rd and 4th.

Rick Katz 24:48     Jerry Learned 26:12     Przemek Nowicki 30:11

80-84 It was a great turnout for the veterans! They had just as many finishers as the 70-74 division, and more than 75-79. Now that he is rounding into shape again after knee surgery last year, Doug Goodhue left the field way behind. The Masters Hall of Famer looked to the 70's runners for competition. Goodhue was almost 4 minutes ahead of the field when he crossed the finish line in 26:48.

Doug Goodhue on his way to a dominant victory in 80-84 at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

George Gilder Unattached Massachusetts, Ed Bligh Atlanta TC and Robert O'Rourke Shore AC battled for the remaining podium positions. Gilder was a silver medalist in the 10 Km National championship in 2022 and a bronze medalist this year. Bligh finished 3rd at Club XC in San Francisco and won the division at Cross Nationals in Richmond. O'Rourke's 7:43 at the Big Bang Mile in 2022 and his 28:41 at a 5K this year show that, despite no recent XC results, he would be competitive. O'Rourke set off with the most confidence, quickly creating a gap of 25 meters back to Gilder, who had, in turn, a 20-meter lead on Bligh. Once they were out on the course and around the lake, with the heat sapping their energy, things turned around. Gilder's fitness asserted itself as he moved to the front and took 2nd in 30:39, 30 meters ahead of Bligh. O'Rourke was another 30 meters back, finishing 4th in 31:04. Hal Lieberman took 5th. But this goes down as Goodhue's show!

Doug Goodhue 26:48       George Gilder 30:39     Ed Bligh 30:51

85-89 Adrian Craven Atlanta TC South Carolina had this division to himself. He toured the course in 44:42. 

Adrian Craven captured the 85-89 Division crown at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

This gives Craven his 2nd victory of the 2023 Grand Prix year on the turf. He took the first in
the pouring rain and howling wind at Golden Gate Park last December.

Adrian Craven 44:42

90-94 The oldest competitor on the course, Eric Seiff Unattached New York, had this division to himself as well. 

Eric Seiff on his way to the 90-94 Division Win at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

A road-racing regular in New York and as far away as the Faxon Law 20K in New Haven, Seiff also tested himself on the Van Cortland Park course on September 24th. I heard that course conditions were not great after the rains in New York City. He showed today he can handle heat and humidity as well!

Eric Seiff 58:15

WOMEN 40-44 It is rare that none of the top Overall competitors come out of this division but that was the case in Boca. Samantha Gerrits Unattached Florida finished 6th Overall and won this division in 21:31 with 3 minutes to spare. 

Samantha Gerrits heading to the Finish Line finishing 6th Overall and 1st in the 40-44 Division at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott  

She ran the entire race among the top 6 overall. Alex Dietrich Unattached Colorado, in contrast, started out cautiously, just outside of the top fifteen overall and held her position during the race. She finished 2nd in the division with a 24:49. Lorinda King Unattached New Mexico was 3rd.

Samantha Gerrits 21:31     Alex Dietrich 24:49     Lorinda King 48:32

45-49 Two members of the Overall podium, 1st and 3rd, came from this division. See the discussion in the overall section above. For the division championship, it was Josiah-Tanner, followed by Sober going 1-2. Karyn Baig Shore AC was not able to keep pace with those two but the 45-49 Bronze medalist from the 12 Km Championship was able to stay well ahead of the rest of the field. Baig set out in touch with the Overall leaders, in the top 7. Hiroko Guarneri Atlanta TC and Alicia Martinez Unattached Illinois followed about 40 meters back in 4th and 5th in the division. Guarneri finished 4th at Richmond and Martinez is primarily a middle-distance runner on the track, finishing 7th in W45 this year in the 800M at the Masters Outdoor Championships. Baig stretched her lead over those two through the race, enjoying a 250-meter lead as she crossed the finish line in 22:15. 

Karyn Baig claims 7th Overall and 1st in the 45-49 division at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

A minute and 18 seconds later, Guarneri claimed 4th, with Martinez 1:01 back, 5th in 24:34.

Euleen Josiah-Tanner 19:59     Jennifer Sober 20:33     Karyn Baig 22:15

50-54 Sonja Friend-Uhl Florida TC-Southeast, who finished 2nd Overall, took the 50-54 title, along the way, with her 20:30 time. She won the division with 500 meters to spare. Amy Bonnerot Central Park TC and Cassandra Crane Genesee Valley Harriers battled for 2nd place. Bonnerot's credentials were just slightly better than Crane's. Bonnerot ran a 1:41:02 half marathon in the Philadelphia Distance run to Crane's 1:42:57 in the Grand Isle HM. Bonnerot's 45:55 10K in August was, similarly, a bit faster than Crane's 46:17 at the 10 Km Championship in Dedham in April. Crane pulled Bonnerot away from the starting line; she had just 5 meters on her in the early going. By the time they had looped the lake, Crane had stretched her lead to 40 meters. Bonnerot made a strong move in the last mile, pulled past Crane, and enjoyed her 2nd place finish, with a gap of 75 meters back to Crane. 

Amy Bonnerot strides toward her Silver Medal in the 50-54 Division at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

Friend-Uhl looks ready to compete at the front of the 50-54 division in road racing championships whenever she chooses to do so.

Sonja Friend-Uhl 20:30     Amy Bonnerot 23:02     Cassandra Crane 23:26

55-59 This division, too, was a 3-athlete competition. Crane's GVH teammate, Brenda Osovski, finished 9th at Richmond and 6th at the Road Mile Championships in Indianapolis. She would continue her march toward the front of the division. If you compare the 5K times of Osovski, 22-23 minutes, with those of Lori Mangual, 26-28 minutes, and Valerie Silver, 29-31 minutes, the finishing order seemed likely to be Osovski, Mangual, Silver. Osovski set off at a good clip, running towards the end of the top15 Overall. She already had a sizable lead over Mangual, who had a similar large lead over Silver. That did not change substantially during the course of the race. Osovski took the win with 900 meters to spare. 

Brenda Osovski on her way to the 55-59 Division Win at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

It was much closer between Mangual and Silver, 26 seconds and a gap of less than 120 meters.

Brenda Osovski 24:49     Lori Mangual 30:32     Valerie Silver 31:16

60-64 Mary Cass Liberty AC, out of Greater Boston, was winning almost all of the 60-64 national championships she entered until Suzanne La Burt Shore AC turned 60 and entered the Road Mile at Indy, taking 1st in the division when Cass was not entered. Prior to that, Cass had won at Clubs in San Francisco, the Half Marathon in Syracuse and the 10 Km in Dedham. Cass and La Burt met for the first time at the 12 Km Championships at Highlands NJ. La Burt came home with the win, finishing 49 seconds ahead of Cass. It would be interesting to see if Cass would be able to beat La Burt on the turf in the heat. Cass would give it her best shot! La Burt took it out hard from the start, quickly building up a 15-meter lead over Cass. Around the lake Cass worked hard to limit the damage; she was still within striking distance! It would have to come down to a catch and pass in the final 300 meters. Cass got close but she could not catch La Burt! La Burt had the win in 20:51. 

Suzanne La Burt high stepping it to the Finish Line as Mary Cass tries to catch her! They went 1-2 in the 60-64 Division at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

Cass was just 4 seconds back! Wow, that was close! Suzanne Cordes, Impala Racing who finished over a minute behind Cass at Clubs in 4th place and 3rd at Cross Nationals in Richmond, looked to have the best shot at the final podium place. Sandra Gregorich GVH, Cordes's main competitor for 3rd at this race, finished over 3 minutes behind her at Clubs. That is the way it played out. Cordes did not try to stay with La Burt and Cass but remined just within the top ten overall, well ahead of her rival. Cordes took 3rd in 23:04. Gregorich took 4th in 25:18.

Suzanne La Burt 20:51     Mary Cass 20:55     Suzanne Cordes 23:04

65-69 Patrice Combs Atlanta TC had the best credentials coming in. She took 1st in the division at Atlanta with a 22:16 in the 5 Km Championships in February. Then in the summer clocked a 44:14 at the Peachtree Road Race on the 4th of July, followed by a 10000M win at the Masters Outdoor Championships. Her closest rival looked to be Kitty Musante Shore AC, who had finished a minute behind Combs at the 5 Km Championships. But the lack of any recent race results might be taken as a sign that injury or other barriers to training have reduced her fitness. Perhaps she was just running for the team without any individual goals. Two others would contend for the podium. Cynthia Williams Atlanta TC, a seasoned XC runner, finished 10th at the highly competitive Club Cross Championships; none of those who finished ahead of her are entered in this championship. She finished 3rd in Atlanta on the roads, with a 24:55 and ran a 49:51 10K at Peachtree. At first glance, Jan Tefft So Cal TC looked to have slightly better credentials. She ran a 24:32 5K in mid-August. But then she ran a 50:48 10K at Peachtree, finishing almost a full minute behind Williams. It might be argued that Peachtree is a home course for Williams and that Tefft would have better luck on neutral ground. On the other hand, a lack of any recent cross country results for Tefft suggests another factor in favor of Williams. Combs moved away swiftly from the start, in the top ten overall. Well behind her, Tefft had moved well, establishing an early twenty-meter lead on Williams.  Musante's position, almost thirty meters behind Williams, suggested the 'running for her team' scenario might be relevant. By the time they looped the lake, Combs was away from the field and gone! Williams had cut Tefft's lead to just a few meters. Musante was 4th but, at that point, still within striking distance. When Combs crossed the finish line with the win, the rest of the field still had 400 meters to go. 

Patrice Combs closes off her Gold medal effort in the 65-69 Division at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

By then, Williams had worked her way past Tefft and was making sure she would not be caught. Williams crossed the finish line in second, just 7 seconds ahead of Tefft. Musante took 5th in 27:01, with Margaret Taylor Atlanta TC, in 5th.

Patrice Combs 23:28     Cynthia Williams 25:36     Jan Tefft 25:43

70-74 Jeanette Groesz Team Red Lizard often has things her way on the turf. She took the division crown at the highly competitive Club XC Championships in San Francisco. A year earlier she had won the 70-74 race at Clubs in Tallahassee. But a strong runner can defeat her. At Boulder last October, her teammate, Sabra Harvey, the 2017 Masters Athlete of the Year, took 1st to Groesz's 2nd. Victoria Crisp Unattached Tennessee has 5K road credentials as strong as Groesz. The lack of recent cross country results could count as a strike against Crisp.  Groesz finished 2nd in Atlanta this past February, to speedster Kathy Martin (not entered here) , in 23:49 (chip). Crisp won the 65-69 title at Atlanta in 2019 with a 23:41 and, two years later, ran a 24:25 5K. The most recent result I find is a 1:44:48 Half Marathon in February '22. That shows considerable endurance capability. The gun sounded and Groesz moved swiftly off the starting line. Crisp, more of a long distance runner, started more gradually and soon found herself thirty meters behind Groesz's F70 back bib. By the time they looped the lake, Crisp had cut the lead to just a few meters. Crisp must have passed with authority early in the final mile. Crisp carved out a 75-meter lead, taking the win in 26:03. 

Victoria Cris on a 70-74 Gold Medal Day at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

Groesz took second with a cushion of over 4 minutes! Norma Hudnall Atlanta TC and Cande Olsen battled for team and individual honors. At Club XC in Tallahassee in 2021, Olsen finished 49 seconds ahead of Hudnall. But at Clubs this year, Hudnall reversed the tables, finishing a minute ahead of Olsen. Hudnall set off as if she expected to repeat her San Francisco race, quickly building a thirty-meter lead on Olsen. Nothing changed as they looped the lake the first time except that Hudnall's lead grew bigger. Hudnall must have had a difficult last mile. perhaps suffering from dehydration. But it may be that Olsen just enjoyed more even pacing. When Hudnall crossed the finish line, Olsen was only 25 meters back. Olsen took 4th in 31:10, over three minutes ahead of Kathleen Allen Atlanta TC, in 5th.

Virginia Crisp 26:03     Jeanette Groesz 26:31     Norma Hudnall 31:01

75-79 Two runners competed, both with their eyes more on the team than the individual competition. Sharon Gerl Team Red Lizard, a decorated triathlete, and occasional cross country runner, finished 2nd 70-74 at Clubs in Tallahassee and again at Cross Nationals in San Diego a month later. Andrea McCarter is not as competitive, individually, but is an important contributor to her 70's team. Gerl took the win with no trouble. 

Sharon Gerl on her way to a 75-79 Division Win at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

McCarter finished 2nd.

Sharon Gerl 30:02     Andrea McCarter 43:20

80-84 Marie-Louise Michelsohn, who typically runs her road 5K's in the 36 to 39 minute range, took the 80-84 victory unopposed.

Marie-Louise Michelsohn 41:39

Andrea McCarter foreground and Marie-Louise Michelsohn setting out on a path that would lead to Gold for Michelsohn in the 80-84 Division and Silver for McCarter in the 75-79 Division-at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

85-89 Joyce Hodges-Hite was, again, the oldest champion on the day, enjoying her 6th national 85-89 championship this Grand Prix season, at distances from 1 Mile to 10 Miles!

Joyce Hodges-Hite 55:32

Joyce Hodges-Hite won the 85-89 Division at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 


Age Grading identifies the athletes who ran the fastest, adjusted for Age. Because age grading is based on road data and cannot be easily adjusted for Cross Country, it is less central to Cross Country competition. It is tricky to compare age grades across different road courses; it is doubly so for XC, where terrain and weather can combine to create very different challenges from one day to the next. Had this day been cooler and less humid, times would have been lower and age grades higher. Had it been similar in heat with howling winds and falling rain, the reverse would have happened-slower times and lower age grades. Age Grades are, nonetheless, the best way of gauging, across all age divisions, who had the best day. Everyone in that race would have had the same conditions to run in. WOMEN The top five included Mary Cass 62, Patrice Combs 66, Suzanne Cordes 63, Jeanette Groesz 74, and Suzanne La Burt 60. Cass and La Burt battled for 60-64 honors with La Burt taking the win, but only by 4 seconds. Age Grading recognizes Cass's 2 extra years in assigning her the top age grade of 90.63;

Mary Cass, working her way to the top age grading score at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

 La Burt was second at 88.71. Combs stopped the run of 60-64 runners with her 3rd place out of 65-69.

Jeanette Groesz finishes strong, claiming 4th place over all age divisions in the Age Grading contest at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

Groesz and Cordes rounded out the top 5 in 4th and 5th at 84.11 and 83.22. 

Suzanne Cordes closing off her 'Top 5' Age Grading over all age divisions at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

Sonja Friend-Uhl, Victoria Crisp, and Euleen Josiah-Tanner finished just outside the top five. 

Cass has been on the Age Grading podium a couple of times this year. To my recollection, this is her first win and well deserved!

Mary Cass 90.63%     Suzanne La Burt 88.71%     Patrice Combs 85.04%

MEN Top five in the men's race were: Rick Becker, Christopher Miller, Gregory Putnam, and Steve Schmidt, and Mark Zamek. Becker climbed to the top of the podium, with a 90.02%, where he has been so often, after a day of racing at a Cross Country National Championship. Awarded Masters Harrier of the Year in 2010, he repeated in 2016 and 2018. Schmidt, despite losing the 60-64 race to Zamek, had the #2 Age Grade at 88.40. 

Steve Schmidt enjoyed another amazing outing; he scored the 2nd fastest age grade of the day at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 

In a rare double, Miller not only made the overall podium, with the win, but also mounted the Age Grading podium. Zamek was 4th at 87.13, and Putnam 5th with an 86.60. Robert Qualls, Trevor Pettingill, and David Angell finished just outside the top 5.

Rick Becker 90.02%     Steve Schmidt 88.40%     Christopher Miller 88.08%

David Angell flying to the finish-every second counts! Top 5 Age Grade over all age divisions at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo credit: Michael Scott 


MEN The men's side of the team races were characterized by dominant wins, for the most part. 40+ Team Run Flagstaff brought a strong team to defend their Masters 5 Km XC 40+ title from last year. As it turned out, they had no challengers. They won with a sweep! 50+ The Shore AC competed along with the Atlanta TC. But Atlanta took the first 4 spots and then 6th, with Bell leading the way. That gave them a 16-39 victory. Shore was presumably entered primarily with their eyes on the GP contest. The 90 points moved them from 4th to 3rd in that contest. Atlanta's win gave them 100 points, moving them past GVH into first spot in the 50+ Team Grand Prix. 60+ It was similar in this division, except that, with Steve Schmidt leading the way, Ann Arbor did draw first blood. But it was then all Atlanta as they captured the next 3 spots, to win 9-13. Ann Arbor did not care; their main goal was to make sure they stayed on the GP podium. Mission accomplished! Atlanta had the GP win locked up going in; taking 1st gave them 100 GP points, boosting their total to a perfect 500 points! 70+ The Boulder Road Runners took the first 2 spots and 4th, taking the Masters 5Km title. They will wear the 70+ GP crown as well. Atlanta, with only one of their usual top three in the scoring, was not able to hold off a determined effort from the Shore AC. Boulder took 1st with 7 points, to 20 for Shore and 23 for Atlanta. The Atlanta TC had 2nd place in the 70+ GP wrapped up already. It di dnot matter whether they finished 2nd, 3rd, or did not score. This was only Shore AC's 70+ team's 2nd event of the year. They had no GP related goals. 80+ It was Atlanta Track Club taking the 'Woody Allen' points with a perfect score of 6. They will enjoy their Team Grand Prix title as well.

WOMEN 40+ Both teams had to call down help from older age divisions. With just 3 runners on each team, when Suzanne La Burt from 60-64, and Karyn Baig went 1-2 for Shore, that settled the matter. Even with Atlanta's Hiroko Guarneri and Alicia Eno taking 3rd and 4th in the team competition, Shore had the win. In the end it was 8-13, Shore over Atlanta. That gave Shore the GP win as well. In 50+ and 60+, the Genesee Valley Harriers and the Atlanta Track Club took the titles unopposed. GVH cemented their GP win, while Atlanta 60+ enjoyed their third outing, thus qualifying for a 2023 GP award. 70+ Team Red Lizard did not have to win to take the 70+ GP title. But if they did not score a complete team, then the GP title would have gone to Atlanta. As with 40+, once Jeanette Groesz and Sharon Gerl went 1-2, their third runner just had to finish. Cande Olsen did finish, in 4th place. That gave Red Lizard the win at Boca and the GP win. They took first over Atlanta 7-14. Moreover, the 100 GP points gave them a perfect 500 GP points, the only Women's team this year, across all team age divisions, to achieve the 5-win milestone!

That wraps up the 2023 USATF Masters Grand Prix season. The next USATF posting will cover the final standings. After that it is on to a preview of Club Cross in Tallahassee and the kickoff of the 2024 Grand Prix year!

Friday, October 6, 2023

Masters Athletes Head for the Heat! USATF Masters 5 Km XC Championships in Boca Raton FL--Preview

 October 4, 2023 Boca Raton FL; USATF MASTERS 5 KM CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS. Masters runners from as far away as New England, the Pacific Northwest and the Mountain West, and as near as a few miles down the road, are headed to the USATF Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championships. The South County Regional Park, north of Miami FL, welcomes Masters runners from across the country. Last year’s event, in Boulder, CO was challenging because of the altitude. This year’s edition has heat and humidity. Race time temperatures are expected to be in the low to mid-80’s with a dewpoint in the low 70’s. Luckily, the race is only 5 Km long. The organizers promise to have plenty of water available at the start and finish and in between.  On the plus side there is supposed to be little wind. Until today it looked like the smoke from Canadian wildfires might give a low Air Quality as well. Apparently the smoke was carried south and was moving closer to the surface. Yesterday's reading was 140. Today it was 39, in the good range. Hopefully it will stay down below 40 for Saturday's race.

The course at the South County Regional Park is a two-loop affair around a lake. Organizers report that it has been accurately measured and is fast. They also plan to have a split clock out on the course.

OVERALL CHAMPIONSHIPS MEN A dandy competition is shaping up in the Men’s race for the Overall Championship. The main protagonists appear to be Chris Gomez and Bryan Lindsay. Gomez won the 2022 5 Km Masters Cross Country race in Boulder in 16:35. [Except that I learned on the 5th of October that Gomez would be a scratch--see comment at end of this section below.] Lindsay won this year’s Masters 5 Km Championship in Atlanta with a 15:35 on a hilly road course. He also took the 1 Mile title on his hometown course in Indianapolis with a sterling 4:25. 

Bryan Lindsay breaks the tape as he wins the Overall Championship at the 2023 USATF Masters 1 Mile Championship in Indianapolis Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Monumental Mile

Altitude and terrain are great equalizers in Cross Country, not to mention the weather. In a torrential rainstorm, those two met over 10 Km in the Men's 40+ race at the Club Cross Country Championships last year in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Gomez won that duel, finishing 42 seconds ahead of Lindsay. It is hard to read too much into that competition. Because of the huge tree that fell during the Men's 60+ race, local officials wanted to cancel the rest of the Championship. A compromise was reached. The result was that the Masters 40+ Men's race and the two open races would be changed into circuits around a 1200 Meter rough track at the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate Park. Two others deserve mention. David Angell is on the comeback trail; he won the 2018 edition of this championship in Buffalo NY and that same year finished 3rd in the highly competitive Club Cross Championships in Spokane. 

From Left: David Angell #1487, Jorge Maravilla #1448, and Eric Loeffler blue singlet-orange letters leading the field around the course in Spokane WA, on their way to a 3-1-2 finish in the Men's 40-59 Masters Race at the 2018 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photo by Michael Scott

Three weeks ago, he finished 5th overall at the 12 Km Masters Championships. It may be a stretch too far to give him a shot at the win. But he is experienced at Cross Country and his recent progress has been impressive. Jesse Chettle, one of Gomez's teammates, is an intriguing wild card in this race. He enters with plenty of flat speed. He scorched the field in the 5K at Grandma’s Marathon in 2022, taking the win outright, in 14:52. On the other hand, Chettle clocked a strong, but more approachable, 21:00, this past April at a 4 Miler, the CCVI Trolley Run in Kansas City MO. That is age grade equivalent to a 16:14 5K. Which Chettle will we see on Saturday? If it is the one who can run a sub-15 5K, watch out! It is hard to see anyone else pressing those four. Dirk de Heer ran a minute and change slower than his teammate, Gomez, at Boulder last year. That is close enough to suggest he could be in the mix for the podium. Gregory Putnam, out of the 50-54 division might have a shot. He finished 30 seconds behind Angell at the recent 12 Km Masters Championships. He, too, has several fine showings at national Cross Country Championships under his belt. Gomez is the reigning champion; he has to be the favorite going in. Lindsay is reputed to be in excellent shape. If he can stay with Gomez, he should have the edge if it comes down to a final sprint. Gomez will need to pull away in the middle of the race. Lindsay is the best bet for 2nd place. I like Angell for the podium after those two but concede that a speedy Chettle or de Heer could push him off the podium. Note: Chris Gomez is a late scratch. That means Lindsay moves up to the favorites position and moves, in my mind, Chettle, onto my predicted podium. de Heer may have something to say about that.

Top Contenders for the Overall Men's podium in alphabetical order:

David Angell     Jesse Chettle     Bryan Lindsay

If experience at the top were the sole determinant, Sonja Friend-Uhl would be the athlete to beat in the Women’s race. Friend-Uhl won the Women’s race overall at the 2016 Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, over 6 Km. 

Sonja Friend-Uhl finishing off her Winning Run in the Masters Women's Overall Championship at the 2016 Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo by Michael Scott

She finished 2nd overall at the 2019 Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta. Friend-Uhl is now winning division titles again after overcoming some health issues. At this summer's USATF Masters Outdoor Championships, she took the division crown in each event she entered, from the 400 meters up to the 5000 Meters, the latter in 20:11. She has a 19:38 5K from mid-June. Friend-Uhl’s teammate and running client, Jennifer Sober, won the 45-49 division 5000M title this summer at the Masters Outdoor Championships in 18:59, and has cracked 19 minutes twice on the roads this year, an 18:42 and 18:52 in January and February. Euleen Josiah-Tanner finished 7 seconds behind Sober in that 5000M, but has enjoyed success in Cross Country, both domestically and internationally. She won her 45-49 division over 6 Km at the 2021 Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, and finished 5th in the same division at the 2022 World Masters Athletics Championships in Finland. 

Euleen Josiah-Tanner on her way to the 45-49 win in the Masters Women's Race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo by Michael Scott

Her performances seem to be on an upward swing; she finished 6th overall at the 12 Km Championships last month. Angela Giuliani, who finished 6th Overall at the Masters 1 Mile Championships in Indianapolis with a 5:26, and ran a recent 19:37 5K, was in the mix for a podium finish. But a flare-up of chronic heel bursitis may prevent her from competing or perhaps limit her pace. On September 30th she tried a walk/jog workout for the first time in several weeks and the discomfort was less. She speculated that she might not run again until warmups and then make a game-day decision. Samantha Gerrits may insert herself into the mix. She clocked a 20:24 5K this past May, but last October turned in a 19:42. In 2021 she had two sub-20 performances. Since Sober won the last meeting with Josiah-Tanner over this distance, albeit on the track rather than the turf, she should be the slight favorite. But given Josiah-Tanner's more extensive experience on the turf, it would not be surprising were she to take the honors. What about Friend-Uhl? She is the only one of the three with top Overall finishes in Masters national championships on the turf and the roads. If she were not coming back from some challenges, it might be an easy call. As is, it appears she may not quite be ready to challenge for the win. A podium berth seems well within her reach. That suggests a finishing order of Sober/Josiah-Tanner/Friend-Uhl. 

Top Contenders for the Overall Women's podium in alphabetical order:

Sonja Friend-Uhl     Euleen Josiah-Tanner     Jennifer Sober

AGE GRADING CHAMPIONSHIPS WOMEN The age grading exercise compares the athlete's time, over a given distance, to the projected fastest time in the world over that distance for a runner of that age. Grades are in percentages ranging from 80%, a national class performance, to 90%, a world class performance, to 100%, essentially the equivalent to the fastest time in the world. These percentages are developed for the roads but are applied here to performances on the turf. If the course is measured accurately, times on the turf will usually be slower, for the same effort, than times on the roads. Hence, age grade scores, called Performance Level Percentages or PLP's tend to be lower at cross country events than on roads. It also inappropriate to compare age grade scores across courses and for the same course with different weather conditions. For example, a course may be slow when it is muddy from rains and perfectly fast otherwise. Head-to-head competition is more revealing than just looking at PLP's. But there are fewer such comparisons available.

Top contenders for Women’s Age Grading, which recognize the strongest runners for their age, include: Mary Cass 62, Patrice Combs 66, Friend-Uhl 50, Jeanette Groesz 74, and Suzanne La Burt 60

Cass had the 4th highest PLP at the 12K with a 94.6. At the Club Cross Championships in San Francisco last December, Cass finished 5th with an 88.28. In Boston at the 2021 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships, Cass finished 6th at 84.7.

Mary Cass leads Stella Gibbs #1771 through Boston's Franklin Park on their way to a 2-3 finish in the 60-64 Division at the 2021 USATF 5 Km XC Championships Photo by Michael Scott

At the 5 Km in Atlanta this year, Cass finished 6th with a 92.66. 

Combs had several high-flying age grade finishes before the Pandemic. In 2019, she finished 4th at the 2019 Masters 5 Km and 8 Km Championships and 8th at the 1 Mile and 15K Championships. 

Patrice Combs leading two of her younger teammates into the final turn before the finishing straight, on her way to the 60-64 Win and a 4th Place in the Overall Age Grading Championship Photo by Michael Scott

Her 5 Km time of 21:20 at age 62 merited a PLP of 89.06. More recently she finished 9th at this year's 5 Km Championships in Atlanta with an 87.75. Cass, as noted, finished ahead of her. 

Friend-Uhl finished 10th overall in age grading at the highly competitive Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee in 2016 and followed that with a 7th at the 2018 Cross Country Nationals, also in Tallahassee. Her highest PLP at a national championship came in 2019 over 5Km in Atlanta; her 17:34 at the age of 48 earned a 92.06. 

Groesz has a harder time matching these folks on the roads. But on the turf, she competes very closely. She outpointed Cass in San Francisco at Clubs this past December finishing 2nd overall in 89.11. The October before that, she finished 4th in Boulder; no one who finished ahead of her is entered here. In January 2022, she finished 5th with an 82.16 in San Diego. 

Jeanette Groesz, on her way to a Top Five Age Grading Finish in the Masters Women's Race at the 2022 USATF Cross Nationals Championships in San Diego Photo by Michael Scott

Again, no one who finished ahead of her is entered here. Her teammate, Sharon Gerl, who is entered here, finished 12th at 78.67. If we go back to December of 2021 when Club Cross was at Tallahassee, Groesz finished 7th. This time, the final athlete on our list, La Burt, did finish ahead of her in 4th, a full percentage point ahead. 

Suzanne La Burt leading Gwen Lapham #894 and Others onto Loop #2 on the 6 Km Cross Country Course at Tallahassee, on her way to the 55-59 Win and a 4th Place Age Grading Finish at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships

More recently on the roads, La Burt has come in ahead of Groesz, in age grading, at both the 1 Mile where La Burt was 6th to Groesz's 9th and at the 12 km championship where La Burt was 5th, well ahead of Groesz, but a full percentage point, and one place behind Cass. 

For the sake of prediction, I will go with La Burt- Groesz- Cass as the more likely finishing order. I fully expect all of the athletes in this list to have superb performances! The PLP's just sort out how good their day was!

Top Contenders for the Women's Age-Grading podium in alphabetical order:

Mary Cass     Jeanette Groesz     Suzanne La Burt

The Men’s Age-Grading contest features Angell, Rick Becker 68, Gomez 41, Robert Qualls 71Steve Schmidt 63. David Westenberg 65 and Mark Zamek 60

Angell is, admittedly, a longshot in this list. In what was arguably his best Cross Country performance ever, in Spokane, in 2018, when he finished 3rd overall in the Club Cross championship, he finished just outside the top 20 PLP's recorded in the M40-59 race. Earlier that year, in a smaller championship, the Masters 5 Km XC in Buffalo, Angell had the 9th highest PLP at 83.76. Doug Goodhue 81, currently on the comeback trail from knee surgery, had the third highest PLP at that championship, 85.16. 

Doug Goodhue on his way to the Age Grading Podium in the Masters Men's 60+ race at the 2018 USATF Masters 5 Km XC Championships in Buffalo, NY Photo by Andy Martin, Exclamation! Services

Angell's best recent PLP was at Cross Nationals in Richmond, where he finished 10th in the 40-59 division at 84.9. Westenberg, included in the above list, finished 10th in the 60+ division with an 85.9.

Becker was a top cross country age grader in 2017 and 2018 when he finished 2nd and first at successive Club Cross Championships in Lexington and then Spokane. 

Rick Becker on His way to a 2nd place in Men's 60-64 and the Top Age Grade PLP in the Masters Men's Race at the 2017 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington KY Photo by Michael Scott

In January of 2022, he finished 2nd again at the San Diego Cross Nationals Championship. When he returned to Club Cross in San Francisco last December he had a decidedly off day; his PLP was not among the top ten in 60+. He will be looking to erase that taste with a strong outing here.

Gomez [Scratched now], like Angell, is a longshot. Favored to win the race overall, it would be a stretch for him to make the age grading podium. At Boulder last year when he won overall, he finished 10th in age grading with an 81.68, behind Qualls, listed above, in 4th and Mark Callon see below in 7th. His 6th place finish in the Men's 40-59 race at Club Cross last December netted him a 26th place PLP.

Qualls has been winning everything in sight in his 70-74 division since entering it in the spring of 2022. But placing highly in the age grading has been more of a challenge. Qualls ran well in San Francisco, winning his age division but had the 24th best PLP in the 60+ race at 81.87. Becker, despite being unhappy with his race scored two percentage points higher. On the other hand, the race that day was so unusual, it would be easy to put too much weight on it.

Robert Qualls finishing off his winning run and Top Ten Age Grade score at the 2022 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships in Highlands NJ Photo by Jason Timochko

Qualls finished 4th in age grading in Boulder a couple of months before. At the 1 Mile Championships in Indianapolis in June, not only did Qualls break the 70-74 American Record, he finished 3rd in age grading. 

Schmidt is probably the favorite. At Club Cross last December, he finished 2nd in age grading in the 60+ race, at 88.39, ahead of some pretty strong runners. He was well ahead of Becker, Qualls and Westenberg. Angell, out of the 40-59 race, was closer, at about 87.54. But, unlike the 60+ race, that was not a true Cross Country race, although I am sure it was quite miserable to run in it. Note: It was known a t the time that the course was not a true 10 Km in length. I heard that it was about 6 Miles long. I have recalculated any PLP I report for that race as a 6 mile run. The official results assumed it was a true 10K. Schmidt has not run in another cross country race since then. But he has done well on the roads: 2nd at Atlanta in the 5 Km with a 91.98; 2nd at the Half Marathon on a warm day in Syracuse, on a hilly course at 89.65; 

Steve Schmidt powering through the streets  of Syracuse NY on his way to 2nd place Overall in Age Grading at the 2023 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships Photo courtesy of Syracuse Half Marathon

3rd at the 10K in 89.65; and 4th in the 12 Km last month with a 91.1. None of the athletes who have come in ahead of him in age grading are entered in this race. 

Westenberg may be surprised to find himself in this list, but he has earned it. At Cross Nationals in Richmond, he finished tenth in age grading at 85.9, a full percentage point above Angell, even though they ran in two different races. In San Francisco at Club Cross, he again topped notable runners like Becker and Qualls in posting the 11th best PLP at 85.81.

David Westenberg navigating a large mud puddle on his way to a 2nd place finish in M65 and a Top Twelve in Overall Age Grading in the Masters Men's 60+ Race at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships


Zamek is a bit of a puzzle, and therefore a wild card. He has been rehabbing a set of injuries for the last year. He pushed it last spring, entering the 10 Km Championships in the midst of 70-mile training weeks. It paid off during the race. He finished on the podium in the incredibly competitive 60-64 division, behind Nat Larson and John Van Danacker, not entered, and ahead of Schmidt. Schmidt edged him for 3rd best PLP by 0.01 percentage point. Incredible! But a week later he could not do a workout. Whether that was directly due to the 10k effort or was the result of pushing his training hard after the week following the race, is an open question. Either way he was diagnosed with Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy PHT. No one works harder on Physical Therapy than Zamek. But few are as reluctant to go easy when necessary. He decided he could risk a tempo run in the 1 Mile Championships. He did so and helped his Shore AC team to victory by a single second.

Mark Zamek Shore AC Crossing the Finish Line with the 4th best Age Grade PLP at the 2023 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in Dedham MA Photo Credit: Pam Fales 

His effort was more restrained than the 10K. He had the 26th highest PLP. My guess is that his goals for this race are similar, to run a good tempo and help his team. After all, he wants to run well in Tallahassee, not be in the middle of rehab again.

Others who have had good age grades in the past include Doug Bell, Mark Callon, Doug Goodhue, and Gregory Putnam. The recent scores for Bell, Callon and Putnam suggest the podium would be a stretch. Goodhue is on the upswing but is probably not ready for a podium or near-podium effort yet.

It looks like the most likely order of finish is: Schmidt-Becker-Qualls. But one can easily imagine different scenarios.

Top Contenders for the Men's Age-Grading podium in alphabetical order:

Rick Becker     Robert Qualls     Steve Schmidt

AGE DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIPS MEN 40-44 Gomez, Lindsay, Chettle and de Heer, all out of this division are considered in the discussion of the Overall Championship above. Based on that, the projection for the division is: Gomez-Lindsay-Chettle. Note: Chris Gomez is a late scratch. That means Dirk de Heer gets added to the 40-44 predicted podium.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Jesse Chettle     Dirk de Heer     Bryan Lindsay

45-49 David Angell was listed for the overall podium. He is the favorite for this division. It appears the top other contenders are Matthew Di Pretore and Christopher Hernandez. Those two met at the 5 Km Championships in Atlanta. Hernandez had the edge there, 17:12 to 17:30.  Di Pretore ran 34:59 t take 4th at the 10K Championships and Hernandez 43:47 for 5th place at the 12Km championships. I do not find recent Cross Country championship results for them. Hernandez finished 4th in 40-44 at 2019 Cross Nationals in Tallahassee. Leonardo Canete ran some 5K's in the 17:30 - 17:45 range this summer and will press those two. The most likely outcome seems to be: Angell-Hernandez-Di Pretore. But DiPretore and Hernandez are very close and it could go either way.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

David Angell     Matthew Di Pretore     Christopher Hernandez

50-54 Steve Bell, Brent Fields, and Gregory Putnam appear to be the three strongest runners. Putnam finished 2nd in the 2021 edition of these championships in Boston, and finished 4th in the division at 2021 Club Cross in Tallahassee. 

Gregory Putnam white singlet leading a host of talented Cross Country Runners as he secures a Top Five 50-54 Finish at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo by Michael Scott

On the roads, he met Bell and Fields in Dedham at the 10K, taking division honors with a 34:21. Bell was 15 seconds back in 2nd, with Fields in 7th at 36:18. Bell and Fields, teammates, also met in San Francisco at Club Cross last December and at Cross Nationals in Richmond in January. But Putnam did not compete there. Bell came in ahead of Fields at both. It does not appear there is anyone else int he division to push those three unless it is the teammate of Bell and Fields, Christopher Harris. Harris ran at the 5 Km in Atanta but in the community race. Had he run the same time in the Masters Championship he would only have been 30 seconds behind Fields. If Harris should also happen to be better on the turf than on the roads, he could be a threat for the podium. For now, I put the likely order as: Putnam-Bell-Fields.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Steve Bell     Brent Fields     Gregory Putnam

55-59 Mark Callon has the target on his back in this division. A newly minted 55-year-old, Callon finished 4th last October at Boulder in the 50-54 division. He finished 24th in M50 at Clubs in San Francisco but had finished 13th the year before in Tallahassee. Callon took 6th M50 at the 2022 12 Km Championships. 

Mark Callon  finishing off his 12 Km Effort on a warm day at USATF-NJ's  By Hook Or By Crook Course in Highlands NJ Photo by Jason Timochko

He has had some niggling issues this year but, despite a sore high hamstring, managed a 1:17:54 at the San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon. He ran a minute and a half faster last year at San Jose but he should be good for a 5 Km XC effort. That is probably equivalent to a solid sub-18 5K. He also has a 3.87 mile XC race under his belt. Jeffrey Conston is in the best position to push Callon in the division. Conston finished 11th in M50 at cross Nationals in Richmond. As a new 55-year old, he moved up to 5th M55 in Atlanta with an 18:09. At Indy in June, he took 3rd in the division in 4:59.04. After that it looks like Dale Flanders and Scott Siriano should battle for the final podium spot. Flanders finished 45 seconds ahead of Siriano at Richmond and then on the roads, bested him by 29 seconds at the 5 Km Championships. At Indy they were in a virtual dead heat at the Mile, with both awarded the same time to the next full second, 5:22, but with Siriano given 6th to Flanders's 7th. The most likely order of finish, assuming Callon's high hamstring holds up, is Callon-Conston-Flanders.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Mark Callon     Jeffrey Conston     Dale Flanders

60-64 Steve Schmidt is the main man here. If Mark Zamek is planning on running fast rather than just running a smooth tempo effort, it could be interesting. As noted in the age grading section. Schmidt beat all comers except Nat Larson (not entered for Boca) at Clubs in San Francisco. But Zamek ran Atlanta, finishing in 4th just 9 seconds behind Schmidt. And at the 10 Km in Dedham, Zamek went all out, running a 36:12 to take 32rd ahead of Schmidt. As noted, though, a week later he could not run. Since then, Zamek has been up and down. He ran a tempo pace for the Mile and finished 6th in the division at 5:20. If he gives a similar effort here, it should be Schmidt-Zamek going 1-2. Regardless of how those two sort out, Lester Dragstedt looks solid for 3rd. 

Lester Dragstedt far left battles Larry Sak white singlet in the trenches at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond VA Photo By Michael Scott

Although well back from those two at the 5K and 10K championships, Dragstedt has been a solid performer all year. He finished 6th at Richmond and 23rd at Clubs in San Francisco. If any of those have an off day, either Eric Hawkins or Craig Williams look to be next in line. My best guess at the likely order is Schmidt-Zamek-Dragstedt.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Lester Dragstedt     Steve Schmidt     Mark Zamek

65-69 The biggest names on the list are Rick Becker, David Westenberg, and Ken Youngers. Becker is discussed at length in the age grading section. He should be due for a great run. Westenberg is coming off training for a Marathon that allowed him to qualify for the Boston Marathon. As a dedicated middle distance runner, he is always ready to run a 5K, whether on the turf or the roads. Admittedly he has tried to awaken the fast twitch muscles in the last week or so. Perhaps he will not be at peak fitness for a 5K? In addition to his cross country races, referenced in the age grading section, Westenberg took the honors at the 10 Km Masters Championship in Dedham MA with a 'no pushing' 39:19. Ken Youngers has been hampered by a health issue over the last 10 months or so. Despite that, he was able to finish 2nd at Cross Nationals in Richmond in January and 3rd at the 5K Championships in Atlanta in February with an 18:47. He matched that time at the fast Macon Labor Day 5K. But he was a minute faster in 2022. Michael Lebold, another middle-distance athlete, was two minutes behind Westenberg at Club Cross in San Francisco. He has not pushed his mileage up as much as Westenberg but his training was sufficient to break 51 minutes and garner a 2nd place in the division at the 12 Km championships three weeks ago. Kevin Dollard, John Blaser, and Reno Stirrat are always ready to run a strong race and could challenge for the podium if it is their day. Nonetheless, it seems more likely that the finishing order will be Becker-Westenberg-Youngers. Westenberger had the advantage at Club Cross but Becker has enjoyed a solid training block coming into the race and is a fierce competitor on the turf. It will be fascinating to see how it turns out. A runner who can handle heat and humidity better should fare well. That suggests Youngers might have a good day.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Rick Becker     David Westenberg     Ken Youngers

70-74 As noted above, Robert Qualls has been winning every national championship race he enters since summer of 2022. His two main rivals in this race are teammates, Doug Bell and Douglas Chesnut. The three met on the turf at Cross Nationals in Richmond, with Qualls enjoying the victory with a minute and a half cushion. Qualls shows no sign of slowing down. He took top honors at the masters Outdoor Championship sin the 1500 and 10,000 meters. In late August he took top honors at a hometown race, the Journal Jog 8K, at 34:25, in Reno NV. Bell and Chesnut are pretty close in ability. Bell had the edge on at Cross Nationals, 35:46 to 36:08. Chesnut had the edge in Atlanta over a hilly 5K, 20:50 to 20:54. And they finished almost in a dead heat at Indy, with Bell getting the edge, 6:10 to 6:11. 

Doug Bell #601 leads some of the 60+ competitors around the Mechanicsville XC course at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships Photo by Michael Scott

Kirk Larson is not far off. He was a minute behind Chesnut at Richmond but is probably running better now than then. He was a half-minute back in Atlanta in 21:22 and ran a very nice 44:03 to capture 2nd in the division in Dedham at the 10K Championships. At Indy, he was right with Bell and Chesnut, finishing 5th with the same 6:11 time as Chesnut. If Larson, an Atlanta runner, handles the humid heat better, he could find his way to the podium. Jerry Orange, my old Athletic Annex Indiana teammate, has lived in Florida now for almost a decade. In 2014 we took the 5 Km XC team championship when 60's teams needed 5 finishers for a complete team. He competed at Cross Nationals in 2019 at Tallahassee, finishing sid 4th in 65-69. Another runner who is used to the heat, he could be dangerous. Eugene Myers, who finished 6th in M70 at Club Cross in San Francisco and 5th at Richmond, a second ahead of Larson, would, ordinarily, be in the mix. He was cheering on his wife at the 12 Km in Highlands, sidelined by an injury. My guess is he may be back for Club Cross at Tallahassee, but this race is probably too soon. The most likely scenario seems to be Qualls-Bell-Chesnut but the weather conditions could be a wild card that jumbles things up.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Doug Bell     Douglas Chesnut     Robert Qualls

75-79 Rick Katz is the new kid on the block in this division and emerges as the favorite. That is especially so as Dave Glass is a scratch. Katz ran a good half minute faster than Glass at Richmond, finishing 8th in M70. Still in M70, Katz ran faster than Glass in the Road Mile at Indy as well. Jerry Learned has had an up and down last 12 months with a health issue. In October he came in 2 minutes ahead of Katz at the 5 Km Championships in Boulder. 

Rick Katz on his way to an 8th place finish in M70 [before moving up to M75]-at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships Photo by Michael Scott

Three months later he came in almost 4 minutes behind Katz at Richmond. After struggling through the early part of the spring, he ran much better at Dedham, where he finished in 49:59, outdueling me, Paul Carlin, over the last half mile to edge me by 5 seconds. That was a sign that his turnaround had begun. At Atlanta and Sacramento I had been able to pass him early in the race and finish ahead of him. At the 12 Km in Highlands, Learned did even better, clocking 58:32 to come in a minute and a half ahead of me and only 14 seconds behind his teammate, Glass. But it is worth noting that Katz came in 4 minutes ahead of me at Richmond, so being able to run with me does not mean that Learned can run with Katz. But if Learned has continued on the upswing, he could definitely give Katz a battle for the win. And again, the humid conditions favor the Atlantan over the Coloradan. With Glass out, I might have been the favorite to round off the podium. I finished 4 minutes ahead of Przemek Nowicki in Richmond, and 2.5 minutes ahead in Atlanta. Nowicki is an experienced cross country runner and will appreciate a relatively flat course. A late change in plans has made me a scratch; Nowicki is now the pick for third place.

The likely order of finish is: Katz-Learned-Nowicki. 

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Rick Katz     Jerry Learned     Przemek Nowicki

80-84 Doug Goodhue is the heavy favorite in this division as his recovery from knee surgery fades further back into the distance. He ran 2 minutes faster than Ed Bligh in Atlanta, arguably the #2 favorite, despite taking a fall. At Indy in June, Goodhue, already in the Masters Hall of Fame, ran a minute faster than Bligh in taking the 80-84 title in 7:26. In mid-September, Goodhue averaged under 8:30 per mile in winning the 12 Km Championships. And Goodhue has many top finishes n the turf. He finished 2nd in M75 at the Lehigh Club Cross Championships, outrunning many a younger athlete, in 2019. In 2018 Goodhue took the 75-79 win at the 5 km Masters XC in Buffalo with a 4-minute cushion. Two months later he took the 75-79 win at the Spokane Club Cross Championships with over 6 minutes to spare. Bligh, who finished 2nd in Richmond and 2nd in Atlanta in 28:30, recorded an 8:27 Road Mile in Indy. That suggests that Robert O'Rourke can give Bligh a battle for the silver medal. O'Rourke ran 28:41 in the Captain Zinn Memorial 5K on August 12th. That was probably not as challenging a course as the one in Atlanta, but it suggests he is not far off. And he may have a bit more raw speed than Bligh, which can come in handy in a 5 Km XC race. O'Rourke clocked 7:42 at the Big Bang Mile in New Jersey, 45 seconds faster than Bligh's race in Indy. Still, O'Rourke has to show that he can outrun Bligh. If George Gilder were enjoying the same fitness that he did in 2022, he would be the likely candidate for 2nd place. That year he won the 10Km 80-84 Championship in 58:03.This year he ran almost three minutes slower in finishing 3rd. It will be interesting to see if the April 10K was an anomaly and Gilder is in shape to challenge for the podium. Stan Edelson could also make some noise. He finished 2nd of 4 at the 5Km XC in Boulder last October and, a year before, enjoyed an 80-84 win at the 5 Km XC at Boston over a strong field of 8, including Bill Borla and Roland Cormier (not entered here). It seems the most likely outcome is Goodhue-Bligh-O'Rourke, but we will need to run the race!

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Ed Bligh     Doug Goodhue     Robert O'Rourke

85-89 Adrian Craven who has the 2023 85-89 Masters Grand Prix all locked up, will take this championship unopposed. He just needs to finish.

90-94 Eric Seiff, the oldest entrant, at 90 years of age, has no rivals. If he makes it to the starting line, no mean feat at 90, and finishes, he has the 90-94 championship. He would be, if I recall correctly, our first 90-94 male champion this year.

WOMEN 40-44 If Angela Giuliani's heel bursitis allows her to run at close to full speed, she should be able to take the win. She finished 3rd in the division at Indy in 5:26 after almost deciding not to run due to the heel acting up during warmups. She apparently ran a 19:37 5K on September 9th. Her mile time suggest she could run under 19:00 if all is well. In 2022, Samantha Gerrits ran three 5K's ranging from 19:42 to 20:58. She ran a 20:24 this past May. That suggests she is in line for 2nd, or 1st if Giuliani is unable to run at full speed. Alex Dietrich, a sometimes race walker who prefers the middle distances for her track races, ran 24:15 for the 5000 meters at the Masters Outdoor Championships this past July. The only race result I can find for Lorinda King is a 40-minute 5K. Most likely it will be Giuliani-Gerrits-Dietrich in that order.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Alex Dietrich     Samantha Gerrits     Angela Giuliani

45-49 Jennifer Sober and Euleen Josiah-Tanner were considered in the Overall Championships section above. 

Two 5000 Meter Winners from the 2023 USATF Masters Outdoor Championships- Client and Coach-Jennifer Johnson Sober L and Sonja Friend-Uhl R

Based on that discussion it appears it should be Sober and Josiah-Tanner going 1-2. Karyn Baig, who finished 3rd in the 45-49 division at the 12Km Championships in 52:53, looks good for 3rd. In the summer of 2022, her 5K times ranged from 20:49 to 21:53. Alicia Eno and Hiroko Guarneri ran 22:38 and 22:50, respectively, in Atlanta; they can certainly push Baig for the podium. Alicia Martinez appears to be a track athlete who prefers the middle distances and the 800 meters in particular. It will be interesting to see if she can stay with some of the leaders in the race. If so, she might have an edge at the finish. The most likely order seems to be Sober/Josiah-Tanner/Baig.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Karyn Baig     Euleen Josiah-Tanner     Jennifer Sober

50-54 See the Overall Championships section for consideration of Sonja Friend-Uhl. She should take the win in this division with plenty to spare. Amy Bonnerot and Cassandra Crane are more closely matched. Crane has more recent experience in Cross Country at the national level, finishing 32nd (of 41) at Club Cross in San Francisco and 8th (of 10) at Cross Nationals in Richmond. Bonnerot has a slight edge on the roads. Her 1:41:02, at the Philadelphia Distance Run HM last month, compares favorably with Crane's 1:42:57 at the Grand Island HM. 

Cassandra Crane finishing off a fine run on a moist day at the 2023 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in Dedham MA Photo by Pam Fales

Bonnerot's 45:55 10K in August is a bit faster than Crane's 46:17 at the 10 Km national championships in April. Given the closeness of the times and Crane's greater experience at national championships on both the turf and the roads, I will go with Crane over Bonnerot but it should be a duel worth watching. The most likely order seems to be: Friend-Uhl/Crane/Bonnerot.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Amy Bonnerot     Cassandra Crane     Sonja Friend-Uhl

55-59 Brenda Osovski looks to be the favorite. Her 46:09 at the Masters 10 Km Championships is ten minutes faster than Lori Mangual's best 10K. Mangual's 5K's in 2022 ranged from 26:07 to 28:39. That compares favorably to Valerie Silver's 5K's ranging from 29:26 to 30:36. Mangual also appears to have more recent experience with Cross Country at the USATF-Long Island level. Osovski competed at both Club Cross in San Francisco and Cross Nationals in Richmond this GP season. Osovski-Mangual-Silver is the expected order of finish.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Lori Mangual     Brenda Osovski     Valerie Silver

60-64 This is one the most competitive division in the championship.  Mary Cass had been winning all of the championships she entered in this division for the last year, until La Burt aged up from 55-59. It is likely that it will be Suzanne La Burt leading the way in this championship.  Cass will give her a strong challenge. Among the others, Suzanne Cordes probably has a slight edge over Mireille 'Mimi' Silva. Cordes ran at both San Francisco and Richmond, trailing Cass in San Francisco by 1:13, and La Burt in Richmond by 2:07. That seems to line up with the 10K and 12K results on the roads where La Burt had the edge by 34 and 49 seconds respectively. Cordes and Silva both competed at Tallahassee Clubs in 2021; Cordes came in well ahead of Silva. 

Suzanne Cordes leading two of her rivals at the 2021 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo by Michale Scott

That suggests a finishing order of La Burt-Cass-Cordes.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Mary Cass     Suzanne Cordes     Suzanne La Burt

65-69 Patrice Combs appears to be back atop this division after a pause in her participation in national championships. At the age of 59, she finished 6th in the 2016 Cross Nationals in Tallahassee. Three years later she finished 7th (of 40) at the highly competitive 2019 Club Cross Championships at Lehigh. Earlier that same year she took 1st place in 60-64 at the 5K, 8K and 15K and netted silver medals at the 1 Mile and 10K championships. This year she has taken first place at the 5Km championships and won her age group at Peachtree with a stunning 44:14. Kitty Musante will push her for the win but finished a minute back from Combs in Atlanta. Jan Tefft, out of Arizona, and Cindy Williams, out of Atlanta look to be closely matched. Williams finished 3rd in Atlanta in 24:55. Tefft answers with a 24:32 5K this August 15th. And Tefft also has a 23:55 at the 'World's Fastest 5K', Carlsbad. Williams counters with the results from Peachtree, where they both ran; Williams came in almost a full minute ahead of Tefft. One could argue that home curse advantage played a role. Williams has much more experience at national championships. That is doubly so for Cross Country national championships, where I find no recent results for Tefft. Wiliams, on the other hand, finished 10th (of 20) in this division at Club Cross Country in San Francisco, and 5th (of 20) at the 5 km XC in Boulder. Those are just two most recent cross country championships in a long string over the past decade. 

Cindy Williams racing at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo by Michael Scott

For that reason and the Peachtree results, I suggest that Williams has a slight edge. Again that is a race within the race that is worth keeping an eye on. Taking all that in, it looks like Combs-Musante-Willams. But Tefft will certainly make a strong run for the podium.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Patrice Combs     Kitty Musante     Cindy Williams

70-74 Jeanette Groesz should take this division. She is very tough on the cross country turf. She has won her division at the last two Club Cross Country championships, in Tallahassee in 2021 and San Francisco in 2022 under very different conditions. She also went into altitude at Boulder last year and took 2nd, losing to the only 70-74 year old who is likely to beat her at Cross Country, her teammate, Sabra Harvey (not entered here). Victoria Crisp could push her in the race. Crisp won the 65-69 division in the 5Km Championships in Atlanta in 2019 in 23:14. Groesz finished 2nd in Atlanta this year in 70-74, a half minute slower. But if one applies the age grading formula to age up Crisp's 2019 result to 2023, it comes out to a 24:33. Her most recent 5K, a 24:25 at the Delray beach Turkey Trot in 2021 reinforces that projection. Norma 'Nonie' Hudnall finished 3rd in Atlanta this year off a 27:30. Cande Olsen finished almost three minutes behind Hudnall in Atlanta this year. 

Jeanette Groesz on her way to a Top Five Overall Age Grading Score at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo by Michael Scott

But she was able to finish 52 seconds ahead of Hudnall at the 2021 Club Cross Championships in Tallahassee. That suggests the Cross Country terrain may work in Olsen's favor. Still, that is a large difference in the more recent 5K meeting. It looks like a finishing order of Groesz-Crisp-Hudnall may be in order.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Victoria Crisp     Jeanette Groesz     Norma Hudnall

75-79 Sharon Gerl and Andrea McCarter are entered in this division race. Gerl is a newly minted 75 year old, and has run much faster than McCarter on a consistent basis. An example is the 1:26 and change 10 Miler Gerl ran in Sacramento in April compared with a 1:31:26 10K that McCarter ran on Labor Day. 

Sharon Gerl navigates the Tallahassee Cross Country course in 2019 as she anchors her Red Lizard team to a 70+ Win Photo by Michael Scott

The finishing order should be Gerl-McCarter.

Top contenders for the podium in alphabetical order:

Sharon Gerl     Andrea McCarter

80-84 Marie-Louise Michelsohn is the sole entrant in this division. It appears she is new to national championships. She has competed in triathlons and ran her 5K's in the summer of 2022, in the range from 36:15 to 39:10. She needs to finish the race to earn the championship.

85-89 Joyce Hodges-Hite has, in contrast, been very active in national championships this year and has won the 2023 85-89 Grand Prix. She has won championship races this year from the 1 Mile to the 10 Mile and also took top honors in the 6 km race at Cross Country nationals in Richmond. She, too, need only finish the race to again be our oldest Gold medalist at a Women's national championship.

TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS Not many teams have made the trip to Boca. Nonetheless there will be some interesting contests. The analysis is based on declared teams as of the end of registration and, in one case, an intent to move an already registered runner onto a team during packet pickup.

WOMEN 40+ It is Atlanta vs. Shore. It appears Atlanta will have a slightly tighter pack overall, despite La Burt leading off for Shore with an almost certain win. If Baig can come in ahead of both Eno and Guarneri, it could make a huge difference. But with only two teams in the division and scoring by place, not time, it will be close. If Eno and Guarneri beat Baig, it goes the other way. If my 45-49 analysis is right, it seems this could go to Shore.

Prediction: Shore AC      Atlanta Track Club

50+ The Genesee Valley Harriers are unopposed. As long as all three of their athletes finish, they not only take first in the 5 Km Cross Country competition, they win the 50+ Women's Grand prix title for 2023.

Prediction: GVH

60+ The Atlanta Track Club will take this championship unopposed.

Prediction: Atlanta Track Club

70+ Team Red Lizard, out of Oregon, enter as the strong favorites. If all three athletes run well, it will be no contest. Groesz and Gerl should go 1-2, with a potential duel between the Atlanta Track Club's Hudnall and Olsen determining whether Red Lizard goes 1-2-3 or 1-2-4. Either way, barring something unexpected, this one should go to Team red Lizard, allowing them to win the 2023 Grand Prix along with the 70+ Team gold medals in this competition.

Prediction: Team Red Lizard     Atlanta Track Club

MEN 40+ Assuming Ryan Stevens gets moved onto Team Run Flagstaff's declared list of runners at packet pickup, this division goes, unopposed, to TRF, out of Flagstaff AZ. They defend their 2022 title won at altitude in Boulder CO.

Prediction: Team Run Flagstaff

50+ Itis Atlanta out of Georgia against Shore AC out of New Jersey once again. This time Bell and Fields should go 1-2 and even if Conston should beat Dolan, it does not appear that anyone else on Shore's team should.

Prediction: Atlanta Track Club     Shore AC

60+ It is Ann Arbor Track Club vs. the Atlanta Track Club. Steve Schmidt should take first for Ann Arbor. But after that it is likely that Becker, Dragstedt and Youngers will take 2-3-4 for the win. Ann Arbor will happily celebrate winding up on the 2023 Grand Prix podium. Atlanta will also have a Grand Prix podium to celebrate, in their case, first place.

Prediction: Atlanta Track Club     Ann Arbor Track Club

70+ In this 3-way contest involving Atlanta, Boulder, and Shore, it is pretty clear cut. Bell and Chesnut should go 1-2 in the team competition. Larson may be able to beat Katz and Kirschner. If Learned could also beat them both, the final score would be closer. But Boulder would still take the win. Shore does not measure up to those two strong teams but, if everyone runs well, they will wind up on the podium nonetheless.

Prediction: Boulder Road Runners     Atlanta Track Club     Shore Athletic Club

80+ The Atlanta Track Club is the sole entrant. They will likely take care of business as they usually do, and go home with the Gold medals for the win.

Prediction: Atlanta Track Club 

That is it for the preview. It will be interesting to see if the warm, humid conditions have a major or a minor effect on the outcomes. Let the races determine the Champions!