Expect new contenders in Maine division of Beach to Beacon 10K

·5 min read

Aug. 3—CAPE ELIZABETH — Teenager or veteran? Familiar figure or newcomer?

Winners of the Maine resident category in Saturday's TD Beach to Beacon 10K earn $1,000 in prize money. They also receive acknowledgment as the state's best male or female road runner.

Because this will be the first in-person B2B in three years, it's anybody's guess who will emerge as Maine champions.

"I think there will be a new pecking order established," said race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson. "During COVID, a lot of people improved drastically because there was nothing else to do but train."

On the men's side, nine different runners have achieved top Maine billing since 2010. The only repeat winner (Jesse Orach of Gorham) did so in 2017 with a sporting assist from runner-up Rob Gomez after Orach collapsed yards from the finish line.

Gomez is now in charge of assembling the local elite field, and he doesn't see a clear favorite among Mainers, male or female.

On the women's side, Standish native Emily Durgin (who won in 2017) now runs professionally and lives in Arizona. She'll be among the women's elite field that starts at 8 a.m. Saturday, shortly after the wheelchair racers and 12 minutes before the general field.

Michelle Lilienthal of Portland is a three-time Maine champion, but also 39 weeks pregnant with her second child and planning to be induced into labor later Saturday. She said a Beach to Beacon baby would be fitting, given that she met her husband, Marc Halverson, at the 2013 race when she was in the elite field.

"I will not be running the race, but I probably will run longer than 6 miles that morning," said Lilienthal, who plans to watch the finish to cheer her training partners, then grab molasses doughnuts at the nearby Cookie Jar before heading to the hospital.

As for top contenders, Lilienthal echoed Gomez.

"There are some young people now I don't know so well," she said. "The people I run with, we're all 40-year-old moms with jobs."

Sheri Piers of Falmouth and Erica Jesseman and Kristin Barry of Scarborough have won multiple B2B titles, but none of them are expected to be in contention for top Mainer this time.

"It's going to be interesting," said Piers, 51. "I have no idea who is even running this year."

Here's a look at each division:

Among Maine men, Matt Rand of Portland won the Sea Dogs Mother's Day 5K but is rebounding from a COVID infection. A Cape Elizabeth native, Rand ran a 2:19 marathon in January and is back in Maine after living in Washington D.C. and New York City.

"This is really my first chance at this since 2013," said Rand, 31, who competed for Tufts. "It's something I've always wanted to make a run at ... and I'm going to go for it."

Defending champion Dan Curts, an Ellsworth native now living in Vermont, is not entered. Orach placed second in the Emily's Run 5K in Auburn last month but has been slowed by knee issues. Caribou native Spencer McElwain, who won the Emily's Run 5K, was runner-up to Rand in the Sea Dogs 5K and is adjusting to the demands of fatherhood.

"I'm not getting quite the volume that I might need, but I'm making it work," said McElwain, 33, who ran for the University of Maine and is making his 11th Beach to Beacon run.

Two other Maine men to consider are Sam Mills of Biddeford and Ryan Jara of Gorham. Mills, 21, is a rising senior at Maine who has been training in Orono throughout the summer. He said he has dreamed of joining the elite field ever since finishing in 65 minutes as a high school freshman.

"Now that I'm here, I have every ambition of being the first Mainer across the line," he said. "I've been missing my absolute favorite race these last couple of years."

Jara, 35, ran a 2:23 marathon this spring, took fourth in the L.L. Bean July 4th 10K and won the recent Ocean Park 5K in Old Orchard Beach (15:29).

Among Maine women, defending champion Sofie Matson said she has a work conflict and won't be running. She was 16 when she won the race three years ago, joining Eric Giddings (2003), Ayalew Taye (2007) and Ben Decker (2015) as the only teenage winners in the Maine resident category.

Ruth White, a rising junior at Orono High and reigning New England high school cross country champion, has a chance to join them. Other top contenders in the Maine women's field are Heather Gallant of Wayne, Sarah Mulcahy of Fort Kent, Alexis Wilbert of Cumberland, Aly Ursiny of Yarmouth and Veronica Graziano of Falmouth.

Gallant, 41, won the recent Bridgton 4 on the Fourth. Mulcahy, 36, ran the Boston Marathon this spring in 2:50. Wilbert, 37, was a sprinter at Greely High and Colby College and moved back to Maine from Colorado late in 2019. A mother of three, she won the recent Clam Festival Classic, a 5-mile race, in 29:20.

Ursiny, 34, was runner-up at the Clam Festival and L.L. Bean races. A mother of two, she ran at the University of Vermont and moved to Maine from Boston last winter. Graziano, 35, is another pandemic newcomer to the Maine running scene. A mother of 14-month-old twins, Graziano ran a 2:42 marathon at the 2020 Olympic Trials in Atlanta.

"I've cheered for it before," said Graziano, who is familiar with Beach to Beacon because her siblings live in Falmouth and Yarmouth. "So I've seen the amazing spectators. I don't know if I'll be contending for prize money. That would be a nice surprise."