When Saratoga Springs High School graduate Hannah Davidson was earning All-America honors running for the powerhouse Blue Streaks, the Gazette Stockade-athon was not even on her radar screen.
Little did she know that one day, after a successful racing career at both Providence and Tennessee, she would win one of the area’s most challenging races.
“I never ran this before. I hadn’t even heard of it before coach Aris [John Aris of the Stotan running team] told me I should run in it because I was from the Schenectady area,” said Davidson, who won the women’s division of the 38th annual 15k Sunday in 54:12, holding off former champion Laurel Leone by nine seconds.
Davidson wasn’t expecting a great time, let alone a victory, in her 15k debut, but when race favorite Megan Hogan pulled out at the last minute, Davidson changed her strategy.
“Well, we were supposed to start out slowly, but she’s [Hogan] been running really strong, so I thought I would stay with her. But me and Laurel ended up taking it [the lead], and I stayed with her until about the 6k mark. I was feeling good, so I kept on going. But I didn’t realize the whole way out was kind of downhill, and then the whole way back was uphill. I’m surprised they didn’t catch me.”
Leone almost did.
“People were telling me where everyone else was in the race, and that was really nice,” Davidson said. “I didn’t realize the third-place girl was coming up on Laurel, so I started to kick it into gear.”
Davidson was pleased with her performance on many levels.
“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” she said. “It was a good test. It let’s me know I’m headed in the right direction. It’s been only a few months of training for me, and it’s nice to know that after just a few months that I kind of have my strength back. We’ll be focusing on outdoor running now. I’ll pass up the steeplechase and focus on the 10ks for the USA nationals.”
Davidson, who is a multiple winner of the Firecracker 4-Mile, will be doing some warm-weather training in Florida before shifting her running indoors.
“I’ve been feeling good, and my training has gone really well,” she said. “I did a half-marathon [Bread Run] for the first time a couple of months back in Syracuse, and I was really happy with that. I might eventually consider the full marathon, but not for a while. Let’s see how the 10k goes.”
Davidson’s nearest competitor was Leone, the former Laurel Burdick, who won the Stockade-athon in 2009.
“I am very pleased with how I ran,” said the 28-year-old Leone. “I didn’t know that Hogan had pulled out. I saw the original list that was published in the paper, so I had some general idea of the field, but I try not to pay too much attention to that.”
Leone said she was happy with her time of 54:21.
“The last time I ran this race was four years ago, and I don’t even remember my time then. I just wanted to go out with a good pace,” she said.
“I haven’t run the race in a few years because I had a few injuries, and then I also had a baby. He’s 20 months old now. I’ve been running throughout, but I had to take some down time. Of course, having a baby changes your schedule. I pretty much have to run in the morning before my husband leaves for work. In terms of training, I’ve been pretty low key. I don’t do any workouts any more. I just log my miles and try to be consistent.”
Rounding out the top five women were Sara Dunham, 37, of Peru (55:44), who finished third the last two years; Sasha Varanka, 28, of Amherst, N.H. (55:40); and
Katie O’Regan, 28, of Lebanon, Pa. (54:29).