By: Kate Queeney, USATF-NE XC Committee Member
As visions of turkey, a possible winter storm and Mass Pike traffic dance in the heads of runners across the region, New England’s harriers are gearing up for the final race in the 2014 Cross Country Grand Prix series, the Warrior Run on Sunday, Nov. 30 at Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, MA.
At the fourth race in the series, the USATF-NE Championships at Franklin Park on Nov. 9, the men and women of the BAA showed that unicorns aren’t afraid to get their hooves dirty. Team and individual results from this race are nicely summarized on the USATF-NE website.
A look at both team and individual standings in the Grand Prix shows that some races will indeed come down to this final contest—or, as Patty Smyth once put it, “And heart to heart you’ll win, if you survive the warrior.” On the men’s side, GBTC has a healthy lead, but should the unicorns or the team from New Balance Boston choose to race outside Franklin Park, things could get interesting. Right now 2nd through 6th places (BAA, SISU, NBB, WMDP and HFC) are each separated by 1 point. In the open women’s team competition, GBTC holds a healthy lead over 2nd place WMDP and 3rd place BAA. The women of GBTC have won every head-to-head contest with WMDP during the series, these two teams being the only ones to have scored in all 4 events so far.
At the masters level, both the men’s and women’s races are too close to call. The men of HFC hold a 2-point lead over the masters squad from GLRR, with BAA again making an appearance in the top 3 by virtue of only two (dominant) team performances at Mayor’s Cup and the New England Championships. On the women’s side, WMDP took the series lead after winning a squeaker over Liberty at the New England Championships, but both the Hot Flashes of GDTC and the masters women of GLRR are still in contention for the series. Both the 50+ (GLRR) and 60+ (GBTC) men’s team competitions appear to be settled already, and while GDTC leads the 50+ women’s competition, GLRR is still a serious contender in 2nd place. Individual leaders Mark Reeder (50-59) and Trish Bourne (50-59), both of GLRR, have sewn up their respective divisions and could choose to stay home Sunday, though we suspect they won’t. In all other divisions the title could come down to who chooses to stay safe and warm this Sunday, and who chooses to get up early and make the drive to Brookline, knowing that a trip home with a few thousand other Commonwealthers awaits.
If the prospect of forgoing other Turkey Trots and couch-dwelling doesn’t entice you, perhaps this description of the Larz Anderson course—courtesy of HFC’s Jason Cakouros, former XC Committee Chair—will:
“. . .brutally hilly. The grass always seems really high too. . . The first loop is rolling to fast. The other loop has a big grass uphill, grass downhill, an egregious hill around a row of trees and monument thingy seemingly run just to torture us and then a gradual grass climb back to the fun loop.”
If that doesn’t sound like fun to you, you’re reading the wrong blog. Happy Thanksgiving from the USATF-NE Cross Country committee, and we look forward to seeing you in Brookline, where unicorns, wolves, chickens and mascots of unknown identity will seek to answer Patty Smyth’s plaintive query: “Who’s the hunter, who’s the game?”
In 2014, USATF-NE launched a new sort of series, the All Terrain Runner (ATR) series. And it’s pretty much what it sounds like; it challenges runners to compete on a variety of terrain – the roads, mountains, trails, cross country courses and the outdoor track.
The series was the brainchild of Eric Narcisi, the 2014 USATF-NE secretary, Whirlaway Racing Team member and web producer over at Level Renner. Following the culmination of this new series, Narcisi feels it was a “huge success,” stating that “I had so many people tell me that they were experiencing different disciplines for the first time.” For instance, the series winner on the women’s side, Christin Doneski, told him that she had never run a track or cross country race before. “Yet because of this series, there she was, in unfamiliar territory but in a familiar position (in front of the pack),” he added. The men’s series champion, Nate Jenkins, is known for his road dominance, said Narcisi, “but there he was back in May trudging the Vermont mud at Sleepy Hollow.” And at the Loon Mountain Race in July, Jenkins went head to head with some of the finest mountain runners not just in the region, but in the nation.
Ultimately, Narcisi said that the series is all about getting people out of their comfort zones and experiencing more of what the association has to offer. “We anticipate many more people stepping out of their comfort zones and putting themselves to the ultimate test in 2015,” he added. “I, for one, can’t wait to line up with the rest of the All Terrain hopefuls this winter on the indoor track to kick off the new series.”
As many runners prepare for the second edition of the ATR series, which will include an indoor track and a snowshoe race, we caught up with the 2014 series champions.
Jenkins of Central Mass Striders, who made it a goal to win the first annual series and plans to compete again in 2015, said the series was fun and unique, adding that “it is a great way to try and draw together the very varied and often very separate areas of USATF-NE.” While he’s not all that excited about the snowshoe race in the second series, Jenkins admits “that is kind of the point of the series, isn’t it?” Who knows? Maybe he will excel at snowshoeing just like he did at mountain running in 2014, something he doesn’t consider himself the biggest fan of.
Doneski of Whirlaway Racing Team reported that the series pushed her to try new things all while enjoying the company of the series participants, which she described as “a really supportive, genuine group of runners who wanted to race hard but also laugh and have some fun.” While she wasn’t expecting to win this year and doesn’t expect to win next year either, Doneski shared that she’s in an interesting point in her running career. “My road race PRs are most likely behind me, but I feel I can still get better, stronger and faster in the endurance and adversity-based races: mountains, trails and ultras.” Her ultimate goal is to grow old still running races and pushing herself to try new things and to keep setting new goals.
Both runners had a tough time picking their favorite series race; though the men’s winner enjoyed the mountain and track racing the most. The women’s winner said her initial favorite that comes to mind was Sleepy Hollow. “It’s so hard in so many ways; the course is super challenging (which I love) and the conditions are so unpredictable (2013 was dry and fast and 2014 was very wet and muddy and really tough), and it’s right after Boston,” she said. “However, I also loved Loon. Again, it’s a challenging course, but I spent a full year from 2013 to 2014 regretting that I did not run all the way up Upper Walking Boss. I was looking forward to racing this year and redeeming myself.” Doneski happily reported that she did not walk a single step this year.
So, where can we expect to see these two competing in 2015? Jenkins shared with us that he has fortunately made some progress in fixing his long-standing coordination issues in his right leg, so his top goal for next year is to continue that progress all the way to a return to the marathon – something he hasn’t done since the World Championships in 2009. His second goal is to run an Olympic Trials Qualifier, with a third goal of achieving a personal record at any distance. “I haven’t set one since back surgery in early 2011,” he added. Jenkins’ final two main goals will be to win the ATR series and the USATF- NE Grand Prix.
Doneski currently has her 2015 calendar clear, but knows she’ll be looking to run the USATF-NE Grand Prix as well for Whirlaway, noting those dates will go on the calendar first. Then she will look to the Mountain Series and the ATR and see how those dates match up with her other races and her family plans. “And of course there is still that desire to run an ultra, but that might need to wait for my children to need me less and I am in no hurry for that,” she said.
Lastly, Jenkins shared that the ATR series represents something he’d like to see more of from USATF-NE – trying new things. “Will everything be a hit or a win?” he asked. “Heck no, but anything is better than nothing.”
By: Kate Queeney, USATF-NE XC Committee Member
Toilet paper was in short supply, but talent and motivation were not, as USATF-NE athletes took to the fields and woods of Franklin Park on October 26 to contest the 24th Mayor’s Cup, presented by the Boston Athletic Association and Adidas.
In the women’s 5K Championship race, Rachel Hannah of Toronto, running for New Balance, took top honors with a time of 16:36. Hannah finished clear of a close pack of the second through courth place runners, with Juliet Bottorf of BAA finishing just ahead of teammate (and first masters runner) Jen Rhines. This was the first cross country race since 2005 for Rhines, the newly-anointed American masters record holder in the road 10K — who used a strong second half of the race to catapult her into third place over the final 100 meters. In fourth was 2013 NCAA Division I Cross Country champion Abbey D’Agostino, making her professional debut. The top six BAA runners swept the team competition, finishing ahead of New Balance Boston (second) and Greater Boston Track Club (third). With their first appearance in this year’s Grand Prix series, BAA jumps into third place in the series standings, behind GBTC in first and the Western Mass Distance Project in second.
The men’s Championship 8K saw another close race, with Mitch Goose of The Manhattan Project finishing in 23:46, four seconds ahead of Robert Mack (Reebok). Ethan Shaw of the BAA took third to lead a victorious team effort, with BAA’s fourth and fifth scorers (Sam Alexander and Bo Waggoner) making the difference against the second place Manhattan Project. The BAA men also made their first mark on the Grand Prix series at their home event; their win vaulted them into fourth place in the standings, behind GBTC, SISU project and HFC Striders. Both the men’s and women’s championship races are covered in detail on the BAA website.
While top masters runners such as the BAA’s Rhines mixed it up with the younger generation in the open races, runners competing in the masters and seniors divisions of the USATF competition took on everyone from high school runners to novice harriers in the Franklin Park 5K. The race was won decisively by 22-year-old Bryan Marsh in 15:44, with top masters finisher Mike Galoob of the BAA taking third in 16:23, just ahead of his teammate and fellow masters runner Chris Magill. Galoob and Magill led a strong BAA contingent to both the first place masters team title and first place overall team title in the race, while GLRR held on to second place in the Grand Prix series with a second place team finish. The masters team from HFC Striders finished third to maintain their position on top of the Grand Prix masters leader-board. Mark Reeder continues to dominate the men’s 50+ competition, winning the individual title in that division and leading his GLRR senior team to first place as well.
On the women’s side, 26-year-old Ravenna Neville took top honors in the Franklin Park 5K with a time of 19:25. The top masters woman was also the top senior woman: Trish Bourne, 50, of Greater Lowell Road Runners was the ninth woman overall in 20:43, pacing her masters team to a second place finish. First place masters team honors went to Western Mass Distance Project, whose three scorers swept the next three places in the masters race, led by former high school state champion (1991, on the Franklin Park course) Maura McDonald. In a truly cross-generational clash, the masters women from WMDP finished second overall to the Phillips Exeter girls’ team in the Franklin Park race. WMDP moved into second place in the Grand Prix series with this win, just one point behind Greater Derry Track Club, whose members finished third in the masters team race with a split squad, as some team members competed in a NH Grand Prix event in the Granite State. GDTC still holds the lead in the 50+ women’s team competition, with GLRR right behind.
With two races left in the Grand Prix series, many team races are too close to call. Harriers in the hunt for individual and team glory will return to Franklin Park on November 9 for the USATF-NE Championship Race, with visions of emptied and restocked porta-potties in their heads.
By: Chris Canning, USATF-NE XC Committee Member
A late location change brought the second leg of the Cross Country Grand Prix series to the flat gravel paths around Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke, MA. While this course may not have had the same cross country feel as Stanley Park, it provided harriers with an opportunity to run fast times around a very scenic location.
The open men’s race saw David Wilson and Sam Alexander (BAA) renew their battle for Grand Prix supremacy with Wilson reversing the result from last month’s GBTC Invitational to tie up the series at 29 points each. HFC teammates and Milton neighbors Jason Cakouros and Justin Renz took the top two positions in the 40-49 men’s race, moving Renz (who ran 22 miles the day before the race) into the 40-49 men’s lead with 27 points. Mark Reeder (GLRR) continued to stretch his 50-59 men’s lead with 30 points after another first place finish hours before his 55th birthday and Bruce Bond (GBTC) became the 60+ men’s leader with 28 points.
The open women’s race was won by Kerri Leonhardt (GBTC) while Apryl Sabadosa (WMDP) placed second. A third place finish by Caroline Martin (GBTC) moved her into the open women’s lead with 27 points. Maura McDonald (WMDP) led six Lady Wolves finishers in the 40-49 women’s division, and teammate Dana Parrot continues to lead the series with 27 points. Trish Bourne (GLRR) was once again victorious in the 50-59 women’s division and leads that division with 30 points.
The hosts from WMDP won the open men’s team race while GBTC’s second place finish ensured they would maintain their overall series lead. GBTC’s 9 points lead both SISU and HFC who are tied for second with 6 points. WMDP’s win moves them to fourth in the series with 5 points. HFC’s first place finish in the 40+ men’s team division moved them into the series lead and GBTC’s 60+ men’s team gave that division its first score of the series.
The open women’s team race saw similar results as first Grand Prix series event with GBTC edging out WMDP. GBTC leads the overall series with 10 points while WMDP is in second with 8 points. SISU’s third place finish moves them into a tie with GLRR for 3rd in the series with 3 points each. WMDP won the women’s 40+ team competition to move into a tie with GLRR for second in that division. Greater Derry Track Club, whose “Hot Flashes” team of 50+ women finished a strong 2nd in the 40+ race and won the 50+ team race uncontested, leads both the 40+ and 50+ women’s team competitions in the overall series.
Thanks go out from the WMDP to all who made the trip west, and from your non-WMDP blogger to the Wolves of Western Mass for putting on a terrific race. The Grand Prix series resumes on October 26th with the Mayor’s Cup at Franklin Park.
To view the updated XC Grand Prix standings, visit the USATF-NE website here.
By: Kate Queeney, USATF-NE XC Committee Member
Your erstwhile cross country bloggers had to miss the opening race in the Grand Prix series due to family events both foreseen and unforeseen, but we were fortunate to get a recap from T. J. Unger of HFC Striders. T. J. had this to say about the GBTC Invitational on Sept. 7:
- “The GBTC race was a great start to the XC season. I think the real highlights were that the women’s race had 4 full scoring USATF teams and that SISU made their presence felt in the men’s Open race. . . . Mike Mahon gave a stunning rendition of the national anthem which was well received by the participants and Tom Derderian dazzled the crowds with his harmonica playing and ‘Call to the Post.’ Top runners and teams received pies that looked delicious (unfortunately can’t comment on the taste because neither I nor HFC got one).”
T.J. acknowledged that the host GBTC dominated the team competition, and he specifically called out Ethan Nedeau, Mark Reeder and John Barbour for strong performances in the men’s masters/seniors races (they won the 40+, 50+ and 60+ divisions, respectively). T. J. also made some pretty serious accusations about the pie-handling skills of the GBTC and potential Board of Health violations, but it’s possible his own pie-lessness influenced his reporting skills at this point.
The Grand Prix scoring following the meet can be viewed here. GBTC did indeed dominate the open team competition, but Greater Lowell swept both masters and seniors team competition on both the men’s and women’s side. Sam Alexander of BAA won the open men’s race, while Alyse Rocco of GBTC finished first among the women.
This coming weekend the Grand Prix series heads west of 495 (and in fact west of 84), out to the WMDP Cross Country Festival. This race has changed venues from the past few years—it will take place at the Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke, MA. Rumor has it the change has something to do with the availability of non-pie-related refreshments post-race, but for now the vital piece of information for all runners is that the terrain here is more carriage roads than cross country trails, so road racing flats are recommended rather than cross country spikes. Hope to see many of you out here in the wilds of Western MA!
Thank you to everyone who attended our Annual Meeting on Sunday. In case you missed it, here is a brief recap of those elected to the USATF-NE Board of Governors, which includes a mix of incumbents and new individuals.
- President: Tom Derderian
- Secretary: Steve Viegas
- Treasurer: Stephen Peckiconis
- Vice Presidents: Jim Garcia, John Oleski, Chris Pasko
- Men’s Long Distance Running (LDR) Chair: John Barbour
- Women’s LDR Chair: Lisa Doucett
- Masters LDR Chair: Jan Holmquist
- Youth Chair: Alex Ivanov
- Track & Field Chair: Zach Emerson
- Masters Track & Field Chair: Mike Travers
- Cross Country Chair: Chris Canning
- Mountain, Ultra, Trail (MUT) Chair: Paul Kirsch
- Race Walking Chair: Justin Kuo
- Athlete’s Representatives: Eric Ashe, Jim Burgoyne, Jennifer Mortimer
In the coming week, you’ll be able to find information on the new board members, the various reports that were presented and distributed at the meeting, as well as the full meeting minutes on the Board page.
By: Kate Queeney, USATF-NE XC Committee Member
Sunday, Sept. 7 marks the kickoff to the 2014 USATF-NE Cross Country Grand Prix series, with the Greater Boston Track Club XC Invitational in Wellesley, MA. An updated list of the series scoring rules and awards structure can be found here.
Before jumping into the upcoming series, let’s remind ourselves of the 2013 series results. Starting with the women’s side, GBTC pulled out a decisive victory at the final, championship meet in Franklin Park last November to break a tie with Western Mass Distance Project and take the series title. Millennium Running burst onto the scene halfway through the season and made a decisive run, finishing a strong third place with only three races under their belts (singlets?). WMDP ran uncontested in the masters division for much of the season but scored a convincing win over six other teams at the championship meet to take the series title. In the senior division, Greater Derry Track Club scored the series win despite losing the championship to Cambridge Sports Union. Liberty AC stood alone atop the 60+ podium. Individual series winners were Sydney Fitzpatrick of New Balance Boston in the open division, Dana Parrot of WMDP in masters and Anne Hird of Ronald McDonald House of Providence in the 50+ division.
Many of last year’s competitors will toe the line this Sunday, and we asked them for their thoughts on what makes cross country (and this series) so special. It’s generally not hard to convince distance runners of the joys of cross country, but Anne Hird put it both succinctly and artfully: “It is running in its purest form. Times don’t matter, because each course is different; it is all about head-to-head racing.” That head-to-head racing is enhanced by the series format; as Anne points out, there’s a certain “camaraderie that comes from running against the same group throughout the series.” (This writer can attest to the special camaraderie of being passed by Anne at about the 2-mile mark of almost every race.)
Dana Parrot probably speaks for many of us when she says that her favorite memory of last year’s season was the final, championship race: “I was terrified and thrilled to be at the starting line with some of my former teammates (when I lived in New England almost 20 years ago). My speed may be lacking compared to back then, but my heart is still in the game.”
If this still doesn’t have you digging through the mudroom for your spikes, GBTC would like to whet your appetite for cross country with. . . pie. That’s right, pie, at the first race of the series; not really much more to say. See you there!
Stay tuned for more updates and a men’s 2013 recap too!
it was started by Nich Haber in 2012. Nich is the club’s President of the Board (on a Board that includes American Record Holder Molly Huddle!), but also serves as an acting Executive Director, managing business issues, fundraising, grant writing and maintaining relationships with partners. On top of this, Nich manages travel and race entries for the athletes, helps them obtain part-time work with their after-school partners in Woonsocket and coordinates their youth program with the Woonsocket public school system.
As you can tell, Nich wears several hats and has been working hard since 2012 to get NE Distance off the ground and growing to compete at a highly competitive level. It appears that his work has paid off by looking at the club’s current roster, which includes:
- David Goodman— The 2012 NCAA DII National Champion in the Steeplechase and a three-time USATF-NE Champion
- Henry Sterling — NE Distance’s newest athlete, he’s a Dartmouth grad who sees his potential best in the Steeplechase, but is interested in staying a well-rounded runner by competing in the mile and 5k as well
- Katrina Spratford — The 8-time All American from Shippensburg, is a 10k runner that is focusing on Cross Country in the fall and may do some road races
- Lara Crofford — A Nebraska Cornhusker, has been a strong 10k runner but is looking to move up in distance and take to the roads
We caught up with Nich on how the club has grown, what they’ve been up to. To sum it up, Nich told us that “Every year has been better than the one before it, and I know that next year will be better than this one!” His optimism and excitement is great to hear. Check out our interview with Nich below to get up to speed on the community-based distance running project.
USATF-NE: How has NE Distance grown since its founding in 2012?
NH: We started with one athlete in 2012, added another at the beginning of 2013, two more in September of 2013 and we’re looking to have eight this fall. We’ve doubled every year! At this rate, in a few years everyone on earth will be an NE Distance athlete!
Seriously, it’s been a challenge to start a group like this from the ground up and the athletes that have joined us truly believe in our mission of blending athlete development with community building. We expanded this year to include athletes that are not full athlete-in-resident fellows. They are committed to train at a high level, but do not need housing from us. We are excited as the more athletes we have in our group, the more of a critical mass we hit and the better the program is for everyone involved – the other athletes, the community and our fans who are looking for more athletes to root for.
USATF-NE: Are you actively recruiting?
NH: We have three slots open for our non-resident members. We are looking for folks who want to live in the Woonsocket/Providence area who want to compete at a high level.
USATF-NE: We saw that your team recently signed up 145 kids for a new middle school program. This is great! Any specific plans for this new program or anything in particular you’d like to share about it?
NH: This is probably our proudest achievement and is truly a culmination of what we are trying to do with the NE Distance program. Woonsocket middle school sports were all but eliminated in 2009 due to budget cuts. Our athletes moved into town and started to get everyone’s notice. We were lucky to find Performance Physical Therapy of RI who was interested in sponsoring us to restart the middle school cross country team. As soon as we announced it, a reporter from the local paper called me up and we were literally front page news.
For the public school system, they were absolutely thrilled. They were getting high level athletes who had already spent at least a year working with Woonsocket youth to come in and coach the kids at the middle school. The NEDi athletes went into the schools to sign up kids and were overwhelmed; 145 kids signed up. Lara has already started weekly runs with the kids in town and everyone will be back in Woonsocket in August gearing up to kick off the team at the end of the summer.
We are seeking a sponsor to help us continue this program for the kids into the indoor and outdoor seasons, so if anyone is interested in helping our team help these young people, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
USATF-NE: Are any USATF-NE hosted races a part of NE Distance’s upcoming race schedule – and if so, which ones, and why?
NH: Our goal is to have our athletes compete on Team USA, so the USATF-NE races are great vehicles to get us to that level. We will definitely be at the Cross Country races this fall, especially the Boston Mayor Cup and the USATF-NE Championship. The CVS Downtown 5k is in our backyard, so we’ll be there. USATF-NE hosts some of the best indoor meets in the country, so look for us at the BU Terrier & Valentine meets as well as the USATF-NE Championships. Outdoors, we’re big fans of the NBB Twilight Meets.
And be sure to look for our middle school kids to open up their season at the Ocean State XC meet in Goddard Park in Rhode Island on Friday Sept 26.
By: Kate Queeney, USATF-NE XC Committee Member
Summer’s heat has just started to creep over New England, but it’s not too early to start thinking about running during the crisp days of fall. The 2014 USATF-NE Cross Country Grand Prix series will again feature five races from September through November. The series, a mix of old favorites and a couple new races, is listed below and on the main cross country schedule page, where you can also find a rich array of other New England cross country races to choose from.
The 5000 meter race is a popular event for distance track and field athletes. However, for runners who keep to the roads and trails, many haven’t tested their strength on the flat oval. Now is their chance.
With the USATF-NE All Terrain Runner (ATR) series, distance runners test themselves on varying surfaces and distances, including the track. In fact, many athletes competing in the new series tried the distance at the recent New Balance Boston Twilight meet at Bentley University. New Balance Boston’s Marguerite Cramer took the women’s title in an impressive time of 17:49.01. But it was the men’s 5000 meter field that saw some serious depth. Twenty-eight competitors came through in under 18 minutes, with the winner Austin Gilbert crossing the finish line in 14:57.61.
If you’ve already completed your 5000 meter track race and are looking to score it in the ATR series, be sure to submit your time through our web form.
As a reminder, USATF-NE members may submit their own 5000 meter result from any USATF sanctioned track meet between May 5 and July 20. A competitor may complete several outdoor 5000 meter races. However, only the fastest time will count in the final scoring.