Was it me? Or was it just you procrastinators out there? On Friday, December 6th I wrote that it was the last day to register for the cross country meet taking place this Saturday at Lehigh University in Bethlehem PA. I wrote that there were about 170 New Jersey runners registered and that was just those on teams.
Have you looked at the “Status of Entries” webpage now? There are 233 New Jersey runners on teams. Add a handful more who are not on teams and we could be the largest association represented at the meet.
In fact, New Jersey may be about 10% of the entries that total 2,215 give or take for corrections after registration closed on Friday. Open men account for the largest group at 691. Open women total 453. Masters men 40 and 50 that are running 10 kilometers like the open are running total 498. Masters men 60 plus number 272 and masters women are counted at 301. Some of those numbers may have changed because some masters erroneously registered in the open division. These are the highest numbers in all divisions in the history of the event.
Some of those New Jersey runners could be contenders to medal. The same goes for some of the teams. Open competition is really tough and it is unlikely that we will see an open New Jersey man or woman on the podium on Saturday. Our strongest open club, the Garden State Athletic Club New Balance women’s team placed thirteenth in 2014 when it was last run at Lehigh. Their top open men’s team placed 19th. I expect them to be stronger now five years later but still not on the podium.
It is masters divisions where some local clubs have a chance to get near the medals. In 2014 the Team Pearl Izumi placed fourth M40 team. That team no longer exists but two of its members are competing on the Garden State club M40 team; Elliott and Jonathan Frieder. Each of those men has medaled or come close to medaling in national races and they appear to be ready to fully back after injury layoffs. It’s a deep field in the M40 division but the New Jersey team could be up there. They have won the national 2019 M40 team grand prix division with three wins out of six starts. The best five performances are counted in the series
Another previous medalist is Mark Zamek, who is on the Garden State M50 team. Zamek has a shot at medaling if he has recovered from an injury that kept him from completing the Tulsa 15K. Zamek has placed second in the national individual grand prix in his division.
Gary Lehman has aged up into the M60 division and ironically that could be a tougher division than the M55 division where Lehman has medaled in the past.
Reno Stirrat has placed second in the M65 division of the grand prix and he could be in position to medal at the cross country race. Stirrat’s Shore Athletic Club team has placed second in the M60 team division. The Atlanta Track Club has won five of the six races they have entered putting all other teams on notice that they are running for second.
The Shore club’s M70 has had a dry season in 2019 without a complete team in any national race. Saturday they have a full roster but whether they can knock down the usual suspects like Ann Arbor or Atlanta is unknown.
The cross country race is actually the first race of the 2020 season and here is where it could get interesting. The Clifton Road Runners have an M70 team and they have three men on their M80 team; Roland Ratmeyer, Jim Leitz and Matt Lalumia, who turns 80 on Friday. Theirs is one of only three teams in that division.
On the masters women’s side no one would bet against Nora Cary medaling in the W60 division and even be in or at the top in masters age grading. Other masters women who will be at the front of the field are Hortencia Alegia and Elena Rozhko.
NEW JERSEYEANS RECEIVED NATIONAL AWARDS
The USATF annual meeting just concluded this past Sunday and some New Jersey runners came home with national honors. Roberta Groner was named the W40 Masters Long Distance Runner Athlete of the Year and Nathaniel Finestone was named the M90 Masters Long Distance Runner Athlete of the Year
The Masters track and field committee awarded Mark Williams the Male Masters Middle Distance Athlete of the Year. At the other end of the spectrum, Thomas Knowles was named the Men’s Masters Marathon Trail Masters Champion.
The Youth Athlete of the Year award went to Athing Mu of Princeton.