SCHENECTADY — This spring, Ricardo Estremera will submit his Ph. D. dissertation in Spanish linguistics at the University at Albany.
On Sunday, he aced a course in body language.
In not so many words, his competitors told him what he wanted to know: That he was fast and fit enough to win the 42nd annual MVP Stockade-athon 15k.
RELATED: Complete results
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Estremera and Matt Brooker wore out three other runners who were part of the lead pack in the first half of the race, then the 31-year-old Estremera pulled away from Brooker downhill on Bradley Boulevard as they approached the 8-mile mark of the 9.3-mile course.
He made another surge in Vale Cemetery, and that was that. Estremera won in 47:47, 15 seconds ahead of the 27-year-old Brooker. He said he's in shape to run faster, but beating the clock wasn't the goal; reading his competition and adjusting to it was.
"Based on my training, I'm in 46-slow shape, but in the end, it's prize money, so it's all about tactics and going with who's in front," Estremera said. "If you can go smooth and slow, I'll go smooth and slow. But if he goes hard, I'll go hard."
Mollie Turner, a member of Averill Park High School's state champion cross country teams in 1995 and 1996, won the women's race in 56:44, using steady mile splits as she continues to rebound from a seventh-place finish in the Hartford Marathon on Oct. 14.
Her coach on those teams was Mark Mindel, who kept alive his distinction of being the only person to have completed all 42 Stockade-athons by running a 1:37:16.
Mindel also had a hand, in a sense, in Estremera's race, as he gave him a driving tour of the course the day before the race. Mindel is a close friend of UAlbany cross country coach Matt Jones, and Estremera is a grad assistant coach for the Great Danes.
Both Estremera and Turner were first-time Stockade-athon champions. Defending champs Lou Serafini and Hannah Davidson did not compete.
The lead pack at the four-mile mark included Estremera, Brooker, Scott Mindel, Steve Soprano and Jacob Andrews, with Julius Mbugua by himself about 30 meters back.
It turned into a two-man match between Estremera and Brooker in Central Park heading toward the 6-mile mark.
"Going to mile 5, Brooker took the lead and started pushing the pace," Estremera said. "At 5 and 6, Brooker started going sub-five [minutes] and we really started racing after that.
"We stayed together until mile 8, where I just dropped the pace to, like, a 4:30. Then going down the hill, I picked it up a little more to be on the safe side."
Having assumed control without completely putting Brooker away, Estremera ran in his comfort zone knowing that he had a finish kick in reserve if he needed it.
"I'm more of a 1,500 steeplechase guy, so I'm confident in how I'm going to close, so my strategy from the get-go was whoever was in front, just stay with him and then close hard," he said. "When we got out of the park, the top part with the hill, I passed Matt Brooker and kept the pace and felt like he was hurting a little bit. So I took advantage of the downhill and went very hard."
The surge in Vale Cemetery gave Estremera 20-30 meters of cushion on the lead.
Then it was just a matter of getting through Vale Park and coasting down Franklin Street toward City Hall.
A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Estremera was a two-time all-America East cross country runner for UAlbany, where he graduated in 2009. Now, he is primarily a winter indoor track runner who uses some longer fall workouts and road races like the Stockade-athon for base training.
After living in Florida for a few years, he returned to Albany for his doctoral work. Besides that and helping Jones with the Great Danes cross country team, he teaches Spanish at the Academy of Holy Names.
"This race has a lot of history and background, with the names and the battles that happened here," Estremera said. "So it was very cool. I know the history, and this is a great community. Everywhere, even around the race, you'll see people outside, putting on music and cheering for you. I really enjoy road races because of that. It's a lot of fun."
Out of the initial lead pack, Soprano was third (49:05), Mindel fourth (49:20) and Andrews fifth (49:39).
In the women's race, Turner said she approached the Stockade-athon as a hard workout, post-Hartford Marathon, in which she ran 2:53:34, a 6:38 mile pace.
She was still sharp two weeks ago in winning the Saratoga Cross Country Classic 5k (17:53), a course she ran many times as a high school athlete at Averill Park, where her name was Mollie DeFrancesco and she was part of a powerhouse team that won two Class B state championships.
And on Sunday, Turner showed that she's recovered from Hartford by maintaining a mile pace (6:06) pretty close to what she was shooting for, six minutes.
"I approached it like a hard workout," she said. "Just keep things under control. And I really didn't want to pull a muscle, with it being so cold. I was regretting that I wore shorts.
"I wanted to get a PR [personal record], which I did by a couple seconds from last year. I picked it up a little bit in the last three-tenths of a mile to get under the PR."
Turner tried to stay with a pack of male runners early, but after they surged away, she ran alone.
While wary of some of the good women behind her, she stuck to her gameplan and finished just over two minutes ahead of Christie MacFarlane (58:45) and Claire Collison (58:48).
"I like it because there's so many turns and hills that you can't zone out, you have to pay attention to what you're doing," Turner said. "If I was trying to run a really fast time, I would prefer a flat course, but I like this race. I like how it brings out all different types of runners who are strong on hills."
Turner wore her lucky NCAA Championship headband from her college days at James Madison University, where she qualified for the 2001 ans 2002 nationals as an at-large individual twice and ran against the likes of North Carolina's Shalane Flanagan, who last weekend became the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon.
"That was amazing," Turner said. "I wish I was there, but we had to watch it on TV, and my girls were watching and cheering, and it was a lot of fun. I was at James Madison, and she was at UNC, so we saw each other a lot. I mean, she was like a minute ahead of me. If I were a minute behind her now, I would be thrilled."
After winning the Stockade-athon, Turner watched her daughters, 4-year-old Emmaline and 2-year-old Natalie, run the kid's run.
And after she and her husband lived in Virginia for several years before moving back to her hometown of Averill Park, she enjoyed winning a race that she has such a strong connection to, through her old high school coach, who somehow gets it together every year to finish the race he helped create in 1976.
"It's excellent. My high school coach is Mark Mindel, and he founded this race," Turner said. "We won the state championship in '95 and '96. He's amazing. He's incredible.
Complete results can be found at www.albanyrunningexchange.org.
Ricardo Estremera (31, Albany), 47:47; Matt Brooker (27, Albany Ny), 48:02; Steve Soprano (30, Queensbury), 49:05; Scott Mindel (31, Ballston Lake), 49:20; Jacob Andrews (24, Troy), 49:39; Julius Mbugua (34, Belleville Nj), 50:26; Shaun Donegan (32, Malta), 51:19; Aaron Lozier (29, Albany), 51:37; Patrick Carroll (26, Schenectady), 52:29; Thijs Kolet (36, Saratoga Springs), 53:02.
Kent Lemme (51, Pittsfield Ma), 53:10; Richard Messineo (29, Nassau), 53:36; Daniel Jordy (34, Glenville), 53:39; Joshua Korn (21, Albany), 53:44; Michael Hamilton (30, Oneonta), 53:44; Robert Irwin (44, Guilderland), 53:50; Aaron Knobloch (41, Niskayuna), 54:10; Jim Sweeney (36, Albany), 54:11; Thomas O’Grady (32, Slingerlands), 54:28; Christopher Herbs (24, Rexford), 54:44.
Stephen Paddock (23, Meriden Ct), 54:54; Sean Quinn (26, Troy), 54:58; Volker Burkowski (46, Gansevoort), 56:10; Ben Heller (29, Troy), 56:42; Alan Finder (29, Albany), 56:57; John Stadtlander (52, Clifton Park), 57:15; Michael Dinicola (42, Albany), 57:17; David Harwood (31, Troy), 57:22; Michael Polidori (32, Ilion), 57:23; Andy Reed (46, Niskayuna), 57:25.
Colin Crowley (40, Ballston Spa), 57:34; Cory Battles (38, North Syracuse), 57:40; Joseph Sullivan (38, Schenectady), 57:45; Alexander Perry (28, Albany), 57:54; Ian Thane (25, Amsterdam), 58:05; Logan Short (17, Charlton), 58:04; Robert Ordish (32, Albany), 58:25; Mike Spitzer (54, Sheffield Ma), 58:29; Max Hoffman (16, Clifton Park), 58:32; Bill Hamel (46, Clifton Park), 58:33.
Nathaniel Hartley (17, Hadley), 58:33; Mark Stephenson (53, Esperance), 58:47; Peter Katlic (31, Schenectady), 58:51; Wakeem Medina (17, Schenectady), 58:55; Holden Maynard (18, Schenectady), 58:54; Thomas Kracker (53, Delmar), 58:57; Ambrose Schaffer (35, Canajoharie), 59:18; Matt Coseo (38, Wilton), 59:25; Owen Hooper (33, Glenville), 59:27; Rick Zachgo (47, Rexford), 59:56.
Mollie Turner (37, Averill Park), 56:44; Christie MacFarlane (23, Delmar), 58:45; Claire Collison (27, Albany), 58:48; Elizabeth Izzo (25, Lake Placid), 59:15; Olivia Beltrani (23, Troy), 59:33; Renee Tolan (43, Clifton Park), 59:41; Erin Hatton (27, Troy), 59:45; Nicole Soblosky (30, Albany), 59:52; Courtney Breiner (20, Troy), 59:58; Sara Buckley (23, Slingerlands), 1:00:25.
Megan James (28, Charlton), 1:00:28; Erin Corcoran (43, Schenectady), 1:02:56; Amy Babeu (25, Cohoes), 1:03:12; Diana Tobon-Knobloch (36, Niskayuna), 1:03:23; Michelle Lavigne (42, Albany), 1:03:46; Irene Somerville (24, Wynantskill), 1:04:07; Michelle Davis (29, Watervliet), 1:04:14; Lauren Bruno (25, Schenectady), 1:04:25; Beth Stalker (58, Burnt Hills), 1:04:36; Lauren Carnahan (34, Latham), 1:05:19.
Shanley Alber (45, Clifton Park), 1:05:2; Amanda Perri (23, Troy), 1:05:31; Kimberly McBride (25, Troy), 1:05:23; Amanda Ryan (25, Cohoes), 1:05:42; Sue Thompson (51, Queensbury), 1:05:59; Julie Robinson (25, Troy), 1:06:14; Sarah Gardner (32, Clifton Park), 1:06:56; Erin Rightmyer (33, Delmar), 1:07:06; Lisa Nieradka (52, Clifton Park), 1:07:24; Jennifer Richardson (37, Albany), 1:07:55.
Kara Defeo (37, Rensselaer), 1:08:05; Katlin Mock (27, Albany), 1:08:16; Rachel Waller (31, Burnt Hills), 1:08:15; Katie Lyn, 1:08:43; Maddie Samuell (22, Saratoga Springs), 1:08:52; Kelly Powell (29, Clifton Park), 1:09:06; Colleen Brackett (56, Albany), 1:09:12; Laura Peer (30, North Bennington Vt), 1:09:24; Erin Wrightson (31, Albany), 1:09:24; Moira Hilt (25, Albany), 1:09:08.
Darci Lafave (50, Lake Placid), 1:09:40; Danielle Maslowsky (38, Ballston Lake), 1:09:39; Jessica Nash (42, Troy), 1:09:47; Alyssa Risko (52, Schenectady), 1:09:47; Erin Murphy (37, Albany), 1:09:41; Kim Pommer (33, Schenectady), 1:09:51; Leah Schaffer (33, Canajoharie), 1:10:04; Regina Mcgarvey (47, Castleton), 1:10:08; Marta Dauphinee (39, Glenville), 1:10:11; Coraline Falco (40, Syracuse), 1:10:13.