Gazette Stockade-athon: Thompson tops record field of 1,859
SCHENECTADY Candor is tucked inside the triangle formed by Binghamton, Ithaca and Elmira, “a quaint little town,” Val Thompson said.
Candor is tucked inside her words: “We joke, but when he’s winning a race, I say, ‘Oh, good, now he can pay his credit card bill and his rent,’ you know?
“But it’s true.”
Her son, Christian, beat another record-breaking field in the 37th annual Gazette Stockade-athon 15k on Sunday in 47:01, and offered yet another example of how difficult it is for young American runners with talent to gain stable footing as a professional in their sport.
The 24-year-old from Candor answered a surge by 2006 champion Fred Joslyn halfway through the race to gradually remove himself from a tight pack of five.
Joslyn had something in reserve in case Thompson faltered, but he didn’t, leaving Joslyn, who competed in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials this year, to settle for second in 47:45, nine seconds ahead of Sam Morse of Camden. Defending champ Tim Chichester was fourth in 48:13.
Thompson, a multiple all-Big 12 runner while at Colorado University, moved to Elkins Park, Pa., on the outskirts of Philadelphia, where he works for FleetFeet and trains with the New Jersey/New York Track Club coached by the legendary Frank Gagliano.
On Saturday, he was joined in Schenectady by his parents, Val and Bob; his brother, Pat; and his girlfriend’s parents, although she didn’t make the trip to stay home studying for school.
Thompson clearly has the ability to follow in Joslyn’s footsteps to races like the Olympic Trials, and should benefit from his association with Gagliano and the NJ/NYTC.
In the meantime, he’s fit, strong . . . and could use every check he can get.
“I guess I’m barely scraping by; I’ve got my parents on speed dial, if needed,” he said with a laugh. “They’ve been very supportive of me. It’s always been a dream to try to run professionally. I’m pretty blessed to have such great parents who support me.”
The Stockade-athon drew 1,859 entries, of which 1,639 finished, both numbers beating the records (1,794, 1,603) set last year.
With the win over a course that saw several significant changes from the traditional route, Thompson earned $600 out of the $4,000 total Stockade-athon purse.
After graduating from college, he’s been on a roll, especially since this summer.
Thompson was the second American, behind Ian Burrell, and 12th overall at the Utica Boilermaker, beating Joslyn and many of his Stotan Racing teammates, and won the Hamptons Half Marathon in 1:09:37 on Sept. 29.
The Stockade-athon drew one of the deepest men’s fields in years, and that was evident past the 5k mark, as the leaders turned left off Lenox Road on to Nott Street.
Joslyn, Thompson, Morse, Chichester and Joslyn’s Stotan teammate, Mark Mendrek-Laske, stuck together in a clump that changed shape, but not composition, until Joslyn decided to make a move in the Stockade after the four-mile mark in 20:00.
“Up to that point, the pace was strong, but you could tell everyone was waiting, kind of checking each other out, testing the waters a little bit,” Joslyn said.
“I actually like being the aggressor. Sometimes, it doesn’t pay off, because you show your hand, but my strength is definitely my endurance, so I’m better off being aggressive early, because even if I’m hurting or fall back a little bit, I can catch back up.”
His move created a single-file line of five, with Thompson countering it to get to the lead spot.
“He didn’t seem to be fazed by it,” Joslyn said.
On the way back to Central Park, Thompson’s strength got him up the hills, which were shifted this year from State Street to Franklin in order to direct the course straight into the newly paved path up through Vale Park to Vale Cemetery.
His one moment of doubt came in the cemetery.
“I saw every part of the course, except that one. Rude awakening,” he said. “I couldn’t hear them, but I had it in the back of my head that they could still be there. I’ve closed big distances in the last mile or two, so I figured those guys could do it. Going up to the cemetery through the 10k, I was wondering, kind of hoping that they wouldn’t come back.”
Thompson got a breather on Brandywine Avenue cutting over to the uphill on Bradley Street, and he was able to maintain his rhythm up that difficult hill.
“Once I got there, I felt pretty good,” Thompson said. “Unless everything came crumbling down, I thought I could win it.”
By then, Morse had passed Joslyn for second, and Mendrek-Laske had re-engaged Joslyn for third.
Joslyn’s confidence in his move at five miles — although it prompted Thompson to assert control — was rewarded when Joslyn was able to catch up to Morse for second at eight miles, and then he kicked away with less than a half-mile left as they looped around Iroquois Lake.
“Both of us were spent at that point, because we were chasing Christian and trying to keep as close as possible,” Joslyn said. “It was a good race. Five guys, all pushing it early on, is great to see. It’s not like you have one guy sitting on somebody else, waiting.”
Thompson soaked up the moment with his family near the finish chute.
Although his parents didn’t get to see many of his races at Colorado, it wasn’t unusual for them to drive for 11 hours to Terre Haute, Ind., for the cross country nationals and regionals.
In comparison, three hours from Candor to Schenectady seemed a small price.
“I got to be with my family, which is nice,” Thompson said. “I don’t get to see them a whole lot. Yeah, it was definitely worth it, and I definitely hope to be back.”
“It’s nice to get hooked up with a good coach, and we’re hoping that someday he can maybe qualify for the Olympics or just be able to do what he’s dreamed of doing his whole life and be able to support himself running,” Val Thompson said.