2017-07-28 / Sports Spotlight

Beach to Beacon champs will defend crowns

Special to the Leader

Maine native Ben True, left, and Mary Keitany (103) of Kenya will return to defend their titles at the 20th TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race. The elite field also includes Americans Shalane Flanagan and Jordan Hasay (105), two-time Olympic gold medalist Meseret Defar and past champs Wude Ayalew, Joyce Chepkurui and Stephen Kosgei Kibet. (Courtesy photos) Maine native Ben True, left, and Mary Keitany (103) of Kenya will return to defend their titles at the 20th TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race. The elite field also includes Americans Shalane Flanagan and Jordan Hasay (105), two-time Olympic gold medalist Meseret Defar and past champs Wude Ayalew, Joyce Chepkurui and Stephen Kosgei Kibet. (Courtesy photos) CAPE ELIZABETH – The special 20th TD Beach to Beacon 10K on Aug. 5 will feature both returning champs – Maine native Ben True, who last year became the first American to win the iconic summer road race, and Kenya’s Mary Keitany, who shattered the course record in 2016.

They will be challenged in Cape Elizabeth by a stellar field of 28 professional runners and including top Americans Shalane Flanagan and Jordan Hasay, two-time Olympic gold medalist Meseret Defar of Ethiopia, a trio of former TD Beach to Beacon champions – Joyce Chepkurui and Stephen Kosgei Kibet of Kenya and Ethiopian Wude Ayalew – and a host of other Olympians and All-Americans.

Race organizers on July 20 unveiled the professional field for the 2017 TD Beach to Beacon and announced that the race will again feature an elite women’s start, which debuted last year. The women will start 12 minutes ahead of the rest of the field.

“After such spectacular performances last year, getting Mary Keitany and Ben True back to defend their titles is truly special as we celebrate the 20th running of this race,” said Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, a worldwide running icon who founded the TD Beach to Beacon in her native Cape Elizabeth. “Ben is a homegrown hero and Mary continues to win every race she enters, but the field is deep and talented so nothing is promised - except another great day of road racing.”

The field was assembled by Larry Barthlow, the race’s elite athlete coordinator.

The world-class athletes will join a race-day throng of 6,500-plus runners who will wind along the fast, relatively flat course that begins near the Crescent Beach State Park entrance on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth and ends 6.2 miles later in Fort Williams Park at the Portland Head Light, the most photographed lighthouse in America. Samuelson, who trained on the same roads while growing up in Cape Elizabeth, will join the field this year for just the fourth time (she runs every five years).

The elite athletes will compete for more than $90,000 in prize money, with $10,000 awarded to the winners in the men’s and women’s open races and payouts to the top 10 runners overall, courtesy of title sponsor TD Bank. Also included is a $23,000 purse for American men and women, sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts, split evenly among the top five American men and women with a $5,000 top prize.

Last year True’s breakthrough performance as the first American to win the race meant he earned both top payouts – $15,000 in total. The North Yarmouth native, who now lives and trains in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, has his sights on a repeat performance.

True, who came to Maine in 2016 after falling just short in his bid to make the U.S. Olympic team at 5,000m, arrives under similar circumstances this year as he just missed a spot on the U.S. team for the IAAF World Championships in London next month. True finished 4th by a hair in the 5,000m at the U.S. Championships in late June. The top three advanced.

Despite the setback, True, 31, a former Greely High School and Dartmouth College All-American, is having another strong season, especially on the roads. In April, he broke his own American 5K record at the B.A.A. 5K in Boston with a 13:20, two seconds better than his previous record set in 2015.

And he has always sparkled on the TD Beach to Beacon course. True won the Maine resident title in 2008 and 2009, when he set the course record in that category. He placed third (27:50) in his professional return to the TD Beach to Beacon in 2014 – the fastest road 10K by an American in 29 years. After missing the 2015 race for the IAAF World Championships – he placed sixth at 5,000m – True returned last year and took home the top prize (28:12).

Two of the top challengers in 2017 will be familiar faces for True:

Stephen Kosgei Kibet, 30, of Kenya, finished just ahead of True at the 2014 TD Beach to Beacon (27:43), and then returned in 2015 and won the race. He missed last year’s race due to visa issues.

Stephen Sambu, 29, of Kenya, finished just behind True in a two-man sprint finish at the B.A.A. 5K. The winner of the New York City Half Marathon in March, he has a career best 27:25 10K.

Other contenders include: Tariku Bekele, 30, of Ethiopia, the bronze medalist at 10,000m at the 2012 London Olympics; Leonard Kiplimo Barsoton, 22, of Kenya, who won silver at the 2017 World Cross Country championships and ran a 27:42 at the 2016 World’s Best 10K; and Abdi Abdirahman, a four-time U.S. Olympian with top-10 performances in each of the past two TD Beach to Beacons.

The field also includes Cam Levins, 28, a Canadian Olympian with a personal best 20:07.51 at 10,000m; and Danny Abera, 28, of Ethiopia, brother of Olympic marathon champion Gezahenge Abera.

In addition to True, the field includes another professional runner with Maine ties. Will Geoghegan, 25, a Dartmouth All-American who attended Brunswick High School, won the 2014 Maine category race and returned as a professional in 2015 and finished eighth overall (29:48) as part of a successful pro debut year that included a PB 13:17.85 at 5,000m in Belgium. Sidelined for most of the 2016 season, he competed in the 2017 U.S. Championships at 1500m and in June clocked a personal best 3:56.24 in the mile at the Adrian Martinez Classic in Concord, Massachusetts.

Other top American distance runners rounding out the field are: Jon Grey, who finished seventh at the Peachtree 10K earlier this month; Aaron Braun, 30, who took sixth at the 2014 TD Beach to Beacon; Dan Hulings, 5th in the steeplechase at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, last month he missed making the U.S. World Champs team for the first time in five tries; Mason Ferlic, another one of America’s best at the steeplechase, the Michigan All-American won the 2016 NCAA 3000m steeplechase; and Ty McCormack, 24, a former Clemson and Auburn track standout who excels in the half marathon.

In the women’s division, Kenyan Mary Keitany pulled away from the TD Beach to Beacon field in 2016, winning by almost a minute over her nearest challenger. She has remained as dominant as any runner on the road race circuit ever since. One of the best marathoners in the world, the 35-year-old notched a record-setting victory at the 2017 London Marathon this spring, her third London win. Keitany’s 2:17:01 set a world record for an all-women’s race (minus male pacemakers).

Keitany, the three-time defending TCS New York City Marathon champion, followed up in June with a convincing win at the NYRR New York Mini 10K in Central Park. Her time of 31:20 was more than 48 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

She is expected to find stiffer competition at the TD Beach to Beacon, where a handful of her challengers have in the recent past either notched victories or close seconds on the seaside course.

Olympic silver medalist Shalane Flanagan, 36, is returning to the TD Beach to Beacon for the first time since her runner up finish in 2014 (31:27). The American 10K record holder (30:52) suffered a back fracture earlier this year, forcing her to withdraw from the Boston Marathon. The Marblehead, Massachusetts, native returned to competition in June and placed fourth in the 10,000m at the U.S. championships, missing the three-woman team for the world championships. It snapped her streak of making every U.S. Olympic and world outdoor team from 2004 through 2016.

The TD Beach to Beacon will mark Flanagan’s first road race since the Olympic marathon in the 2016 Rio Games.

Ethiopian Wude Ayalew, 30, won the 2015 TD Beach to Beacon (31:56) and returned last year and gamely battled Keitany before settling for second. This will be the fifth TD Beach to Beacon for Ayalew, a World Championship Bronze medalist who also placed second at the 2010 TD Beach to Beacon in 31:07, the third fastest time ever on the course.

Joyce Chepkirui, 28, of Kenya, also is returning. She won the 2013 TD Beach to Beacon in 31:23 - the fourth fastest time on the course. Her best 10K time is 30:37.

Other contenders include Diane Nukuri, 33, a three-time Olympian for Burundi who has four top-10 finishes at the TD Beach to Beacon, including a second in 2015 (32:00) and 3rd in 2014 (31:56); and Jordan Hasay, 25, of Beaverton, Oregon, who broke the U.S. marathon debut record (2:23:00) while finishing 3rd at the 2017 Boston Marathon. A 16-time All-American at Oregon, she ran her first 10K as a professional runner at the 2014 TD Beach to Beacon, finishing 4th in 32:20. Hasay placed 3rd at the recent Peachtree 10K.

Provided by Wolfe Public Relations.

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