UMaine's Sam Mills cruises to title as top Mainer at Beach to Beacon

·4 min read

Aug. 6—CAPE ELIZABETH — When Sam Mills broke away from a strong pack of Maine runners around the 3-mile mark Saturday in the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race, he found himself all alone.

"I couldn't really see anybody in front of me until like Mile 5 when I started to see some of the elites coming back. For those last three miles, it felt like I was leading the Beach to Beacon," said Mills, 21, who will be entering his junior year at the University of Maine. "I was like, 'I'm winning right now.'"

Mills did win the Maine men's race, crossing the finish line on a hot and humid day with a strong time of 31 minutes, 9 seconds. When he approached the line to the cheers of hundreds of spectators along the final 200 yards, Mills celebrated with his arms in the air and a huge grin.

"It means so much to me because it's been such a long journey and the path to get here is so deeply entwined with the Maine running community," Mills said. "Standing on that start line, there's the elite (runners), of course, ahead of us, but everyone I'm standing next to feels like my teammate."

For Mills, the first step of that journey started in his senior year at Biddeford High. He summed up his high school career this way: "I was a really good Maine high school runner for two weeks, and it was the last two weeks of my senior outdoor season." That spring, Mills won the 3,200 meters at the SMAA meet and was fifth at the Class A championship.

"I wasn't particularly talented. It was just that one outdoor season that got me over the hump to even be able to go to UMaine."

This spring in outdoor track, Mills set a personal best in the 10,000 meters of 30:40, fourth fastest in UMaine history.

Matt Rand, 31, a Cape Elizabeth native who lives in Portland, placed second in 31:30, with Spencer McElwain, 33, a Caribou native who lives in Saco coming in third in 31:38.

Mills, Rand and McElwain finished 14th through 16th overall.

Both Rand and McElwain knew Mills would be tough to beat.

"I follow (Mills') training and he's running huge mileage. He's very fit. I knew he'd be tough to beat," said Rand, a 2009 graduate of Cape Elizabeth High who went on to compete at Tufts University.

"He's a great kid, really talented, and he puts the work in. He's doing 100-mile weeks, so it's cool to see what he's doing and it's not surprising to see him run away with it today," said McElwain, who is an engineer at Idexx.

Once Mills crossed the line, there was a steady stream of finishers from Maine. Camden Black Ingersoll, 28, of Yarmouth was fourth among the Maine men in 31:42, followed by Ryan Jara of Gorham (31:51).

"My buddy Ryan Jara and I went back and forth probably five times in the last mile," said McElwain, who was running his 11th Beach to Beacon.

Jesse Orach of Auburn, the 2016 and 2017 Maine men's champ, finished eighth among Maine men in 32:55. "This was a pretty cool race," said Orach, 28. "I kind of fell off at 2 miles, but there was a whole group of Maine runners running together. It was pretty awesome."

As a collegian, Mills won't be able to accept the $1,000 prize for being the top Maine man. He said he hopes to be able to donate it to A Running Passion, which established the Coach Will Fulford College Scholarship fund in 2017 to honor former Biddeford High cross country and track coach Will Fulford, who died unexpectedly at the age of 29 in 2016.

Mills said he was the beneficiary of a scholarship when he graduated from Biddeford in 2019. "Now I'd like to be able to give back, if I can."

An English major at UMaine, Mills said he intends to use his extra COVID year of eligibility to start graduate school.

"I'm going to spend as much time as I can competing for the University of Maine because it's given so much to me," Mills said.