Saturday, November 25, 2023

An Early Look at Top Contenders entered in the Women's, Men's 40+ and Men's 60+ Races at Club Cross on Dec 9

November 24, 2023 According to the usatf website, entries close on Friday, December 1 at 11:59 PM. That is only 7 days away! As of Thursday, November 23rd, there were fewer than 400 Masters entries. In 2021 over 500 Masters athletes signed up. Time to get a hustle on and register! Note: An earlier version of this article indicated over 800 entries for the 2021 Club Cross; that figure was for 2022.

USATF Club Cross website: 2023 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships | USA Track & Field

Anyone who has been running Masters Cross Country at the national level for a few years, has likely run on the Tallahassee course before. It was the site of the 2016 and 2021 Club Cross Championships and the site for the 2018 and 2019 Cross Nationals Championships. The course is best described as gently rolling. The steepest hill, referred to by the Course announcer as 'The Wall', is a real hill and damage can be done there, especially on the final loop. Those looking for a challenging course with significant ups and downs will not find it here. But they will find a magnificent layout with a jumbotron showing multiple shots of the runners on the course, and regular live updates on the leaderboard from splits. I wonder if they will also have the updated team scores the way they do for the NCAA, as the race unfolds. Awards stands near the course and a large tent for gear changes were a feature in 2021.

The Women's race starts at 9 AM, with M60+ at 10 AM and M60+ at 11 AM.

What about the weather? That could be another story. Athletes who have difficulty with heat and humidity were not happy in 2021 when temperatures rose from the upper 60's to low 70's, during the morning races, with relative humidity only falling from 97% to 91%. The dew point rose from 66 to 69 from the start of the women's race to the start of the M40+ race. Might we see that again? It is always possible but not necessarily likely. Looking back at the weather history on December 9th from 2022 back through 2013, the only year the dew point was that high was in 2013. In three other years it was warm and humid enough to have dew points in the low 60's. Three of the last five years have been like that on December 9th. In one of the other two years temperatures were in the mid 50's; in 2020 it was fair and cold, at the start, with temperatures rising from 39 degrees at 9 am to 47F at 10 and 57 at 11 am. From 2014 to 2017, the temperatures on December 9th were in the low 40's to low 50's at 9 am, rising to anywhere from mid-40's to low 50's by 11 am.

So, as usual, make sure you check the forecast before thinking about packing and then one more time before you actually do pack!

Among those already entered, who is likely to make some noise? Note: Based on entries through Thanksgiving Day evening.

WOMEN Top entries so far include, from 40-44: Elizabeth Camy Cal Coast, Carrie Dimoff BowermanJennifer 'Jenny' Keenan Checkers AC, Renee Metivier Team Red LizardJennifer Pesce Garden State, Kristen Rohde BowermanKatie Sherron Gulf Winds; from 45-49: Jill Braley Atlanta, Maggie Shearer Cal Coas; and from 50-54 Lorilyn Bloomer and Karolyn Bowley.

A Hundred Meters into the Women's Masters race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Sherron won here, on her home turf, in 2021; can she defend that title? When she was able to combine a family vacation with a side trip to Indianapolis, Sherron took the 2023 Masters Road Mile title last June, with a sparkling 5:05! Shearer finished 2nd to Sherron in 2021. They were even through the first 3 km loop. Heading uphill into the 2nd 3 km loop, Sherron was able to open up a small gap. From there it was all Sherron as she pulled away for a 13 second victory. 

Katie Sherron far left and Maggie Shearer #896 sunglasses lead the Women's field in the early going of the Masters race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Braley finished 5th that year, a minute behind Sherron. Sherron finished 2nd Masters behind Edna Kiplagat (not entered here) at the Utica Boilermaker in 55:53 this past summer and finished off the season with a 31:09 8K win at a local race in Tallahassee. Sherron kept rolling with a win at the RnR Clearwater Half in 1:20:17. She seems poised to rock the Tallahassee course again. But she has plenty of competition!

Shearer was not idle after Tallahassee. In the run up to 2022 Club Cross, Shearer ran a 36:42 10K at Dana Point and won the So Cal Cross Country Championship. At Golden Gate Park in San Francisco last year, Shearer finished 2nd to Meriah Earle (not entered as of now, and likely focusing on the upcoming Olympic Marathon Trials). From January of this year until October, Shearer had a period where training did not get reported. It seems likely there was an injury. Recent workouts suggest a fitness rebuilding period is under way. Whether it can get far enough for her to contend again at Club Cross is unknown. More likely she will be running as a solid supporter for the team. Shearer ran a 19:25 at the Dana Point Turkey Trot. In past years she broke 38 minutes in the 10K at that race. That reinforces the notion that Shearer will be in a support role at Tallahassee. But the race was a rust buster and Shearer may have been running cautiously. It will be inte0re0sting0 to see what she can do on the turf when the team points are on the line.

A Track and Cross Country standout in her collegiate days at Furman, Braley finished 18th in her first Masters Club Cross outing at Lehigh in 2019, moving up to 5th, as noted, in 2021 in Tallahassee. In between she finished 4th overall in the Women's race at the Masters 5 Km Championships in Boston. Braley finished 3rd overall at the 5 Km road championships in Atlanta in 18:08 and followed that with an 18:59 in March. Since then, I can find no race results for Braley. That raises some doubts about her fitness heading into Clubs.

Metivier is known for her trail running but she had a nifty outing on the turf at the 2022 XC Nationals in San Diego. She pulled away from a solid field to win the 6 Km race by almost two minutes in 21:50.

Renee Metivier strides away from the field at the start of the Masters race at the 2022 USATF Cross Country Championships in San Diego CA Photo Credit: Michael Scott

A couple of months later she ran 16:41 to finish 6th among the Elite Women at the Carlsbad 5000. Her most recent outing was a Masters 2nd place at the Breakneck Point Trail Half Marathon in 2:51:31. The event features significant elevation changes, including rock climbs and rock scrambling.

Pesce is now a known quantity in Masters LDR National Championships. She broke onto the scene with a win in Atlanta at the 5 Km National Championships. Her 17:48 in February of this year, over a challenging 'Atlanta Flat' course, left her a solid ten seconds ahead of the field. Pesce demonstrated her range by taking first again in September over 12 Km at the Masters National Championships in Highlands NJ. 

Jennifer Pesce breaks the tape at the 2023 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships Photo Credit: Jason Timochko

Her 44:59 gave her a half minute edge over the 2nd place finisher. I find no recent cross country outings but in her collegiate days, presumably freshman or sophomore year, Pesce finished 51st out of 110 at the Atlantic10 XC Championships. Earlier that year, she had finished 45th of 237 at the New England Cross Country Sub-Varsity Championships. That experience will stand her in good stead.

Dimoff finished 13th in the World Athletics 2019 Marathon Championships in Doha. Enough said! Her most recent racing includes a 16:45 win at the Bowerman 5k in August, and a 1:18:48 HM in July. In 2021 Dimoff bounced back from a disappointing 2:38:28 at Chicago in October to nail a 2:29:33 two months later at the CIM where she took 3rd place among the elite women. Dimoff is a battler.

Camy, Keenan, and Rohde are the new Masters 'kids' on the block; they turned 40 since Club Cross year. Camy has run many recent Marathons in the 2:43 to 2:53 range, including a 2:46:51 at Boston and a 2:49:09 at Grandma's this year. She also ran 1:18:39 at the Surf City HM, one of three HM's in that range in the last year or so. Keenan ran 17:45 at Tom Donnelly's Hall of Fame 5K in September and clocked a 37:33 10K on the 4th of July. Keenan showed her range with a 1:21:14 HM in May. Experienced at Cross Country, Keenan took 4th and 2nd overall at two of the Pete Glavin Cross Country races last year. Rohde ran a 1:21:40 HM at the Eugene Marathon and 29:38 at the Shamrock Run over 8K in March, roughly equivalent to a 37:18 10K. Like Keenan, Rohde has cross country experience in her hometown XC series, taking 2nd overall and 2nd in 35-39 at two of the 2021 Stumptown races.

Bloomer and Bowley are seasoned veterans, now in the 50-54 division, with lots of sterling X-C results on their resumes. A Masters win at Clubs is not likely but one can never take these strong runners for granted. Bloomer won the Masters 5 Km Championships in San Diego in the fall of 2020 and came back in January of 2022 to finish 6th overall at the XC Nationals on the same Mission Bay course. In between, she finished 7th overall at the Masters 5 Km Championships at Franklin Park in Boston in 19:30. Bloomer finished 10th overall this August in 18:31. Bowley finished 4th overall at Clubs in Tallahassee in 2021 but had less luck in San Francisco where she finished 15th. She finished 6th in 2021 at Franklin Park, 7 seconds ahead of Bloomer. She finished 5th overall this fall at the New England XC Championships in Boston.

MEN 40+ At this point, the field lacks the depth already evident on the women's side. The three biggest names from the last couple of Club Cross races are: Roosevelt Cook Cal CoastJesse Davis Indiana Elite and Malcolm Richards.  In Tallahassee in 2021, Davis drove the bus, pulling away eventually for a 17 second win; Cook was 40 seconds back in 4th. 

Start of the Men's Masters Race at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Richards finished 3rd, with Davis 17 seconds back in 5th in San Francisco on that odd set of laps around the old gnarly track at the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate Park in the rain. Cook finished 11th. 

Malcolm Richards pulled the field through the first lap, followed, in order, by Ben Bruce, Sergio Reyes, and Roosevelt Cook at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco Photo Credit: Pam Fales

A tough day but all three persevered. None of the rivals who finished around them or ahead of them are yet entered. Some of the new runners who could make a difference include: Ed Baker Tracksmith Boston Hares, David Cisewski West Valley, and Kevin Pool West Valley; and, out of 45-49, veterans David Angell Unattached, Neville Davey West Valley, and Jacques Sallberg Cal Coast. Ahrlin Bauman, Gregory Putnam, and Mark Yuen, out of 50-54 deserve mention although none of them are likely to be first across the line in the 40+ race. 

Baker claimed 4th Masters finish at the Beach to Beacon 10K in 33:37 and added a 1:17:15 at the Covered Bridges HM in Vermont. I find little Cross Country in his background but he is, apparently, a talented open water swimmer. In June of 2022 he was the 1st Masters athlete to fin8ish the 1 Mile event1 at the Charles River Swim, clocking 24:51. 

In August, Cisewski ran a 1:08:21 HM at the Santa Rosa Marathon. He followed that up with a 2:20:53 at the Chicago Marathon. Cisewski also has some recent XC cred; he finished 2nd in the Pacific Association XC Championships this fall, finishing 16 seconds behind his teammate, Malcolm Richards.

Pool ran in the 2019 Club Cross Championships at Lehigh as an Open Runner. Had he run the same 33:57 in the Masters race, he would have finished 8th. This past April, his 2:27:29 at Boston enabled him to finish 7th in M40. At the end of September, he was 4th overall and 7th Masters at the Urban Cow HM with a 1:08:52 effort. This fall he finished 4th, a half minute behind Cisewski, at the PA XC Championships.

Angell won several National Masters Overall championships and was always a threat for the overall podium at Masters National Championships from 2016 through 2019. His high point for the Club Cross Championships was at Spokane in 2018 when he finished 3rd overall. 

David Angell Center mixing it up with Jorge Maravilla left and Eric Loeffler mid race, with the field well behind at the 2018 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Spokane WA Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Going into and coming out of Covid, Angell struggled with foot and ankle issues. By last December he was competing at a high level again. But he was not all the way back. At San Francisco he finished 16th in his 45-49 division, 44 seconds behind his rival, Jacques Sallberg. At Richmond's XC Nationals a month later, Angell was able to stay ahead of Sallberg until the final 800 meters, when Sallberg opened up a 15 second margin. By the end of April, Angell was running, arguably, as well as he had 4 years earlier; in the age grade for his 3rd place overall at the 10 Km Championships this year was slightly above his age grade when he won the race in 2019. He finished 5th overall at the 5 Km Masters XC Championships at Boca Raton two months ago.

Davey had even more success than Angell at Club Cross, finishing 3rd in 2015 at San Francisco, and 4th at Tallahassee in 2016, before winning the overall championship at Lexington KY in 2017. 

Neville Davey far right driving the bus, with David Angell #1635 and John Gardiner #1470 matching his strides until Davey pulled away over the final 400 meters to take the win at the 2017 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington KY Photo Credit: Michael Scott 

He matched his 4th place finish in 2018 at Spokane. Davey was inside the top 20 at Lehigh in 2019. Three years later, at San Francisco last December, Davey was 25th, but 4th runner for his West Valley team.

Sallberg enjoyed tremendous success at XC Nationals. From 2015 to 2019, he won the overall championship every year except 2018 when he did not travel to Tallahassee to defend his title. Success at Club Cross was harder to achieve. Like Davey, Sallberg paid his dues, finishing 4th in 2015 and 6th in 2018 before winning the overall championship at Lehigh in 2019. 

Jacques Sallberg claims the Masters Win, ahead of Peter Gilmore, at the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Bethlehem PA Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Since the restart after Covid, Sallberg has played an important role as #2 scorer for Cal Coast, while finishing 11th at Tallahassee and 21st at San Francisco.

Richards finished 2nd overall at the 2023 USATF Masters 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento in April. Between becoming a new Dad and navigating the soreness and pains of a serious Masters runner, Richards was less active with races this year. He did manage a successful XC series, however, starting off in September, continuing into November. In October he ran a double on the Matt Yeo Aggies 4 Mile XC-finished 2nd to Sergio Reyes (not entered at present) in the Masters and 8th in the Open. Last week Richards enjoyed the Masters win at the Pacific Association Cross Country Championships.

Some of Davis's recent achievements include running his PR Marathon at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in early November and qualifying for the Marathon Olympic Trials in Orlando with a scintillating 2:17:30. With that kind of fitness in his legs and a full month to recover, it will be interesting to see if he tries to drive the train from the front as he did in 2021. 

Jesse Davis dropping Eric Blake white singlet and Peter Gilmore black singlet on his way to the win at the 2021 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott 

He also clocked a 1:08:11 HM at the Quad Cities Marathon in September.

Cook, too, has plenty of recent accomplishments. In 2023 Cook ran two HM's under 1:09 as well as a 1:07:1HM at RnR Las Vegas. He showed some speed over shorter distances as well, with a 15:12 2nd place Masters effort at Carlsbad. His 31:19 Overall win at the Dinosaur Dash 10K was his fastest time since 2021 when he ran 31:15.

MEN 60+ The Men's field at Club Cross is typically too large to have everyone in a single race. There is a separate race for the 40-59 teams and the 60 and up teams. Note: Athletes who are over 59 years of age may run with a team in the 40-59 race, but forfeit their individual place in their true age division...because they are not running in the same race as their rivals. This race is typically dominated by the top 60 and up runners in the country. That has recently included: Dan KingNat Larson, Rick Lee, Steve Schmidt, and John Van Danacker. King is engaged in a long reset to recover from injuries as he looks to age up into the 65-69 age division. He will, no doubt, go looking for track records to break once he turns 65.  A fifth an be added to the list if he can stay injury-free. Mark Zamek's long reset has started to pay dividends this year. Zamek is not entered yet. Joe Sheeran was the dominant runner prior to Covid, winning the 60+ race at Lexington, Spokane and Lehigh. But Sheeran has not competed at a Club Cross championship since Lehigh in 2019. So far only Larson and Van Danacker, from that group, are entered. But it seems likely that Lee, Schmidt and Zamek all intend to enter.

Steve Schmidt on his way to silver medals in his age division and in age grading at the 2023 USATF Masters 5 Km XC Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Larson has been on a tear on the roads since turning 60. His 1Mile (4:49) and 10 Mile (57:24) American records have been ratified. His 5 Km (16:35), 10 Km (34:25), 12 Km (42:26), 15 Km (55:32), and Half Marathon (1:15:27) times are highly likely to be ratified at the 2023 USATF Annual Meeting. On Thanksgiving Day, Larson ran 27:45 at the Ashenfelter 8K to get a record that eluded him last year because the course last year was found to be short. They corrected that problem after the fact. So this year it was pre-verified as long as the race was run as certified and verified. And Larson has typically been just as dominant on the turf as on the roads. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, Larson either won the Masters Harrier of the Year Award outright or shared it with one other runner. Larson won the 60 and up race by 19 seconds at Golden Gate Park last December.

Nat Larson pulls the 60+ field through the first few hundred meters, with David Westenberg green singlet, Rick Lee reversed cap and Dan King purple singlet right on his heels at the 2022 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco Photo Credit: Pam Fales


Schmidt finished 2nd to Larson in San Francisco, with Lee 7 seconds back and Van Danacker another 9 seconds back. Van Danacker had a better outing at Cross Nationals in Richmond. 

John Van Danacker #550 on his way to a 2nd place finish in the 60-64 division at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond VA Photo Credit: Michael Scott

He still fell short of Larson by 42 seconds but finished 26 seconds ahead of Lee, with Schmidt absent. Van Danacker had a better road outing than Schmidt at the 5 Km, albeit by just 2 seconds. Van Danacker was further ahead of Schmidt in the 10 Km.  Can Van Danacker beat Schmidt on the turf? Perhaps we will find out in Tallahassee? Zamek has shown that he can run with Schmidt, if not Larson.

Zamek just chased Larson around the streets of New Jersey at the Ashenfelter 8K, clocking 28:04 to Larson's American Record setting 27:45. Lee focuses his energies more on marathons and ultras but it seems he can almost always jump into a shorter race and perform capably near the top. 

Rick Lee far left leads Nat Larson white singlet #106 a mile into the 2023 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships in New Jersey Photo Credit: Jason Timochko

Despite training for the long races, two of his wins at National Masters road championships this year came at the 5 Km (17:30) and the 1 Mile (5:06)!

We will know a lot more about the overall and team competitions once entries close on December 1st. Check back for later previews.

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