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!

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