Van Kerkhove & May win titles; lead 25 locals at National Masters 8 km Championships in Virginia Beach

results & photos

On Saturday (18-March) twenty-eight (25) athletes from USATF Niagara competed in the USATF Masters 8 km Championships held as part of the TowneBank Shamrock 8 km in Virginia Beach.  A total of 168 athletes from 24 states competed in the championships with $10,000 awarded in prize money.  Other than Virginia, the host association, with 28 athletes the contingent from Niagara was the largest of any other USATF association.
The athletes faced cool and blustery conditions on the course that ran along the Atlantic Ocean and finished on the famous board walk in Virginia Beach.  Athletes ages 40 and over were eligible to compete in the championships with the oldest finisher being 81 year old Jim Askew from North Carolina  Athletes competed for national titles in 5-year divisions starting with the 40-44 division as well as team titles conducted in 10 year divisions.  
Two Niagara athletes ran to national titles with three more earning trips to the awards podium for their top three finishes in their divisions.  
Racing to the top platform on the awards podium were Genesee Valley Harrier teammates John Van Kerkhove, 55, of Rochester and Jim May, 70, of Williamson.  Van Kerkhove won the men’s 55-59 title running 29:06 to win by just 6 seconds over Jean-Christophe Arcaz of Maryland.  The margin of victory was the slimmest of the 17 divisional championships contested on the day.  And the second closest race of the day came in the men’s 70-74 division where May went out hard establishing a solid lead over last year's 10 km champion, Paul Carlin of Indiana and then held him at bay by just 13 seconds at the finish.  Following Carlin was Gene French of California who was just another 21 seconds behind Carlin.  The 34 second spread between the top three finishers was the tightest of all the races.
Earning the remaining trips to the awards ceremony were a trio of Genessee Valley Harrier women as Kathleen Hayden, 51, of Rochester was second in the 50-54 division running 32:04; Melissa Senall, 45, of Fairport finished third in the 40-44 division, and Cindy Ingalls, 65, of Pittsford was third in the 65-69 division stopping the clock at 41:34.
In the age-grading results (where each athlete’s finish time is converted in a manner to allow for comparing performances of all competitors regardless of the age of the athlete) Gary Radford, 60, (Cicero; Genesee Valley Harriers) and Hayden led the men and women for the Niagara athletes.  Radford who, over the past seven weeks, had won national titles at the cross country championships in Oregon and the indoor track & field championships in New Mexico, ran 30:17 here to score 86.08% on the age-grading charts; which was the 18th best among the 103 men finishers. Scores of 80%-89% are considered to be national class while scores above 90% are classified as world class performances.  Following closely behind Radford were: Van Kerkhove (85.74%); Mike Nier, 52, (Rochester, Genesee Valley Harriers, 28:34, 85.18%), Kevin Clinefelter, 61, (Rochester, Genesee Valley Harriers, 30:59, 84.88%); Dale Flanders, 51, (Allegany, Genesee Valley Harriers, 28:44, 83.99%); and May (81.82%).  On the women’s side Hayden scored 85.40% the 13th best score among the 58 women finishers.  Also scoring above 80% was Karyl Sargent (Lafayette, NY, 33:34, 83.52%).
The team competition was very competitive in all the divisions as strong hold clubs such as Shore AC (NJ), Colonial Road Runners (Virginia),  Boulder Road Runners, and Atlanta TC (Georgia) toed the line with full teams in many of the divisions. The Genesee Valley Harriers sent five full teams to Virginia and earned three trips to the awards podium.  The men’s 50+ team of Nier, Flanders, Van Kerkhove finished second running a combined time of 1:26:22 (28:47 average) to trail a very strong threesome from the Greater Springfield Harriers (New England) who recorded a combined time of 1:20:40.  

Picking up third place team finishes were the women’s 50+ and 60+ teams.  The 50+ team of Kathleen Hayden, Carol Bischoff and Maureen Bischoff combined for a time of 1:43:47 to trail the Athena TC (Mid-Atlantic) and New Balance Tampa Masters (Florida).  The 60+ team Sharon Moore, Cindy Ingalls, and Jeanne Herrick combined time was 2:04:00 as they trailed the Atlanta Track Club (Georgia) and Impala Racing Team (Pacific).  The GVH men’s 60+ team finished fourth after having won team titles in the past three championships they have competed in dating back to November.
The 2018 championships will return to Virginia Beach on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day).

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