Local runners shine again at Beach to Beacon
Saturday's 16th annual TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race once again featured Kenyans at the front and plenty of highlights from local runners.
The 2013 version of Olympic Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson's brainchild included a record-setting 6,245 runners from 16 countries, 39 states and more than 250 Maine cities and towns pushing themselves on the 6.2-mile course through the streets and hills of Cape Elizabeth on a cool morning, which even produced a light rain at times.
"The TD Beach to Beacon at its core, is a celebration of health and fitness and I sensed a renewed energy this year that was truly inspiring," said Samuelson. "Collectively, our sport gets stronger and more passionate every year and it's gratifying to see so many first-time runners pursuing their dreams. There was no shortage of courage and determination out on the course today."
Kenya's Micah Kogo, an Olympic bronze medalist, was the first to the finish, posting a time of 28 minutes, 3 seconds.
Kogo, a bronze medalist in the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, gradually pulled away to capture the race for the second time in three years.
On the women's side, Kenya's Joyce Chepkiuri had no peer, winning with the second-best time in race history, 31:23.
The biggest local news came courtesy Erica Jesseman, a one-time Scarborough High and University of New Hampshire standout. Jesseman, runner-up to Falmouth's Sheri Piers each of the past two years, won the Maine women's race for the first time and almost set a record in the process.
Jesseman's time of 34:17.6 was a mere sixth-tenths of a second off Piers' benchmark.
The win was nice for Jesseman, now an assistant track and cross country coach at St. Joseph's College, but her effort was more satisfying.
"I was focused on getting a personal best," she said. "It was not letting this race get the best of me. I've had some pretty crappy races here."
After an exhausted Jesseman crossed the finish line, she immediately took a seat on the plush Fort Williams Park grass.
“I was completely dead,” said Jesseman, who trains regularly with Piers and two-time champion Kristin Barry of Scarborough. “I fell apart big time and was completely out of it by the end. I didn’t really notice (Piers), I really didn’t see, I really didn’t care. I was aiming for my time goal. I was just looking at the finish line.”
Emily Durgin, 19, of Standish was third among Maine women finishers with a time of 36:12.3, with 17-year-old Kirstin Sandreuter of North Yarmouth (a Greely High standout) fourth in 36:17.5.
The top Maine male was Riley Masters of Veazie, a one-time All-American at the University of Maine and Oklahoma, who now runs professionally. Masters had a time of 30:19.
Masters battled current Dartmouth runner and Brunswick native Will Geoghegan for much of the race before he began to have some separation at about the 4.5 mile mark. Geoghegan wound up second (30:34) with Falmouth's Jonny Wilson (30:49) third.
Other highlights included Cape Elizabeth's Christina Kouros taking the women's wheelchair in 41:17, Freeport's Todd Coffin winning the men's senior division (34:17) and Cape Elizabeth's Erin Chalat taking the women's senior division (41:31).
Longtime race president and town resident David Weatherbie, the one-time Cape Elizabeth track coach, boasted about the event.
"The depth of quality was quite remarkable, really unparalleled on the American road circuit," Weatherbie said. "This race was as spectacular as all the others have been."
Weatherbie, hand picked by Samuelson in 1998 to serve as volunteer race president, is stepping down from that role. He said he is doing so to free up more time to spend with his wife and three children. He'll remain a member of the race's organizing committee.
"I'm incredibly appreciated of the opportunity Joanie gave me to be president of the race all these 16 years," Weatherbie said. "I'm proud to be a part of the team that has built this race to this point and look forward to watching it continue to grow from here."
The Opportunity Alliance, a Portland-based nonprofit providing community-based and clinical programs to children and families, was this year's race beneficiary. The organization will receive a $30,000 donation from the TD Charitable Foundation and also will benefit from fundraising activities and publicity through its association with the race.
Looking ahead, the 17th annual race will be Aug. 2, 2014.
Sun Journal staff writer Dave St. Hilaire and Bangor Daily News staff writer Ernie Clark contributed to this story.