Top runners overcome humidity at Beach to Beacon

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New Zealand’s Jake Robertson crosses the finish line as the overall winner of Saturday’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K.

Photos courtesy Press Herald photographers Shawn Patrick Ouellette, Ben McCanna and Derek Davis.

More photos below.

Another memorable and triumphant TD Beach to Beacon 10K is in the rearview mirror and the 21st edition of Joan Benoit Samuelson’s brainchild left many thrills in its wake Saturday.

A total of 6,526 athletes from 19 countries, 43 states and more than 270 Maine cities and towns completed the journey from a stretch of Route 77 near Crescent Beach to the Portland Head Light on a very humid morning.

The race was won by Jake Robertson, a New Zealand native, who has lived and trained in Kenya since 2006. Robertson completed the 6.2-mile course in a time of 27 minutes, 37 seconds. His 50-second margin of victory over runner-up Stephen Sambu of Kenya is the largest in race history and fell just nine seconds shy of Gilbert Okari’s course record. Robertson’s time matches that of Bedan Karoki in 2014 as the third-fastest in race history.

“The time he put up today is ridiculous,” said 2016 champion Ben True, who came in third in 28:29.

“It was weather-wise, it was one of the hardest races I have run here, and I knew it was going to be a fast one,” True said. “The race blew up really quickly, there was no settling at all. Right from the gun we went hard. It just made it a longer grind of a race.”

Robertson hopes to defend his title.

“I’d really like to come back,” Robertson said. “Hopefully, though, turn down the humidity a little bit.”

Sandrafelis Chebet Tuei, of Kenya, won the women’s race by five seconds over Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh in 31:21. Two-time U.S. Olympian Molly Huddle, also making her Beach to Beacon debut, was third in 31:40.

First-place prize money for Robertson and Chebet Tuei was $10,000 each.

In the categories for Maine residents, Michelle Lilienthal of Portland won for the third time in five years and Ryan Smith of Farmington was successful in his first attempt.

Lilienthal, 36, finished in 36:16 – more than 2 1/2 minutes slower than her Maine women’s course-record time of 33:39 in 2014.

“I could tell it was a day to adjust your goals,” Lilienthal said.

Two-time winner Erica Jesseman, 29, of Scarborough placed second (36:53) and Tracy Guerrette, 36, of Saint Agatha, finished third (36:55) for the second straight year.

Smith’s time of 30:50 also placed him 17th in a deep professional field. Ben Decker, 22, of Yarmouth, the 2015 Maine champion, placed second (31:42), while Spencer McElwain, 29, of Portland took third (31:57).

Other winners included: Masters Men – Dan Smith, 40, of Shelburne Falls, Mass. (33:19); Masters Women – Dawn Grunnagle, 40, of Dallas (34:53); Wheelchair Division, Men – Tony Nogueira, 50, of Glen Ridge, N.J. (23:22) and for the Women – Katrina Gerhard, 21, of Ashburnham, Mass. (26:49), a new course record.

The day before the 10K, the annual high school mile race was held and Mt. Ararat’s Lisandro Berry-Gaviria, a rising junior, stole the show, winning the boys’ title in a course-record time of 4:33.7, coming back in the final 150 meters to surge past Griffin Allaire of Wells.

Berry-Gaviria was seeded first in the race and took off fast. But Allaire, who was third behind Berry-Gaviria and Portland senior Alex Troxell after the first loop, caught up with them.

At the top of the hill, with about 600 meters to go, Allaire took the lead.

“He made a hard move and was leading until about 200 to go,” Berry-Gaviria said. “Then I passed him. It was an awesome experience. I’m so glad I did it.”

Helen Shearer, who is going to be a junior at Hampden Academy, also set a course record in the girls’ mile. She was third after the first loop but came on strong to win in 5:24.1, beating defending champ — and former record holder — Lily Horne of Freeport.

Shearer, who did not run the race last year, was an underdog, wearing bib No. 7. She was third — behind Ashley Irby and Horne — after the first loop on the Fort Williams course and took the lead with about 300 meters to go.

Horne caught Irby at the top of the hill leading into the final stretch.

“Then Helen passed me and surged,” Horne said. “It was awesome. She just took off and it was like, ‘Whoa!’ It was pretty impressive.”

Horne said she used last year’s win as a confidence boost going into the high school season. Berry-Gaviria said much the same.

“More than anything, this is more of a beginning,” he said. “It’s such an awesome event … We get a big fuss made over us. It’s such an awesome race.”

Press Herald staff writer Mike Lowe and Sun Journal staff writer Adam Robinson contributed to this story.

Sidebar Elements


A mass of humanity takes off to start Saturday’s race.

Ryan Smith of Farmington is the first Maine male runner to cross the finish line.

Portland’s Michelle Lilienthal was the first-place Maine female.

Lisandro Berry-Gaviria of Bowdoinham, a Mt. Ararat standout, wins the high school boys’ mile the day before the TD Beach to Beacon 10K.

Race organizer and 1984 Olympic women’s marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson congratulates a finisher.

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