Culture

All Ages, All Abilities: Club Cross Country Brings All Kinds of Runners Together

From masters to pros to recreational runners, the club cross country championships give everybody a chance to mix it up together.

A little rain, a little mud, a lot of friends, and some cooler temperatures. It’s no wonder so many runners find the USA Track & Field Club Cross Country Championships one of the best ways to end the year.

The championships bring together running clubs from across the country and on Saturday at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the masters (age 40 and older) and open women’s races provided plenty of competition. Janes Elite Racing, based in Santa Monica, California, took the masters team title and the Hoka Aggie Running Club based in Northern California won the open race.

Aisling Cuffe, who trains in Providence, Rhode Island, with coach Ray Treacy, took the individual open title with Katelyn Tuohy coming in right behind her. Tuohy, 17, is a high school senior from North Rockland High School in New York, who won the Nike Cross National title for the third time just a week ago. Tuohy said she smiled through the race on Saturday, but her immediate plan is to rest now after the conclusion of her final high school cross-country season.

“As soon as I got here it was a different feeling and experience,” she said. “I had a lot of fun out there racing against the pros…it was a really good atmosphere today.”

Brian Diglio, Tuohy’s coach, said the goal was for her to enjoy the experience and find out what the 6K distance felt like.

“It was perfect,” he said. “She had a blast out there. The women were great. It was a really competitive field, so we couldn’t ask for a better outcome.”

As for the attention cast on Tuohy as her historic high-school running career is coming to close, Diglio said she’s been handling it well, though it isn’t her favorite part of the sport.

“What’s really nice here is that this is the least attention she’s gotten at a race recently,” he said. “It’s the last thing she enjoys about this—she’s good with it, but she prefers to just be one of the women racing, so this has been great.”

On the masters side, Sascha Scott, 44, from the Syracuse Track Club, was the individual champion. She said she has mostly focused on competing at the 1-mile distance, so the 6K course was a challenge.

“I’ve been working all season to run well here,” she said. “I was really happy—I held on a ran smart.”

While Scott at one time traveled far and wide to compete, with two children and her job as a professor of art history at Syracuse University, now she sticks to meets closer to home. But make no mistake—her drive is far from diminishing.

“I don’t mind aging,” she said, laughing. “My 44 year old self would kick the sh*t out of my 20 year old self.”

From start to mud-caked finish, photographer Derek Call captured the scene at the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships.

Katelyn Tuohy, 17, greets 10-year-old Paige Stoltz of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Tuohy, a high school senior, won the Nike Cross Nationals meet for the third time a week before racing the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships, where she placed second in her first competition against pro runners.
PHOTO: Derek Call
Katelyn Tuohy, 17, greets 10-year-old Paige Stoltz of Hershey, Pennsylvania, and gives Stoltz her autographed race bib. Tuohy, a high school senior, won the Nike Cross Nationals meet for the third time a week before racing the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships, where she placed second in her first competition against pro runners.
Eventual 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships masters division winner Sascha Scott of Syracuse battles through the mud against Casey Hire, 40, from Team Red Lizard, who placed fourth.
PHOTO: Derek Call
Eventual 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships masters division winner Sascha Scott of Syracuse battles through the mud against Casey Hire, 40, from Team Red Lizard, who placed fourth.
Mary Cain, 23, eases back into competition at the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships at Lehigh University. She placed 33rd in the open women's race, running unattached.
PHOTO: Derek Call
Mary Cain, 23, eases back into competition at the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships at Lehigh University. She placed 33rd in the open women’s race, running unattached.
The Bella N Motion masters team, based in New Jersey, celebrates at the finish line of the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships.
PHOTO: Derek Call
The Bella N Motion masters team, based in New Jersey, celebrates at the finish line.
The early lead pack at the 2019 USATF Club Cross Country Championships includes Olivia Pratt (bib 876), Danielle Shanahan (bib 893), Melissa Dock (739), Katelyn Tuohy (1119), and Leah O'Conn0r (851).
PHOTO: Derek Call
The early lead pack includes Olivia Pratt (bib 876), Danielle Shanahan (893), Melissa Dock (739), Katelyn Tuohy (1119), and Leah O’Connor (851).
The 2019 USATF Club Cross Country open women's champion Aisling Cuffe, 26, breaks the tape at Lehigh University, representing Saucony.
PHOTO: Derek Call
The 2019 USATF Club Cross Country open women’s champion Aisling Cuffe, 26, breaks the tape at Lehigh University, representing Saucony.