TD Beach to Beacon: Stephen Kosgei Kibet, Wude Ayalew win 18th annual race

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Two of the most celebrated runners-up in the history of the TD Beach to Beacon 10-kilometer road race finally broke through Saturday morning.

Stephen Kosgei Kibet of Kenya pulled away in the men’s race, while Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia used a strong finishing kick to claim top honors in the women’s division.

Kibet, 28, broke free from Daniel Salel of Kenya and Moses Kipsiro of Uganda in Fort Williams Park to cross the finish line in 28:28.2.

“I knew it was time to go,” Kibet said, “and if they wanted to go, they could go, too.”

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The closing burst left Kipsiro and Salel to fight for second, a feeling Kibet knows all too well.

He ran his personal best of 27:43 in the 2014 race but finished second to countryman Bedan Karoki by six seconds.

Kibet also was runner-up in 2012 and finished fourth in 2010.

Kipsiro, a late addition to the field after several top runners withdrew, finished second in 28:39.7, eight-tenths of a second in front of Salel. He won that battle over the final 100 meters.

Eric Jenkins of Portsmouth, N.H., who was a college standout at Oregon, was the top American male and fourth overall.

Jenkins, 23, kept pace with the African delegation through a relatively slow first half. He finished in 28:50 and won a total of $7,000. That share was bolstered by a bonus, new this year, of $5,000 to the leading American male and female.

“I was hoping to be start out with the top Americans and see how I felt,” Jenkins said. “And I was feeling good, within a couple of steps (of the leaders), so I said why not try to mix it up with the top guys? I felt like I had the momentum.”

Two-time winner Micah Kogo was fifth, followed by a pack of American runners including Maine natives Will Geoghegan of Brunswick (eighth) and Riley Masters of Veazie (ninth).

Ayalew, 28, left behind Diane Nukuri of Burundi to complete the course in 31:55.5.

Previously she had run the second-fastest women’s time in Beach to Beacon history, 31:07, only to follow Lineth Chepkurui across the line in 2010.

Nukuri got in under the wire at 31:59.6, followed by Sentaheyu Ejigu of Ethiopia, 2014 winner Gemma Steel of Great Britain and Alexi Pappas of Eugene, Ore.

Steel, who had not raced all summer while nursing an Achilles injury, dropped back slightly during the fourth mile. Ejihu faded shortly thereafter, leaving Ayalew and Nukuri to settle it.

Ayalew took the lead for good in the final half-mile.

“I did everything I could to catch her again, and I just couldn’t,” Nukuri, who attended college at the University of Iowa, said. “I’m happy with that finish today.”

Pappas, 25, was the leading American woman, fifth overall, 32:56.9.

She sprinted to the finish line one second ahead of Liz Costello, who held a slight edge as the two leading Americans entered the home stretch adjacent to Portland Headlight.

“I’ve never been able to out-kick anybody here,” Pappas said. “I’ve never wanted anything so badly. I was prepared to dive across the line if I had to.”

Pappas finished seventh in 2014. This was her third consecutive top 10.

Ben Decker of Yarmouth (32:48.5) and Erica Jesseman of Scarborough (34:52.5) won top honors for current Maine residents in their respective races.

Decker, 19, competes at Williams College. His father, Byrne, competed in the early TD Beach to Beacon showcases when Ben was a toddler and won the 45-to-49 men’s age bracket Saturday.

The younger Decker defeated recent Mt. Blue High School graduate Aaron Willingham of Farmington by 2.6 seconds.

“It hasn’t really sunk in,” Decker said. “It was something I thought could happen maybe someday.”

Jesseman won the women’s state title for the second time in three years.

Her clip was about a minute slower this year, but it was enough to vault her into the overall top 10 for the first time.

Masters and Geoghegan train out West and weren’t eligible for those awards, but in Ben True’s absence they were the best chance for a runner with Maine connections to shock the world.

Geoghegan, who competed for Brunswick High School and then collegiately at Dartmouth and Oregon, was eighth overall, in 29:47.6.

“I didn’t have anything for those guys,” Geoghegan said. “The last couple of miles I was just trying to hold on.”

And he did. Masters, an All-American at Maine and Oklahoma, was seven seconds back (29:54.8) of Geoghegan in ninth.

James Senbeta of Champaign, Ill., and Christina Kouros of Cape Elizabeth won in the wheelchair division. Senbeta topped nine-time champion Tony Noguiera.

A record 6,598 runners represented 41 states, 15 countries and 260 Maine cities and towns.

NOTES: Kibet and Ayalew each won $10,000. The total purse for the race exceeded $90,000 … Livermore Falls native Katherine Chabot-Boucher, now of Saco, was the women’s 40-to-44 winner … Dottie Gray, 90, of Kirkwood, Mo., finished in 1:53.08 … Luc Bourget of Auburn and Justin Tracy of New Vineyard were fourth and fifth among Maine men … Karen Rand-McWatters, a Westbrook native who lost part of her left leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, ran the race with her husband, Kevin, in just over two hours … Jeff Jones of Chelsea and Sheri Piers of Falmouth were Masters division winners … Tom Thurston of Waterbury Vt., and Mimi Fallon of Walpole, Mass., topped the Senior classification … Kipsiro was added to the field after True, of North Yarmouth, pulled out of the race, citing the need to rest for the world championships later this month … Temperatures at the start of the race were in the low 70s under almost cloudless skies.

koakes@sunjournal.com

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