The Gazette Stockade-athon continues to draw young up-and-comers from out of town.
Defending champion Christian Thompson won’t run on Sunday after snapping off a 2:22:48 to finish 20th overall and third among Americans at the New York City Marathon.
The Stockade-athon found a way to attract two top contenders — one of whom is driving eight hours from Morgantown, W.Va. — to replace him, and they’ll be backed up by a very deep collection of elite runners at the 38th annual 15k.
The race will begin at 9 a.m. on Central Parkway.
Joining the field for the first time is Mike Fout, who is embarking on a post-college career after finishing fourth in the 10,000
meters for Florida State at the NCAA outdoors national championship meet in June.
The other new face is the more experienced Josh Simpson, a former West Virginia University runner who is building toward hitting the standard for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials by the end of the year.
Simpson ran a 45:05 at the Gate River 15k in March, which made him an easy favorite to win on Sunday . . . until Fout’s entry showed up.
It makes for an intriguing race, as usual.
“Jerry Lawson’s record is probably safe, but it might be the first year we have a sub-46 since the Team Stick year,” race director Vince Juliano said.
Team Stick was a group of Kenyans who lived and trained in Schenectady and Scotia in 1994, when one of the team members, Zakaria Kunyiha, won the Stockade-athon in 45:14.
The record of 44:39 was set by Lawson in 1992.
Simpson was 10th at the 2006 Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals and overshadowed a bit by his twin brother, Justin, who was seventh.
But Josh Simpson continued to run competitively after high school and with the Mountaineers to the point where he has twice hit the standard for the U.S. marathon trials.
He’ll be trying to hit the standard again when he runs in the California International on Dec. 8, and he’s using the Stockade-athon as the final steppingstone in his preparation.
Via email, Simpson said he searched the internet for races “that weren’t terribly far for me . . . (some may consider this current 8 hr drive far)”, and when the Stockade-athon showed up, the name rang a bell.
Simpson said he recalled the race from having seen results in 2009, when Fernando Cabada, one of the top U.S. marathon prospects, came to Schenectady to run.
After contacting Juliano, Simpson said, “I realized how important this race was up your way and how much effort the race committee puts into the event, so I really wanted to be a part of it.”
Simpson’s resume includes having qualified for the U.S. half marathon world team, and besides Gate River this year, he was sixth at the Papa John’s 10-miler in April.
Simpson said his training has been longer and slower as he gets closer to the December marathon, so he’s not sure how the Stockade-athon’s 15k distance will work for him, “but I will say my plan is to race Mike Fout hard and win. He’s a great runner, and I look forward to racing him. It should be a good battle.”
Fout, a native of LaPorte, Ind., took off as a distance runner when he was a surprise winner of the Foot Locker nationals after winning the Indiana state championship and the Foot Locker Midwest Regional.
At Florida State, the two-time All-American helped the Seminoles to a second-place finish at the 2012 outdoor national championship meet.
“I would think this would be a runaway [for Simpson], but then this guy entered,” Juliano said.
After graduating from Florida State, Fout joined the Syracuse-based Stotan Racing team that brought several top runners to the Stockade-athon last year.
Stotan has two other runners entered, Sam Morse and Andrew Foxenberg, who each ran at the Chicago Marathon four weeks ago.
Morse was third at the Stockade-athon last year and ran 2:21:50 at Chicago.
Some of the other top competitors are Alex Paley, who is coming off a personal-best 1:09:09 at the Hartford Half Marathon last month; two-time Saratoga Firecracker four-miler winner Patrick Geoghegan; and Niskayuna graduate Louis Serafini, an All-New England 5k runner for Boston University.
Others who will be hitting the finish line in Central Park early are Macky Lloyd, Jaime Julia, Lee Berube, Tom O’Grady, Mike Roda, Scott Mindel, Kevin Treadway, Nick Webster and Josh Merlis.
“We’ll have close to 20 men around 51 or better,” Juliano said.