By Rick Lovett
|This year’s USATF Club Cross Country Championships was the type of race people will be telling their grandchildren about. The venue was Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It’s hosted the race before and is a classic course: challenging, but not outrageous, with a short, steep hill a little more than 1,000 meters from the finish that can break you if you do it wrong. (Photo: Women’s Open Team: (from left to right) Julia Gullikson, Lauren Elgee, Adrian Neal, Jessie Rubin, Laura Nitti.)|
The first event, the women’s master’s race, went off as scheduled, though it was buffeted by wind gusts that packed a serious punch, and enough rain to make you realize there’s a limit to how wet you can get.
|The second event, the men’s 60+ race, also went off as scheduled. But by this time the gusts were hitting at least 45 mph and a giant tree near the start splintered and fell, narrowly missing Club Northwest’s tent.|
For about 45 minutes, everything went on hold while race organizers tried to figure out what to do. Eventually, the Men’s Masters 40+ race was moved to an old harness track: a 1,209-meter loop circling a polo field where there were no trees to fall on anyone. But that created a new problem: the track is decaying asphalt topped by a thin layer of dirty sand: basically a road race on an extremely dirty road. Footwear was suddenly a big priority. Many runners, including Lizards, hurriedly pulled the spikes out of their cross-country shoes.
|So how did Lizards do? Swimmingly, if you’ll pardon the pun. In the 40+ women’s race, Carre Heineck took 5th overall (4th in the team scoring), leading the team to silver, only 4 points behind San Diego Track Club. Crystal Query and Renee Gordon weren’t far behind, both scoring top-15 finishes in a field of more than 240, with Carolyn Sykes rounding it out, in the top 75. No other Lizard 40+ team has ever come closer to winning it all. Crystal took individual silver in the 45-49 division.|
|The 70+ women did win it all—and not for the first time. They took team gold, led by Jeannie Groesz, who won the division and was second in the overall age-graded scoring. Suzanne Ray took individual bronze, and Cande Olsengave TRL the edge over archrival Team Impala on their home turf. Meanwhile, the 50+ women were 8th of 18, ironically beating San Diego Track Club by one place, avenging the 40+ women.|
The 40+ men, led by Jake Stout, were 9th of 25, 14 points ahead of national powerhouse Boston Athletic Association.
|The women’s open team, led by Jessie Rubin and Adrian Neal, managed to get their shoes changed in time to beat one of the East Coast’s premier clubs, the Genesee Valley Harriers, by 7 points, though neither team was close to the front, which in the open division tends to be dominated by pro teams with shoe-company backing.|
More importantly, no more trees fell. And it really is a story to tell for years to come!