Enough speed? No problem.
Enough stamina? That was the lingering question.
Kaitlin O’Sullivan, a 23-year-old member of the Syracuse Chargers running club, answered that question with an emphatic yes, pulling away from Chargers teammate Jennifer Adams of Gansevoort to win the women’s division of the 33rd annual Gazette Stockade-athon by 59 seconds Sunday at Central Park.
O’Sullivan finished in 55:51, while Adams clocked a 56:50.
O’Sullivan, who finished third in the recent 5k Festival of Roses in Syracuse, came into the race as one of the favorites, based on her excellent speed in shorter races. Her impressive resume includes nine
SUNYAC championships, four ECAC titles and four All-America honors at SUNY Oneonta, where she ran a variety of events and distances.
But she never ran the Stockade-athon before, and had only tried the 15k distance once.
“I’m basically a miler or an
800-meter runner,” said O’Sullivan, who wore dark green sunglasses to match her running gear. “I use the longer runs like this as a base and for practice.”
That said, most race experts weren’t surprised that she took the early lead and was coasting when she reached Ellis Hospital, but nobody knew for sure — including O’Sullivan herself — if she could handle the State Street hill, especially after stretching out to such a longer distance.
“I felt surprisingly good going up the hill. I’m not a much of a hill runner,” she said with a grin. “But I felt just fine. The only time I started feeling a little tired was about 71⁄2 to eighth miles into the race. I felt surprisingly relaxed the entire way. I wasn’t pushing myself at all.”
O’Sullivan said she was thrilled with her time, especially since her only other attempt at this distance seemed like just a workout for her.
“The only other time I ran a 15k was in the Boilermaker, and I ran something like 1:20,” she said with a giggle. “I only heard about this race when I met [race director] Vince Juliano while watching a cross country meet over at the Saratoga State Park recently. He told me about the race, and I was very interested. I thought it would be a lot of fun.
“Everyone has treated me so well while I’ve been here. It’s a great race, and it’s run very well.”
O’Sullivan was also extremely happy about some side benefits to winning the race.
“I love the fact that there is some prize money, and I love it even more that the race has been designated the USA Track and Field East Region Championship,” she said. “With me finishing in less than 56 minutes, I’ll be able to go to the national championship in Florida. It’s great that they provide us with air fare and lodging.”
O’Sullivan didn’t see any of her female competitors throughout the race, but she said she didn’t need to.
“I just kept my natural pace,” she said. “I kind of knew where the other women were by when I heard people clapping for them
after I went through a certain stage of the race. I figured I had a pretty good lead, but when I started up the hill, I began wondering where the next person was. I didn’t know if I was running fast enough, and that was enough to spur me on the rest of the way.”
Adams, a 22-year-old former Saratoga Springs High School runner who graduated from Keene State last year, is also a member of O’Sullivan’s Syracuse Chargers running club, even though she is not from Syracuse. Adams earned All-American honors by finishing ninth in last year’s NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship.
Finishing third was 41-year-old race veteran Emily Bryans, a two-time Stockade-athon champion from Schenectady. Bryans clocked a 57:41 to break the race record for women’s masters runners.
She was very impressed with O’Sullivan’s performance.
“She was clearly the class of the race, when it comes to running a 5k race distance. We knew she had the speed. But I guess she proved she can run this distance, too,” Bryans said.
“She looked like she was running smoothly and that she had no problem with the distance. She did the right thing, because she went out very aggressively, and kept running that way. The thing about this race is that you have to go out more aggressively than you really want to, because the first part of the race is very easy. I usually go out faster than I’m comfortable with, without getting too winded, and then try to hold on the second half.”
Bryans, a member of the Willow Street Athletic Club, was asked if it gets any easier climbing the State Street hill when you’ve done it so many times before.
“Not really, but then again, it’s not any tougher, either,” she said. “It all depends on what kind of day you’re having. If you’re having a good day and running well, coming up the hill feels like it always does. You just grit your teeth and grind it out.
“After all these years, my body tells me how fast to go. I can usually tell if I’m keeping the right pace. Today was a great day to run, and I felt strong.
“I’m extremely pleased with my time today. I had no idea of how fast I was going, but when I saw the clock once I got into the park, I knew I had to pick up the pace a little bit. I was well aware of the fact that I beat the masters record by a whole three seconds. It feels great.”
Former Bishop Maginn and University at Albany star Alyssa Lotmore, 23, was fourth in 57:41, followed by 42-year-old Lori Kinglsey of Wysox, Pa., in 57:53.
Defending women’s champion Emily Combs finished 10th among the women in 1:00.15.
The women’s field produced nine times under an hour, and six under 59 minutes. The most under an hour in the history of the race was 10, in 1988.