Monday, January 29, 2024

Masters Athletes Braved the Cold in Richmond: Recap of USATF Cross Nationals -Overall & Age Division

January 24, 2023 It was a sunny, brisk day for the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships. The flagpole by the course was straight out; the wind whipped across the open country of the upper field of the Pole Green Park Cross Country course. Sub-freezing temperatures felt even colder with the northwesterly 13-16 mph winds, gusting to 26! The Local Organizing Committee provided a large, heated tent within a short walk of the start area and finish line. The officials also encouraged athletes to keep their outer layers on until just a few minutes before the gun would sound. Any items left there would be there after the race; unclaimed items would be moved by volunteers into the heated tent.

The Masters Women were the first race of the day, over three 2 Km loops for 6 Km, at 10:30AM. The Masters Men raced at 11:30AM over four of the same 2 Km loops for 8 Km. In the afternoon the races went off to select U20 and Open teams for the upcoming WA Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. An interesting wrinkle of those races were hay bales and logs as obstacles to require some hurdling. At the Technical meeting the evening before, Race Officials made it clear those would not be in play for the Masters races and that competitors in those races could simply run around them.


Women The favorites were Carrie Dimoff, overall winner at Club Cross in Tallahassee last month; Kasie Enman, 2021 USATF Masters 5 Km overall champion; April Lund, defending champion; and Renee Metivier, silver medalist at Tallahassee. Two regional stars, Julia Siegel Breton and Mindy Mammen were also expected to compete for the podium.

The gun sounded and Metivier ran with clear purpose, taking the lead in the downhill section towards the first turn. But Dimoff and Lund were on her heels, with Mammen next and then a small gap to a foursome including Enman, Breton, Ashley Palmer-Thomasey, and Metivier's teammate, Chelsea Lenge Warren. Metivier dictated the pace for the first kilometer, but Dimoff was often right up on Metivier's elbow. Lund was content to run a stride back in 3rd between the two leaders. Either Dimoff did not get the information about the logs or chose to hurdle them anyway as the others ran around. The straight line can be the fastest and Dimoff neatly strode over the logs and actually gained a small edge on Metivier, which was quickly closed down. 

Carrie Dimoff left front and Renee Metivier lead April Lund black singlet and Mindy Mammen at the end of the first 2K loop at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships Photo Credit: Mike Scott

As they finished up the first loop, Dimoff was pressing the pace, with Metivier matching the acceleration. It put some pressure on Lund and Mammen, establishing 5 meters of daylight between those two and the leaders. Dimoff and Metivier continued to pull away; Lund, despite her best efforts, could not prevent the gap from growing. At the 3K mark, where Dimoff started dictating the pace to Metivier, Lund was 25 meters back, followed closely by Mammen and Lenge Warren. There was a 15-meter gap back to Enman. Breton who had started more conservatively, was a hundred meters behind Enman in 7th. Once they passed the 3 K timing mat, Dimoff accelerated. Metivier tried to answer but could not close down the gap. Metivier followed a few strides back. By the end of that loop, Dimoff had carved out a 30-meter lead. Metivier, in trying, unsuccessfully, to match Dimoff's acceleration, did succeed in leaving the rest of the field well back. Lund and Warren were now about 70 meters behind Metivier., followed by Enman and Mammen another 20 meters back. There was no drama the rest of the way. Dimoff pulled further ahead, winning in 21:16, with Metivier in 2nd a half minute back. Lund ran strong the whole way Lund took 8 seconds out of Metivier's lead in the last kilometer but finished 40 meters back in 3rd. Warren was three seconds behind Lund, 4th in 21:59. Enman was 5th in 22:06, with Mammen 6th and Breton 7th. That gave Dimoff two overall wins in two tries for this Cross Country season! Metivier enjoyed her second straight silver medal. Lund could not repeat her 2023 win but ran well and enjoyed her first national championship podium finish of 2024.

Carrie Dimoff 21:16     Renee Metivier 21:47     April Lund 21:57

From Left: April Lund, Carrie Dimoff, Renee Metivier - Masters Women - Overall Podium -2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Men The strong favorite for the race, Fernando Cabada, and the favorite for second, Neil McDonagh, were both scratches. That left Brian Flynn, Adam Otstot, and Jeremy Redfern as favorites for the podium. Forest Braden was also thought to have a shot at the podium. Others who might have been mentioned included David Angell, who finished 7th last year, and had been running well last fall until he struggled at Clubs in Tallahassee. Charlie Ban, who finished 6th here last year, also struggled at Clubs finishing just outside the top 30 overall. Matthew Barresi, Peter Derby, and Christopher Pirch had some solid road races, but no recent Cross Country outings nor entries at national Masters championships. 

None of that mattered when the gun sounded. The runners took off along the flat and down the slope to the first turn. Flynn, Braden, Otstot and Redfern moved to the front of the field. By the 500-meter mark there was already a small gap from that foursome back to the rest of the field. At the 1K timing mat, Braden and Flynn were dictating the pace at the front, with Otstot and Redfern tucked in behind in 3rd and 4th. 

Forest Braden leads Brian Flynn and Adam Otstot at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

There was a 25-meter gap back to the rest of the field where Barresi, Ban and Pirch were running. Angell and Derby had started more conservatively and were another 20 meters deeper in that group. Braden started to push the pace over the final 500 meters of the first loop. Flynn stayed within a few strides; Otstot allowed a ten-meter gap, up to Flynn, to develop as Redfern fell further back. When they finished the first 2 Km loop, Braden was the clear leader, but Flynn was hanging on gamely just a few meters back. Otstot was another 15 meters back from Flynn. There was now a 50-meter gap between Otstot and Redfern. Redfern still had 25 meters on the Ban-Barresi-Pirch chase group, with Angell a few strides back. Braden kept the pressure on for the 2nd loop. By halfway through that loop, Braden had increased the gap on Flynn to over 15 meters. Otstot was hanging in twenty meters further back. Redfern had paid the price for the early pace and was about to be caught by Ban and Barresi. Braden kept grinding; by the 4 km mat at the end of the second loop, there was a 40-meter gap on Flynn, who had, in turn, a 30-meter gap on Otstot. It was well over a hundred meters from Otstot back to the chase group of Ban, Barresi and Redfern, with Angell and Pirch 30 meters further back in 7th and 8th. It is never easy running alone at the front. But Braden had no trouble; he added a few seconds to his lead on each loop, taking the win in 25:35. Flynn never gave in, claiming second, 17 seconds back. Otstot was never challenged, finishing third in 26:19, over half a minute ahead of the remaining athletes. Barresi moved away from the chase pack over the second half of the third loop but could make no progress in trying to catch Otstot. He took 4th in 26:55. Angell kept moving up and was able to catch and pass Ban in the last kilometer, and then held off Pirch at the finish line. His 5th place finish in 27:05 represented a nice recovery after this Tallahassee experience. Pirch was 6th, with the same 27:05 time; Ban finished 7th in 27:10, just ahead of Derby, in 8th. For Braden it was a tour de force, leading all the way and finishing well ahead of the field. It was Flynn's first national masters Cross Country podium. Otstot moved up from 4th last year onto the podium. Angell and Ban recovered nicely from their Tallahassee outings, finishing in the top five and top ten respectively.

Forest Braden 25:35     Brian Flynn 25:52     Adam Otstot 26:19

From Left: Brian Flynn, Forest Braden, Adam Otstot - Masters Men - Overall Podium-2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott


Men 40-44 All of the top contenders for the Overall Championship were from the 40-44 division. Hence that coverage above works for this division as well. Braden collected the 40-44 division championship as well as the Overall Masters Championship.

Forest Braden 25:35     Brian Flynn 25:52     Adam Otstot 26:19

45-49 David Angell, competed in his first Cross Nationals as a Masters athlete in 2017 at the Bend OR course, arguably the most challenging Cross Country course that Masters athletes have encountered in the last ten years. Angell finished 4th overall. In subsequent years he finished 4th and 2nd overall at Tallahassee in 2018 and 2019, and 3rd overall at the Mission Bay course in San Diego in 2020. There was no race in 2020 and he did not make it to the starting line in 2022. In 2023 after rehabbing some chronic issues, he was faced with his first Cross Nationals event as a 45-49 athlete. He finished 7th overall and 2nd in his division behind Jacques Sallberg [not entered this year, but Sallberg had won the overall Masters Cross Country championship every time he competed between 2015 and 2020]. Angell had done well on the roads this year, finishing 3rd overall in April at the 10 Km championships in Dedham in 33:15. On November 11th, he clocked a 1:12:47 Half Marathon in Richmond. At Boca Raton in early October, Angell finished 5th overall in 16:47. So it was a surprise when he struggled at Tallahassee. The fields there are typically deeper and stronger than at Cross Nationals but still, for Angell to finish 42nd overall and 13th in his division was a shock. Which Angell would show up at this event? His main competition would come from William Palmer, who ran a 4:29.04 Mile in June and a 34:43 at the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond. Jason Abbot had run a 17:00 5K in 2021. Edward Ross ran 1:02:31 in the Blue Cross Broad Street Run in May. Mark Tompkins ran a 35:41 10K and a 1:16:43 Half Marathon. Those three would likely duke it out for the final podium spot. Ross and Palmer were most aggressive, hitting the 1 Km mat in 3:12, with Angell about 20 meters back in 3rd, followed by Abbot, over 50 meters back and Tompkins another 35 meter behind Abbot. By the end of the 2 Km loop, Angell had pulled even with Palmer and Ross. By the halfway mark of the second 2 Km loop, Angell had a small gap on the two; he grew that gap to almost 50 meters by the end of the 2nd loop. 

David Angell #368, solid black cap, swings wide to pass M40 runners, Michael Harlow #425 and John Becker #440, and Dickson Mercer #470 at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Angell was never headed after that, winning the division by well over 150 meters in 27:05. In that same latter half of the second loop, Palmer pulled away from Ross, enjoying a lead of almost 25 meters. Palmer held onto his position all the way to the finish, taking second with over 200 meters to spare. Ross was not able to keep pace with Palmer but kept the other two well behind him. Ross claimed the final podium spot in 28:44. Tompkins had closed on Abbot by the 4-kilometer mark and ran just off the pace for the next two kilometers before pulling in front at 7 Km and edging Abbot for 4th, by 4 seconds, in 29:04. Angell's performance netted him his first age division gold medal. True, it was not an Overall medal. But if one recalls those early 40-44 age division podiums he was on, Angell was on the second and third step of the podium. This time he was on top! 

David Angell 27:05     William Palmer 27:43     Edward Ross 28:44

50-54 Phillippe Rolly finished 2nd in this division last year, losing by just a single second. He has been in fine form on the roads with a 55:32 at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in April, a 1:13:17 half marathon in September and a 2:35:45 at the Chicago Marathon. Rusty Snow was a top ten finisher overall at the 2015 and 2016 edition of these championships but has been absent since then. He ran a 16:09 5K in 2022 and in February hustled to a fast 1:13:23 at the Ventura HM. The trio battling for the final podium spot included Anderson Norton, who finished 8th in the division here last year and ran a 1:21:58 at the Hokie HM; and Christopher Wolf who ran a 17:00 5K on the roads and a 16:47 3 Mile Fasttrack Cross Country Championship.  Marcelo Mejia Perez, like his teammate, Snow, has been absent from these championships for several years. In 2015 he finished 16th in M40 and in 2016, 8th. When the gun sounded, Snow pushed toward the front with Rolly a bit more restrained. They went through the 1 Km mark 1st and 2nd in the division at 3:19 and 3:23. Perez was even with Rolly while Wolfe was 5-8 meters back, followed by Norton another ten meters to the rear. Rolly closed up on Snow by the end of the first loop but it was transitory.

Rusty Snow #490 battling with M40 runner, Charlie Hurt #486, as Phillippe Rolly sunglasses tracks Snow a couple of strides behind-at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott


By the 3 Km mat, Snow was again 15 to 20 meters ahead of Rolly. By the end of the 2nd 2 Km loop, Snow had increased the gap to over 40 meters; this would not be Rolly's year to take the division win. Snow won the division in 27:29, with well over a hundred meters to spare. Rolly was never pressed, however, claiming second in 27:56. Mejia Perez stayed close to Wolf over the 2nd kilometer. But by 3 Kilometers, Wolf had a gap of over 30 meters on Mejia Perez. The gap grew the rest of the way. Wolf enjoyed third place in 28:16, with Mejia Perez finishing 38 seconds later. Norton was fifth in 29:07.

Rusty Snow 27:29     Phillippe Rolly 27:56     Christopher Wolf 28:16

55-59 Tim Harte finished 3rd last year in 50-54 in 28:07. This year he ran 35:16 to take the 55-59 title at the Cooper Norcross Bridge 10K, and 27:40 for the 8K at the Philadelphia Marathon the weekend before Thanksgiving. Michael Nahom won the 55-59 division last year in 28:29. Nahom was a scratch at Club Cross, which could be due to an injury or a health issue but could also be unrelated to fitness. Shane Anthony has no recent results I can find but he ran a 57:31 10 Miler in 2021 and a 17:10 5K in August of 2022. If Nahom is not at top fitness, he and Anthony could be battling for 2nd. Jeff Conston, who finished 11th in 50-54 last year in 30:13, and Kevin McGuire, who finished 8th in 55-59 in 30:40 are closely matched but not quite as fast as the other three entrants. When the gun sounded, Harte quickly put distance between himself and the rest of the field. None of his division rivals were within 50 meters at the 1-kilometer timing mat. By the end of the first 2 Km loop, Harte was a hundred meters ahead of Anthony, McGuire and Nahom, all of whom were within 2 seconds of one another. 

Tim Harte leading M50 runners, Christopher Wolf and Marcelo Mejia-Perez, on his way to M55 victory at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Conston was 25 meters further back. Harte grew his lead throughout the race, finishing 1st in 28:35 with over 200 meters on his closest division rival. Over the 2nd loop, Anthony opened a 30-meter lead over Nahom who had left McGuire 60 meters back. McGuire now had Conston running stride for stride with him. Anthony took 2nd in 29:29 as Nahom finished 3rd. Conston and McGuire battled over the second half of the race. Conston edged ahead with a kilometer to go and was able to hold off McGuire, finishing 4th in 30:31 with three seconds to spare.

Tim Harte 28:35     Shane Anthony 29:29     Michael Nahom 30:02

60-64 Nat Larson has been unbeatable since turning 60 in 2022. Dominant on the roads, he now owns all 60-64 American records from the 1 Mile to the Half Marathon. Larson has also taken the division title at the last two Club Cross Championships in San Francisco and Tallahassee and at last year's Cross National Championships on this Pole Green Park course. Mark Zamek returned from a lengthy rehab to start winning division medals again. He finished 3rd at the 10 Km Masters Championships in Dedham MA in April with a 36:12. In October he won the Masters 5 Km XC title in Boca Raton (Larson was not entered) at 18:13. Zamek gave it everything he had to stay with Larson at Clubs in Tallahassee this past December. He stayed with Larson for the first 4 Km of their 8 Km race. After that, Larson pulled steadily away, winning by 19 seconds. The second place for Zamek showed that his training was on the right track, but he wants to win. With neither Rick Lee, Steve Schmidt nor John Van Danacker entered, those two would surely battle for the win again. Lester Dragstedt, Mark Neff, and Henry Notaro would battle for the final podium spot. All three are strong runners and one could argue for any order. It was a dandy matchup! 

Zamek apparently decided to change his strategy. Rather than let Larson dictate the pace, Zamek took the division lead, opening a 30-meter lead over Larson in the first kilometer. Larson was able to reduce it to about 25 meters over the second half of the first 2 Km loop but did not eliminate it. 

Mark Zamek leading the M60 field among runners, Jason Abbot #496 M45, John Sharp #424 M45, Bert Jacoby #485 M40, and Jason Dwyer #416 M40 at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Zamek pressed the pace over the first half of the 3rd loop, running his fastest kilometer so far at 3:33. As a result the gap grew to almost 40 meters. Zamek and Larson had given their all; both were tired. Both ran their slowest kilometer to finish off the 3rd loop. But Larson drew back 1 second from Zamek's lead. With the downhill stretch before him, Larson accelerated over the 1st half of that last loop, running his fastest kilometer, 3:31, carving 5 seconds out of Zamek's lead. Larson was within striking distance, less than 15 meters back at the 7 km mark. 

Nat Larson #461, running 2nd in M60 but on his way to victory, with Bronson Lee #557 M50, Timothy Greszler #420 M45, and Matthew Wisnioski #369 M45 at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Larson's drive to the front was inexorable; he caught Zamek on that last kilometer and over the final stretch was able to break away for a three second victory in 28:52! Wow! That was the closest call Larson has had in the last two years of Cross Country championships! It looked like he loved the competition! Zamek is now going back to the drawing board. His strategy of matching Larson's pace for as long as possible did not work at Tallahassee. Getting out ahead of Larson to make Larson do the chasing came closer but was still unsuccessful. 

What about the bronze medal? Notaro got out fast, covering the first two kilometers in 7:26; he was 60 meters ahead of Dragstedt and Neff who were running in tandem in 4th and 5th. The margin stayed there through three kilometers but over the 4th kilometer, Dragstedt started to cut gradually into Notaro's lead. Neff kept pace with Dragstedt a couple of strides back. The lead was down under 40 meters by the halfway point of the third loop and lowered further to less than 15 meters by the end of that loop. Notaro hung tough; Dragstedt could not catch him. Neff was able to swing past Dragstedt in the final kilometer and make a run for Notaro. Notaro held on to claim the bronze medal; he finished in 30:44, a single second ahead of Neff. Dragstedt finished 5th a mere 4 seconds later.

Nat Larson 28:52     Mark Zamek 28:55     Henry Notaro 30:44

65-69 At both Boca Raton and Tallahassee, the order of finish in 65-69 was Rick Becker, Ken Youngers, and David Westenberg. The same trio was expected to vie for the championship this time. But Becker had to scratch due to a strained tendon. I expected Westenberg to fare better than in those last two contests because he would have an extra 4 to 5 weeks to get the fall marathon out of his legs and because cold suits him better than warm and humid. There were other worthy challengers as well. Timothy Conheady finished 3rd here last year behind Westenberg and Youngers. Youngers ran 12 seconds faster.  Pete Gibson finished 4th here last year, over a minute behind Conheady. But Gibson has been running faster this year. He ran a 1:03:57 10 Miler, a 30:48 at the Surf'N'Santa 8K, and a 42:06 10K. Roger Sayre has also had an excellent year on the roads; he set the American 65-69 Record for the 25K with his division winning 1:40:41. Sayre also took the win at the 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento with a 1:01:09. When the gun sounded, Gibson set off with the confidence of an athlete who expects to run well. Gibson hit the 1-kilometer timing mat in 3:40, a good 15 meters ahead of Westenberg, trailed closely by Youngers. Sayre and Conheady were 25 meters back. Gibson kept up the pressure through the remainder of that loop and halfway into the next. 

Pete Gibson leading the M65 field, and being chased by Michael Hiller #482 M45, Adam Nuckols #522 M40, Timothy Suhr #404 M50, and Robert Dinterman #542 M50 at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Westenberg limited the damage, holding Gibson's lead at 25-30 meters. At the 3 Km mark, Youngers had fallen over 40 meters behind Westenberg but had an 80-meter lead on Conheady and Sayre. Westenberg finally began to cut into his deficit up to Gibson in the 2nd kilometer of the 2nd loop; the lead fell to less than 15 meters. Youngers, meanwhile, was motoring well, in 3rd, 20 meters behind Westenberg but nearly a hundred meters ahead of Conheady. 

David Westenberg #436, running 2nd in M65 ahead of Ken Youngers #359. Westenberg won in the end. Accompanying Westenberg & Youngers are two M50 athletes, Michael Swan #492 and Michael Stowe #374 at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Sayre was suffering a rare off day; he had fallen over 40 meters back from Conheady. Over the 3rd loop, Gibson maintained the lead but Westenberg was right on his heels for the whole loop. Westenberg took the lead in the first kilometer of the final loop but Gibson stayed within 15 meters. Westenberg stretched the lead a bit in the last kilometer, winning the M65 championship for he second consecutive year, this time in 31:18. His winning time was 9 seconds faster despite the temperature being twenty degrees colder! Most who ran in 2023 and 2024 ran slower this year. Gibson took second 7 seconds behind the winner.

It looked like Youngers had the bronze medal sown up. He hit the 7 Km timing mat in 27:57 with a lead of over 150 meters on Conheady. But then things started to fall apart. Not only did Youngers lose that lead, but Sayre reports that he was only able to pass for 4th when Youngers fell on the final run to the finish. Youngers is an experienced long-distance runner. That kind of collapse is a sign that something went seriously wrong. Youngers had no explanation for it; he noted that his lower back tightened up, possibly due to dehydration, He could not run without severe pain. Youngers had been running pretty steady 4:07's for the second kilometer on each loop. That last one ballooned to 4:48! That is not to take anything away from Conheady, who ran a super race, taking ten seconds off his 2023 time on this course. Credit the M65 competition for the faster times!

David Westenberg 31:18     Pete Gibson 31:25      Timothy Conheady 32:31

70-74 Robert Qualls has been the 'top gun' in this division since summer of 2022 when he turned 70. In 2023, he won the 5 Km Championships in 20:02, the 10 Km Championships in 41:38 and set a new M70 American Record in the Mile with a 5:33. He has also been unbeaten on the turf, winning Club Cross at San Francisco in 34:39, here in Richmond last year in 34:08, and at Boca Raton over 5 Km in 20:28. The main contenders for the other podium spots included: Doug Bell, James Linn, Don Morrison, and Eugene Myers. Bell is a perpetual contender for the podium, finishing 2nd here last year in 35:46. But he has finished 6th in the last two cross country championships. In 2022, Linn finished a minute and change behind Bell at the 5 Km Masters XC Championships in Boulder CO. Of course, Bell had the advantage of altitude, training in Greeley CO. Linn trains in New Jersey. Linn enjoyed a fine M70 win at the 12 Km Championships in September, clocking 51:44. Morrison finished 11th here last year but likely was off his best. Morrison ran three 8K's in November and December in times ranging from 34:27 to 36:05. Those equate, roughly, to 21:15 to 22:15 5K's. He validated that fitness with a 21:37 5K on New Year's Day this year. Myers is a tough competitor, but an injury slowed him in the second half of 2023. He finally started to be competitive again at Tallahassee but still finished 1:40 behind Bell in 12th position.

As he has done all year and longer, now, Qualls went to the front of the M70 field, hitting the 1 Km timing mat in 3:52, with a 20-meter lead on Linn. Morrison was running in third, 40 meters behind Linn. Myers had started conservatively and was 20 meters behind Morrison in 4th. Bell was already 50 meters behind Myers. This would clearly be an off day for Bell, who is not known as a 'come from behind' winner. Despite Linn running strongly in second, Qualls had no trouble building the lead. Qualls hit the 5th kilometer timing mat in 21:12 with a lead of well over a hundred meters. 

Robert Qualls with a big lead in M70 at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Linn led Morrison by more than 200 meters. Morrison had an 11 second lead on Myers by the end of the first loop but took 6 seconds out of that lead in the first kilometer of the 2nd loop. But that was as close as Myers would get. Qualls won his second straight championship here in Richmond, clocking 34:25. Linn was 23 seconds back in 2nd place. Morrison rebuilt his lead over Myers back up to 11 seconds by the end of the third loop. Despite a strong effort by Myers, Morrison was too tough; he took 3rd in 36:33, with Myers 18 seconds back in 4th. Bell finished 5th.

Qualls continues to ride the top of the wave in the 70-74 division. Linn showed he can run a strong Cross Country race and Morrison cemented his return to fitness by holding off a good effort by Myers.

Robert Qualls 34:25     James Linn 34:48     Don Morrison 36:33

75-79 Gary Ostwald won the two prestige cross country events last year, edging past Ron Wells (not entered in Richmond this year) for the win at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and kicking away from Dave Glass (not entered this year either-rehabbing after heart surgery) to win here in Richmond. That should have made him the favorite. But Gene Dykes has moved up from 70-74. Dykes finished 3rd last year in that division. But his 35:49 in M70 was over two minutes faster than Ostwald's winning M75 time. At that time last year, Dykes had just started to make progress on a white blood cell problem. By the middle of 2023 he had that problem behind him. In October he claimed the M75 American Marathon Record with a 3:17:01 at Chicago. Since then he has run two 1:35 and change half marathons. Those efforts signal that Dykes actually entered as the favorite, with Ostwald favored for 2nd. Rick Katz and Jerry Learned would likely battle for third. Learned had some health issues in the first part of 2023 but has put those behind him. But Katz has come in ahead of Learned both at Boca Raton in the Masters 5 Km and at Tallahassee at Clubs over 8 Km. But Learned was much closer at Tallahassee in December, a 9-second gap, than at Boca Raton in early October, where the gap was well over a minute. Perhaps Learned's fitness is improving? Once the athletes got to the 1-kilometer timing mat, most of the uncertainties were resolved. Dykes clocked 4:25 for that first kilometer. Ostwald was 50 meters behind in 2nd. Katz trailed Ostwald 25 meters back, with Learned another 20 minutes further back. There were no surprises the rest of the way; the gaps just grew bigger. 

Gene Dykes #459, with a sizable lead on the M75 field, running with M60 athletes, Andrew Shearer #446 and William Rose #476, and Eric Puma #504 M50 at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Dykes won in 37:39. Ostwald finished 2nd 55 seconds later. Katz was third in 39:43, a minute and 34 seconds ahead of Learned. Jan Frisby showed that his efforts to return to fitness are paying dividends, finishing 5th in 43:08. He will enter the 80-84 division in April just before the 10 Km championships. Dykes ran almost two minutes slower this year. I learned after the race that he had Covid in early January, making his 1:35:30 Half Marathon on January 13th more of a struggle than one might have expected. A week later it is hardly surprising that Dykes's time was off.

Gene Dykes 37:39     Gary Ostwald 38:34      Rick Katz 39:43

80-84 Two were entered but only one made it to the starting line, Jim Assal. He had no trouble traversing the course for four loops in 54:24. 

Jim Assal on his way to victory in the Men's 80-84 division at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

He is the 2024 M80 national champion.

Jim Assal 54:24

Women 40-44 As with the men, the top overall finishers all came from the 40-44 division. The description of the overall race is the description of the 40-44 division race.

Carrie Dimoff 21:16     Renee Metivier 21:47     April Lund 21:57

45-49 Jacqueline Cooke finished 4th overall at the 2022 Masters 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento in 1:03:16. A year later she clocked 1:03:28, finishing 3rd overall. IN September of 2022, Cooke claimed 4th in W40 at the Masters 12 Km championships, with a 48:35 at Highlands NJ. Euleen Josiah-Tanner finished 5th in her division in the 8 Km Cross Country race at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in Poland last March, clocking 29:25. She finished 4th in the 10K in 39:27. She ran even faster at the Boca Raton 5 Km Cross Country Championships in October; her 19:54 took top honors overall. Jodi Smith finished 6th at the 2022 Masters 5 Km Championships in Atlanta with a 19:18. This past November she posted an 18:48 at the Des Moines Turkey Trot 5K. In the preview I guessed at an order of Cooke, Josiah-Tanner and Smith, noting that Cooke appeared to be faster than Tanner on paper. It turned out that Cooke was also faster in fact. She moved to the front and her chip recorded a 3:46 at the 1 km mat. Smith and Josiah-Tanner were running in tandem 30 meters back. Tamara Pelletier was 50 meters behind that duo in 4th, with Katrina Holloway 40 meters further back in 5th. The main drama was in the Josiah-Tanner/Smith matchup. They were essentially even at the end of the first 2 Km loop. But Smith was able to keep up her pace over the 3rd km as Josiah-Tanner started to slip back. Smith enjoyed a 30-meter lead by the time they passed the 3 Km mat. That gap grew with every passing kilometer. But Smith could not keep pace with Cooke. 

Jacqueline Cooke leading the Women's 45-49 division on her way to victory at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

That gap also grew kilometer by kilometer; Smith took the division win in 23:29, nineteen seconds ahead of Smith. Josiah-Tanner was 150 meters behind Smith; she claimed third in 24:29, a minute and 17 seconds ahead of Pelletier. Holloway was a minute and change back in 5th. Perhaps faster on the roads than the turf, Cooke enjoyed a fine wire-to-wire division win, tenth overall. Smith showed she can run well on the turf. Josiah-Tanner delivered another podium finish; it is hard to deny her that even in her last year in the division. After this summer, she will be competing in 50-54.

Jacqueline Cooke 23:29     Jodi Smith 23:48     Euleen Josiah-Tanner 24:29

50-54 Lorilynn Bloomer, the favorite, was a scratch. The Bowerman team did not compete for the 40+ team championship after all. Abby Dean, perhaps a co-favorite, had surgery in November. So, for the second year in a row, she would be competing in this championship solely for team points. Last year she finished 3rd in 26:16. She would be unlikely to run any faster than that this year. With Bloomer absent and Dean at less than full fitness, Samantha Forde looked a good bet for the win. The defending champion won last year in 24:49. She has been a solid threat for the podium at national championships, finishing 4th in the division at the 5K masters Championships and winning the division at the 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento with a 1:06:46. Forde finished 4th at Tallahassee this past December. Brenda Hodge finished 4th in the division here at Richmond last year and might crack the podium. She ran a 19:49 5K in March and then clocked 1:09:21 at the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. I caught Amy Gannon as a late entry for Richmond but missed viewing her recent results. She would surely factor into the race for the podium. Her recent results include a 1:08:50 at the Broad Street 10 Mile Run, a 40:54 10K in Augusta, a 3:13:20 marathon at Chicago, and a 1:30:09 at the Naples Half Marathon six days before Richmond. Forde set the pace for the first kilometer, hitting the timing mat in 4:04. But Gannon was right on her heels. It was 50 meters back to Dean, with Cassandra Crane and Brenda Hodge a few meters behind Dean. Ford and Gannon remained 1-2, separated by a second, for the remainder of the first 2 Km loop and a kilometer into the 2nd loop. 

Samantha Forde #508 and Amy Gannon #592 running 1-2 at the front of the Women's 50-54 field at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Hodge was able to stay within ten meters of Dean for the first loop but fell back, allowing a 20-meter gap by the 3rd kilometer. Gannon pressed the pace after the third kilometer and enjoyed a 20-meter lead by the end of the 2nd loop. Those gaps grew over the last kilometer. Gannon got her first Masters national championship with a fine 25:05, finishing 19 seconds ahead of Forde. Dean claimed third for her team with a 26:44, finishing nine seconds ahead of Hodge who took 4th. Crane finished 5th.

Amy Gannon 25:05     Samantha Forde 25:24     Abby Dean 26:44

55-59 Rachel Hopkins, the favorite, was a scratch. In Hopkins absence it appeared it would be a 4-woman race for the championship. Kelly Brown and Deelyn Robinson finished 7th and 8th here last year in 27:26 and 27:54 respectively. Brown ran a 45:00 10K at the Beach to Beacon in early August in Maine, adding a 22:54 5K on New Year's Day, three weeks before this race. Robinson ran a 37:17 8K at the Christmastown Dash, age grade equivalent to a 22:57 5K. Melissa Chiti had some good road and track results this year but no cross country I could find. Her 6:12 at the Masters Road Mile Championships in Indianapolis in June had her 5th in the division. She ran a 47:41 at the AJC Peachtree Road Race. She ran a 22:00 at the Gobbler 5K at Thanksgiving. De Lea has been working her way back into competition; she ran 5K's this summer in the 21:17 to 21:59 range. That suggested she might be faster than Brown and Robinson and at least competitive with Chiti. A few days before the event, De lea posted she might be a scratch and if not would be slow. That led me to downgrade her chances. This was the tightest division through the first five runners over the first kilometer. The first five were within thirty meters of one another. Robinson led the way with a 15-meter lead on De Lea. Chiti, Brown and Maureen Masseell followed on De Lea's heels. Massell fell back by the end of the first loop. But Chiti and De Lea were up tight on Robinson's heels, with Brown just starting to struggle to maintain contact.

Deelyn Robinson #582, leading the Women's 55-59 division, running alongside Katrina Holloway #607 W45 t the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

The third kilometer saw Brown falling 40 meters back from the lead trio; Massell was another 40 meters further back. The chips of Robinson and Chit read 13:28, with De Lea at 13:29! With Chiti dictating the pace, the next kilometer saw Robinson fall almost twenty meters off the pace. 

Laura De Lea #616 and Melissa Chiti solid lime green cap, running 2-3 in Women's 55-59 here. Chiti and De lea would finish 1st and 2nd respectively at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

De Lea was still right on Chiti's heels as they clocked 18:09 and 18:10 at 4K. De Lea lost 4 seconds in the 7th kilometer, trailing Chiti's 22:36 by 5 seconds. De lea clawed back three of those seconds in the final kilometer but Chiti finished strong, claiming the win in 27:04, a mere 2 seconds ahead of a fast-closing De Lea! Chiti presumably focuses on Indoor Track now as De Lea turns to the late winter/early spring road season. Will they meet again in Atlanta? Both are already entered, along with Mimi Fallon from New England. Sparks could fly! Robinson finished 3rd, eleven seconds behind De Lea. Brown finished 4th in 27:40 with Massell 5th.

Melissa Chiti 27:04     Laura De Lea 27:06     Deelyn Robinson 27:17

60-64 Suzanne La Burt, who was the favorite for the win, strained a hip flexor while preparing for a Millrose Games relay. She scratched. That left Mary Cass, Kris Huff, Lorraine Jasper, and Amanda King vying for three podium spots. Cass won the division at Clubs in Golden Gate Park in 2022 and won the 60-64 10 Km Championship in late April at Dedham with a 41:43. She lost to La Burt, finishing 2nd in 60-64 at Boca Raton over 5 Km and at Tallahassee over 8 Km. La Burt is the only one in this division that Cass has lost to in the last year and a half. When La Burt scratched, Cass became the favorite. Huff finished 3rd in 55-59 in the 5 Km in Atlanta with a 21:23 and she placed 14th in the younger division at Tallahassee with a 28:11. Jasper is returning from rehab. She won this division at Tallahassee in 2021 with a 25:50, just 6 seconds slower than Cass's 2023 time. But Jasper does not seem ready to run that fast yet; she is primarily competing for team points. King, Cass's teammate, finished 5th at Tallahassee last December, albeit a couple of minutes slower than Cass. 

Cass led the way but King was determined to stay with Cass, at least for the first kilometer. They hit the 1-kilometer mark together at 4:10. Their 3rd teammate, Virginia Bok was 40 meters back, with Jasper a couple of strides back and Huff another 15. By the end of the first 2 Km loop, King had fallen 20 meters behind Cass but had over a hundred meters on Jasper, running in 3rd. Bok was now 15 meters behind jasper in 4th, 30 meters ahead of Huff. 

Mary Cass #601 leads her teammate, Amanda King #602 at the front of the Women's 60-64 division, running alongside Theresa Gagliardi #588 W40 at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Over the 2nd loop, the gaps between Cass, King, and Jasper all grew. Huff caught and passed Bok but was almost a hundred meters behind Jasper. Nothing changed the rest of the way except for the size of the gaps. Cass enjoyed the win at 25:28. King was a minute and 3 seconds behind her in 2nd. Jasper nailed third with a 27:29, 25 seconds ahead of Huff. Bok was 36 seconds back in 5th.

Mary Cass 25:38     Amanda King 26:41     Lorraine Jasper 27:29

65-69 Nora Cary is the defending champion; she won here last year in 26:22. She had an injury she needed to rehab in the middle of the year. But by the end, she was back in the driver's seat again, winning the 65-69 division at Club Cross in Tallahassee. She defeated a strong field by two and a half minutes! Deborah Snagg finished 2nd here last year, 2 and a half minutes behind Cary. Susan Stirrat, the 2023 65-69 Masters National Grand Prix winner, finished over 3 minutes behind Snagg in third. Myers was 4th in 50:35. Nothing happened to change expectations based on the 2023 results. Cary ran the first kilometer in 4:21, enjoying a 40-meter lead on Snagg, who had a lead of over a hundred meters on Stirrat. Myers was almost 300 meters behind Stirrat. The race unfolded as expected; all of the gaps grew kilometer by kilometer. Cary won in 27:17. 

Nora Cary #622 running at the front of the Women's 65-69 division alongside teammate, Laura De Lea W55 at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

Snagg claimed 2nd again, 2:07 behind Cary. Stirrat enjoyed the bronze medal in 33:05. Myers finished 18 minutes later in 4th place.

Nora Cary 27:07     Deborah Snagg 29:14     Susan Stirrat 33:05

70-74 With Nancy Antos and Kathleen Doswell, both scratching, Cindy Lucking was left in a division by herself. After hip replacement surgery last March, Lucking finished 2nd at Tallahassee in 35:31. 

Cindy Lucking on her way to victory in the Women's 70-74 division at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

The team leader for her 70+ team, Lucking took care of business, running faster than at Tallahassee by more than half a minute.

Cindy Lucking 34:50

75-79 Running for her team, like Lucking, Andrea McCarter had no individual rivals to worry about. 

Andrea McCarter on her way to victory in the Women's 75-79 division at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships - Pole Green Park, Richmond VA Photo Credit: Mike Scott

She set off when the gun sounded; 46 minutes and 19 second later, McCarter crossed the finish line, earning the 75-79 gold medal.

Andrea McCarter 46:19

85-89 Joyce Hodges-Hite competes. Last year she won the Masters National Grand Prix title for this age division. She won two Masters Cross Country Championships, over 5 Km and 8 Km; and four Masters Road championships, at distances from One Mile to Ten Miles. She starts calendar 2024 off with a win!

Joyce Hodges-Hite 1:04:00

That completes the recap of the Overall and Age Division Championships at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships at Pole Green Park in Richmond VA. The next event on the Masters National Grand Prix circuit is the USATF Masters 5 Km Championships over a new road course in Atlanta Georgia on PUBLIX Atlanta Marathon Weekend, Saturday, February 24, 2024

Friday, January 19, 2024

Masters Athletes Head for the Turf in Virginia on a Chilly January Day--Cross Nationals!

 January 17, 2024 For Masters Athletes from the Mountains across the Plains across the Great Lakes it has been a bitterly cold week of preparation for the upcoming Masters Races at the 2024 USATF Cross Country Championships in Richmond, VA. Actual temperatures dipped into the negative range, often accompanied by high winds that drove the 'Feels Like' to the -30's and below! Some became treadmill trotters or swimming pool prancers at their gyms. But many just said, you know what, I can just layer up and make it work outside! Athletes in the south have had to deal with freezing or even sub-freezing temps. So we all know we can face the cold and get it done! 

Temperatures at race time for the Women's race at 10:30AM are predicted to be 26 degrees F (-3C), with winds at 12 mph, gusting to 25 mph for a 'feels like' of +16F--oof! It is predicted to be 2 degrees warmer for the Men's race at 11:30. Heads and hands will need protection, not to mention layering up otherwise. There are no big snows or rain predicted heading into race day; footing should be okay.

But as cold as conditions are, the competition will be hot!



Carrie Dimoff Portland OR, Bowerman TC, the 13th place finisher in the Marathon at the Doha World Championships, and Renée Metivier Flagstaff AZ, Team Red Lizard, a 5-time competitor for Team USA at the World Cross Country Championships and an 11-time All American at Colorado and Georgia Tech, are vying on the turf again. At the Club Cross Championships in Tallahassee on December 9th, they went 1-2, with Dimoff taking the honors in 21:17 and Metivier 23 seconds behind in 2nd. Metivier was glued to Dimoff through the first half of the race. Dimoff began to pull away in the 4th kilometer and increased the gap from there to the finish. They race over the same distance, 6 Km, here at Pole Green Park, but it will be three loops instead of two. Will we get a different outcome in sub-freezing temperatures than we did in warm and humid conditions in Tallahassee? It is likely that Metivier, whose residence for Clubs was reported as Bend OR, has spent more time training in the cold than Dimoff. Will that be an edge!? 

Metivier and Dimoff battling in Tallahassee Photo Credit: Michael Scott

None of the other top contenders from Tallahassee are here but there are two important rivals for the top spot to mention. 

One is the defending 2023 champion here in Richmond. April Lund Bismarck ND, GYS TC took top honors last year on this course, with two minutes to spare, on a time of 22:03. That qualified her to represent Team USA at the first WMA Cross Country Championships in Australia. Lund won a W40 gold medal and a silver with Ben Bruce in the Mixed Relay. She recently challenged herself at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Bruce ran in the elite section, clocking 2:43:35 to take the honors as first Masters woman. She also ran a 1:15:27 Half Marathon in Lead SD. That course had a significant drop but also started at 4900'. 

April Lund with an Australian athlete chasing her at the WMA XC Championships in Bathhurst, Australia Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Kasie Enman Huntington VT, Green Mountain Athletic Association will also challenge. No stranger to the turf, Enman captured the 2021 Masters 5 Km Cross Country Championship at Boston’s Franklin Park in 18:20. That is roughly equivalent to a bit over 20 minutes for a 6K. The course at Franklin Park may be more challenging than the courses in Richmond and Tallahassee. Enman, a Division III All American at Middlebury College in Vermont, claimed the 2006 US Snowshoeing Championship in 2006. She finished 11th at the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials with a 2:37 and then switched to Mountain running! It apparently suited her as she claimed the 2011 World Mountain Running championship in Tirana, Albania. She and Max King became the first duo from the US to take both Women's and Men's championships! Enman continues to race up and down mountains. At the end of April she finished 4th woman and 1st Masters woman at the Sunapee Scramble Up and Down race. In mid-June she finished 4th woman and 2nd Masters woman at the Delta Dental Mt. Washington Road race (7.6 miles) in 1:18:03. The slogan there is: "How bad can it be? There's only one hill!' [But it does keep going and going and going!] Enman finished her mountain racing summer as the first woman to finish the Loon Mountain Race in 1:02:09. No doubt Enman will be ready for the cold; she will have to look long and hard to find much of a hill on the portion of the Pole Green Park course that we run on.

Two In-State runners could well break onto the podium. 

Julia Siegel Breton Richmond VA, Unattached, an M.D. at Virginia Commonwealth University ran here last year as an Open runner, covering the 10 Km course in 38:31 to finish 32nd. Breton also finished 11th overall in the Women’s division at the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K [Richmond VA] in 38:06. In the fall she took Masters honors in 29:29 at the 8K of the Richmond Marathon.

Mindy Mammen Woodbridge VA, Unattached ran for the University of Tennessee, helping her Cross Country team to SEC victories from 2003 through 2005, earning the national title in 2004. She clocked 59:04 at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in April, and took 3rd Masters at Grandma's in Duluth in 2:44:01. In 2022 she was first Masters at the Richmond Half Marathon in 1:18:48.

Athletes Taking it out hard at the start of the 2023 Club Cross Championships Photo Credit: Michael Scott

With these conditions and a loaded field, the podium could see one of several others standing there.

Elizabeth Camy Simi Valley CA, Unattached finished a minute and change behind Dimoff at Tallahassee but brings solid credentials, including a 2:49 at Grandma's, a 2:46:51 at Boston, and a 1:18:39 at the Surf City Half Marathon.

Brett Ely Marblehead MA, Notch RC finished 4th here last year in 23:42. She ran a sparkling 37:31 10K at Lone Gull this September but a month later ran a 1:27 Half Marathon. It is hard to guess her current fitness.

Allison Emmons Wilmington DE, Pike Creek Valley RC ran 38:44 at the Cooper Norcross Bridge 10K, a 58:25 at the Delaware Distance Classic 10 Miler, and 30:29 at the Philadelphia Marathon 8K.

Start of the Women's Race at 2021 Club Cross in Tallahassee Photo Credit: Michael Scott

It will be a fascinating race to watch and I have no real idea who should win. By tradition I make a guess at the finishing order. My guess for Saturday is Dimoff, Metivier, Enman. But will I be amazed if Lund should win the race? Not at all!

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Carrie Dimoff     Kasie Enman     Renée Métivier 


The Men’s race may be as one sided as last year when Ben Bruce broke the race up after the first 2 Km loop and strode away for a decisive victory. 

Fernando Cabada Aurora CO, Unattached enters as a strong favorite. He competed three times for Team USA in international competitions, twice in the Half Marathon [2006 & 2014] and once in the Marathon [2007]. Cabada finished 7th in the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials with a 2:11:53 and 8th in the 2014 Houston Half Marathon in 1:02:00. Cabada continues to compete at a high level, taking top Masters honors at the 2023 Houston Half Marathon in 1:04:15. Three months later he won the USATF Masters Ten Mile Championships at the Sactown Ten in Sacramento in 49:03. Then he won the iconic Lilac Bloomsday 12K in Spokane WA with a 37:34 effort. In May he returned to Grand Rapids MI, where, in 2006, he set the American 25K record at 1:14:20. This time he took top Masters honors with a 1:22:27. 

Fernando Cabada left in a Battle with Open runners at the 10 Mile Masters Championships in Sacramento Photo courtesy of Sacramento Running Association

If Cabada should run into any trouble, there is plenty of competition. 

Neil McDonagh Colorado Springs CO, Square State Striders finished 2nd here last year, less than half a minute behind Bruce in 25:26. McDonagh is coming off a strong performance at the Colleen De Reuck Cross Country Classic in Boulder where he clocked 16:56 over 5 Km at altitude. A year and a half ago he finished 4th at the USATF Masters 5 Km Championships on the same Harlow Platts course in Boulder with a 16:50. He also finished 7th in 29:39 in the wet and wild December 2022 Club Cross race at Golden Gate Park. Forced to move onto a shorter than 10 Km course circling the Polo Grounds track. 

Cabada and McDonagh are the favorites for gold and silver. 

Ben Bruce #435 and Neil McDonagh #455 dictated the pace in the first 2 Km  Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Three who should contend for the final podium spot include Brian Flynn Holmdel NJ, Garden State TC, Adam Otstot Williamsburg VA, Colonial Road Runners, and Jeremy Redfern Washington DC, Dojo Racing

Flynn finished 4th at Club Cross in Tallahassee in 33:54, over 10 Km, and won the USATF Masters 12 Km Championship in Highlands NJ in 39:00. He found time this year to clock 1:10:47 at the Fredericksburg Blue Gray Half Marathon, a 15:40 5Kand a 31:43 10K.

Otstot finished 4th in this championship last year in 26:34, over 8 Km, and ran a 15:31 5K and a 32:59 10K this year. In December, Otstot ran 26:14 at the Christmastown 8K.

Redfern‘s time at the 2022 California International Marathon was 2:28:59. In March of this year he ran in the Elite section of the L.A. Marathon, finishing at 2:34:23. He ran a 1:14 Half Marathon in February and, in November, ran a 26:41 5 miler.

Others who have earned a mention include: 

John Becker Berwyn PA, Greater Philadelphia TC ran 33:28 at the Cooper Norcross 10K and 26:28 at the Philadelphia Marathon 8K.

Forest Braden Williamsburg VA Colonial RR ran a 15:50 5K in October and 26:16 at the Christmastown 8K.

Chris McGough Alexandria VA, Unattached ran 56:50 at the Army Ten Miler and 2:44:18 at the Marine Corps Marathon.

Chris Naimoli Philadelphia PA, Greater Philadelphia PA won the 2019 USATF Masters 15K Championships on a tough course in Tulsa in 48:37. Two years later he finished 2nd at the 12 Km Championships in Highlands NJ in 40:19. More recently he has been scratching his triathlon itch. He took 2nd M40 in the 2021 USA Triathlon Age Group Championships in Milwaukee WI, throwing down a 34:48 for his 10K on the third leg. The following year he ran a minute faster overall in taking first! Unfortunately, no splits were provided. My guess is that Naimoli ran faster; that is his edge in the triathlon. On the other hand, it is likely that Naimoli is simply being a good soldier for his team, as he was last year when he finished 19th here in 28:07.

Adam Schroeder Seattle WA, Club Northwest ran for his team at Clubs in Tallahassee. It is somewhat surprising that he is coming back across the country to Richmond for this championship. Perhaps he views his 8th place finish on the Tallahassee turf as unfinished business; he finished 8th in 34:28. He clocked 1:11:40 at the Redmond Harvest Half Marathon and 2:29:04 at the Chicago Marathon in October.

There is no reason to supplant Cabada and McDonagh as my 1-2 picks. Third is trickier but I will go with Flynn. He has shown that he can run well on the turf.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Fernando Cabada     Brian Flynn     Neil McDonagh

Start of the Men's Race at 2021 Club Cross in Tallahassee Photo Credit: Michael Scott



40-44 See OVERALL section above. All of the main contenders come from this age division. Hence I go with Cabada, McDonagh and Flynn for the 40-44 hardware.

45-49 David Angell Blue Ridge VA, Blacksburg Striders had an uncharacteristic off day at Tallahassee this past December, finishing 42nd overall and 13th in this division. He finished 7th overall last year here in Richmond, leading in the division until Jacques Sallberg kicked past him in the final kilometer. Back in 2018 in Spokane WA, Angell finished 3rd overall at the Club Cross Championships. This past year, Angell worked his way back from injury and rehab to take 3rd overall at the USATF Masters 10 Km Championships in 33:15. He had a strong outing at the 5 Km XC Championships in Boca Raton, with a 16:47. He finished 3rd behind two speedy runners, neither of whom is entered this weekend. He should bounce back from Tallahassee. I would expect him to run faster this year than his 26:58 time in 2023. Unless there is some underlying problem that is affecting his running fitness it is hard to see any of the others in this division challenging him.

Leading Trio of left to right David Angell, Jorge Maravilla, and Eric Loeffler at 2018 Club cross in Spokane WA Photo Credit: Michael Scott

 Strong runners who will battle for a podium position include: 

Jason Dowdy Midlothian VA Endorphin Fitness clocked 1:14:52 at the Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon in 2022 and ran a 16:47 5K in December 2021. I have no recent XC efforts recorded for Dowdy.

William Palmer Charlottesville VA Ragged Mountain Racing ran 34:42 to take Masters honors at the 2022 Ukrops Monument Ave 10K. Palmer ran a very fast 4:29.02 at the Bruce Barnes Mile outside of Charlottesville VA. How much was that helped by the course? It is advertised as 'fast' and being downhill all the way.' But Palmer still had to run the distance. I have no recent XC efforts for Palmer.

Brian Semling Fountain City WI, Unattached does not have the strong road credentials of the others. He ran a 17:36 5K and a 36:39 10K, finishing 2nd overall in both of them and 1st Masters. His 1:20:33 at the Lacrosse WI HM where he finished 6th overall and 2nd Masters is not as strong. But the year before he enjoyed an overall 3rd and Masters win at the Mayo Open XC race in September 2022. And he is coming all the way from Wisconsin without a team. The cold should not bother him.

Mark Tompkins Williamsburg VA Colonial RR has a 17:24 Turkey Trot 5K to his credit, along with a 35:41 at the Elizabeth River 10K, and a 1:16:43 at the Newport News HM where he took top Masters honors, and 8th overall. But he only finished 10th here last year in 29:02.

As noted, Angell should win. I will go with Tompkins and Dowdy for 2nd and 3rd. But keep an eye on Palmer and Semling.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

David Angell     Jason Dowdy     Mark Tompkins

50-54 Thrills and chills, but hopefully, no spills in this one. We have three tough runners locking horns.

Gregory Putnam Stoneham, MA; Unattached won three M50 road and one cross country national championships this year. He took the Half Marathon crown on an unseasonably warm day in April in Syracuse in 1:16:47. [He ran two minutes faster later in the year at the Boston Run to Remember HM.] Putnam won M50 at the 10 Km Championships at the end of April in 34:21 and the 12 km Championships in 41:12. Last October he claimed top M50 honors in 17:17 at the Masters 5 Km Championships in Boca. Breaking News--Putnam is a scratch--out running this week he had a slip on the roads, hurting his hamstring

Philippe Rolly McLean VA; Unattached finished second in M50 here last year, losing by a single second to Ahrlin Bauman. Rolly's last Masters National Championship title came in 2018 when he won the 15K at Tulsa in 50:50. This year he took division titles at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in 55:32 and, in September, at the Philadelphia Distance Classic with a 1:13:17 half marathon. In October he enjoyed a 2:35:45 outing at the Chicago Marathon.

Philippe Rolly #485 leading a group of 40's and 50's runers, including Ahrlin Bauman red knit cap just behind Rolly at 2023 Cross Nationals in Richmond Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Rusty Snow Santa Barbara, CA; Santa Barbara Running & Racing Club returns to the national circuit after a long absence. In 2015 and 2016, he and his team competed in the Boulder CO and Bend OR editions of these USATF Cross Nationals. Snow finished 7th overall at altitude in Boulder and 5th over a Max King designed course in Bend that ran the athletes up and down a golf course situated on the side of a cinder cone. Eight years later, Snow and his team, with a largely similar roster are back to try for a podium finish. In March of 2022, Snow ran 16:09 on a 5K course over the Publix Atlanta Marathon weekend that hosted the Olympic Marathon Trials. That course is the same one used for the 2022 Masters 5 Km Championships. Had he run the same time in those 2022 championships, at the age of 52, he would have won by a half minute. In February of this year, he ran 1:13:23 at the (overall downhill) Ventura HM. A day later he ran a 2:52:40 at the Ventura Marathon.

It does not appear that any of the other entrants can stay with those three, but Todd Booth Santa Barbara CA, Santa Barbara R&R, and teammates, Frederick Dolan Marietta GA, Atlanta TC, and Brent Fields Covington GA will give it their best shot.

Last year Rolly allowed Bauman to build a lead, caught him at the 7 Km mark but could not get the win. With Putnam, Rolly will need a lead heading into the final few hundred meters; Putnam is fierce at the finish! Nonetheless, I will go with an order of Rolly, Putnam and Snow. Update: Rolly, Snow and Fields

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Brent Fields     Philippe Rolly     Rusty Snow

55-59 Tim Harte Coatesville PA, Greater Philadelphia TC is favored to win. He finished 3rd in 50-54 last year in 28:07. Harte ran 35:16 to take the M55 title at Cooper Norcross and clocked 27:40 for the 8K at the Philadelphia Marathon

Harte's chief rival is defending M55 champion, Mike Nahom New Milford CT, Greater Springfield Harriers, who clocked 28:29 for the 2023 win, 22 seconds slower than Harte. Nahom is very competitive but 22 seconds is a lot to make up. Nahom keeps his Athlinks profile private; I have no 2023 races for him. 

Mid-Race at 2023 Cross Nationals-Mike Nahom pink shoes background out ahead of the M55 field in the early going Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Those two appear solid for 1-2. Three who appear well placed to contend for the final podium spot are:

Shane Anthony Palmerton PA, Unattached ran a 57:37 Ten-Miler at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Run in 2021, and a 17:10 5K in August of 2022. The 57:37 is age grade equivalent to a 34:52 10K.

Mark Hixson Simsbury CT, Greater Springfield Harriers finished 4th here in Richmond last year in 29:52. At the end of April he finished 5th M55 at the Masters National 10 Km championships in 37:12. When he claimed 3rd at the 12 Km Masters Championship in mid-September in 44:13, it seemed like a complete return from an injury that kept him out of competition. But then at Tallahassee, Hixson finished 19th in the division in 40:57. It could be that he is more affected by warmth and humidity than others or it could be that an injury or other issue limited his training. We will know more after Saturday.

Robert McBee York SC, Colonial RR has no recent cross country races I can find. But he ran a 2:53:33 marathon at Chicago in October, a 17:49 Turkey Trot and 1:22:01 at the Kiawah Island HM in South Carolina. That last mark is age grade equivalent to a 37:24 10K.

Any of those three could take the 3rd spot but I will go with Anthony to follow Harte and Nahom across the finish line in that order.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Shane Anthony     Tim Harte     Mike Nahom

60-64 At 2022 Club Cross in Golden Gate Park, when the winds howled and the rain came down by the bucketful, Nat Larson Amherst MA, Greater Springfield Harriers, Steve Schmidt, Rick Lee and John Van Danacker established themselves as the top of the 60-64 division. They were joined later in the year by Mark Zamek Minnetonka MN, Shore AC. Some of them wind up on the podium at every national championship. Only Larson and Zamek are entered in this contest.

Note: Others could b=e added to the group on the basis of talent, Pete Magill and Kevin Ostenberg, for example. But, so far, they have not shown the commitment to USATF National Masters Championships that this group of five has.

Larson is the king of the Big Five. When he has shown up, he has won. And sometimes has broken an American Record as well as won a national championship. He now owns all of the 60-64 American Road Records at distances between the 1 Mile (4:49) and the Half Marathon (1:15:27). He has won on the turf at the 2022 Club Cross Championships in San Francisco, 29:24; the 2023 Cross Nationals in Richmond, 28:33; and the 2023 Club Cross Championships in Tallahassee, 29:34. He won by 19 seconds in San Francisco, by 42 seconds in Richmond last year; and by 19 seconds again in Tallahassee. 

Zamek returned from a long rehab period. He still spends hours in the gym every week. But he has eased himself back into the mix. By the end of the year, he was a key member of the Big Five. His first big step was the Masters 10 Km Championships in late April when he claimed the bronze M60 medal in 36:12! He came in ahead of Schmidt to win the 5 Km XC Championship in Boca at 18:13. Zamek then glued himself to Larson for the first three kilometers of the 8 Km race at Clubs in Tallahassee. But the glue came unstuck between kilometers 3 and 4, as Larson gradually pulled away for the win. Zamek had 2nd, though, ahead of Van Danacker and Schmidt. 

Nat Larson with Mark Zamek tracking him at the 3 Km Mark at 2023 Club Cross Photo Credit: Michael Scott

There is no reason to pick Zamek over Larson although it may happen one of these days. Zamek did come in ahead of Larson in a 2019 championship.

So that is my 1-2. Who shall I pick for 3rd? Some possibilities include: Lester Dragstedt Atlanta GA, Atlanta TC, Time Ensign Chattanooga TN, Chattanooga TC, Mark Neff Derwood MD, Shadow Project TC, Henry Notaro Northfield NJ, Shore AC, and Tim Schuler Lititz PA, F & M Track Club.

Dragstedt was 6th here last year in 31:32 and finished 12th at Tallahassee with a 31:53, both over 8 Km.

Ensign ran 16 seconds faster than Dragstedt in Richmond, finishing 5th in 31:16. But his Tallahassee effort was not as good. Ensign gave up his opportunity to place in the M60+ race when he agreed to run for Chatanooga's M50+ team. He ran 42:14. In terms of age grading, that is equivalent to a 33:35 8K effort.

Neff finished 8th in Tallahassee, 12 seconds ahead of Dragstedt in 31:20.

Notaro ran six seconds slower than Dragstedt at Richmond last year, taking 7th in 31:38. But at San Francisco the year before, Notaro had the upper hand (or should I say foot?) with a 10th place finish in 30:40 compared to a 32:25 for Dragstedt, in 23rd place.

Schuler ran 31:24 to take 13th place in M55. In terms of the overall race, he finished in between Ensign and Dragstedt.

It seems as if most runners ran slower times at Tallahassee than at Richmond last year. That puts more weight on Neff's 8th place finish in 31:20. I will go with Neff to finish up the top 3. Larson-Zamek-Neff.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Nat Larson      Mark Neff     Mark Zamek

65-69 Four of the top M65 runners in the country are entered: Rick Becker Selah, WA, Atlanta TC; Roger Sayre Golden CO, Boulder Road Runners; David Westenberg Wellesley, MA, Greater Lowell Road Runners; and Ken Youngers Tucker, GA; Atlanta TC

Becker strained a tendon behind his knee and will not be running in Richmond.

Sayre has excelled on the roads this past year. He set an American 25K Record for 65-69 with his 1:40:41 at the Amway River Bank Run. He also took top honors in the 65-69 Masters National Grand Prix. That resulted from Sayre winning national championships at the Half Marathon in Syracuse and the 10 Mile in Sacramento. His winning time at the Half Marathon, 1:24:46, was on an unseasonably warm day in mid-April on a hilly course. His winning time at Sacramento was 1:01:09. He added 2nd place finishes at the Road Mile and the 5 Km in 18:25.   Sayre finished 3rd in M60 at 2021 Club Cross, with a 30:49 over 8 Km where he helped his Boulder team to the 60+ Team gold.

David Westenberg tracking Rick Becker at three kilometers in the M65 race at 2023 Club Cross Photo Credit: Michael Scott

·    Westenberg finished 3rd behind Becker and Youngers at the two most recent Cross Country races, the 5 Km at Boca Raton and Club Cross over 8 Km at Tallahassee, running 20:13 and 32:53 respectively. Still, Westenberg is the defending champion; he won here last year in 31:27, a minute ahead of Youngers. And the only runner to best Westenberg at Club Cross at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco was the unmatchable Jacob Nur (not entered at Richmond). Westenberg also claimed gold at the 800M, 1500M and 5000M on the track at the Masters Outdoor Championships. His 1500M time was 4:59.87! He also cruised to the road 10K championship for M65 in 39:19 at the James Joyce Ramble in Dedham.

·    Youngers, as noted, finished 2nd to Westenberg here last year. He bounced back, later in the year, to finish ahead of Westenberg at both Boca Raton and Tallahassee. Youngers has had to overcome some health challenges since he won the 2022 M65 National 10 Km Championship in 37:48 at Dedham, MA.

It seems likely those three will go 1-2-3 but in what order? I look for Westenberg to do well again as he is in the middle of Indoor Track season, one of his great passions. He has also had time to recover fully from his marathon activity in the fall. In a pact with his daughter, they both achieved BQ's and will run together on Patriot's Day from Hopkinton to Boston. He should also find the weather more to his liking than the Florida races. He would probably have preferred something in the middle though, like last year, when it was in the upper 40's. But cold should be better than warm and humid.

On the other hand, Sayre has shown that he is a fine runner on the roads and turf. He came in ahead of Ostenberg in 2021. Even though Sayre did not compete at Tallahassee, we can guess that he might have run in the low 30's perhaps 30:15 or so, while Youngers and Becker were well over 32 minutes. Based on that, I will go with an order of Sayre-Westenberg-Youngers.  Although if Youngers is healthy and in good fitness it is entirely possible that he could be ahead of Westenberg, vying with Sayre for the win.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Roger Sayre      David Westenberg      Ken Youngers

70-74 Robert Qualls Reno NV, Unattached continues to be the 'man of the Hour' in the 70-74 division. No one has beaten him in a national championship in quite a while. Some of his 2023 road activity incudes winning the M70 5 Km Championships in 2002, the 10 Km in 41:38 and the 1 Mile in 5:33, which broke the M70 American Record. He took first on the turf at Club Cross in San Francisco, 34:39; at Richmond in 34:08; and at Boca Raton over 5 Km in 20:28.

Ther is no reason to think he won't win on Saturday unless he has difficulty getting to the race from his home in Reno Nevada.

Doug Bell Greeley CO, Boulder RR, James Linn Harleysville PA, Unattached, and Rees Stiles Cary NC, Bull City TC are the top contenders for the other spots on the podium.  I might mention Eugene Myers also, but he may need another month yet before he has recovered fully from his injury last year.

Bell is a perpetual contender for the top spot. His performances over the last couple of years have been more variable than in the past. But when he is 'on' he is a fierce competitor. He finished 2ncd here last year in 35:46. But his time at Tallahassee ballooned to 37:56 as he finished 6th. He also took 6th at Boca over 5 Km in 24:05.

Robert Qualls Team USA singlet out ahead of the M70 field, running with the 50's and 60's guys at 2023 Cross Nationals Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Linn has not competed in many of the standard national cross country championships. He did venture out to Boulder where he ran 24:50 on a tough course, to finish 7th. He ran 1:22 slower than Bell at that race but Bell did have the altitude advantage. Linn's most impressive road performance this year was his M70 win at the 12 Km national championships. in 51:44. That is age grade equivalent to a 42:35 10K.

Stiles has no recent cross country results that I can find on Athlinks. He gets on the list because of his 18:52 5K at the RDC Marathon in Durham NC at the end of October, and his 42:06 10K at the City of Oaks Marathon. Although not well known both are certified out and back courses. 

I will make a guess that Bell will be on again in Richmond and do well. So I will go with Qualls-Bell-Stiles in that order and let Linn prove that wrong if he can.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Doug Bell     Robert Qualls     Rees Stiles

75-79 Gary Ostwald made a few folks take notice when he used a strong kick to blast past Ron Wells  at Golden Gate Park in 2022 to take the M75 Club Cross win in 38:28. He followed that with a similar strong finish at Richmond, pulling away from Dave Glass (not entered-recovering from surgery) to win in 38:05. He then took wins in the 10 Mile and10 Km M75 Championships, the latter in 46:07.  He finished off the calendar year with a win at Tallahassee at 37:38. He is the favorite to take the M75 win this Saturday.

Gary Ostwald claiming the M75 Title at 2023 Cross Nationals Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Gene Dykes could throw that off kilter. Last year Dykes was still struggling with a white blood cell issue. He finished third behind Ostwald in 35:49. But by later in the year, he had his health issues under control and he was stepping out a bit faster. As well as allowing him to maintain his beloved Ultramarathon adventures, the improved health led to a 44:48 10K at Cooper Norcross and a 1:35:33 Half Marathon at the Philadelphia Marathon weekend. Not only that he was able to take down the M75 American marathon record held by Warren Utes since the late 1990's. Dykes ran 3:17:01 at Chicago. Does that mean Dykes will definitely beat Ostwald? Not necessarily. Dykes would have to get well ahead. If it comes down to a sprint, Ostwald would probably win.

Dykes has continued to run well in the new year. He cracked another 1:35 half marathon, this time in Naples FL. Based on that, I will go with Dykes for 1st and Ostwald 2nd. It will be a case of the pacer vs. the racer--which will win?

Rick Katz and Jerry Learned should battle for 2nd place. Learned had health issues for much of the first half of the year but got them under control and has run strong since April. Still, Katz has had the edge. At Boca, Katz came in well ahead, clocking 24:48 to Learned's 26:12. But it was much closer at Tallahassee. Katz still pulled away but only by 19 seconds this time, 40:01 to 40:20. That could be explained by continued improvement in Learned's fitness starting to pay off. If that is the explanation, Katz will have a real battle on his hands. On the other hand it could have just been an off day for Katz. I will go with Katz until learned proves me wrong.

I wind up with Dykes-Ostwald-Katz for 1-2-3.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Gene Dykes     Rick Katz     Gary Ostwald

80-84 Harold Rosen has no recent cross country races that I can find. But he won his age division at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in 1:27:04. That equates to a 41:56 5 Miler. he has also run a few 5K's in the 27:08 to 28:41 range. His rival for the crown is Jim Assal. Assal finished 6th in M75 at Lehigh in 2019 with a 44:18 over 8 Km. On the roads this year he has a 30:09 5K, a 51:15 5 Miler, and a 1:43:13 10 Mile run at the Blue Cross Broad Street Run in Philadelphia.

Rosen has run faster at every distance on the roads. Unless the lack of recent cross country experience should prove critical, Rosen appears to be the favorite. I will go with Rosen and Assal in that order.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Jim Assal     Harold Rosen     


40-44 As with the Men's race my list of the top overall competitors all came from the 40-44 division. See the discussion of the Women's Overall Championship above.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Carrie Dimoff     Kasie Enman     Renée Métivier 

45-49 Jacqueline Cooke Burlingame CA, Impala Racing, Euleen Josiah-Tanner Atlanta GA, T.H.E. Track Team, and Jodi Smith Ames IA, Unattached will likely battle for the top three 45-49 division spots.

Cooke's Athlinks profile reveals little. She has competed at three of our national masters championships over the last two years. In April 2022, Cooke finished 4th in 1:03:16 at the Masters National 10 Mile championships in Sacramento. A year later she finished 3rd in a tine that was 12 seconds slower. The 2022 time is age grade equivalent to a 38:30 10K. In September of 2022, Cooke finished 4th at the 12 Km Championships in 48:35, age grade equivalent to a 40:09. In September of last year, 2023, Cooke finished 5th Masters and 1st W45 at the Golden Gate Park Open X-C race, part of the Pacific Association-USATF series, in 24:57 over 4 miles. That is age grade equivalent to a 23:14 over 6 km.

Josiah-Tanner did not compete here last year, but she competed in Cross Country at the WMA Championships in Poland, finishing 5th in the division, running 29:25 over 8 Km. At that same event she ran 39:27 in finishing 4th W45 in the 10 Km road race. On October 7th at Boca Raton, she took the overall win at the Masters 5 km Cross Country championship with a 19:59. At Tallahassee, against a deeper field, she gained the podium again, finishing 3rd W45 in 24:01 over 6 Km.

Euleen Josiah-Tanner enjoys the Overall Win at the 2023 Masters 5 Km Championships in Boca Raton Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Smith finished 6th at the 2022 Masters 5 km Championships in Atlanta with a 19:18. In July of this year she ran 1:05:55 at the Nordic Fest Elveloppet 15K in Decora IA, equivalent to a 43:05 10K. In November she ran 18:48 int he Des Moines 5K Turkey Trot.

Cooke appears to be a bit stronger on paper than Josiah-Tanner although it is not decisive. Josiah-Tanner has shown she knows how to win on the turf. I will go with an order of Cooke, Josiah-Tanner and Smith 1-2-3.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Jacqueline Cooke     Euleen Josiah-Tanner     Jodi Smith

50-54 Lorilynn Bloomer Portland OR, Bowerman TC and Abby Dean Wilmington DE, Greater Philadelphia TC should battle for the win. 

Bloomer was the overall Women's winner of the 2020 USATF Cross Nationals over the 6 Km Mission Bay course in San Diego in 24:14. This past December, she ran 24:20 to capture the W50 division bronze at Club Cross.

Lorilynn Bloomer far left #530is part of the lead wave of runners at the start of the 2023 Club Cross Championships Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Dean has excelled on the roads this past year, taking top division honors at the 5 Km Championships in Atlanta in February in 19:20 and at the 10 Km Championships in Dedham MA in 38:15. At Tallahassee in 2021, Dean claimed 4th in W50 with a 24:01. Last year she ran this race strictly for team points as she was in the midst of rehab for a hamstring issue. She still ran 26:16 to finish 3rd individually while helping her team to Team Silver and 90 important Team Grand Prix points. It is somewhat worrisome that Dean ran three races from October to December. A 15K in 1:02:19 in early October is not a slow 15K but ti si a little slower than one would expect from Dean if at her best. By itself, it might not mean much. But two weeks later she ran a slow, 24 minute plus 5k, then skipped Club Cross, and then ran a 21:35 5K at the end of December. It could be a planned down time with racing just for fun or it could be a sign that, like last year, Dean will show up just running for team points. That would be a disheartening development.

Samantha Forde Santa Cruz CA, Impala Racing has a record that is comparable. She is the defending champion, winning W50 here last year in 24:49. This December at Tallahassee, Forde finished just off the podium, 4th in 25:18. On the roads she finished 4th W50 at Atlanta in the 5K Championships off a 20:02. She claimed the W50 gold medal at Sactown, winning in 1:06:46.

Brenda Hodge Lancaster, PA, Pike Creek Valley RC could move up should any of those three be off their best. Hodge finished 4th here last year in 26:38. Hodge ran 1:09:21 to finish 5th W50 at the Blue Cross Broad Street Run  in Philadelphia. Hodge showed some speed last March. She ran in the elite Masters section, taking 5th in 19:49.

I will go with Bloomer for the win. She has been running well on the turf. Ordinarily I would go for Dean to take 2nd ahead of Forde. But Dean's late year times seem to suggest I should, perhaps go with Forde for 2nd and Dean 3rd (or even 4th if Hodge has a good day). It will be interesting to see if the top three are Bloomer-Forde-Dean in that order.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Lorilynn Bloomer     Abby Dean     Samantha Forde

55-59 Rachel Hopkins Athens GA, Sirius Athletics is the favorite. She finished 3rd in the 50-54 division in Atlanta with a 19:39. After aging up into the 55-59 division, she claimed the win in Tallahassee with a fine 24:41. She won by 24 seconds over the new 55-59 Road Mile American Record Holder, Jennifer Harvey.

None are likely to be close to Hopkins, but four others will battle for the other two podium spots.

Kelly Brown Ashburn VA, Unattached finished 7th here last year in 27:26. She ran 1:14:34 at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in DC in April and a 45:00 10K at the Beach to Beacon in early August. She ran a 22:54 5K on New Year's Day, 2024!

Melissa Chiti Raleigh NC, Pursuit of Excellence TC, a regular now at the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships, Chiti also runs the roads. She ran 6:12 to finish 5th at the 2023 USATF Masters Road Mile Championships in Indianapolis in June. A few weeks later, she clocked 47:41 at the AJC Peachtree Road Race. In the fall she ran 22:00 at the Gobbler's Run 5K. 

Laura De Lea Allamuchy-Hackettstown NJ, Shore AC has been working her way back this year and testing progress from time to time. De Lea ran some 5K's in the summer in the 21:17 to 21:59 range. This fall she ran 36:20 at the new Jersey 8Km XC Championships, finishing just 3 seconds behind one of her teammates, Alysia Puma. Puma ran 28:09 over 6 Km at Tallahassee in the 50-54 division; it might be reasonable to project something around 28:20 for De Lea had she chosen to run. De Lea's training had been going well, but there have been some hiccups along the way. De Lea posted recently that Richmond might be a scratch and, if not, probably slow!

Rachel Hopkins #626 out ahead of the W55 field, battling with the 40's athletes at 2023 Club Cross Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Deelyn Robinson Williamsburg VA Colonial RR finished 8th here last year in 27:54. In December she clocked a 37:17 at the Christmastown Dash, age grade equivalent to a 22:57.

Since Brown came in ahead of Robinson last year, I give her the edge this time. I cannot find recent Cross Country results for Chiti so that is a bit of an unknown. I will guess she comes in behind Brown and Robinson. It seems that if De 2Lea comes to the race, it will be primarily for her team, not to compete for an individual medal. That leaves me with a guess at a finishing order of Hopkins-Brown-Robinson

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Kelly Brown     Rachel Hopkins     Deelynn Robinson

W60 This division features three top performers: Mary Cass Westport MA, Liberty AC; Suzanne La Burt Greenwood Lake, NY, Shore AC; and Marisa Sutera Strange Millbrook NY, Greater Philadelphia TC, who is returning after some time away from national competition. 

Cass won the 60-64 division in the heavy rain and wind at the 2022 USATF Cross Country Championships at Golden Gate Park over 6 Km in 25:36. She then won the W60 10 Km Championship in Dedham MA at the end of April in 41:43. She ended the calendar year with a third place at the 12 Km national Championship in 50:04, and W60 2nd place finishes at the 5 Km XC in Boca Raton with a 20:55 and at Club Cross in Tallahassee over 6 Km in 25:44.

Suzanne La Burt #619 On Her Way to the W60 Win at 2023 Club Cross Photo Credit: Michael Scott

La Burt, new this year to the 60-64 division, has come in ahead of Cass twice by narrow margins. La Burt took top honors at the October 7th USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Boca Raton FL with a 20:51. Cass was 4 seconds back. La Burt enjoyed a wider victory margin over 6 Km at Tallahassee this past December 9th. She took the 60-64 win in 25:19. Cass finished 2nd 25 at 25:44. La Burt also took top honors at the 12 km Championships in 49:12.

Sutera Strange ran at the top of the Masters field until a few years ago, with the highlight, on the turf, being her overall Masters victory, at age 56, at the 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL. She has taken some down time and now intends to focus on enjoying the competition and camaraderie of Masters racing. Strange is still fast though, as evidenced by her 20:11 road 5K last October. She ran 18:56 at the 2021 Freihofer's Run for Women. At the Club Cross Championships at Lehigh in 2019, over 6 Km, Sutera Strange won the 55-59 division in 23:54.

If any of those three are off their best, Kris Huff Newnan GA, Atlanta TC, Lorraine Jasper Birchrunville PA, Greater Philadelphia TC or Amanda King Great Barrington MA, Liberty AC could run their way onto the podium.

Huff finished 3rd in W55 at Atlanta with a 21:23 5K. She also clocked 44:41 at Peachtree. And she placed 14th at W55 in Tallahassee in 28:11

Jasper has been a top track, Cross Country and road race champion. But she was injured for much of last year. In 2021, Jasper won W60 at Club Cross in 25:50.  She has returned this fall to her track pursuits, although at a lower performance level. She finished 2nd in the 800M outdoors in 2:41 and 3rd in the 1500M in 5:42. Thiis will be her first Cross Country outing since January 2022, when she took the division crown at Cross Country Nationals on the Mission Bay course in San Diego with a 26:56. Is that a sign she is healthy again or is it just to help her team score some important grand Prix points?

King finished 5th W60 in Tallahassee with a 27:57. Earlier in the year she clocked a 22:25 5K at the Super Sunday Race, part of the USATF-New England Grand Prix.

I will give Sutera Strange a break from picking her from the podium, at least until she is definitely back at the top of her game. For this event, I will guess that Jasper is feeling healthy and will go with an order of La Burt-Cass-Jasper.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Mary Cass     Lorraine Jasper     Suzanne La Burt

 W65 Nora Cary Morristown NJ, Shore AC took top honors in W65 on this course last year with a 26:22. She echoed that with a win last December in Tallahassee in 26:29. 

Nora Cary flying to victory in W65 at 2023 Club Cross Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Deborah Snagg Richmond VA, Richmond TF finished 2nd here last year in 28:57. Susan Stirrat Rockaway NJ, Shore AC, the 2023 Masters National Grand Champion in this division, finished 3rd here last year with a 32:06. Helene Myers Columbia MD, Potomac Valley TC was 4th in 50:35. There seems to be no reason to think that order will not prevail again in 2024.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Nora Cary     Deborah Snagg     Susan Stirrat

W70 There are three entries in this division. This is the proverbial race where the main task is to get to the starting line. But, of course, they have to finish also. And, if they are not satisfied with the bronze medal, they will have to race. And there is team pride at stake for Atlanta and Boulder.

Cindy Lucking Greer SC, Atlanta TC returned from her hip replacement surgery with a fine outing at Club Cross in Tallahassee, claiming 2nd in 35:31. Nancy Antos Boulder CO, Boulder RR was over two minutes back in 6th at 37:56. On Thanksgiving, Antos ran a 30:57 5K at altitude. Kathleen Doswell Columbia VA, Unattached did not compete at Tallahassee this past December nor at any other recent cross count8ry championship. She competed well in a number of Masters Road Championships between 2014 and 2019. In 2022, she finished 10th in the Masters 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento. She has focused more on triathlons and open water swimming in recent years. She did run a 31:15 at the Veterans Fredericksburg 5K in November.

Cindy Lucking returned to competition for the Atlanta TC, claiming the Silver W70 Medal at 2023 Club Cross Photo Credit: Michael Scott

As Lucking ran well ahead of Antos in Tallahassee I will pick Lucking for the win. I go with Antos over Doswell because her 5K, although only 18 seconds faster than Doswell's, was at altitude. That gives us: Lucking-Antos-Doswell as the likely finishing order.

Podium Pick in alphabetical order:

Nancy Antos     Kathleen Doswell     Cindy Lucking

85-89 Joyce Hodges-Hite, the 2023 Masters National Grand Prix champion for Women 85-89 is, once again, in a class by herself.

Joyce Hodges-Hite On Her Way to Another W85 Victory, this time at the 2023 Masters 5 Km Championships in Boca Raton FL Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Podium Pick:

Joyce Hodges-Hite