Largest field ever set to compete at USATF Masters 1 Mile Road Championships

Largest field ever set to compete at USATF Masters 1 Mile Road Championships

Provided by USATF

FLINT, Michigan -- The USATF Masters Grand Prix begins its fall season this Friday evening, August 25, with the USATF Masters 1 Mile Road Championships hosted by the Michigan Mile of the HAP Crim Fitness Weekend of Races. The women will go off at 6:45 p.m. local time, with the men toeing the line at 7:00 p.m. The forecast is gorgeous for a fast mile, with 69 degrees under sunny skies. The race course is on the streets adjacent to the University of Michigan-Flint’s downtown campus.

John Gardiner looks to defend his overall Masters title, won in 4:31 last year, but he has some dangerous challengers. Kevin Castille, who normally focuses on longer races, has taken down the 10K and 15K US road records for 45-49 year old men this year and has recent wins over Gardiner at 5K (road) and 10K (Cross Country). David Angell won the 8K and 10K Masters Championships earlier this year but has not yet been able to defeat Gardiner in their head-to-head contests. Gardiner’s teammate, Jerome Vermeulen, has finished 2nd the last two years and looks to take that extra step to get to the win, even as he ages into the 50-54 division. Another swift 50 year old, Todd Straka, who finished 5th here in 2015 and finished 2nd to Vermeulen at the 2016 State Street Mile in Santa Barbara CA in 4:20, comes back down from the Colorado mountains to test his speed at a fast mile.

Tammy Nowik is back to defend her title as well, but the runners who finished 2nd and 3rd just behind her will try to reverse last year’s outcome. In 2016, Marisa Sutera Strange finished 2nd with the same time as Nowik, 5:26, and Melissa Gacek was only two seconds back. Renee Tolan, who won the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile on a flat, fast road mile in Pittsburgh last month with a 5:21, threatens to break into the top three. Heather Webster, who finished just behind Nolan in the 2015 5K National Masters Championship is another potential podium threat.

In the Age-Grading contest, emblematic of the best performance relative to age across all age divisions, the top 4 men from last year, who all scored in the low 90’s, are all back to go head-to-head again. Jerome Vermeulen, Nat Larson, Tom Bernhard, and John Gardiner. Larson pocketed the age-grading win in the 10K Championships in April and the others are looking for their first such win of 2017. The odds-on favorite for the women is 68 year old Sabra Harvey, the current Women’s 65-69 world record holder on the track for both 800 and 1500 meters. She won the 10K title with a score over 100%. Everyone else will be ecstatic if they run a race that age grades at 90% or better. Strange was the only woman who cracked 90 last year and she looks to be a lock for the Silver Age-Grading medal. The favorite for the final podium spot is Lynn Cooke, who was just off the Age-Grading podium at the 8K Masters Championships but she will have to edge several strong competitors including Tolan, Gacek, Leslie Hinz, and Jill Miller-Robinett .

In addition to those mentioned above, strong favorites for Age Division wins include: Serena Kessler, 45, Dan Spale, 61, Dianne Anderson, 71, and Jim Askew, 81.

Contestants with USATF connections include Jill Geer, USATF’s Chief Marketing Officer, in her first Masters National Championship, as well as Tom Bernhard and Paul Carlin, USATF’s Masters LDR Executive Committee. Geer, who turns 47 on race day, will try to improve on her 5:58.6 time at the 2017 Indianapolis Monumental Mile. Bernhard, 65, is favored to win his Age Division and compete for the Age Grading podium, while Carlin, 71, will try to secure his second Age Division Championship this year.

Contributed by Paul Carlin, USATF Masters LDR Media Chair