This year, Erik Stanley broke through at the Statesman Capitol 10,000.
After flirting with first-place finishes in recent years, the 30-year-old Stanley won the Cap 10K men’s championship on Sunday. In a matchup of former 10,000-meter runners for the University of Texas, Stanley held off Rory Tunningley to take first in 31 minutes flat. Tunningley was second in 31:26 while Matt Manly, a former TCU distance runner, finished third in 33:49.
“Winning this race is amazing. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Stanley, who placed second in 2012 and fourth last year. “Coming back from so many years of training and not being where I’ve wanted to be … it’s amazing.”
A heavy mist shrouded the field as runners lined up on the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge for the race’s 8 a.m. start, but the rain held off as the oversized group surged toward the Capitol.
As they grappled with the hills on 15th Street and Enfield Road, Tunningley, 25, began to test Stanley, throwing in surges as the pair passed through three miles in 15:04 before turning onto Winsted Lane.
The Cap 10K often has been decided on the downhill stretch approaching Veterans Drive, and this year’s race was no exception. Stanley stepped on the gas to build a seven-second lead as he passed through four miles in 20:07.
“I tried to surge a bit on the uphills and test Erik to see how he was feeling,” Tunningley said. “We ran a workout together earlier in the week, and I knew he would be strong. I wanted to stay with him as long as I could. Once that gap forms, it’s easy to just run for second. He made up most of his lead on that downhill section.”
Continuing to pull away, Stanley threw in a withering 4:23 mile on his way to hitting five miles in 24:30. His burst dropped Tunningley for good as Stanley cruised to the tape on Riverside Drive at Auditorium Shores. His winning time was the slowest since Cele Rodriquez triumphed in 31:03 in 2008.
“Rory kept surging on me,” Stanley said. “He was stronger on the uphills, so I tried to work the downhills. I didn’t want to do anything decisive until mile four. It was tough. Rory hung strong, and it was too humid to push the pace any harder.
“Mentally, it was difficult because there was no one in front to chase, and I was worried about Rory coming back.”
Both Stanley and Tunningley are chasing a qualifying time for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, and they will be racing at the half-marathon distance over the next few months.
Stanley will run at the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon on May 31 while Tunningley is entered in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon on June 20 in Duluth, Minn. Runners who record times of 1 hour and 5 minutes or better in a half marathon qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, scheduled for Feb. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles.