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Masters Athletes Ready for Cold at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships


SPOKANE, Washington – The Plantes Ferry Sports Complex will provide a chilly setting for the USATF Club Cross Country Championships this Saturday. Nearly 600 Masters runners are signed up for three races. Twenty-six degrees and cloudy skies are expected to greet the athletes toeing the line for the 6K Women’s Masters Championships at 10 AM. Masters Men 60 and up go off for 8K at 11 AM, followed by Masters Men 40 and up racing over 10K at 11:45 AM, as temperatures rise to 28 degrees.


The main focus is on Clubs but, of course, interest also focuses on the race to be first across the finish line in each of the three races. None of the top finishers from last year are returning for the Women’s race. But these talented competitors will vie for the title in their absence: Meriah Earl, who took the Masters title at the Carlsbad 5000 earlier this year in 17:05; Rachel Jaten, who took the title at the USATF Masters Half Marathon Championship in 2016 and finished 2nd to Jen Rhines in the Masters field at the Lilac Bloomsday 12K this past spring; Kate Landau, who took the Masters title at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2:33:26; and Maggie Shearer, who finished 2nd in the Masters race at the USATF Cross Country Championships last February. Earle and Shearer took Masters titles at their Association Cross Country Championships this fall. Kaela O’Neil is another newly minted Masters athlete who could challenge; she won the USATF-New England Cross Country Championships. It is a terrific field and it is hard to figure out who will take control and surge away for the win.


The Men’s 60+ race will feature the top finishers from last year. Joe Sheeran and Rick Becker, teammates at Club Northwest will attempt to repeat. Ken Youngers, who finished 3rd last year, will try to stay with those two. Roger Sayre ran in the 10K race last year as a 59 year old. This year he has defeated Becker and Sheeran on the roads. Will he be able to extend that dominance to the Cross Country turf? Becker is a two time USATF Masters Athlete of the Year and Sheeran is known as a very tough Cross Country competitor. Jacob Nur is another newcomer who will challenge. He took the Pacific Association Cross Country Championship and clocked 17:02 in a 5K this past Thanksgiving. Sheeran is the Champion until someone beats him; they will have to earn it!


All of the top finishers from last year are also back for the 40+ Men’s 10K. Eight of the top 10 finishers are returning, in order, Neville Davey, John Howell, Jorge Maravilla, David Angell, Gregory Mitchell, John Gardiner, David Bedoya, and Peter Hammer. Maravilla, winner of the Masters title at the Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon in 2:27:56, beat his West Valley teammate, Davey by a minute at the Pacific Association Championships. Davey has his work cut out for him if he is to repeat. Jacques Sallberg, an Olympic trials steeplechaser in his day, who took the title at the 2014, 2016 and 2017 USATF Cross Country Championships, will be contesting Club Cross Country for the first time. Angell won the 2018 Masters Grand Prix and has shown he can compete on both the roads and the turf. Eric Loeffler, another strong Marathoner, could also challenge.


Favorites for the Age-Grading Awards, symbolic of the top performance relative to age across all age divisons, include, on the Men’s side, Rick Becker and Nat Larson. Larson has taken more age-grading titles this year but the last time the two met on  the Cross Country course, at the USATF Cross Country Championships in February, Becker edged Larson. Hall of Famer, Doug Goodhue, has been working his way up the age-grading tables as he recovers from a long injury period, and could factor into the age-grading race.  For the women the top contenders are Hall of Famer, Carmen Ayalla-Troncoso, 2018 Masters Harrier of the Year, Marisa Sutera Strange, and winer of the title at the 2017 USATF Cross Country Championship in Bend Oregon, Jeanette Groesz.


The competition for Club bragging rights is fierce at Club Cross Country. In the Women’s races, strong teams from the Atlanta Track Club, Club Northwest Pacific NW, the Genesee Valley Harriers Niagara, the Impala Racing Team Pacific, the Jane’s Elite Racing Southern California, the San Diego Track Club San Diego-Imperial, and Team Red Lizard Oregon are competing in multiple age divisions. On the Men’s side the strongest teams in the 10K include the Boston Athletic Association, the Bowerman Track Club Oregon, the Cal Coast Track Club Southern California, Club Northwest, the Garden State Track Club New Balance New Jersey, Run Minnesota and the West Valley Track Club Pacific. Last year it was West Valley, the B.A.A., and the Bowerman Track Club on the10K podium. Cal Coast is stronger this year and could break into the top 3. Run Minnesota could also play a role. The Greater Springfield Harriers New England send the strongest 50+ Men’s team again this year; Bowerman, Cal Coast, and Club Northwest will try their best to foil a repeat win for GSH.

In the 60+ division, the Boulder Road Runners and Atlanta will square off again for bragging rights but the strongest team is likely Club Northwest, led by Sheeran and Becker. Bowerman, Cal Coast, and the Shore Athletic Club New Jersey will try to make life difficult for the favored teams.

In the 70’s the defending Champions are the Tamalpa Runners. They are the Champions until someone beats them ; their team returns intact. The Eastside Runners finished 2nd last year and one of their best runners was said t have an off day; they will challenge for the title again. The Ann Arbor Track Club has been strengthened by athletes recovering from injury and others aging up from 60+. Atlanta, Boulder, GVH, and the San Diego Striders have all been bolstered by either athletes aging up or a strong runner transferring onto their team. It will be a terrific day of teams battling for team bragging rights. We notice the runners up front but the team races are typically settled in the trenches by the strong and dedicated runners who may never make it to an individual podium, but live for the team effort!


Paul Carlin

USATF Masters LDR/Media Coordinator

Running Professor LLC/


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