Beach to Beacon produces thrills yet again

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Saturday’s 18th running of the state’s most famous road race, the TD Beach to Beacon 10K, produced plenty of highlights.

Stephen Kosgei Kibet of Kenya and Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia were the men’s and women’s champions, respectively, but that was only the beginning of the story.

Yarmouth’s Ben Decker won the Maine men’s title, while Scarborough’s Erica Jesseman took the Maine’s women’s crown for the second time in three years.

The race began with temperatures in the low 70s under almost cloudless skies and got progressively warmer, which led to slower times.

Kibet, 28, finished ahead of record-setting field of 6,598 runners from 15 countries, 41 states and more than 265 Maine cities and towns who finished the 6-2-mile race, 1984 Olympic marathon champion and Cape Elizabeth native Joan Benoit Samuelson’s brainchild, which unfolds over the streets and hills of town before culminating in the shadow of Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park.

Kibet, 28, broke free from Daniel Salel of Kenya and Moses Kipsiro of Uganda in Fort Williams Park to cross the finish line in 28:28.2.

“I knew it was time to go,” Kibet said, “and if they wanted to go, they could go, too.”

The closing burst left Kipsiro and Salel to fight for second, with Kipsiro taking runner-up honors in 28:39.7.

Eric Jenkins of Portsmouth, N.H., who was a college standout at Oregon, was the top American male and fourth overall (28:50.0).

Will Geoghegan, who competed for Brunswick High School and then collegiately at Dartmouth and Oregon, was eighth overall, in 29:47.6.

“I didn’t have anything for those (top) guys,” Geoghegan said. “The last couple of miles I was just trying to hold on.”

The women’s finish was closer. Ayalew, 28, rallied to beat Diane Nukuri of Burundi in a time of 31:55.5 (Nukuri posted a time of 31:59.6).

“I did everything I could to catch her again, and I just couldn’t,” Nukuri, who attended college at the University of Iowa, said. “I’m happy with that finish today.”

Among Maine finishers, Jesseman, who just missed setting a course record in winning the 2013 crown, then placed second a year ago, was first this time around in a time of 34:52.5.

Decker, 19, who was a soccer standout as well as track star at Yarmouth High School and now runs at Williams College in Massachusetts, won the Maine resident men’s title for the first time, with a time of 32:48.5.

“It hasn’t really sunk in,” Decker said. “It was something I thought could happen maybe someday.”

Jeff Jones of Chelsea was the Maine Men’s Masters champion in 34:02. Falmouth’s Sheri Piers won the Maine Women’s Masters title in 35:40.

James Senbeta of Champaign, Illinois (a new course record of 21:46) and Christina Kouros of Cape Elizabeth (39:39) won in the wheelchair division. Kouros is now a three-time champion.

Local male age group winners included Cameron Ashby of Brunswick (14 and under, 41:17), Byrne Decker of Yarmouth (45-49, 35:29), Bill Mariski of Portland (50-54, 36:06), John Mollica of Cumberland (60-64, 41:26) and Jim Toulouse of Cape Elizabeth (65-69, 44:53).

Local female age group winners included Bethany Sholl of Scarborough (14 and under, 44:29), Mary Pardi of Falmouth (45-49, 38:33) and Amy Bouchard of South Portland (55-59, 46:20).

More than $90,000 was awarded to the runners, including $10,000 apiece for the overall male and female winners. Maine resident winners received $1,000.

This year’s race beneficiary was Good Shepherd Food Bank, Maine’s largest hunger relief organization. Good Shepherd received a $30,000 donation from the TD Charitable Foundation. 

The 19th version of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K will be Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016.

Sun Journal staff writer Kalle Oakes contributed to this story.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Sidebar Elements

The cream of the 2015 Beach to Beacon crop, from left, Moses Kipsiro, Stephen Kosgei Kibet, Eric Jenkins, Daniel Salel and Micah Kogo lead the pack during Saturday’s 18th edition of the state’s most famous road race. Kibet was the champion with a time of 28 minutes, 28.2 seconds.

Former Yarmouth High standout Ben Decker finishes as the top Maine man with a time of 32 minutes, 48.5 seconds.

Scarborough’s Erica Jesseman is congratulated after finishing as the top Maine female runner in 34 minutes, 52.5 seconds. Jesseman also won in 2013.

Falmouth’s Sean Soucy takes a deep breath after completing the race. Soucy had the 256th-best time (a net time of 39 minutes, 53 seconds). 

Beach to Beacon founder and 1984 Olympic women’s marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson congratulates female champion Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia following the race.

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.