The term “Stotan” was coined by Percy Cerutty, a world renowned coach in the 1950s and 1960s, to identify the conjoined principles of the Stoics and Spartans.
These principles of strength, toughness and purity of purpose have been adopted by the Syracuse-based Stotan Racing team.
When they descend on the 37th annual Gazette Stockade-athon 15k on Sunday, though, they’ll more closely resemble the Persian army than the 300 Spartans.
Despite some scratches, Stotan Racing is loading up on the men’s field with four seeded runners, including 2006 Stockade-athon champion Fred Joslyn, who competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston.
Then again, Stotan’s most promising runner actually will be in the women’s field.
Maegan Krifchin of Ithaca has exploded on the distance running scene this year and is on the verge of running the fastest women’s time in race history, after having finished 13th as the top U.S. finisher at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria, on Oct. 6.
The presence of Stotan Racing, which will also bring Mark Mendrek-Laske, Chris Mason and Chris Raulli, notwithstanding, the Stockade-athon has drawn perhaps “the deepest men’s field in 20 years,” race director Vince Juliano said.
Former Colorado University runner Christian Thompson of Elkins Park, Pa., is coming off a 1:09:37 victory in the Hamptons Half Marathon and was the second U.S. finisher, behind Ian Burrell, at the Utica Boilermaker 15k in 46:12 this summer.
Sam Morse of Camden, who is unattached but will soon join Stotan, posted a 1:08 in the Empire State Half Marathon and a 44:38 in the Falling Leaves 14k.
Former Section II stars in the field include Shenendehowa and University of Cincinnati graduate Scott Mindel, who was third behind Andy Allstadt and Tim Chichester two years ago, and Colonie High School and Dartmouth graduate Kevin Treadway, who won the GHI Workforce Team Challenge in the spring and posted a 1:09:10 in the Hartford Half Marathon.
Chichester, of Mount Morris, will be back as the defending champion, having posted a 46:59 last year, but he was traveling in Europe and said he hasn’t raced since the summer.
It’s a rich mix of talent in the men’s field, and the Stotan group, led by Joslyn, should be binding it together, even though most of the Stotan first team won’t be in the race.
“There are several guys coming individually that have a chance to run with them, which is what makes this really interesting,” Juliano said.
Stotan Racing was co-founded by Bill Aris, the highly successful cross country coach at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, and his son, John.
Because their teams have been so successful at the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN), the national high school team championship hosted by Nike in Portland, Ore., the Arises have developed a connection to Nike CEO Mark Parker and his wife Kathy Mills Parker, a former state champ for Fayetteville-Manlius who broke the outdoor 5,000-meter world record in 1978.
Nike jumped on board as a sponsor when Stotan Racing was formed in 2009, and it has taken off.
Stotan runners enjoy support from Nike at various levels all the way up to contractual status.
“We mulled it as a pipe dream,” John Aris said. “After the fourth or fifth girls’ championship at NXN, we asked Mark Parker if Nike would promote us as a post-collegiate group. We expected him to say no. At that point, we had had no success with post-collegiate athletes. He said yes.
“After about a two-month process on design revision, we came up with this theme. It goes beyond running, it’s a lifestyle choice about toughness and a no-quit attitude for your life and your running.”
Part of the philosophy is to scale back and recharge for the following spring, while searching for regional races about once a month as a bridge from November to April. Joslyn knew the Stockade-athon well and suggested it as a quality race that fit what they were looking for.
“Ironically, the runners brought it to me,” Aris said. “We give them November to April, like the season when the Spartans wouldn’t go to war, and you work on rebuilding. There’s a lot of room for improvement, so we told them to take a low-key approach to racing. We’re not peaking for anything until April.”
Joslyn, who ran 2:24:29 at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, was second to Andy Allstadt in 46:41 the last time he ran the Stockade-athon, in 2007.
Thompson would not be running in the Stockade-athon if not for Hurricane Sandy.
He was scheduled to run in the 5k to be held in conjunction with the New York City Marathon last weekend, but it was cancelled.
A member of the New Jersey/New York Track Club and a two-time all-Big 12 performer in the steeplechase and cross country for the Buffaloes, he jumped into the Boilermaker over the summer after being dissatisfied with how his college season ended.
He wound up as the second American, just four seconds behind Burrell, who was 15th at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and would go on to run in the World Half Marathon Championships.
Among those whom Thompson beat at Boilermaker were several Stotans, including Joslyn.
“I’m really excited; races are a lot more fun and exciting when you have a pack of five or six up front, and against that kind of competition, you’re going to get a fast time no matter what your position is,” Thompson said.
“I’m sure everyone thinks they have a shot. Everyone’s different. Some like to have a clearcut strategy. I like to play it by how I feel that day. Your training could be going really well, and then you don’t race well, or someone shows up out of nowhere and ends up winning. I like to play it by ear. I like to know who’s going to be there, but ultimately, I’m worried about myself.”