December 26, 2023. The USATF Club Cross Country Championships draw the attention of Running Clubs from across the country. Bragging rights are on the line, both nationally and regionally. Teams want to be known as the best in the land. Next best to that is to be the strongest team from your association, state, or region. Even if the team does not make the national podium, it is important to have the best outcome of any team from their area. These incentives lead to teams recruiting and motivating the best athletes on their team to be ready for Clubs each year. As a result, the fields at Club Cross are typically the deepest and most talented of the year. One might think it would primarily draw athletes who specialize in races of 10 Km or less. But each year, many talented Marathoners make important contributions to their teams and often contend for individual honors as well. The Women raced over 6 Km at 9 AM, the Men 60+ over 8 Km at 10 AM, and the Men40+ over 10 km at 11 AM. I cover the races in that same order.
Reminders on scoring: The score is found by adding up the finishing places of the team's scoring athletes. In the Women's race and the Men's 60+ race, each team's first three athletes score. If they would finish in 2nd, 5th, and 9th, for example, the team score is 16; the lower the score the better. In the Men's 40+ race, the first 5 athletes for each team score. This is the traditional scoring method in Cross Country. Teams may declare up to 5 runners for the 6 Km and 8Km races and up to 9 for the 10 km race. All declared runners who finish may displace runners on other teams; that raises the score of potential rivals. Unaffiliated runners and all athletes who are on incomplete teams, such as a Women's team with only 2 members, are removed from the scoring. Runners who do not finish, or are disqualified, do not score.
Women 6 Km 40+ The Boston Athletic Association B.A.A. won it all at Tallahassee in 2021 but has not fielded a team since then. The Cal Coast Track Club out of So Cal, finished 2nd two years ago but then dropped to 11th last year in San Francisco, when two of their top three from the year before were unavailable. They were back. Their top runner was coming back from injury but they looked to have a balanced squad that should be competitive.
Club NW out of the Pac NW, finished 3rd at Tallahassee and 5th at San Francisco, but did not bring a 40+ team back to Tallahassee this year. Gulf Winds Track Club, the hometown crew had the top runner and a good supporting cast to take 4th in '21. They did not travel to San Francisco this year. They were competing again in 2023 but the support for their top runner, Sherron, did not seem to be there this year. The San Diego Track Club took it all last year but decided not to defend their title. The Garden State Track Club GSTC finished 5th in 2021 and 4th last year in San Francisco. GSTC was back with an improved squad; they were, no doubt, aiming for a podium finish. Team Red Lizard, out of Oregon, had finished 7th in Tallahassee in '21 and moved up to 2nd place at Golden Gate Park last year. With an individual podium favorite as their new #1, their # last year returning as #2, they looked a threat to win it all. The Janes Elite out of So Cal and Checkers Athletic Club out of Greater Buffalo NY, who finished 3rd and 13th last year looked solidly competitive for the podium. Two Clubs that have not competed in this team division lately, looked intriguing. The Bowerman Track Club out of Oregon had one of the prerace favorites leading the way and solid support. The HOKA Aggies out of the Greater Sacramento area in the Pacific Association had a top 10, arguably, top 5, individual prospect as their leader with good support once they tapped one of their strong 50+ runners to race with them.
For most of the first loop this year, a casual observer would have seen the Bowerman and Red Lizard athletes going 1-2 and other athletes with similar uniforms not too far back in the main field.
|Carrie Dimoff #531 Bowerman and Renee Metivier Red Lizard racing stride for stride at the end of the first 3 Km Loop in the W40+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Had they guessed that those two teams were leading, they would have been right. When the field finished the first 3 Km loop, Red Lizard had the edge with Renee Metivier in 2nd, Carre Joyce Heineck 7th and Kristin Shaw 14th for 23 points. Bowerman had the leader, Carrie Dimoff, along with Kristen Rohde 12th and Lorilee Bloomer, dropped down from 50+ 16th for 29 points. Rohde and Bloomer would have to move up if Bowerman was to challenge for the win. They were solidly in 2nd though, as long as they held their positions.
|Liana Bernard #632 Red Lizard and Lorilee Bloomer Bowerman battling for team Points at the end of the first Loop in the W40+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Cal Coast, Checkers, and Garden State were vying for the final podium spot. Cal Coast had a tight pack with E Camy 9th, L Osman 10th and M Shearer 18th for 37 points, and a 4-point lead for the 3rd place finish. Checkers had R Keenan 4th, ML Schultz 17th and J Boerner 20th for 41. GSTC had as tight a pack as Cal Coast but each of their runners was behind their counterpart on Cal Coast: J Pesce 11th, J Hruska 13th, E Wakeling 19th for 43. Before they could challenge Cal Coast, they would need to get past Checkers.
|Jennifer Hruska #572 GSTC and Kristin Shaw Red Lizard racing for Team Points at the end of the 1st 3-Km loop in the W40+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Red Lizard exhibited staying power on the 2nd 3 Km loop. All of their athletes held their position; they finished with 23 points and the win. Dimoff led Bowerman with her first place, and Rohde moved up one spot but it was not enough. Bloomer dropped back a few spots as younger legs took over. But Bloomer hung on with grit; she claimed the 20th spot overall that kept Bowerman in the Silver Medal position. Cal Coast was up to the challenge from their rivals for the podium. On the 2nd loop, Camy moved up from 9th to 8th and Shearer, their usual #1 if not rehabbing, moved up from 18th to 16th. Osman was the rock-solid teammate in the middle, holding at #10. That allowed Cal Coast to drop 3 points from 37 to 34 and put the bronze medals out of reach. Garden State's Wakeling moved up, so GSTC dropped their total to 42. That was enough to move past Checkers into 4th, but not enough of a drop to challenge Cal Coast. Checkers finished in 5th with 49, The Janes at 52 claimed 6th place, a single point ahead of the 7th place Aggies!
1st Team Red Lizard 23 Renee Metivier, Carre Joyce Heineck, Kristin Shaw (Wendy Terris)
2nd Bowerman 32 Carrie Dimoff, Kristen Rohde, Lorilynn Bloomer
3rd Cal Coast 34 Elizabeth Camy, Laura Osman, Maggie Shearer (Amanda Lankford, Audrey Kroot)
50+ Sirius Athletics out of Athens GA claimed the 50+ title two years ago in Tallahassee, ahead of The Janes Elite in 2nd and Garden State in third. They stayed on the podium in '22 with a 3rd place finish. GSTC moved up to 2nd and Club NW, the 4th place team in '21, moved up to take the win at Golden Gate Park. The Janes followed their 2nd place finish in '21 with a 5th place last year. They did not bring a complete team east to Tallahassee in 2023. Club NW, Garden State and Sirius all came with solid teams to contend for the 50+ Championship. They would be challenged by teams from well-established clubs that have not competed in the 50+ division lately. The Atlanta Track Club ATC participated in the Women's 50+ division at Clubs regularly prior to 2020. But they have not entered a W50+ team at Club Cross since the resumption of races in 2021. The Boulder Road Runners have fielded teams in the Men's divisions, but this was their first team entry in the Women's race at Clubs. The Central Park Track Club has rarely participated when Clubs has been outside the Northeast. They competed at Lehigh in 2019, for example, finishing mid-pack, but not in Tallahassee in '21 nor in San Francisco in 2022.
For most of the first loop it seemed clear the main battle would be between Central Park and Garden State. Both had two athletes in the top 5-6 and their third scoring runner in the early part of the second ten in the division. Sirius had the leader but no one else in the top ten. By the time the field reached the 3 Km mark, GSTC's Hortencia Aliaga had overtaken Rachel Hopkins of Sirius. With Aliaga 1st, Kimberly Aspholm 5th and Gabrielle Panepinto 11th, Garden State was in the driver's seat with 17 points. Central Park had Jennifer Harvey 4th, Rebekah Kennedy 6th and Ellen Basile 12th; they had work to do if they were to overtake GSTC for the win.
|Hortencia Aliaga #568 pelts down the hill at the end of the 1st 3-Km loop ahead of Rachel Hopkins #626 and several W40+ competitors in the W50+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Despite Hopkins contending for the win, Sirius was well back from GSTC and Central Park. With Melissa Landers-Potts 13th and Laura Johnson 18th, Sirius was 3rd with 33 points. Boulder lacked a front runner but had a tight pack with Charlie Woodcock 10th, Allyson Serrao 14th and Lesia Atkinson 15th for 39 points. Atlanta was 8 points back in 5th with Club NW 6th at 54. Central Park had what it takes on this day. On the 2nd loop, Harvey and Kennedy both moved up one spot to 3rd and 5th respectively.
Basile moved up a whopping 4 positions to claim 8th. That dropped their score to 16 and gave them the win! GSTC could not hold them off but remained in good scoring positions to total 20 points. They were not threatened for 2nd place. For Sirius, Hopkins stayed in 2nd. Landers-Potts moved up three places to cement Sirius's hold on third place. At 34 points Sirius was well clear of Boulder at 41 points. In fact, Boulder just squeaked by Atlanta. ATC's Kathleen Hayden moved up two spots to 7th on the final loop, with both Nancy Meck and Kris Huff picking off a rival. As a result, Atlanta's score dropped from 47 to 43, within two points of Boulder. Club NW was 5th with 51.
1st Central Park 16 Jennifer Harvey, Rebekah Kennedy, Ellen Basile (Judy Stobbe)
2nd Garden State 20 Hortencia Aliaga, Kimberly Aspholm, Gabrielle Panepinto (Kathleeen Beebe)
3rd Sirius 34 Rachel Hopkins, Melissa Landers-Potts, Laura Johnson
60+ Club Northwest finished 2nd at Tallahassee in 2021. Their #1 runner at Tallahassee became their #2 runner at Golden Gate Park. With a new lead runner, Northwest took top honors. They return to defend their title but in a weakened state. They have neither of those two runners who keyed them onto the podium at the last two Club Cross events. A strong crew of the support runners from those two teams would do their best to keep Northwest on the podium. The Impala Racing did not compete in 2021 but finished 2nd last year. They were back to see if they could move up. They had their top two back from Golden Gate Park, Suzanne Cordes and Eileen Brennan-Erler. Liberty AC competed in 2022 for the first time, claiming the bronze medal spot with Mary Cass leading them to the title with her 1st place finish. They brought a stronger team this year, at least on paper, with their top two from last year and a third runner, Amanda King, who would add to their strength.
The Atlanta Track Club finished 3rd in Tallahassee two years ago, dropped to 7th last year and was looking to bounce back into podium contention. Two years ago in Tallahassee, Suzanne La Burt was in her next to last year in the 55-59 division, leading the Shore Athletic Club's 50+ team to 5th place. Now La Burt is in the 60-64 division. But could Shore put together a team around her? Nora Cary is in her last year in the 65-69 division but is faster on the turf than most in the 60-64 division. That would help. After those two, Shore would have to rely on a good effort from a strong, supporting runner who would give it her best shot.
When the gun sounded, no one could match La Burt's quick start for Shore. Cordes was closest, with Cary, La Burt's teammate, a few strides back, with Combs another stride back. Cass had to stretch her legs to catch up to those three.
|Eileen Brennan-Erler #605 Impala Racing (alongside Kris Huff, W50) leads Mirelle Silva back right, red singlet in the W60+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
|Deborah Capko #617 Shore AC helps her team to the win ahead of Bonnie Lindblom #580, cap GVH who contributed to GVH's 7th place finish in the W60+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
1st Shore AC 18 Suzanne La Burt, Nora Cary, Deborah Capko (Debbie Brathwaite, Susan Stirrat)
2nd Impala Racing 19 Suzanne Cordes, Eileen Brennan-Erler, Carol Keller (Mo Bartley)
3rd Liberty AC 23 Mary Cass, Amanda King, Victoria Bok
70+ As usual, this division was a contest between Team Red Lizard out of Oregon and the Atlanta Track Club. Red Lizard is, arguably, without a peer in the Women's 70+ division. In 2021 at Clubs in Tallahassee, Jeanette Groesz led Red Lizard to the win. She and her teammates, Sharon Gerl and Cande Olsen went 1-2-3. Atlanta's A and B teams followed in 2nd and 3rd. At Golden Gate Park, Red Lizard encountered more competition, but came out on top once again. Gerl did not compete. Suzanne Ray, healthy at the time, finished 2nd to Groesz. Olsen was pushed farther down by strong runners from Impala, the Lake Merrit Joggers & Striders (not entered in 2023), and one of the Atlanta runners, Norma 'Nonie' Hudnall. Red Lizard enjoyed the win 12-14-23. This year it was back to the Groesz, Gerl, Olsen lineup. Atlanta's A team was stronger than in 2021 with the addition of Cindy Lucking, who had not run for them in recent years but was their #2 runner in Spokane in 2018 when they finished 4th in the 60+ division. Her focus has been on triathlons in recent years.
When the gun sounded, Red Lizard's Groesz and Gerl surged to the front of the 70+ division.
By the 1st split at 1.2 Km, Groesz had 90 meters on Gerl, who had a similar lead on Hudnall and Lucking, running 3-4 for Atlanta.
It seemed highly likely that Red Lizard would have 1-2. Could Atlanta's A and B squads put enough runners ahead of Olsen to give them a shot at the win? Hudnall and Lucking were doing their part. Atlanta's #3, Terry Ozell, was 25 meters behind that duo in 5th.
|Norma Hudnall right Atlanta TC and Terry Ozell left Atlanta TC on their way to a 2-3 finish and Team Silver Medals in the W70+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Olsen was about 35 meters behind Ozell, running smoothly. She did not have to catch Ozell as long as no one else caught and passed her. At that point it was Red Lizard 1-2-6 for 9 points and Atlanta A 3-4-5 for 12 points. No places changed over the rest of the first loop. On the final loop, Groesz and Gerl encountered no problems, finishing comfortably in 1st and 2nd. Lucking was able to kick away from her teammate, Hudnall, but was not able to get close to breaking up the 1-2 punch of Red Lizard. Olsen was able to catch Ozell on the final loop and move away to finish 5th. That gave Red Lizard 8 points and the win. Atlanta 'A' finished 3-4-6 for 13, with Atlanta's 'B' squad 3rd at 20.
1st Team Red Lizard 8 Jeanette Groesz, Sharon Gerl, Cande Olsen
1st Atlanta A 13 Cindy Lucking, Norma Hudnall, Terry Ozell
1st Atlanta B 20 Kathleen Allen, Andrea McCarter, Myrna Barnett
Men 8 Km 60+
60+ Championship: The top two teams at Tallahassee in '21 were the Boulder Road Runners and Athletics Boulder. They did not compete last year at Clubs and did not enter this year, for a variety of reasons. The 3rd through 5th teams at that Championship in '21, TC Running Company Twin Cities, HOKA Aggies, and Shore AC have been in the thick of it in both '22 and this year. Twin Cities pulled a great team together last year and ran away with the team championship, scoring 16 points to 37 for the 2nd place team, the SRA Elite (not entered in '23). and Club NW (not entered in '23). The Aggies and Shore, 4th and 5th at Tallahassee, performed well at the more competitive championships on the West Coast, falling, nonetheless, to 5th and 6th respectively. The Genessee Valley Harriers GVH finished 6th at Tallahassee and 9th at San Francisco but brought a more competitive team to this year's championships. Their top runner from those two championships, Joe Mora, would now, more likely, be their #2 behind Alan Evans, who just aged up into the 60+ division. Shore, too, had added firepower up front with a newly minted 60+ runner, Mark Zamek, who was expected to run with teammate, Rick Lee, at the front of the 60+ field, giving them a strong shot at the win. Shore also had one of the strongest lineups overall, providing strong support should either Zamek or Lee run into problems. Twin Cities would again be a top contender; they were marginally weaker without Rob Class, their #2 runner at both Tallahassee in '21 and at San Francisco last year. Atlanta had the same team that finished 9th in San Francisco, with one exception. Ken Youngers was healthy enough to enter. That would likely bolster their squad. Another factor in play is that their top turf runner, Rick Becker, had the rare off day at Golden Gate Park last year. He would likely return to form this year. Of course, at 69, he cannot carry a 60+ team as far as he could when he was in his early 60's. With Lester Dragstedt able to run with or ahead of Youngers, Atlanta would likely have a tight pack that might just edge their way onto the podium. A 'new' team, was also entered. The Playmakers Elite, from a few years back, have reformed as the CHT Elite. They finished 2nd in this division at the Masters Road Mile Championships in Indianapolis this year in June. They return from that event with 4 of the same 5 they entered there. The new athlete is supposedly better than all but their #1, at least at Cross Country. One of his teammates advised me to keep an eye on him.
The gun sounded and Zamek and Lee moved to the front of the 60+ field along with Nat Larson, whose Greater Springfield Harriers teammates are 2 years away from competing in the 60+ division.
|Rick Lee Shore, Nat Larson Unattached and Mark Zamek Shore are running 1-2-3 in the early going of the M60+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Hence Larson Unattached was not scored in the team competition. By the first timing mat at 1170 meters, Zamek and Lee were 1-2 with their #3, Henry Notaro, running with the Aggies #1, Kevin Ostenberg, in 4th and 5th, within 30 meters of the leaders. If Notaro could stay in the top 5, indeed even in the top ten, it was unlikely any other team could stay with them. Van Danacker of Twin Cities was in 3rd, 15 meters behind Lee, and was biding his time. There was plenty of time to move up if that was in the cards.
Next came a group of 9 runners, including the top two GVH runners, Evans and Mora, who were leading the pack. It also included Patrick Billig, the #2 runner for the Twin Cities, Dave Bussard, the #1 for CHT, GVH's #3, Michael Gardella, and Atlanta's #1, Becker. It also included Mark Neff, Steve Schmidt and David Westenberg, all on teams that would not finish in the top 5. How that group sorted out would make a big difference. But the next, smaller group of seven, would prove important too. Dragstedt and Youngers, Atlanta's 2nd and 3rd runners were leading the pack in 15th and 16th, along with Shore's #4, Michael Salamone, in 17th. Tucked in behind those three were the 3rd through 5th runners for Twin Cities, Doug Keller, Allan Bohlke, and Daniel Johnson, in 18th through 20th. Salamone was insurance and was also inflating the scores of some of Shore's rivals. The rest would play an important, direct part in scoring for their teams.
At the end of the first loop not much had changed. Zamek, Lee and Van Danacker were still 1-2-3. But Ostenberg Aggies, Schmidt Ann Arbor and Evans GVH had moved ahead of Shore's Notaro. If Notaro would continue to fall back, that could be a blow to Shore's chances for a win. Notaro was leading the group from 7th to 13th, including Billig TC #2, Mora GVH #2, Becker ATC #1, and Bussard CHT #1.
|From Left: Henry Notaro Shore, Patrick Billig TCRC, Joe Mora GVH, and Mark Neff Montgomery County RR in 7th through 10th, 3 Km into the M60+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Gardella was 30 meters behind that group in 14th, running about 50 meters ahead of the following group which still included Dragstedt and Youngers of Atlanta, Keller and Bohlke of Twin Cities and Salamone of Shore.
|Doug Keller TCRC leads his teammate, Allan Bohlke and Ken Youngers Atlanta - 3 Km into the 8 Km M60+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
If they reported scores at that moment for M60+, it would have been Shore 10; GVH and Twin Cities tied at 29; Atlanta 45; and CHT 54. With Salamone running solidly in support in 16th, even if Notaro would fall back a bit more, Shore looked good for the win. Zamek and Lee might not go 1-2 in the end but it seemed unlikely either would be much outside the top 5. The battle between Mora and Billig would be important for the clash between GVH and Twin Cities. But as long as Gardella could keep ahead of the chase pack with TC's #3 and 4 runners, that would help GVH's cause.
By the time they finished the 2nd 3 Km loop, they had just 2 km to go. Shore's absolute dominance was looking a little shakier as Lee was dropping back from Zamek. Schmidt had caught him and Van Danacker and Ostenberg were just a few seconds back in 4th and 5th. Schmidt, according to an informal report from Zamek, apparently missed the cut over at the 6 Km mark and lost the lead he had on Van Danacker and Ostenberg. That cost him individually but had no effect on the team podium. But with just 2 Km to go, it seemed unlikely that Lee could fall any lower than 5th.
|Kevin Ostenberg HOKA Aggies , in 4th, enjoys a slim lead over John Van Danacker with 2 Km to go in the 8 Km M60+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Evans was solidly in 6th, well behind those first five, and 40 meters ahead of a group of 5. The group was not tight but there were only a few strides between each athlete, sometimes less. In order it was Becker, Neff, Mora, Billig and Notaro, in 7th through 11th.
|Rick Becker Atlanta TC in 7th, leads Mark Neff Montgomery County RR and Joe Mora GVH with 2 Km to go in the 8 Km M60+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
It was 40 meters back to the next runner, Westenberg, and another 35 back to Dragstedt and Bussard.
|Lester Dragstedt right Atlanta and Dave Bussard CHT Elite battling for Team Points with 2 Km to go in the 8 Km M60+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Gardella was 40 meters behind that air in 15th. If Notaro could hold at 11th or higher, Shore had no worries. It would be tight between GVH and Twin Cities for 2nd. GVH had Evans in 6th and Mora in the 7-11 group and Gardella in 15th, so a working point total of 28-32. Twin Cities had Van Danacker in the 2nd-5th group and then Billig in the 7th-11th group, but their next runner, Bohlke, was in 18th, almost a hundred meters back from Gardella. Their working total was 27 to 34. The pressure was on. It looked like Atlanta, despite their strength, might not make the podium. Even if Becker stayed at the head of the 7-11 group, and Dragstedt stayed at 13th and Youngers in 17th, that suggested 37 points might be their limit. But they were well ahead of CHT for 4th. CHT's top runner, Bussard, was in 14th, with their next two in the 20's, for a total up into the 50's at least.
Shore did, indeed, take top honors, with Zamek, Lee and Notaro in 1st, 5th and 10th. Notaro held his ground over the final 2 Km and passed one of the 7-11 group. Sixteen points made for a solid win. Atlanta did well over the last 2 Km. With Becker claiming the 8th place out of the 7-11 group, Dragstedt moving up to 12th and Youngers to 15th, they nearly pulled it off. At 35 points, they were off the podium by just 4 points! CHT claimed 5th place with 61 points, with Aggies just 4 points back in 6th and the Montgomery County Road Runners, another 2 points back in 7th.
What about 2nd and 3rd with GVH and Twin Cities? No one expected Van Danacker to catch Zamek over that last 2 km and he did not. But he did everything else he could, nailing the 2nd spot out of the 2-5 group. Billig was not able to work his way up through that tough group of 7-11 runners, taking 11th. Bohlke also, despite a terrific effort, remained in 18th. That gave TCRC 31 points, a great score. But GVH had the answers, barely! Evans, the Marathoner, had to hang tough to the end! The 7-11 group was roaring down the final hill behind him and he needed to get across the finish line in 6th. He just made it, by two seconds! That was critical! His teammate, Mora, was in that group but did not make it to the front. He finished in the middle of it in 9th. That gave GVH 15 points off their top two compared to 13 for TCRC. It would come down to the #3 runners. Gardella had to finish 3 places or more ahead of Bohlke, right where he was with 2 Km to go. Gardella did that and more, passing a runner to move into 14th. When Bohlke came across in 18th, GVH had a 4-point differential, to swing the score to 29 for GVH and 31 for TCRC-what a battle!
Shore AC 16 Mark Zamek, Rick Lee, Henry Notaro (Michael Salamone, Donald Schwartz)
GVH 29 Alan Evans, Joe Mora, Michael Gardella (John Van Kerkhove, Gary Passamonte)
TC Running Company 31 John Van Danacker, Patrick Billig, Allan Bohlke (Daniel Johnson, Doug Keller, John Mirth)
70+ Championship: The only constant in this division for the podium, over the last two Club Cross competitions, has been that a San Diego team is in the mix for the win. At Tallahassee in '21 it was the San Diego Striders, finishing 2nd to the Boulder Road Runners. A year later in San Francisco, many of those runners had gone over to the Jamul Toads (named after the Club team from the San Diego area, coached by the renowned Bob Larsen). The Toads won it all in 2022 with Greg Wilson and Rick Pfeiffer leading the way. They were back in 2023 seeking another podium finish, but without Wilson. The other constant has been that the Boulder Road Runners would be somewhere in the top 5 at least. In '21, they won it all, with Doug Bell leading Mike Wien and Rick Katz to the win over the Striders. Bell was not at his best in 2022 when Boulder fell to 5th. The Atlanta Track Club took 3rd in Tallahassee but fell to 7th in San Francisco, partially due to the presence of West Coast teams who had not traveled to Tallahassee. Club Northwest did not compete at Tallahassee in '21 but took 2nd in San Francisco and were making the trip east to Tallahassee this year, albeit without their #1 runner from last year. Their #1 from last year, Scott Harvey, would not be with them. But Leslie Sharpe, David Longmuir, and Dennis Foster, their #2, 3, and 4 runners. were entered and were still a threat for the podium. The Syracuse Track Club had finished 6th in '21 and moved up to 4th in San Francisco, with Ted Larison leading the way and with Jim Foster and Doug Wood in support. This year, based on Pete Glavin Cross Country outcomes this fall, it appeared that Foster might be at the head of the STC crew this year. The River City Rebels showed up at Golden Gate Park last year to contest Clubs M70+ for the first time. With, arguably, the fastest 70-year-old in the country in Robert Qualls, River City had the best #1 runner.
|Robert Qualls strides out along with 60's runners at the head of the M70+ field at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Perry Linn added solid depth at the #2 spot. But they did not have a 3rd runner of that caliber last year. Nor does it look like they will this year either. But the Rebels will give it all they have! Atlanta's Dave Glass and Jerry Learned, their 1-2 punch, led the team to a 3rd place finish at Tallahassee two years ago. They are back, but with Glass out of commission this year, having heart surgery, Atlanta would not be competitive this year. The Cal Coast Track Club have a legitimate 'top 5', maybe top 3 athlete, in Tomas Rodriguez. If John Combs and Bill 'Coach' Sumner could finish in the 20's, Cal Coast might be pushing other teams for that final podium position! Though their runners are very competitive in 75-79, GVH does not have a legitimate top 15 threat for Club Cross 70+. Terry McCluskey, who finished 1st in M70+ at Lehigh in 2019, is probably a top 15 threat for Ann Arbor. Low 20's is my (your reporter, Paul Carlin) likely limit right now. Goodhue would have to be running ahead of me for Ann Arbor to have a shot at top 5. At Lehigh 4 years ag0o, Goodhue was almost three minutes ahead of me, but that has not been true recently.
The DQ of Robert Qualls was a mistake that was corrected before the Awards ceremony. Before recapping the M70+ race, note that there was a problem with the bibs and chips for River City. The problem apparently cropped up during packet pickup. The Rebels had to return later in the day to get their bibs. I have not heard a definitive story. But it appears the chips for both Qualls and their third runner, Steve Swindel, registered at the splits for Qualls. When the timing company did the math between Swindell's time at one of the splits, listed for Qualls, and Qualls's finishing time, they flagged him for an impossibly fast time between those timing mats, concluding that he must have skipped a lap. But, upon appeal, everything was sorted out when they consulted the video. That clearly showed Qualls ahead in the 70+ race at important junctures. The DQ was reversed and, at Awards, Qualls received the Gold medal for winning the M70 division. But, so far, the 'Live results' have not been corrected so there are no splits for Qualls. I observed on usatf.tv that Qualls was running even, at the 1170 Km split, with Michael Lebold, of the Toads, and about 9 seconds ahead of Thomas Cushman, listed as the winner in the Live Results. But most of the video did not show the leading 70's runners; they were focused more on the leading and top twenty or so 60's runners. Because of the bib/chip problem, or because once Qualls appeared to be DQ'd the rebels did not have a complete scoring team, it was also true that Perry Linn, River City's #2, did not show up in the splits either. In the corrected results, Qualls finished 1st, Linn 9th and Swindell 37th. River City finished 4th with 50 points. Because of the mix-up and the lack of details, the recap below proceeds without information on the Rebel runners, relying on 'Live Result' splits except for Final.
Boulder and the Toads were the favorites to duel for the win. Northwest, River City and Syracuse would likely battle for the final podium spot. At the first split at 1170 meters, Bell of Boulder and Pfeiffer of the Toads were both in the 2-4 group along with Larison of Syracuse.
|Doug Bell #697 center Boulder Road Runners and Rick Pfeiffer #869 to Bell's left - blue cap Jamul Toads getting out fast in 3rd and 4th in the M70+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Boulder had Bruce Kirschner and Douglas Chesnut in 5th and 6th. The Toads had Jack Nash in 8th. Both David Dunbar and Ron Wells were in the 9th-12th group, along with Boulder's #4 at the moment, Gary Ostwald. Boulder had a slight edge in the early going. In the race between Syracuse and Northwest, Larison of Syracuse was 4th, with his teammate, Foster in 7th, right behind Kirschner and Chesnut. Wood, their #3 runner was in the 18th - 21st pack. Northwest had Longmuir in 12th, with Sharpe in the 18th-21st with Wood, and Ray Leone in 21st. Syracuse was ahead in the early going.
At the end of the first loop it was Rodriguez and Pfeiffer in the front (behind Qualls) followed by the Boulder pack of Bell, Kirschner, and Chesnut in 3rd through 5th (not counting any Rebels). As long as that pack held together, Boulder would keep the edge. Nash was in 8th, with Boulder's #4, Ostwald, in 9th, and Dunbar and Wells in 10th and 11th. Boulder had 12, not counting the Rebels, and Toads were at 20. Either Nash, Dunbar or Wells would have to move up to rbeak up the Boulder pack for the Toads to have a shot at the win. By the end of the 2nd loop, with just the short 2 Km loop left, Pfeiffer had moved 40 meters ahead of Rodriguez. That improved the Toads' score by a point.
But the other development was that Ostwald had left Dunbar and Wells behind and had expanded the Boulder 3-runner pack to a string of 4. There were now some small gaps between the 4 but they occupied 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th, with Ostwald well over 150 meters up on Wells and Dunbar, running together in 8th and 9th. The final loop saw Pfeiffer hold onto the top spot (#2 after Qualls), with Wells and Dunbar in 9th and 10th, for 21 points.
|Bruce Kirschner #705 Boulder Road Runners and Douglas Chesnut packing it together 3 Km into the 8 Km M70+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Boulder had the win with their string of 5th-6th-7th and 8th for Kirschner, Ostwald, Bell and Chesnut in that order. Their 18 points gave them the win. The Toads could not quite keep pace but they were only 3 points out of first at 21!
Larison, for Syracuse, ran into trouble after the first loop and slowed substantially. Whether there was a physical problem or there was some other problem is unclear, but his kilometer split for 6 Km to 7 Km, when compared to the kilometer split from 3 Km to 4 Km, the same portion of the course, just on different loops, was 45 seconds slower on the final loop. His place plummeted from 7th at 3 Km to 14th at 6Km. Over the last loop, Larison fell further, to 19th place. But that was good enough for the podium. Jim Foster had a great day, finishing 4th behind Qualls; Wood held steady in 18th. Those 41 points gave Syracuse a good cushion over River City with 50 and Northwest with 52.
It was a terrific win for Boulder, redeeming themselves after last year's 5th place at Golden Gate Park. Kirschner is running better than he has in years. The Boulder pack got it done! At the finish, Boulder had only a 26 second spread between their #1 and #4, that is tight! Equally important, no runner from another team was able to break them up!
Boulder Road Runners 18 Bruce Kirschner, Gary Ostwald, Doug Bell, (Douglas Chesnut, Rick Katz)
Jamul Toads 21 Rick Pfeiffer, Ron Wells, Dave Dunbar (Jack Nash, Daniel Diehr)
Syracuse Track Club 41 James Foster, Douglas Wood, Ted Larison
80+ Championship: The Atlanta Track Club made it to the starting line. That was half the battle. When Ed Bligh, Art Must, and Andrew Sherwood all made it to the finish line 8 kilometers later, that was the other half of the battle. They won unopposed!
|Ed Bligh #1 runner for Atlanta M80+
|Art Must #2 Runner for Atlanta M80+
|Andrew Sherwood the all-important #3 runner for Atlanta M80+
Men 10 Km 40+ Note: A reminder that in M40+ and M50+, the first 5 runners on each team to finish contribute to the score.
40+ Championship: The Indiana Elite Athletic Club, out of the Greater Indianapolis area, took top 40+ honors in Tallahassee two years ago. The West Valley Track Club, out of the San Francisco Bay area, finished just three points back; the score was 85-88. Jesse Davis led Indiana to victory, taking first place. The following year, West Valley had a new #1, Malcolm Richards, who came in ahead of Davis, taking 3rd to Davis's 4th in the team competition. But again, Indiana came out on top, this time by a score of 54 to 81. In 2021, the Bowerman Track Club finished 3rd, dropping to 4th the next year in San Francisco. They did not make the trip this year. A number of their 40+ stalwarts from past years have moved up to 50+. They may be reloading. The Boston Athletic Association was a single point back in '21. Two years later, the Greater Boston area is represented in the top echelons of Club Cross M40+ by Tracksmith Boston Hares (which has some former BAA members). The Cal Coast Track Club finished 6th in '21 and 5th last year. They are back again this year. Last year a strong squad from Team Run Flagstaff made a splash, finishing 3rd, just 5 points behind West Valley. They bring a strong team again although their top three runners from last year are not entered. The Garden State Track Club has not factored into the last two Club Cross 40+ podium competitions, finishing 9th in Tallahassee two years ago and 8th last year in San Francisco. They are back in the hunt again this year.
Even if the squads are primarily made up of the same individuals, the team is different each year because individuals have different challenges they have been dealing with. A runner who was training pain-free one year may be working around an issue the next. Challenges of all sorts make a difference for Masters Runners who are not professional athletes.
The gun sounded and the athletes accelerated across the open field, down past the Jumbotron and around the bend to the grassy path to the end of the back field. They passed the 1170 meter mark where the first timing mat records a split. At that point it was already looking like West Valley had the athletes to take top honors this year.
Richards and Davis were at the front of the field. David Cisewski, Neville Davey, and Kevin Pool, WVTC's #2, 3, and 4 were running in the first chase pack, from 7th through 11th, along with Bryan Lindsay, Indiana's #2. The next chase pack was huge and everyone important from West Valley and Indiana was in it. But at that point, West Valley had 4 runners in the top 11 with just two from Indiana. The Hares had Ed Baker in 3rd, and Neil Davis in the 7-11 pack with Cisewski et al. Indiana's #3 and 4, John Poray and Mike Haschel, were well positioned but their #5 and 6, Tom Burns and Mark Guyer were too far back in the big pack. The Hares, at this point, had their #'s 3.4.5 and 6 ahead of Indiana's #5. Flagstaff had their top 4 runners together, well positioned in the big pack, ahead of Indiana's #5 and 6. Garden state had Brian Flynn in the lead pack and their #2, Aaron Totten-Lancaster well positioned toward the front of the big chase pack. Joseph Gaynor, GSTC's #3 was running with Indiana's Burns and Guyer but their #4 and 5 were much further back.
By midway through the race at 5 Km on the back, forested part of the 3 km loop, it appeared West Valley was headed for a dominant win. Richards continued to lead Davis.W
|Malcolm Richards West Valley, firing on all cylinders, had built a 120 meter lead on the field by the 6 Km mark in the 10 Km M40+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
But that was not as important as the support runners. West Valley had Cisewski in the 3-athlete chase pack in 3rd through 5th.
|Jesse Davis Indiana Elite, solidly in 2nd with a 50-meter lead at the 6 Km mark in the 10 Km M40+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Lindsay, Indiana's #2 was running with Pool, West Valley's #3 in 8th-9th.
|Roosevelt Cook sunglasses Cal Coast battles Ed Baker Tracksmith Boston Hares as they run 4th and 5th at the 6 Km mark of the 10 Km M40+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
But then West Valley's #4 and 5, Davey and Ben Koss, were in 10th and 11th.
|From Right: Bryan Lindsay Indiana Elite in 7th place, pushing to shake loose from Adam Schroeder Club NW at the 6 Km mark of the 10 Km M40+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
And West Valley now had their #'s 6 and 7 ahead of Indiana's #3 and 4, Poray and Guyer. The good news for Indiana, however, was that they had the edge over the Hares, at least for now. Davis was 2nd to Baker's 4th. Lindsay was 7th to Daniel Smith's 10th and so on. At each position the Indiana runner was now ahead of his Hare counterpart.
Garden State and Flagstaff were close for 4th but not close to the Hares or Indiana. Garden State had the advantage of having Flynn in the top 7 and Totten-Lancaster in the 13th-15th group. But Flagstaff had a tighter pack overall with their top 5, Dirk de Heer, Jason Troxler, Jesse Chettle, Mike Madsen, and Sean Baker, running from 24th to 43rd place.
After Jason Gaynor in 34th for GSTC, Chuck Schneekloth and Marco Cardoso, as #4 and 5, were in the low to mid-50's. It would probably be tight all the way to the finish.
At the end of the race, West Valley had exorcised any demons from the past two Club Cross Championships, enjoying a splendid win with just 36 points. Richards and Cisewki led the way with their 1-3 finish. But all 7 of West Valley's athletes finished in the top 20. But Indiana held tough and gutted it out to get 2nd place. Davis and Lindsay kept their 2nd and 7th places all the way to the end. Guyer moved up to 13th and Jackson closed strong, moving from 27th at the halfway point to 14th at the finish. Haschel closed off the scoring at 23 to give Indiana 59 and 2nd place with 15 points to spare. It was not the win they were hoping for, but they defended their title in grand fashion, giving them 2 golds and a Silver medal in 3 years! The Hares finished 3rd.
Baker and Smith kept their positions in 4th and 10th. Matt Taylor, Jason Reilly, and Neil Davis finished with just 37 seconds between them in 18th, 20th and 22nd. That gave the Hares 74 points and a 70-point edge over the 4th place team. Garden State edged Flagstaff for 4th by a mere 2 points, 144 - 146! Flynn and Totten-Lancaster, #1 and 2 for GSTC came in ahead of their opposite numbers on Flagstaff.
That was enough to offset Flagstaff's #3, 4, and 5 coming in ahead of their opposite numbers on GSTC. The result was so close there is no general lesson. Had a runner for GSTC finished 1 place back and a runner from Flagstaff finished 1 place forward, they would have tied. It was a hard-fought battle between two well-matched Clubs. Both had a fine effort to celebrate! And both, no doubt, returned home with the idea that it would be an even better celebration next time if they could land on the podium!
Indiana Elite went for the three-peat and was just short. Still, they had a nice run of 1st-1st-3rd from 2021-2023. Will they be able to come back next year and take the title back. It will be interesting to see. Bowerman took the Clubs 40+ title three years in a row from 2014 at Lehigh through to 2016 at Tallahassee. West Valley kept them from getting a 4-peat by winning in Lexington in 2017. Bowerman came back the next year to take top honors at Spokane in 2018. They had 4 wins in 5 tries, the best recent stretch. West Valley has now won three of the last six Club Cross M40+ championships. They just have not been consecutive. Perhaps West Valley can start putting a string together with a win on the Chambers Bay course in Tacoma next December.
West Valley Track Club 36 Malcolm Richards, David Cisewski, Neville Davey, Ben Koss, Kevin Pool (Tom Haxton, Mario Fraioli)
Indiana Elite Athletic Club 59 Jesse Davis, Bryan Lindsay, Mark Guyer, Mike Jackson, Mike Haschel (Thomas Burns, John Poray)
Tracksmith Boston Hares 74 Edward Baker, Daniel Smith, Matt Taylor, Jason Reilly, Neil Davis (Ryan Kenny, Anthony Johnson, Chris Georgules, Ryan Davenport)
50+ Championship: Like Indiana Elite in 40+, the West Valley Track Club was going for a 3-peat in 50+. The Greater Springfield Harriers won four Club Cross 50+ Championships in a row, starting at Tallahassee in 2016, running through, Lexington KY, Spokane WA, and finishing up with Lehigh in 2019. We will never know if they could have gotten the elusive 5-peat had Covid not taken away the 2020 season. But West Valley is not there yet. Their task was to get #3 and they came loaded to get it! They brought back much of the team that has won the last two 50+ titles. Mark Yuen and Ivan Lieben went 1-2 for WVTC at Tallahassee. A year later it was Lieben and Yuen going 1-2 at Golden Gate Park. Both were back this year but have had to overcome some setbacks. Yuen appeared to be further along on the road to full fitness than Lieben. But Lieben had made great progress recently. Todd Rose, newly aged up from the 40+ division and Mark Callon who was their #5 runner at both Tallahassee and San Francisco, would have to carry more of the weight. Jonah Backstrom, also recently aged up out of the 40's would help. Their main competition would come from the Boulder Road Runners who finished 8th in Tallahassee but brought a stronger team to Golden Gate Park; they claimed the team bronze medals. It appeared Boulder might have an even stronger team this year. Their president, Chris McDonald, indicated that the strength is a reflection of focused efforts to build Club participation along the front range of the Rockies in Colorado, as well as good recruiting. They were coming with two individuals, Frank Zoldak and Chris Grauch, who looked like they might come in ahead of the athlete who ran in the #1 slot for them a year ago. Two other teams that could not be ignored included the Central Mass Striders and the Bowerman Track Club who finished 3rd and 5th in Tallahassee 2 years ago. CMS did not travel to San Francisco last year; Bowerman finished 4th. CMS was returning with largely the same cast of characters'; Bowerman included three new 50-year-olds in their lineup.
When the gun sounded, Boulder immediately made it clear as their top 2, Zoldak and Grauch raced to the front of the 50+ field. Zoldak did not let up and soon had a substantial gap on his teammate.
|Frank Zoldak Boulder Road Runners with a 150-meter lead on the field on his way to the win in the 10 Km M50+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Zoldak hit the 1170 meter mat at 3:39.4. That was a pace for a 15:40 5K! Zoldak would not keep that pace going but it was a pretty clear signal of what he is capable of. At that point, Grauch was 15 meters ahead of a 5-athlete chase group. Bowerman's trio, Gregory Mitchell, Paul White, and Ahrlin Bauman led the group in 3rd, 4th and 5th., with TCRC's Kurt Keiser 6th and WVTC's #1, Todd Rose 7th. A 2nd chase group of 5 was 25 meters behind Rose, including, Boulder's #3 and 4, Glen Mays in 8th and Flavio De Simone in 12th. Packed in the middle of the Boulder sandwich, in 9th through 11th, were West Valley's #2, Yuen, and CMS's top two, Gregory Putnam and Steve Brightman. The main chase pack was 25 meters behind Brightman. Club NW's Emmet Hogan led that pack but had no teammates near him.
|Todd Rose #1 for West Valley in 3rd place at the 6 km mark of the 10 Km M50+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
West Valley's trio of #3-5, Lieben, Backstrom and Callon were running toward the front in that pack. CMS's Scott Grandfield and Joseph Shairs, CMS's #3 and 4, were also well situated toward the front. Boulder's #5, Chris McDonald, was right behind Grandfield. Bowerman's #4, Paul Smith, and #5, Oscar Bauman, were a couple of strides back from Shairs, with CMS 's #5, Todd Callaghan on his heels. So the top 5 of Boulder, Bowerman, West Valley and Central Mass Striders were lall in the top 25. And just outside the top 25 and inside the top 40 were three more Boulder, three more West Valley, another Bowerman and 4 Club NW athletes. But that was just the beginning; things could change over the rest of that first loop.
The front of the field did not change. Zoldak kept pouring it on, crossing the 3 Km mark in 9:46, with an 80-meter lead on his teammate, Grauch, who had, in turn, a thirty-meter lead on the first chase pack. That pack was down to four, the three Bowerman's, Mitchell, White, and A Bauman, and Rose of West Valley. But there was some good news for West Valley and CMS. Yuen, Putnam and Brightman had been able to drop Boulder's Mays and De Simone. It was not a tight pack anymore. Yuen, in 8th, had 30 meters on Putnam who had a similar gap back to Brightman. Mays and DeSimone were only twenty meters behind Brightman so changes were still possible, especially if Mays and DeSimone could work together.
Flavio De Simone #3 for Boulder running in 12th at the 6 km mark of the 10 Km M50+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
The main pack had been blown apart. But the front of it was intact. West Valley's trio of Lieben, Callon and Backstrom were right on the heels of DeSimone. If that trio could move ahead of Mays and De Simone it would help West Valley's cause immensely. Boulder had their scoring athletes in the top 20, as did West Valley. In fact, West Valley's 5th athlete, was now 40 meters ahead of Boulder's #5. But with Zoldak and Grauch setting the pace in 1st and 2nd, West Valley needed their runners to move up.
West Valley moved up over the 2nd 3 Km loop. Zoldak and Grauch were still leading. But now Grauch had only 15 meters on Rose who was pressing to close with Grauch. Mitchell tried to go with rose and was now just 15 meters back. Yuen was a hundred meters behind Mitchell. Those four, Zoldak, Grauch, Rose and Mitchell, were starting to look like the top four for the race.
Mark Yuen #2 for West Valley racing in 5th place at the 6 km mark of the 10 Km M50+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
There were 25 meters between Yuen in 5th, and White in 6th and then another 30 meters back to A Bauman and Putnam, running in tandem in 7th and 8th. DeSimone was now Boulder's #3, running in 12th.
Gregory Putnam unobscured by Bauman as they race for 7th and 8th at the 6 Km mark of the 10 Km M50+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott
Mays, who was fighting the good fight in 14th must have worried that he was adrift in the West Valley River flowing around him. Callon was past and ten meters ahead.
Lieben was only ten meters back now in 15th! With Backstrom in 16th, West Valley still had their scoring runners well inside the top 20. Boulder's #5 was now Todd Stockford, in 25th. That difference meant that West Valley had a slim lead on the course, with 4 Km to go. Bowerman's top three were looking strong but they were now well back from West Valley and Boulder. CMS's #2 runner, Brightman, was not in the intermediate splits after 500meters but he was there in the end. Club NW, meanwhile, had kept a reasonably tight pack. Hogan led the way in 11th.
|Emmet Hogan #779 #1 runner for Club NW and Brent Fields #674 #1 runner for Atlkanta challenge each other with 4 Km to go in the 10 Km M50+ Race at the 2023 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott