Prize money has helped lure exceptional women’s field

The 33rd annual Gazette Stockade-athon 15k, which will start at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday from Central Pa

It wouldn’t be out of line to re-name the

Gazette Stockade-athon the Stampede-athon this year.

Besides the possibility of a

record turnout, the women’s field is so deep and talented that it’s difficult to sort out.

The 33rd annual Stockade-athon 15k, which will start at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday from Central Park, has benefitted from an infusion of $3,000 in prize money by Fleet Feet Albany for open division runners. That’s attracted several women from outside the Capital Region, making the top level of the women’s field a hodgepodge of runners with various degrees of early speed, endurance and experience.

“The money has done exactly what I wanted it to do with the women,” race director Vince Jul­iano said. “In my opinion, it’s the most interesting and deepest field we’ve ever assembled. If everybody shows up, it’s going to be a fascinating race.”

There’s something to like about each of a dozen or so top women entered, and a question mark or two about each one, too.

Willow Street Athletic Club teammates Eileen Combs (57:30) and Emily Bryans, a two-time Stockade-athon champion, finished one-two, respectively, last year, separated by just five seconds.

Combs spent some time in Eur­ope for her job and returned to the U.S. in the spring. Since then, she’s steadily worked her way back into shape.

Bryans, 41, is attempting to become the second masters runner to win the Stockade-athon, after Lori Hewig did it in 2002. Bryans has been on a tear this fall, winning the USA Masters 5k Cross Country Championships by six seconds over Joan Nesbit-Mabe in Greensboro, N.C., a month ago, followed by

43-year-old Anne Benson of Clifton Park, who is also in the Stockade-athon field.

The local runners will get a stiff challenge from some out-of-towners, including 23-year-old Kaitlin O’Sullivan and 34-year-old Murphee Hayes of the Syracuse Chargers. Jen Adams of Gansevoort is also a member of the Chargers.

Based on results from the Syr­acuse Festival of Races 5k on

Oct. 5, in which seven Stockade-athon contenders finished in the top 20, O’Sullivan is the one to beat with a 17:13 for third place, but she’s never run the Stockade-athon, and could be compromised by the 15k distance.

“So how is this all going to play out?” Juliano said. “Kaitlin O’Sullivan has the most upside. She could take it out and try to win it on the front. Alyssa [Lotmore] likes to go out fast, Murphee can stay in the front, but there’s a lot of distance runners back there who can close the gap.”

There’s a good chance there could be 10 women under 60 minutes, which hasn’t happened since 1988, when Lisa Vaill won in 54:02.

The winning time shouldn’t be nearly that fast, but there will be a crowd trying to finish first.

“We have 12 possibly under an hour, and probably eight of 12 under 59 minutes,” Juliano said. “There could be six under 58. Kaitlin O’Sullivan, unless she can win it wire-to-wire, she’s untested at this distance, she’s never run this course. She’s a fast 5k runner, but there’s a lot of quality on her heels.

“If she can hold her pace, that would be a 55:30, but if she runs 56:30, that brings a few of these women into the picture.”

At the Festival of Races, O’Sullivan was third, followed by Bryans in seventh (17:47), Hayes in ninth (18:02), 42-year-old Lori Kingsley of Wysox, Pa., in 10th (18:03), Adams in 11th (18:05), Benson in 16th (18:24) and 46-year-old Kelly Dworak of Brewerton in 19th (18:48). All are entered in the Stockade-athon.

So are Lotmore, the former Bishop Maginn and UAlbany star, 26-year-old Diane Matthews of

Albany, who beat Hayes by 11 seconds to win the USMC Reserves Toys for Tots Half Marathon in Albany on Oct. 12, Kristin White of Fayetteville and 40-year-old Kari Gathen of Albany.

Bryans, Kingsley and Dworak represent three masters who have run a sub-3:00 marathon within the last year. Bryans, who last won the Stockade-athon in 2001 (56:51), ran 2:58 at the Boston Marathon to finish fifth in the masters division.

In another recent matchup of Stockade-athon contenders, she won the Great Pumpkin Challenge 10k in 37:10 on Oct. 25, to 37:44 for Combs in second and 38:32 for Adams in third.

“It could go any way,” Juliano said. “It’s a toss-up.”

The men’s race could come down to a dual between Willow Street teammates Andy Allstadt, the 2007 men’s champion, and Chuck Terry, with a few others waiting to pick up the pieces if Allstadt and Terry falter.

Allstadt has been busy in 5k’s this fall, winning the Komen Race for the Cure (15:21) in Albany on Oct. 4,

running a 15:12 at the CVS/Caremark Downtown 5k in Provideve, R.I., on Sept. 21 and beating Terry by 21 seconds for second behind Emory

Mort of Ghent at the Bruegger’s

Bagel Run in Albany on Sept. 7.

“I don’t think he’s running as well as he was last year, I think he’s been a little banged up,” Jul­iano said. “Last year, he was on top of his game. The Andy of last year, there was no one locally who could touch him.”

Terry has been bolstering his

resume this year, winning the GHI Corporate Team Challenge in the spring. He won the SEFCU Labor Day 5k in 15:40 and was second in the USMC Half Marathon in 1:10:26, beating Allstadt by 1:44. The 15k distance should suit him.

“He won the Corporate Challenge in a very fast time, and has had some good and not so good races since,” Juliano said. “If he’s on his game, he can contend.”

Also entered are former Shen star Rob Cloutier, marathoner Shaun

Evans, Tim Scarpinato of Clifton Park, Aaron Robertson of the Syr­acuse Chargers and Justin Bishop of Colonie, who was second to Allstadt in the Komen Race and keeps showing up near the front of his races.

Cloutier, who was ninth in 2006, posted a 4:17 mile at a Colonie summer meet this year and won the Saratoga National Bank Cross Country Classic on Oct. 19, by two seconds over Scarpinato in 15:37 for 3.05 miles.

Evans ran a 2:31 at the Boston Marathon in April and has been training well all year, but he was knocked off his schedule by an inner ear infection this fall. He led the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon through 24 miles, but faltered and finished third.

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