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Masters athletes vie for team and individual honors at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships


LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Over 500 of the swiftest Masters Long Distance Runners in America will converge on the cross country paths at Masterson Station Park, the site of the USATF Club Cross Country Championships on Saturday, December 9. Eighty-two teams will vie for top honors, end-of-the-year banners for their clubs, and up to $10,010 in individual and team prizes.


There are three separate races. The 60+ Masters men toe the line for their 8K race at 9 am, followed by the Masters Women in their 6K race at 10 am and the 40-59 Masters Men at 10:45am for their 10 k contest. Conditions are expected to be challenging with sub-freezing temperatures and 11 mph winds forecast for 9 am; the temperatures will gradually rise to above freezing for the 3rd race but winds are expected to intensify to 14 mph. Although skies will be cloudy, at least no measurable precipitation is predicted.  


Sabra Harvey, the 2017 Masters Athlete of the Year, is a strong favorite for the Age Grading top award. Her closest competition is likely to come from Marisa Sutera Strange, the 2017 Women’s Harrier of the Year. The favorites on the Men’s side are John Barbour and Nat Larson for the 60+ and 40+ respectively, but they will be pressed by Joe Sheeran and Peter Hammer respectively.


In the Women’s 50+ team competition, the Athena Track Club, with Marisa Sutera Strange back on the team, are favored to fend off the new kids on the block, the New Balance Tampa Masters Runners, and last year’s bronze medalist, the Jane’s Elite Racing. The Impala Racing team has a slight edge in the 60+ contest but they will be pressed by the Atlanta TC and the Genesee Valley Harriers.


Sonja Friend-Uhl and Janet McDevitt renew the rivalry that saw Friend-Uhl finish first and McDevitt second last year. Kris Paaso has entered her first Club XC Championship since competing as a 44 year old Open athlete in San Francisco where her 21:14 would have been fast enough to win the Masters Race, won by Friend-Uhl in 21:59. Paaso and Friend-Uhl have both run 5K’s in the 17:30 range this year so it will be a terrific contest. McDevitt will have her work cut out for her to maintain contact. Club Northwest, led by McDevitt, are the defending champions in the 40+ competition, and the favorites this year. The Athena Track Club appears to be dropping swift veterans, Marisa Sutera Strange and Loraine Jasper down to the 40+ team to challenge. Friend-Uhl’s Atlanta Track Club should be in the mix as well. The Jane’s Elite team from Southern Cal looks primed to repeat in the 50+ group with Club Northwest trying to upset their apple cart. The Impala Racing team will have their hands full trying to repel Team Red Lizard who took the60+ team title at the USATF XC Championship in Bend  


It looks like a three-runner race in the Men’s 60+ as well with Rick Becker, 2015 Champion, and John Barbour, runner-up in 205 and 2016 trying to find a way to beat Joe Sheeran who was runner-up in the 55-59 group two years ago. Last year in Men’s 40+ it was Greg Mitchell, John Gardiner, and Neville Davey finishing in that order as Mitchell led the Bowerman Track Club to the team victory with the Boston Athletic Association and Davey’s West Valley Track Club in 2nd and 3rd. Mitchell is coming back from a spring injury. Will he be at his sharpest? Davey has recently run a smoking fast 14:44 5K and is the Pacific Association XC Champion. With the addition of Marathoner and Ultra specialist, Jorge Maravilla, Davey may go for the individual win and the West Valley team look to upset the dominance of Bowerman and the B.A.A.


The Greater Springfield Harriers appear primed to defend their 50+ team title although Cal Coast and Club Northwest will try to prove otherwise. Club Northwest, with Sheeran and Becker leading the way. appear an almost sure bet to take the 60+ crown.


Kevin Castille will have plenty of rivals and is looking to repeat his victory from a year ago in the Men’s 40 race, where he bested Gregory Mitchell by a half minute. Mitchell, along with Neville Davey and Mike Galoob, will be trying their best to outlast Castille. Old rivals from the Men’s 45-49 division will meet this year as first-timers in the Men’s 50-54 division. Peter Hammer won the Men’s 45-49 division last year and took the 2016 age division 10K title. Kristian Blaich countered by taking the 5K title in his fastest time of the last three years. Pete Magill, five time Masters Harrier of the Year, returns to his favorite racing surface after missing all of 2015 and much of 2016 to injury and rehab. His recent road race times show he is close to the top of his game. Brian Pilcher, USATF’s Athlete of the Week in October when he broke the Half Marathon, 25K, 30K and Marathon marks for Men 60-64, will try to lead his Tamalpa Runners team to victory in the 60+ division.


The Men’s 40+ team competition is dominated by the Atlanta Track Club, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) and the Bowerman Track Club. The Cal Coast Track Club and the Greater Springfield Harriers are the primary contenders for the 50+ crown while the Tamalpa Runners are favored in both Pilcher’s 60+ team contest and in the 70+ race.


Submitted by

Paul Carlin

Masters LDR Media Chair

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