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

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