Locals steal show at Beach to Beacon

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Warm and muggy conditions did little to prevent Falmouth’s Ethan Shaw and Shari Piers from becoming the top Maine men and women at Saturday’s 15th annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race in Cape Elizabeth.

The latest chapter of 1984 Olympic women’s marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson’s brainchild was once again memorable due to performances by top athletes from near and far. Athletes from 17 countries and 44 states took part.

Shaw, a graduate of Falmouth High School and Dartmouth College, completed the course in a time of 30 minutes, 37.9 seconds, while Piers turned in the top Maine women’s performance (34:21.9) for the fourth consecutive year.

“I’ve been fourth or fifth,” said Shaw, a 22-year-old graduate of Falmouth High, “But back then, I was focusing on preparing for the fall (cross country season). It was warm and humid, but there was a nice breeze in the second half of the race when you’re starting to break down.”

Shaw held off Jonny Wilson, another product of Danny Paul and Jorma Kurry’s superb Falmouth High cross country and track program.

“It means a lot,” Shaw said. “There’s no other race like it. The whole state really comes together for this race, and it’s cool just to be on the center stage once a year. It doesn’t happen very often.”

Shaw spotted the 24-year-old Wilson an early lead, but caught his hometown rival at Mile 5 and steadily increased the lead to a final margin of 13.5 seconds.

“It was really close all the way through, but I felt a little better on the hills and it just worked out for me today,” said Shaw. “I’ve been working for the past month to get out here and feel strong and feel good, and things just happened to click at the right time.”

Wilson, second among Mainers to Ellsworth’s Louie Luchini in last year’s race, was this year’s pre-race favorite after Luchini and two-time TD Beach to Beacon Maine winner Ben True of North Yarmouth (Greely High) opted to travel to London to watch friends compete in the Summer Olympics.

“I went out hard the first mile and was pretty much in the lead chase pack behind the elite group,” Wilson said. “But I could tell the whole race my legs didn’t feel as well as I had hoped, and at Mile 5, Ethan caught up to me and gradually passed me. I tried to hang with him but I just didn’t have it. In the last mile he was a little stronger than me, I think he ran a smarter race and probably ran a more even pace.

“But I’m happy to be second, and at least somebody from Falmouth brought home the win, so that’s pretty cool.”

While Piers was happy with her fourth straight win, she fell five seconds off her goal for the event.

“I ran a little harder than I expected in the first mile,” said the 41-year old Piers. “I started out too fast and knew it would catch up with me in the last mile, and it did. I was a little too close to the front (at the start).”

Piers said she felt the effect of the morning’s heat and humidity early in the race.

“At Mile 2 I thought, ‘Ooh, this is going to be a long day,’” she said. “The last few races I’ve run, they’ve seemed to go by fast. Today, I was looking at my watch the entire time thinking ‘only 30 seconds has past, only a minute.’ It felt so long out there.”

Piers set the Maine women’s record for the TD Beach to Beacon of 34:17:0 in 2009.

“I had a reach goal, which was to break 34 [minutes],” she said, “But I knew with the conditions that wasn’t going to happen, so I just wanted to get a (personal record) and break the record. But I don’t think I ran very smart. I went out too fast.

“I really thought I was in shape for a good day today, but I have to be happy with where I am.”

Piers won by a minute, 20 seconds over Erica Jesseman of Scarborough. Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunkport was third in 36:29.9.

Jesseman, 23, has battled injuries for much of the year and didn’t expect to challenge Piers.

“It wasn’t the best time, but it was good for a day like today,” she said. “Last year I ended up in the medical tent and it wasn’t as hot as it was today, so as I was running I was praying to God to help me through and he really did.”

Kenyans Stanley Biwott and Margaret Wangari-Muriuki captured the top honors.

Biwott, four months removed from setting the record for the Paris Marathon, held off fellow countryman and sponsor teammate Stephen Kipkosgei-Kibet to win the men’s elite race. Biwott’s winning time of 27:59.3 was just over two seconds faster than Kipkosgei-Kibet.

Wangari-Miruki crossed the finish line in 31:51.6 to finish a half second faster than Emily Chebet, also of Kenya.

Ten wheelchair athletes also took part in this year’s TD Beach to Beacon, starting approximately 15 minutes before the main field.

Craig Blanchette, 44, of Battle Ground, Wash., won the men’s wheelchair division for the second time in 23:28. Cheri Blauwet, 32, of Boston was the women’s champion in 34:43.

Dennis Simonaitis, 50, of Rochester, N.Y., joined Piers as a masters running champion, winning the men’s division with his time of 32:32. He also won the men’s senior (50 and older) title, with Erin Chalat, 51, of Cape Elizabeth (43:26) the women’s senior champion.

Samuelson ran the race with fellow marathon champs Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter. They finished in 1:10:08.

Sun Journal staff writer David St. Hilaire and Bangor Daily News staff writer Ernie Clark contributed to this story.

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

Sidebar Elements

The lead pack in Saturday’s 15th annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K takes off. More than 6,000 runners competed and completed the course.

Falmouth’s Ethan Shaw left the Maine men’s pack in his wake en route to winning that title for the first time.

Falmouth’s Shari Piers had no peer on the Maine women’s side, winning that crown for the fourth year in a row.

The clock tells the story as Kenya’s Stanley Biwott hits the tape as the race’s overall winner.

Kenya’s Margaret Wangari-Muriuki was the top female finisher Saturday.

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