Vergin, Becker, and Mathews win multiple titles at ​USATF Masters Championships in Michigan


MastersTF_OutdoorOver the weekend fifteen (15) Pacific Northwest members competed in the USATF Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The championships were held on the campus of Grand Valley State University with over 1000 athletes ages 30-99 competing over the four days of competition.

Six (6) of the local athletes won a total of eleven (11) national titles with Roger Vergin (Poulsbo, Wash. / Club Northwest), Rick Becker (Selah, Wash. / Club Northwest), and George Mathews (Seattle) each winning multiple titles.

Iron man stumbles but he won't fall
Vergin_Roger-smallerAt last year’s championships in Jacksonville, Vergin, 78, competed in eleven events winning four national title and nine total medals.  He was again entered in eleven events and ready to live up to his well deserved “Iron Man” nickname but he began to experience a herniated disk issue a week before the meet and scratched six of the events.  In the five that he did contest he won three and finished second in the remaining two (long jump and pole vault).  He captured the triple jump, weight throw, and pentathlon.  In the triple jump his best mark was 7.91m (25-11.50).  In the weight throw he won with a throw of 8.86m (29-01.00).  In the five-event pentathlon he scored 1849 points to claim the gold medal.  
“I went to the 2016 Grand Rapids meet with modest expectations due to the issues I was having with my back,” stated Vergin upon returning home to Poulsbo.  “In fact I was unsure if I would be able to even compete.  However, I had paid my registration fees and for my plane tickets and had my hotel and car lined up, so I decided to go.  I knew I would at least enjoy watching the meet and cheering on and reacquainting with the many friends I have made in masters track over the last seven years.  In the events that I did attempt, I fell short of my normal performance level, as the numbers attest.  Still somehow, and it was quite surprising to me, I finished with three gold medals and two silver medals. So, I could not be more pleased that I decided to go to the meet.  I spent many hours in the stands each day, watched terrific performances and many records set, had a delightful time with my track and field friends from throughout the country, won some medals and even came home with my back feeling a bit better than when I left.”

Becker_Rick-16GrandRapids-smallLucky Seven for Becker
Becker, 61, who spent five weeks prior to the meet training at 7000 elevation in Park City, Utah, won the men’s 60-64 5000m and 10,000m.  He had his eyes set on the national records in both events but came up a bit short in both attempts.  In the 5000m on Thursday he ran 17:51.60 (55 seconds shy of the record) and then ran 36:05.65 (46 seconds off the record) to win the 10,000m on Saturday.  

“Though I won both races I was a little disappointed,” offered Becker.  “I was trying to break the American records in both races but fell short. The 5000 was held in windy conditions so the times were slow.   I place very high expectations on myself.  But I thank God for the ability to win.”  The two wins raises his 2016 national titles tally to seven (USA XC, indoor 1500m, indoor 3000m, 8 km, 10 km).

Mathews_George_GREATPHOTO-small2Mathews wins 41st title over 24-year masters career
Mathews, 72, won the men’s 70-74 hammer throw and weight throw competitions.  In the hammer throw his best mark was 42.32m (138-10) and in the weight throw he threw 17.65m (57-11) for the win.  Despite the wins, like Becker, Mathews was not happy about his performances.  

“I thoroughly enjoyed the facility and great fellowship with the other athletes but performances should have been better; no excuses,” offered Mathews.  The two wins bring his tally of national titles to 41 in his career.  He won his first title 24 years ago at the indoor championships held in Columbus, OH.  

The sprint Queens of Bellingham
Dena Birade, 44, and Daphne Sluys, 55, both hail from Bellingham, Wash. and both won sprint titles in Grand Rapids over the weeknd.  Birde won the women’s 40-44 100m running 12.66 and finished second in the 200m in 25.72.  The win in the 100m marked her tenth national title in that event.  She has won every year she has competed in the 100m, dating back to 2006; only missing the 2011 championships.  She competed for BYU in college and is still ranked in the top 10 there in the 55m, 60m, 100m, and 200m.  Post-collegiately she ran career bests of 11.39 for 100m and 23.84 for 200m

“I had a wonderful experience in Grand Rapids,” offered Birade. “The people were very friendly and the weather felt like the Pacific Northwest.  It was exciting to see my masters family and catch up with old friends. I'm pleased with my performances, I faced a lot of competition this year in both the 100m and 200m. Although I fell a little short in 200 I was able to run a season best time.  I am excited to prepare and train for 2017 and the championships in Louisiana.”   Her husband. Laurent Birade finished third in the 400m hurdles running 1:01.42.

Sluys won the 400m for the second year in a row and also won silver medals in the 100m and 200m.  In the 400m, the event she won at last summer’s world championships, she ran 1:06.69 to set a new career best and won against a very strong field.  She was just .48 seconds ahead of Debra Hoffman of California.  The win bring her career total of national titles to seven in six different events (100m, 200m, 400, pole vault, pentathlon, decathlon).  In the 100m and 200m finished second to masters hall of fame member Joy Upshaw.  Sluys’ times were 14.59 and 29.70; in windy conditions.

“I loved meeting up with old friends and making new friends, stated Sluys.  “I am also very happy about my PR in the 400m and with my performances in 100m and 200m given the windy conditions.”

Mannino welcomes the wind
Paul Mannino, 42, (Seattle / Seattle Running Club) won the men’s 40-44 1500m running 4:22.22 and was third in the 800m in a time of 2:06.02.  It was his first national title having finished third in the 800m and 1500m in his first championships last year in Jacksonville.  

“Grand Rapids was a beautiful meet, but it was consistently windy, and race times were not fast,” stated Mannino. “The wind was fortunate for me, because it resulted in an unusually slow, tactical race that allowed me to sit behind the leaders and then unleash a 400-meter kick. This was perhaps the only style of race I had a real shot at winning. As with Jacksonville in 2015, I was impressed by how well organized the meet was, and I was pleasantly surprised by what a great city Grand Rapids turned out to be. It also helped to have some fantastic Pacific Northwest runners there to hang out with, like Sean Messiter and Jonathan Silva. The USATF Outdoor Championships is a fun eet with a great communal vibe. For those of us from the Northwest where distance running is so dominant, it’s a cool opportunity to hang out with athletes from some of the big track cities in the East and Southeast where there’s a huge masters sprinting culture. And in many events, there's a reasonable chance that you'll be on the track with a former Olympian or masters world champion. Anyone who's on the fence about participating in one of these meets should register and give it a shot.”

Kemp in the Pent
Winning the men’s 60-64 pentathlon was Steve Kemp of Blaine, Wash.  It was his ninth career masters title.  His 5-event point total was 3281 pts.  Seattle’s Russell Jacquet-Acea finished second with 3028 points. Jacquet-Acea, 63, also finished second in the 100m hurdles and 300m hurdles and was fifth in the 3000m steeplechase.

There is a silver lining for Messiter, Rick, and Turock  
Rounding out the medal haul for the Pacific Northwest athletes were Sean Messiter (Bellingham, Wash. / Club Northwest), Scott Rick (Bellingham, Wash.), and Art Turock (Kirkland, Wash.) as each won silver medals.  Messiiter in the 50-54 1500m; Turock in the  65-69 pentathlon, and Rick in the 50-54 high jump.

Click here for a complete list of all of the Pacific Northwest athlete performances.

Next year’s outdoor championships are schedule for July 13-16 in Baton Rouge, La.  The USATF Masters Indoor Championships will be held March 3-5 in Albuquerque, NM.  Meet information will be available in the coming months on the USATF national championships page.
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