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Beach to Beacon boasts strong lineup again

Sports

Beach to Beacon boasts strong lineup again

The 17th running of the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K will be held Saturday morning.

Last summer, a record-setting 6,244 runners from 16 countries, 39 states and more than 250 Maine cities and towns competed over the 6.2-mile course through the streets and hills of Cape Elizabeth.

In contrast, the first race, in 1998, had just 2,408 finishers.

The latest chapter of 1984 Olympic women's marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson's brainchild once again features an impressive field.

Kenya's Micah Cogo is the defending champion, has won two of the past three Beach to Beacons and figures to be at the front of the pack again, but he'll have company.

Cogo will be pushed by 2012 champion and countrymate Stanley Biwott, several other foreign runners and Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi, along with a Maine native, whom we'll get to shortly.

On the women's side, defending champion Joyce Chepkirui, who posted the second-best time Beach to Beacon time ever recorded at last year's race, is looking to go back-to-back.

Other top runners include Kenya's Emily Chebet, Burundi's Diane Nukuri-Johnson, Ethiopia's Tadelech Bekele and Aselefech Meriga, Great Britain's Gemma Steel, American Alexi Pappas and Massachusetts native Shalane Flanagan, who holds the fastest American women's time at the Boston Marathon.

Local fans will also be keeping a close eye on several elite Maine runners.

The name Ben True has resonated with Maine track followers since the start of the century. The one-time Greely High standout, who went on to excel at Dartmouth College and is now running professionally, last ran the race in 2009, shattering the Maine resident course record, placing 10th overall. True has what it takes to make a run at the top spot overall.

Louie Luchini of Ellsworth, the 2011 Maine champ, Will Geoghegan of Brunswick, who finished second last year, and Jonny Wilson of Falmouth, runner-up in 2011 and 2012 and third last year, will also make noise. Defending Maine men's champ Riley Masters is not running this year.

On the women's side, Scarborough's Erica Jesseman looks to defend her Maine women's title. Last summer, Jesseman just missed breaking a record. She looks to repeat as champion, but will be pushed by the likes of three-time winner, Falmouth's Sheri Piers, a couple of college standouts: Emily Durgin and Abby Leonardi, and Michelle Lillenthal, who just moved to Portland and recently won the LL Bean 10K.

Prize money for the winner of the men’s and women’s races is $10,000. Nearly $60,000 in prize money will be awarded to top finishers and place winners.

The 2014 race beneficiary is Rippleffect, a Portland-based non-profit youth and community development organization leading outdoor adventure programs on Cow Island, in area schools and in the mountains of western Maine. The organization will receive a check for $30,000 from the TD Charitable Foundation.

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