Jarry, Roecker Schenectady Stockade-athon winners

Top four men's finishers separated by a mere four seconds; Roecker runs 54:49
Francois Jarry wins the 43rd MVP Health Care Stockade-athon, with Ben Fazio in hot pursuit.
Francois Jarry wins the 43rd MVP Health Care Stockade-athon, with Ben Fazio in hot pursuit.

SCHENECTADY — The hill on Franklin Street turned into Mount Rushmore on Sunday.

As in, there were four figures at the top, and Francois Jarry rushed a little bit more than the other three to the bottom. But just a bit.

In a wild four-way sprint to the finish, the 24-year-old from Montreal barely outkicked Ben Fazio, Ryan Udvadia and Alex Benway to win the 43rd annual MVP Health Care Stockade-athon 15k with a time of 47:48.

Only four seconds separated the lead group, an absurd gap for a 9.3-mile race. Since the turn of the century, the average margin between first and fourth at the Stockade-athon had been 1:58, with Joshua McDougal, Sam Morse, Kieran O’Connor and Patrick Geoghan at the low end of the range, separated by 22 seconds in 2014.

 Jarry didn’t hesitate when asked at what point he thought he had Sunday’s race won: “Never.” It was an honest answer, as Fazio checked in at 47:49, Udvadia at 47:50 and Benway in 47:52. It was another 45 seconds back to Scott Mindel to round out the top five.

Speaking of small time windows, former Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School and Providence College star Samantha Roecker whisked herself from Philadelphia to the Capital Region via train for a total of 15 hours, during which she won the women’s division of the Stockade-athon in 54:49.

Complete results: MVP Health Care Stockade-athon 15K

Jarry traveled from Montreal to Charlton with his McGill University teammate, Jared Short, a top runner on Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake teams that won Section II Class B championships in 2013 and 2014. (Short finished 14th Sunday.)

The final four were a pack of six in the early stages of the Stockade-athon, then they rocketed away in the final 5k, after the course turns around in Central Park and heads back downtown. But they kept it very tight, and Jarry’s kicking ability was the deciding factor, by the slimmest of margins.

“It was crazy,” Jarry said. “I thought it would be an easy kick for me, because I’m usually good at that, but these guys were good, too. I was tired, and I had no idea if it was going to be me or the other guy. We were pushing and pushing and pushing, and in the end, I guess I had the top speed.”

Of the four, Benway, at 28, is the oldest. He ran at Queensbury High and Clarkson University; the 23-year-old Fazio, a Rhode Island native, was the first cross country All American at RPI; and Udvadia, 22, is serving as an unpaid assistant coach at UAlbany while he finishes his final semester as an economics major.

Photos: Scenes from Sunday’s Stockade-athon, Nov. 11, 2018

While Jarry was on his way down from Montreal on Saturday, Udvadia was on the Great Danes’ team bus back from the cross country NCAA Northeast Regionals in Buffalo.

They all came together to produce one of the wildest finishes in the history of this race.

“It was encouraging, because you’re not suffering out there by yourself,” said Udvadia, who had never raced longer than 10k. “But it was also kind of nice because everyone was switching the lead, and I was kind of using that, sitting on their shoulder.

“I actually made the first kick at the top of the hill, coming  out of the cemetery and going into the park, but it’s such a steep downhill that if anyone takes the lead, it’s kind of hard to respond because you’re all going so fast. It’s harder to get faster, so when he took the lead, I knew it was going to be a struggle to catch him. I had to let him go. I kind of used the third-place guy as a marker to try to stay with.”

“We just kept exchanging,” Jarry said. “I saw him [Fazio] next to me, I accelerated a bit, but I didn’t know if I could hold this for much longer.

“Very fun race. Very fun race. I hoped it would be an easy one, because it’s always fun when you start and you get the win, but I was a bit scared at some point. I was like, ‘Oh, there’s other fast guys who showed up.'”

The 27-year-old Roecker, who works as a nurse in Philadelphia, used the Stockade-athon as a prep for the California International Marathon in Sacramento on Dec. 2, which serves as the USATF Championship for that distance.

Photos: Scenes from Sunday’s Stockade-athon, Nov. 11, 2018

Her former Providence teammate, Hannah Davidson, won the Stockade-athon three times from 2013 to 2016, but Roecker never ran the race while in high school and college because it conflicted with the state meet and NCAA regionals.

It wasn’t exactly accommodating now that she lives in Philadelphia, but she arrived by train 11 p.m. Saturday, and was scheduled to be right back on the train at 2 Sunday afternoon, but with some extra hardware for the return ride.

“It’s always been a prestigious race in the area, and it’s always been a bucket list one for me, so it’s nice to come here and win it against a competitive field,” she said.

Roecker ran with Danielle Winslow through about 5k, then put a 10-second gap on her while running with Jeff Goupil, who eventually finished seven seconds ahead of Roecker.

“We both had surges of feeling good, which was nice because we were pulling each other along, and then I’m terrible on downhills, so I knew he was going to get me in the end,” Roecker said with a laugh.

Winslow finished second among the women, in 55:59, 1:10 behind Roecker, and Katie Messina was third, in 56:47, 21 seconds ahead of Karen Bertasso of Albany. Courtney Breiner of Troy (58:32) rounded out the women’s top five.”

Photos: Scenes from Sunday’s Stockade-athon, Nov. 11, 2018

“I’m gearing up for the California International Marathon, so this is my last tune-up effort, I guess,” Roecker said. “Fifteen-k is a little long for a last tuneup, so I just wanted to go out smooth at first in the first 5k and then go from there.

“I just wanted to put in a good effort, and I feel like I did that. I wanted to win. I don’t know, running keeps me sane still, so I’m keeping it up.”

Of the 1,334 runners who started the race, 1,317 finished, including 66-year-old Mark Mindel of Ballston Lake (1:42:48). He’s the only person to have run in all 43 Stockade-athons.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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