Masters Athletes Shine at USATF Meet in California

By Paul Carlin

It was a picture-perfect day for a race around the picture-perfect small town of Danville, California on May 19th. Under blue skies with bright sunshine and 60 degrees, the three waves of Masters runners traversed the two circuits around downtown for the USATF Masters 1 Mile Championships.

The Women ran first, followed by Men 60+, followed by Men 40+. A record number of Masters Mile entrants, 211, divided themselves evenly over the three waves. Team Blue Sky, who put on the event, and the town of Danville, did themselves proud.

One American record was equaled and one broken. Sue McDonald is the 60-64 world record holder for the Mile and 1500 Meters on the track. She matched the 5:44 Road Mile record, set by the legendary Kathy Martin in 2013. Carol Mikkelsen, from the oldest age group, 85-89, broke one of the newest American Mile records, the 15:25 set by Joyce Hodges-Hite last year. Mikkelsen smashed it by almost a minute, racing to 14:28.


The overall races were dandies. In the Men’s 40+ race, Neil McDonagh descended from the Rocky Mountains and dominated the race in winning his first Masters overall championship. McDonagh took it out strong, opening a five-meter gap in the first three hundred meters. He was never headed, winning in 4:31 with 40 meters to spare. Grant Johnson outlasted Mario Fraioli to take second, 4:38 to 4:41.

The Men’s 60+ race featured a near blanket finish with just one second separating each of the first three across the finish line. Daniel Filip’s 5:21 led Kevin Ostenberg and Ray Knerr. In the women’s race, Kristen Rohde dropped down from the Pacific Northwest to pull away in the final stretch, winning in 5:15. Courtney Quirin earned the silver medal at 5:18. Three seconds later, Elizabeth Camy earned her second overall Masters medal in the last month; the bronze here adds to her silver at the 10 Km Championship in late April.


Age grading measures each athlete’s performance against the best possible time for that exact age, yielding a percentage that can be compared across age divisions to figure out who ran best for their age.

McDonald, 61, not only matched an American record, but she also topped the age grading tables at 93.46%. Nancy Simmons, 64, recorded 6:09 for a 90.49 Performance Level Percentage (PLP). Sonja Friend-Uhl’s 5:25 at age 53 finishes off the age grading podium at 90.05 PLP. Jacob Nur, American 65-69 record holder at 5 Km, 10Km, 10 Mile and Half Marathon, clocked 5:23 at age 68. That earned him a 92.86 PLP and the Men’s age grading win. Jaime Heilpern, 54, raced to a 4:48 and second place at 92.33 PLP. Mike Madsen’s 4:44 at 51, earned a 91.41 PLP and the bronze medal.


National Men’s Champions were crowned in 40-44 McDonagh 4:31, 45-49 Lee Klarich 4:49, 50-54 Madsen 4:44, 55-59 Darren Morgan 5:00, 60-64 Filip 5:21, 65-69 Nur 5:23, 70-74 Joseph Reda 6:15, 75-79 Jerry Learned 6:42, 80-84 Jan Frisby 7:24, and 85-89 Donald Hillebrandt 12:52. National Women’s Champions were crowned in 40-44 Rohde 5:15, 45-49 Claire Saxton 5:47, 50-54 Friend-Uhl 5:25, 55-59 Elizabeth Guerrini 6:12, 60-64 McDonald 5:44, 65-69 Stella Gibbs 6:30, 70-74 Donna Chan 7:36, 75-79 Jo Anne Rowland 8:03, 80-84 None, and 85-89 Mikkelsen 15:25.


Northern California teams dominated the men’s team contests. The Excelsior Running Club took top honors in Men’s 40+, with West Valley Track Club winning Men’s 50+, and the HOKA Aggie RC finishing first in Men’s 60+. The only winning team from outside the area was Colorado’s Boulder Road Runners who edged Northern Cal’s Tamalpa Runners by just 15 seconds in Men’s 70+. On the women’s side, the powerful Impala Racing team, out of the San Francisco Bay area, swept the divisions, winning Women’s 40+, Women’s 50+, Women’s 60+ and Women’s 70+.

The Masters National Grand Prix takes a pause for summer. The next event is the non-stadia events at the World Masters Athletics Outdoor Championships in Sweden in mid-August, followed by the Ten Mile Championships in Flint, Michigan on August 24.

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