Last year, it was love at first sight for Tim Chichester and the State Street hill.
On Sunday, it was like greeting an old friend.
A year after using that hill to make what was nearly a winning move, the 23-year-old Chichester unequivocally slammed the door on a record field on State Street to win the 36th annual Gazette Stockade-athon 15k in 46:59.
Chichester, a graduate student at SUNY-Brockport, took command on the first half of the course, then left no doubt on the second half, once he got into the sixth mile.
Scotia native Kieran O’Connor, 24, realized early on that he was running for second place, and shifted gears accordingly, finishing 1:37 behind Chichester in 48:36, with Mark Andrews of Rochester (48:41), Aaron Robertson of Voorheesville (48:58) and four-time champion Kevin Collins (49:06) in the vicinity.
Related stories, videos
• Robertson finds right tempo, pulls away to win women's race. Click HERE.
• Stockade-athon notebook: Injury dictates Collins' plans. Click HERE.
• Complete list of 1,603 finishers. Click HERE.
• List of age group winners. Click HERE.
• Video interview with men's winner Tim Chichester. Click HERE.
• Video interview with women's winner Jodie Robertson. Click HERE.
• Video of Chichester's victory and other top finishers. Click HERE.
“I really made a big move up the hill,” Chichester said. “My slowest mile on the hill was a 5:12, which was a huge confidence boost for me. By the time I got to the cemetery, I came through 10k in 31 flat, and I was feeling good and knew I had it. I didn’t slow down, I kept on going, because I was feeling good.”
The race drew 1,794 entries and 1,603 finishers, both records. It was the fifth year in a row that the Stockade-athon drew a record number of finishers.
The only glimmer of doubt for Chichester actually occurred early and at a moment when he was running fast, through the first 5k.
On a sunny, warm but crisp day that offered a pesky headwind up State Street, Chichester took the lead in 15:14.
“I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing?’ This is a long race, and that’s a pretty fast 5k,” Chichester said. “But then I told myself, ‘This is who I am, I can do this.’ I really put a lot of faith in that downhill in the second 5k, to recover, and then power up that State Street hill.”
The second 5k of the Stockade-athon is very fast, covering a long straight down Nott Street into the Stockade.
Nobody made a move to close the gap on Chichester during that stretch, which was the perfect setup for him once he got turned around back toward the park on State Street.
Last year, he used that hill to take the lead over Andy Allstadt, but Chichester surrendered it on the Bradley Street hill and wound up 6.7 seconds back in second place.
It didn’t help that the Stockade-athon rookie, a SUNY-Geneseo graduate from Mount Morris, misjudged the finish as he and Allstadt turned off Central Parkway for the final loop around Iroquois Lake.
This time, Chichester knew exactly where he was supposed to go.
“I thought about the big lead I had, but I was still running a little bit scared, because it’s a long race and anything can happen,” Chichester said. “Last year, I had Andy Allstadt to run with basically the whole time.
“When I came into the park last time and saw the finish, I thought we were finishing, and we had to go another mile or something. This time, I was thinking, ‘Now, I know.’ It’s a huge advantage, actually knowing the course, the downhills, the uphills. I wish Andy was back so I could race him again, I honestly do. I felt good.”
Besides course knowledge, Chichester came into the race off a very strong performance in the Run for Dunkin 5k in Albany on Sept. 18, when he ran a 14:49 to win by over 20 seconds over Justin Wood.
The question in the Stockade-athon was whether he could serve three similar portions of that speed over the course of a 15k.
“I ran a faster time at Dunkin this year than I did last year, and last year, I barely won, it was by about a tenth of a second,” he said. “This year, I ran Dunkin all alone. I took it out and kept strong the whole time. That was a huge confidence builder for me, knowing I was in good shape then, and my training’s been going good.”
Chichester, who is pointing toward the Boston Marathon next spring, is a relative newcomer to the Stockade-athon, but has one championship and one close second on his resume.
“This is a great race,” he said. “It’s one of the best in the area. To be put in the history books with all the great runners who have won this, it feels good.”
O’Connor decided early that chasing Chichester was pure folly, so he settled in for what turned out to be some spirited competition against two supreme masters runners, Andrews and Collins, and Robertson.
“I wanted to try to go out with Tim, but I quickly realized that that was not going to happen,” O’Connor said. “So I slowed down, because I was out there by myself on an island out there. So I let Kevin and Mark catch up to me.”
Be careful what you wish for.
Andrews made a big push up State Street to take a 10-meter lead over O’Connor and maintained that through Vale Cemetery.
On the steep but shorter Bradley hill, O’Connor, a Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High and University of Notre Dame graduate, was able to regain second place.
“About halfway up the hill, he kind of lost steam, and I was able to grab him and reel him in,” O’Connor said. “As we were coming around the lake, I felt pretty strong, so I opened it up and was able to put him away.
“Both of them, they were kicking my butt, and I was just trying to hang on. As masters guys, I figured I’m not going to have any poblems, with my young legs, but they are tough, tough competition.”
Scott Mindel, a former star at Shenendehowa and the University of Cincinnati, had hoped to be in contention after finishing third last year, but he couldn’t get his legs under him four weeks after having run 2:30 at the Hartford Marathon.
He finished sixth, 40 seconds behind Collins.
“My legs didn’t feel bad and my breathing was fine; I just didn’t have the gear that I had last year,” Mindel said.