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Atlanta Track Club Takes National Masters Title

Date: 
08/18/2017 - 05:06

By Carolyn Mather
DSC_4735.JPG_Group_outdoor_II.JPGFor several years the Atlanta Track Club Elite Masters have gone to national meets and come close to the number one title. This year 68 members ages 30-80 plus (29 female and 39 male) converged on Baton Rouge, LA, for the 50th anniversary of the USATF National Outdoor Track and Field Championship. Fourteen of the male competitors were 70 and over and contributed many points to the winning total. The Atlanta Track Club dominated the team competition at the 2017 USATF Masters Outdoor Championships as the Club racked up 1143 points for the win, well ahead of second place team So Cal Track Club with 697 points.

Two Olympians from the Atlanta Track Club competed as Executive Director, Rich Kenah ran the 800 and Amy Yoder Begley competed in seven individual events and three relays. Quoted Begley:"I never thought I would compete again, it just didn't appeal to me after so many injuries but doing 10 events at USATF Masters with/for Atlanta Track Club was really fun - 5K, 10K, 1500, 800, discus, shot put, long jump, 4x800, 4x400 & 4x100. My favorite event was long jump and funny enough, doing a 10K at LSU in high humidity and high heat, was my least favorite event. Atlanta Track Club had 70 athletes ages 30s to 80s."

The four-day event had high humidity and heat (mid summer in bayou country!!) and lightning caused delays in the early afternoon of the first day and created evening indoor sessions. The 400m prelims were moved to the indoor track, as well as the pentathlon 1500m. Thursday’s scheduled hammer throw and discus were moved to Friday morning at 7 a.m.

At LSU’s Bernie Moore Track & Field Stadium, the first day of track competition began with 5000m finals for several age groups. Brent Fields (Covington, GA) of Atlanta Track Club won the M45-49 group with a finishing time of 16:58.51. Several team members also took gold in the 5000 including Laurie Knowles 35-39(17:09), Kathy Wiegand 40-44 (20:14), Jim Askew 80-84 (28:38), Charlie Patterson 75-79 (27:04), Dylan Kight 30-34(26:47) and Andrew Begley 40-44 (17:27).

Sonja Friend-Uhl is used to gold at masters championships and she dominated the 45-49 800m in a near world record time of 2:15.56. Friend-Uhl wasted no time asserting her lead and finished the first 400m in 1:05.49. On the bell lap, she maintained position and won with 24 seconds over second place. Olympian Rich Kenah ran beautifully negative splits to pass age group competitors for a third place podium finish in 2:15:22. In a close race, 2008 Olympian Amy Begley finished second in the women’s 30-39 800m final, crossing the line in 2:36.79 behind behind first-place finisher Lisa Edwards in 2:35.57.

Jim Askew, 81 competed in nine events scoring 53.5 points on his own. The club came home with 167 medals: 70 gold, 48 silver and 49 bronze plus many points collected for places four through six in each event. Masters athletes of Atlanta Track Club Elite and dedicated masters club members gave their all for the team.The athletes were all great and supported each other.

Amy Yoder-Begley was a true sport trying events for the very first time. On her first competition with the long jump she stated, "First time long jumping. Things I learned/experienced. You get to spend more time talking to your competitors. I didn't get as sandy as I thought I would. I didn't eat any sand and I didn't foul. I think it was a pretty good attempt. So when they asked do you want a 10 or 1 meter board, at first we opted for 10 meter. Then reality set in and we asked for the 1 meter board." Begley managed a best of 11 feet 10 and 1/4 inches for a silver medal!!

First timer Dylan Kight summed up the experience for many. "I don't even really know where to start. This type of event is far outside of my comfort zone but it was such a great experience. I had a great time with great people doing something I love. The Atlanta Track Club won the USATF Masters 2017 Outdoor Championship and it wasn't even close!!! It was a blast to watch my fellow ATC teammates dominate in so many different events. If there was ever a moment where all this #nodestination stuff made sense- it was this weekend. No matter what it is that is pulling at you. Commit to yourself, stay inspired and keep going. The fear of failure or doubt is real. Do yourself a favor and do it anyways. I still have doubt and anxiety about different aspects of my life. It doesn't go away. You owe it to yourself to fight that voice everyday." In the process of putting himself on the line the 32 year old took home two gold medals (5K and 10K) and a bronze in the 800. He further said. "Thanks to Stephanie (Reynolds) and Amy (Begley) for thinking of me for this event and being so supportive!! I would have never done this without you!"

Amy and Andrew Begley made this an adventure for all. Both she and her husband Andrew work at the Atlanta Track Club coaching elites and doing a multitude of jobs. including leading training groups for the 5K to the marathon for runners of any speed, and organizing trips like this to the national championships. "My first discus event was suspended due to lightning. Then our 4x800 relay got moved indoors where I ran SEC indoor Champs in 1998. USATF Masters Nationals. I do not recommend doing a 10K, 4x800 & discus in one day. Tomorrow is 1,500 m, finish the discus, shot put, 4x4 and 4x1." The coach not only works hard but took the effort to participate. And she learned from her participation that the coach sometimes does not follow her own advice to athletes. "Teaching athletes what not to do. Signing up for the 10K seemed like a good idea until I realized I had not run 6 miles since May 24. Last 2 miles were rough. Walking was not an option but definitely a thought." She still took the silver medal (35-39).

“Our greatest reward was being a part of a great group of people supporting each other to reach our goal,” said Charlie Patterson, who competed in several events and placed first in the 75-79 in the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and 2,000-meter steeplechase. Although many endured a long bus ride to and from the four-day championships, there was fantastic camaraderie among all who participated. Those of us who decided not to participate obviously missed an awesome trip. As always many thanks to Amy and Andrew Begley, staff members Elizabeth Unislawski and Andy Carr and to the Atlanta Track Club and Rich Kenah for the support and coaching. This was a huge win for all!! And many congrats to all of my incredible teammates who competed so well. I still marvel at how many made that 25 loops around the track in the heat and humidity. You are all heroes!! Stay tuned for next years outdoors championship August 2-5 in Spokane, WA. At least it should be a bit cooler.

Photos: Members of the Atlanta Track Club Elite Masters Team, Photo by Vasan Neovakul

Carolyn Mather, R.N. PhD lives and runs in north Georgia and is a member of the Atlanta Track Club Elite. She can be reached at carolynmather@tds.net.

This column appeared in the September issue of Running Journal

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