Life Strides of the Stotans
The demands on Bill Aris’ schedule are many. In
addition to his duties as coach of the prolific Fayetteville-Manlius High
School cross-country and track teams, and the burgeoning Stotan Racing team, he
is frequently pursued as a speaker at national coaching clinics. Coaches
everywhere want to know “the secret.”
On a blustery day in January, he and his son, John, who
despite not getting the same attention, is every bit an equal in the
enterprise, sat down for an interview at Panera’s in Fayetville, a suburb of
Syracuse, NY. In this local eatery, which has become the de facto
epicenter for the Stotan Racing team, the secret of success was revealed. Voila!
The secret is that there is no secret.
Most runners know that the Stotan philosophy isn’t anything
new. It is a hybrid of Stoic and Spartan principles developed by
Australian runner Percy Cerutty in the 1950s. Aris has long been a
student. As put into practice by he and his son, Stotanism rests on a bedrock
of simple principles. Athletes are expected to subscribe to a process, as
opposed to a blind pursuit of success.
That process encompasses discipline in training,
characterized by a solid aerobic base through high and intense
mileage. Racing is limited and is done at strategic times. Racing is
never done, according to Bill, “just for the sake of racing.” Both Bill
and John believe in strength training, which is achieved through the great
terrain the Syracuse area has to offer and through weight training.
Aris says the focus in weight training is not building bulk,
but to get muscles to “recruit other muscles.” To carry out the demands of
the program, athletes are expected to pay strict attention to the decisions in
their daily lives that impact the process. Therefore, great nutrition and
plentiful rest are key expectations.
Bill Aris – Photo
by Marnie Carter)
aesthetic life,” Bill said. John added that what the athletes are doing
when they aren’t running is as crucial as what they’re doing when they are.
The Arises’ ability to inspire young minds to embrace the
Stotan philosophy has translated to unquestioned success at the high school
level. For several years running, with Bill as head coach and John as his
assistant, the F-M program has given Stotanism renewed credibility. The
boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams have appeared perennially at the Nike Team
Nationals, where the boys have placed well and the girls have dominated,
winning five years in a row. Several athletes have achieved national
success on the track as well. The runners are in high demand among
Division I colleges.
Amid this success, the Arises identified a need for
opportunities for elite runners recently out of college. They co-founded
Stotan Racing, a club not dissimilar to other elite clubs in the country, but
unlike others in the Syracuse area. The sole intent of the team was to
channel all energy and resources toward the development of elite
athletes. In the fall of 2009, the team got a jumpstart.
On a muddy cross-country course in Oregon, Aris had a very
positive meeting with Nike CEO Mark Parker. In addition to being familiar
with the success of the F-M program, Parker has a special affinity for the
program as his wife, Kathy Mills Parker (former world record holder at 5000
meters), is an alumnus. Aris expressed to Parker his desire to move Stotan
Racing forward. In an uncertain economic climate, where sneaker companies
have largely retrenched from club sponsorships, Nike committed. The Arises
are extremely grateful.
With Nike’s support, the Arises were able to offer
sponsorship to a select group of upstate New York’s top post-collegiate runners
in the form of equipment and other benefits. The sponsorship permits the
runners to focus more intensely on the process.
Although in its infancy, 2010 yielded positive
results. Stotan members C. Fred Joslyn and Emily LaSala were each named New England Runner’s “New York Runners
of the Year.” Laurel Burdick, who earned the same honor in 2009, qualified
for the U.S. Olympic Trials by running 2:44:16 at the Boston Marathon. The
year culminated with an 8th place finish for the men at the USATF Club Cross
Country Championships, which impressed Aris because the event was used as a
An early 2011 test will be the Mardi Gras Marathon in New
Orleans where C. Fred Joslyn hopes to close in on a 2:19 marathon. [Ed.
note: On Feb 13, Joslyn won the Mardi Gras Marathon in 2:18:49, qualifying
for the 2012 US Olympic Trials Marathon.]
Joslyn at the Mardi Gras Marathon – Photo
by Lisa Coniglio/Photo Run)
Kaitlyn O’Sullivan, Dominic Luka, Michael Pierce, Justin Wager, Peter Najem,
Jesse Berube, Andrew Foxenberg, and Nick Stenuf.
With demonstrated success, it is understandable that many
are interested in the inner workings of the Aris team. As previously
stated, the Stotan philosophy centers on principles that are anything but
mysterious. Stotanism is beautifully simple. Accordingly, Bill
concedes that the success can be duplicated.
Despite this humility, the impact of the Arises cannot be
overlooked. At the risk of using an overused term, there appears to be a
synergy created by the Arises and the unique interplay of the two coaches might
be difficult to replicate.
The two have created a team environment for a group of post-collegiate
athletes who historically are individually oriented. They are not,
however, ignorant of the need for individual attention. They are readily
available to the athletes, each speaking to the athletes multiple times a day
and running several team practices a week.
Syracuse is a great place to train because the terrain can
vary so greatly. There are a great number of very steep country roads and many
rolling hill runs. Additionally, off the great trails in Green Lakes State
Park, are several miles of rolling grassy trails. (As an aside: this area is
referred to colloquially and jokingly as the Serengeti. Incidentally
though, I ran there with three runners from Kenya who went to Syracuse, and
they said that it reminded them of runs back home.) Some of the nicest flat
runs are done along the Erie Canal trail.
To assure his availability to Stotan Racing, John has
sacrificed his role with the high school program. His intense focus on the
athletes is more admirable given that he works a demanding job as a project
manager for a construction company. Although it will sound contradictory
to the simplicity alluded to earlier, Bill applauds John’s attention to detail,
stating that “attention to detail takes the air of simplicity.”
C. Fred Joslyn has embraced the Stotan philosophy and is
effusive in his praise for his coaches. He conceded that the two are
“intense” but have nevertheless created an environment of comfort and
trust. Joslyn said that the Arises are able to help the athletes
understand the value of believing in the process, as opposed to dictating it to
them. He stated that although some would assume the program is rigid, his
coaches “remain open to learning and are willing to make adjustments.”
Joslyn has benefitted from the familial environment. Although
he is given individualized attention and a tailored program, the Stotans have
been a great aid in training. He said some of the middle distance athletes
assist him in his marathon training and vice versa.
Laurel Burdick, who was coached by Bill Aris at F-M, is as
familiar as anyone with her coach. She echoed Joslyn’s sentiments stating,
“This group is special. These two coaches are dedicated and
selfless. They make us want to be here.” She added that despite the
individual attention, the coaches have created an environment where the
athletes help each other and each athlete wants to give more than he or she
and John Aris have embarked on their new endeavor with the same commitment and
dedication they expect from their athletes. They have made personal
sacrifices for the betterment of the team, which is exemplified by the fact
that neither of the Arises are paid for their involvement with Stotan
Racing. They hope the program will grow so that they may help others to
lead a Stotan life.