Saturday, August 29, 2009


Which state has the most elite masters?


Let's see, there's the amazing Linda Robb. And a mutant named Joe Bonness. And let's not forget Jeff Cuddeback.

What about Colorado?

Well, there's Steph Popelar, Ellen Hart and Michael Hagen.

And Georgia, especially as far as the women are concerned: Laura Sopiea, Kris Kester, Lisa Marshall.

And California, of course. Pete Kain, Tim Sheeper, Katrin Tobin, Kathy Winkler, Holly Nybo are some talented folks who come to mind.

These states, and several others, have more than their share of top flight 40-59 men and 40-55 women. But a very compelling argument can be made for MINNESOTA being home to the most elite masters.


Brian Bich, Rhett Bonner, Tony Schiller, Greg Taylor, Todd Firebaugh, Mo Mouw and Jeanne Fleck, Heidi Keller-Miler, Jan Guenther, Marnie Walth and Mary Beth Tuttle.

And these are not the only top 40-plussers in our state. They are just the ones who will be vying for 2009 Minnesota Master of the Year nominations.

What have the aforementioned masters of their triathlon domains done lately?

* Brian Bich, 43, Duluth - Despite nagging leg and back injuries, the 2008 US Master of the Year has won two of the four races he's entered this season.

* Rhett Bonner, 45, Duluth - Rhett won the 45-49M division at the AG National Championships by 3:11 and would have podiumed (3rd) in the 40-44M category. He's set four divisional records and was the first master at Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3.

* Todd Firebaugh, 47, Woodbury - His course-record performances at Oakdale Duathlon and The Apple were truly national-level efforts. A medal at Du Worlds is not out of the question.

* Jeanne Fleck, 44, Proctor - The 2008 Minnesota Master of the Year has posted two overall wins and three podium finishes in Midwest Multisport Series events. She should come home from Du Worlds with a medal around her neck.

* Jan Guenther, 50, Mound - Winner of 31 races since turning 40, Jan has raced seven times this year and set at least nine records in the process. She was the outright winner of the Lake Minnetonka Triathlon, lowering Becky Youngberg's five year old CR in the process. Her performance at Chisago Lakes Half (4:36:05) was World Class.

* Heidi Keller-Miler, 44, Chaska - Despite injuries that have sidelined her for the previous 1 1/2 season, Keller-Miler has managed to win two major events--Minneman and Brewhouse--this year. She also reached the podium at Buffalo Olympic (3rd), Lake Minnetonka (2nd) and RochesterFest (3rd).

* Montgomery Mouw, 45, White Bear Lake - The former pro has been the masters champ in every race he's finished this year. (Mechanical problems forced him to DNF at Chisago Lakes Half.)

* Tony Schiller, 51, Eden Prairie - The six-time World Champion is still cracking the overall Top 10 on a regular basis.

* Greg Taylor, 55, Mankato - Five starts, five divisional records. His effort (4:21:03) at the slightly short Chisago Lakes Half was the equivalent of a World Record.

* Mary Beth Tuttle, 46, Pine Springs - Five starts, one overall win and she never finished any lower than 6th.

* Marnie Walth, 40, Bismarck, ND - Her masters record at The Apple and her 4:23:26 half iron DEBUT! at Chisago, where she placed 2nd overall only 21 ticks behind pro Heather Haviland, are her '09 highlights. Her Chisago effort should earn her a Performance of the Year nomination.