CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine (August 1, 2015) – Stephen Kosgei Kibet of Kenya and Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia, two familiar faces who’ve been knocking on the door, finally broke through as champions on Saturday in the 18 th TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Kibet (28:28), one of the world’s all-time half marathoners, stretched away from a three-man pack inside Fort Williams in a tactical race to claim his first title in five tries, including runner up finishes in two of the past three years. Moses Kipsiro (28:40) of Uganda outkicked Kenyan Daniel Salel (28:41) for second.
Ayalew (31:56), who ran the second fastest time ever on the TD Beach to Beacon course in 2010 only to place second, this time outdueled Diane Nukuri (32:00) for her first win in four attempts. Sentayehu Ejigu (32:16) took third while defending champion Gemma Steel of Great Britain finished a distant fourth (32:57).
In the new American-only prize category, the top Americans were former Oregon standouts Eric Jenkins (28:50) and Alexi Pappas (32:57), who also finished fourth and fifth overall, respectively.
In the Maine resident races, Erica Jesseman, 26, of Scarborough (34:53), the 2013 champ, regained her title in dominant fashion while 19-year-old Ben Decker of Yarmouth (32:49) won a wide open men’s race.
Also, a new course record was set in the wheelchair division by James Senbeta (21:46), who shaved seven seconds off the previous mark to win his first TD Beach to Beacon title.
Complete results are available at Cool Running .
The world-class athletes were among a record-setting 6,602 runners from 15 countries, 41 states and more than 265 Maine cities and towns who finished the winding, rolling, often breathtaking 6.2-mile coastal course on a bright sunny morning that quickly grew hot and muggy. But heat and humidity did not affect the enthusiasm of thousands of spectators who lined the course and filled bleachers to cheer the runners.
The TD Beach to Beacon ( www.beach2beacon.org ) is considered one of the country’s top 10K road races, known for attracting the world’s best runners but also for its top-notch organization, community support and the involvement of Olympic gold medalist and Maine native Joan Benoit Samuelson, who founded the race in 1998 and continues to inspire runners both in Maine and globally.
The 2015 race beneficiary was Good Shepherd Food Bank ( www.feedingmaine.org ), Maine’s largest hunger relief organization. Good Shepherd received a $30,000 donation from the TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank ® . TD Bank has now donated $540,000 to Maine charities over the history of the race.
The addition of a $23,000 prize purse for American men and women meant the field this year included many top U.S. distance runners along with the expected world-class athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia and other African nations.
But Kibet, 28, and fellow Kenyan Micah Kogo, 29, had the most experience on the course, with Kibet running for the fifth time and Kogo for his fourth. Kogo, though, has won twice (2013 and 2011), while Kibet had settled for a pair of runner ups (2014 and 2012) and twice finishing fourth (2013 and 2010). Last year, even his personal best 10K (27:43) wasn’t good enough.
On Saturday, a determined Kibet pulled into the front in the second mile and then remained at or near the head of the lead pack, which included Kogo, Kipsiro, Salel and Jenkins. The pack had thinned to Kibet, Kipsiro and Salel as they entered Fort Williams but by then Kibet had stretched his lead to insurmountable, leaving the excitement to Kipsiro’s sprint finish to nip Salel.
The warm, thick air, together with a tactical first half of the race, resulted in the second slowest winning time in the history of the men’s race on a 10K course known as one of the fastest.
Jenkins, a two-time NCAA champ at Oregon who grew up in Portsmouth, N.H., was able to stick with the African runners for much of the race. He has been turning heads all summer while launching his professional career on the European track circuit, recently clocking a 13:07.33 at 5,000m.
Among Americans, Jenkins was followed by Aaron Braun, 28, of Alamosa, Colo. (29:28), four-time U.S. Olympian Abdi Abdirahman of Flagstaff, Ariz. (29:37), and two former Maine Resident champions now running professionally: Will Geoghegan, 23, of Eugene, Ore. (29:48) and Riley Masters, 25, of Seattle (29:55). Chris Solinsky, 30, of Williamsburg, Va. (30:04) rounded out the top 10.
On the women’s side, Ayalew, 28, appeared equally determined after failing to win in her previous three visits to Cape Elizabeth. She and Ejigu, 30, quickly moved to the lead with Nukuri, 30, the two-time Burundian Olympian, who like Ayalew has three previous Top 10 finishes on the TD Beach to Beacon course, including a personal-best 31:52 to finish third last year.
Those three eventually shook Steel, and then Ejigu fell off the pace, leaving a two-woman duel along the homestretch, with Ayalew sprinting in for the win.
Among Americans, Alexi Pappas, 25, of Eugene, coming off a win at the Peachtree 10K in July, finished just behind defending champion Steel and just ahead of Liz Costello, 27, of Newton, Mass. (32:58), who finished fourth at 10,000m in the Pan American Games in Toronto last month.
Americans rounded out the Top 10: Laura Thweatt, 26, of Superior, Colo. (33:18), Sarah Pagano, 24, of Bridgton, Mass. (34:09), Stephanie Dinius, 25, of Brookline, Mass (34:26) and Erica Jesseman, 26, of Scarborough, Maine (34:53).
In addition to a Top 10 overall finish, Jesseman claimed her second Maine Resident crown. She was followed by Emily Durgin, 21, of Standish, a University of Connecticut standout (35:02), and three-time champ Sheri Piers, 44, of Falmouth (35:40), who also won the Open Masters title.
On the men’s side, Decker, a former soccer star at Yarmouth High now running cross country and track at Williams College, took hold in a race without a clear favorite. Aaron Willingham, 18, of Farmington (32:51) placed second and Robert Hall, 20, of Windham (33:11) took third.
In all, prize money of more than $80,000 was awarded to the runners, including $10,000 for the overall male and female winners, $5,000 for the second place winners and cash prizes for the top 10 finishers and in the different categories. The Maine Resident winners received $1,000.
The American-only prize money, sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts, was split evenly among the top five U.S. men and women with $5,000 for first, $3,000, $2,000, $1,000 and $500. Jenkins, for example, collected $5,000 for winning the American category and collected an additional $2,000 for finishing fourth overall.
Other winners included: Masters Men – Jeff Jones, 45, of Chelsea, ME (34:02); Masters Women – Sheri Piers, 44, of Falmouth, Maine (35:40); Wheelchair Division, Men – James Senbeta, 28, of Champaign, Ill. (21.46), a new course record, and Women – Christina Kouros, 20, of Cape Elizabeth (39:39).
In the Senior Division (50+) – Men – Tom Thurston, 51, of Waterbury, Vt. (35:16); Women – Mimi Fallon, 50, of Walpole, Mass. (38:30).
Also, in the IDEXX Business to Business Maine Challenge, pitting teams of athletes from a number of New England corporations and businesses, it was a repeat of last year with Unum again winning first place in the mixed team division, Maine Health winning the men’s division, Maine Health the women’s division and Fairchild won in the first-timer 10K division.
The Johnny Kelley Award for the oldest finisher again went to 90-year-old Dottie Gray, who ran the course accompanied by grandchildren and supporters. The 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award was awarded earlier this week to longtime, tireless volunteer Lisa Petruccelli of Cape Elizabeth.
Karen Rand McWatters, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing who accepted Samuelson’s invitation to serve as the Official Starter for the 2013 race and returned last year to volunteer, was among the finishers on Saturday. McWatters, who lost her lower left leg and wears a prosthetic, walked the course with her husband Kevin McWatters, who was on the Boston Marathon course when the bombs went off. Samuelson greeted the couple at the finish line in one of the most poignant moments of the day.
Samuelson, winner of the first Olympic women’s marathon in 1984, founded the TD Beach to Beacon as a way to give back to her state and community. The route follows the same coastal roads she trained on in Cape Elizabeth. With her reputation, plus top-notch organization and strong community support, the TD Beach to Beacon is known and appreciated as a world-class event with small-town charm. The race debuted in 1998 with 2,408 runners crossing the finish line. Online registration now closes in less than five minutes.
The TD Beach to Beacon begins near the Crescent Beach State Park entrance on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth and winds along tree-lined roads and past dramatic ocean vistas before ending in Fort Williams Park near Portland Head Light, the most photographed lighthouse in America.
The TD Beach to Beacon is directed by Dave McGillivray of DMSE Sports ( www.dmsesports.com ), who has organized every TD Bank Beach to Beacon and also directs the B.A.A Boston Marathon and other events around the world.
In addition to TD Bank, other major corporate partners include Hannaford, Nike, Poland Spring, IDEXX, Northeast Delta Dental, MaineHealth, Dead River Company, Olympia Sports and WCSH6.For additional information about the race, visit www.beach2beacon.org, and find the TD Beach to Beacon on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.