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USATF Masters 5K Championships head to Running City USA, Atlanta


ATLANTA —  Top Masters runners are coming to compete for national title at USATF Masters 5K Championships this Saturday, August 18 at 7:25 AM over a course that starts and finishes adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park.

The Atlanta Track Club’s Atlanta’s Finest 5K is hosting this year’s event, in collaboration with the Atlanta Police Foundation, following a seven-year run by the Syracuse Festival of Races.


The women’s field is loaded up front, starting with the Atlanta Track Club’s Laurie Knowles, the recent winner of the Masters division at the AJC Peachtree Road Race and 7th USA Woman overall at the NYC Marathon last year. Molly Watcke, who finished 3rd in 35:51 behind Knowles and Jen Rhines on the 4th of July, will give it another shot.

Sonja Friend-Uhl, the 2017 USATF Women’s 40-49 Track and Field Athlete of the Year, was unable to make the Outdoor Championships this year due to work and family commitments but will try to make up for it with a great outing this Saturday. Two years ago she finished 2nd in the 5k Championships in 17:47! Her blazing speed means she is always a threat.

Jennifer Bayliss will try to extend her winning streak in Masters National Championships this year. She took the crown over the 6K course at the Cross Country Nationals in Tallahassee, and nailed the 10K road victory in Dedham in 37:19. Christy Peterson took 3rd last year in the Championships in 17:51 and has been on the Masters podium this year at the Freihofer’s Race for Women and the Bjorklund Half Marathon at Grandma’s.

Five others who could also break onto the podium if things go their way include Fiona Bayly who finished 4th in the Championships two years ago and 3rd Masters at the 2018 UAE Healthy Kidney 10K; Abby Dean who finished 4th Masters at the BAA 5K in 18:14; Cassandra Henkiel who took 4th last year in 18:09; and Marisa Sutera Strange, who finished 4th two years ago in 17:55 and 6th last year in 18:25. Should Strange match or better either of those two times, she will take down the American Record of 18:32 established by Shirley Matson at the 1997 Carlsbad 5000!


The men’s race should feature another duel between John Gardiner and David Angell. Angell has enjoyed Gardiner’s absence on the circuit, winning Masters Championships in the 8K at Virginia Beach and at the 10K in Dedham MA in 33:32. Gardiner finished 2nd Masters at Carlsbad in 15:50 and bested Angell by 7 seconds in the 2016 Masters 5K Championships. Jonathan Frieder, who finished 12 seconds back from Angell last year in third place, will try to make it to the front this time. Greater Springfield teammates, Nat Larson and Kent Lemme, are threats for the podium if they bring their ‘A’ game.


The Age-Grading Championship prizes go to the fastest times, adjusted for age and gender. Marisa Sutera Strange, 55, Masters Hall-of-Famer, Carmen Ayala-Troncoso, 59, Patrice Combs, 61, Doreen McCoubrie, 56, and Molly Watcke, 46, appear to be the main contenders, with Strange the favorite for the win. All regularly age grade at above 90%, considered ‘World Class.’  Bayliss, Bayly, Friend-Uhl, and Knowles are age-grading as well as Overall threats. On the Men’s side. Rick Becker, 63, Gene Dykes, 70, Nat Larson, 55, and Roger Sayre, 60, are the top favorites, with Larson having a slight edge. Dykes took 2nd in Men’s Age Grading at the 10K, with a 92.90%, behind Nat Larson with 93.90¸ whose string of Age-Grading victories at National Championships keeps growing.  

Two years earlier it was Rick Becker who finished a little behind Larson in Age-Grading at the 10K with a 90.93%. Becker is typically even better on the Cross Country turf; yet at the 2017 Club Cross Country Championships, Sayre recorded a higher age-grading score than Becker. Others to watch include Doug Goodhue, 76, and Tom McCormack, 64, who both regularly age graded well above 90 in recent years and are coming back from injuries.


The Atlanta Track Club (ATC) has strong teams in almost every division. They are the favored to win Women’s 60+ and 70+ and to be competitive for the win in every other division except Men’s 50+ and Women’s 50+ where the Greater Springfield Harriers and the Athena Track Club will try to maintain their winning streaks. Other divisions will be hotly contested with the chief contenders being: Women’s 40+ Impala Racing Team and ATC; Men’s 40+ Cal Coast has a slight edge over ATC; Men’s 60+ a battle royal between ATC, Boulder Road Runners, and Cal Coast; Men’s 70+ Genesee Valley Harriers will try for a ‘3-peat’ but ATC and Ann Arbor Track Club have improved, with Ann Arbor now a slim favorite.


Favorites for Age Division Championships include: 40-44 Laurie Knowles, David Angell 45-49 Molly Watke, John Gardiner 50-54 Fiona Bayly, Kent Lemme 55-59 Marisa Sutera Strange, Nat Larson  60-64 Patrice Combs, Roger Sayre 65-69 Victoria Crisp, Kirk Larson 70-74 Susan Aderhold, Gene Dykes 75-79 Catherine Radle, Robert Hendrick 80-84 Steven Fuchs, Tami Graf 90-94 Betty Lindberg, Richard Soller. Sonja Friend-Uhl and  Jennifer Bayliss will also be in the mix for the W45 division title. Sayre has Joe Sheeran, Rick Becker and Ken Youngers to worry about, while Dykes will have Lloyd Hansen and Terry McCluskey right on his heels. Doug Goodhue could snatch the M75 win from Hendrick.


Submitted by

Paul Carlin

Masters LDR/Media Coordinator


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