, Florida — It was a fine morning for a cross country meet at Apalachee Regional Park, with mostly sunny skies, light winds and 40 degree temperatures for the Masters Women and Men who went off at 9AM and 9:45AM.
In 2016, when they held the National Club Cross Country Championships on this same course at Tallahassee, Sonja Friend-Uhl sprinted away over the last 500 meters to take the crown. But there was a different set of competitors this time. Jennifer Bayliss and Maggie Shearer formed a lead pack with Friend-Uhl in the first loop of the 6K course. The pack held together with Friend-Uhl in the lead until the forested section of the loop, when Bayliss and Shearer started to pull gradually away from Friend-Uhl. Bayliss used her strength up the last hill and over the top to also pull away from Shearer, forging a 5 second victory in 22:14. Shearer took second place in 22:19 with Friend-Uhl closing out the podium in 22:32. Continuity was observed in that Friend-Uhl was able to keep her place on the podium, change in that Bayliss took her first Masters Grand Prix Championship and Shearer earned her first podium finish at a Masters Grand Prix Championship.
Just as in the December 2016 Club Cross Country Championship, Kevin Castille shot away from the starting line when the gun sounded and was in a race of his own the rest of the way. Castille had almost 45 seconds on the field by the time he crossed the mat just beyond the 2K mark; he pushed the lead further and further ahead the rest of the way and won the 8K race by over 3 minutes in 24:18.6. David Angell found himself in 2nd place in ‘no man’s land’ for the first 6 kilometers of the race, with a ten to 15 second gap back to a 9-runner chase pack. Over the 7th kilometer Nat Larson and Kent Lemme, the lead runners in the chase pack, moved strongly to close down the gap to a few seconds. From there they passed Angell and poured it on so there would be no chance of anyone else’s last ditch sprinting effort catching them. Lemme took second in 27:36 with Larson third in 27:38. Continuity observed in Castille winning yet again, but change in that rarely, if ever, have we seen a 51 year old and a 55 year old filling out the Overall Race podium at a National Masters Championship race but that is true of Lemme and Larson! And Christian Cushing-Murray and Mark Hixson, 50 and 52 respectively, raced across the finish line in 5th and 6th!
Age-Grading prizes went 5 deep on the Men’s and Women’s sides; age-grading is a measure of how well a runner has raced relative to their age, with 100% being the highest and best score. Kevin Castille, 45, the overall winner, also took the top age-grading prize at 94.56%. Rick Becker, 63, struck a blow for the age 60 and up runners when his 29:30 earned the 2nd highest age grade score. Larson, Lemme and Hixson closed out the Men’s age-grade prize list. Sabra Harvey, USATF’s 2017 Masters Athlete of the Year, took the top spot among the Women at 94.37. Marisa Sutera Strange claimed the 2nd prize, followed by Doreen McCoubrie, Trish Butler, and overall winner, Jennifer Bayliss.
Age-Division National Championships were awarded to: David Angell 41, Kevin Castille 45, Kent Lemme 51, Nat Larson 55, Rick Becker 63, Doug Bell 67, Dave Glass 71, Robert Hendrick 75, Jim Askew 81, and Al Ray 85. The following Women earned National Division Championships: Maggie Shearer 40, Jennifer Bayliss 47, Marisa Sutera Strange 54, Trish Butler 55, Catharine Utzschneider 62, Sabra Harvey 68, Madeline Bost 78, and Eve Pell 80. Most wins were decisive, but the closest races of the day were the Men’s 70+, where Glass defeated John Combs by 15 seconds, the Women’s 45+ where Bayliss defeated Friend-Uhl by 18 seconds, and the Women’s 55+ where Butler defeated McCoubrie by only 12 seconds.
The Genesee Valley Harriers [Niagara Association] was the only Club to take more than one team title, winning the Men’s 70+ and the Women’s 60+ team championships. Otherwise a different club was crowned a national champion in each 10-year division, with Garden State Track Club New Balance [New Jersey] taking the 40+ title, the Greater Springfield Harriers [New England] 50+, and the Atlanta Track Club [Georgia] 60+ for the Men. For the Women it was the Impala Racing Team [Pacific] 40+ and the Athena Track Club [Mid Atlantic] 50+.