CAPE ELIZABETH — A surge and a sprint provided the decisive moments of the state’s largest road race Saturday morning.

With those respective moves, Bedan Karoki of Kenya and Gemma Steel of Great Britain were crowned champions of the 17th annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K.

The surge belonged to the 23-year-old Karoki, who pulled away from his final challenger, countryman Stephen Kibet, on an uphill grade near the 5-mile mark of the scenic 6.2-mile route that ended in the shadow of Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park.

From there, both runners struggled to the finish, with Karoki defeating Kibet by six seconds to win the overall title with a time of 27 minutes, 36.4 seconds.

“I’m very strong on the hills,” he said.

The sprint capped off a dramatic duel between Steel and American Shalane Flanagan, with Steel winning by a step as both top women’s finishers were timed in 31:26.5.

“I’ve had a few sprints, but I’ve never had to run that fast in my life,” Steel said. “I’m not a track runner, and I didn’t really want to have to rely on that against Shalane because she’s such a tough and fast runner, but I pulled it out of the bag anyway.”

The elite women’s field for this year’s TD Beach to Beacon opened up Thursday when defending race champion Joyce Chepkirui and Emily Chebet, the 2012 runner-up, weren’t cleared by the Kenyan Olympic Committee to compete in Maine after winning the gold and bronze medals in the 10,000-meter run Tuesday at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

That left a battle between Steel, who came in second in last year’s TD Beach to Beacon, and Flanagan, a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, whose 2:22:02 clocking at this year’s Boston Marathon was the fastest time ever recorded by an American woman in that race’s 118-year history.

Flanagan took a slight early lead, but Steel soon caught up.

“I just kind of crept up on her,” the 28-year-old Steel said. “At about 3½ miles, I got neck and neck with her and made myself known. From then on I just tried to stick with Shalane like glue. And at about 5 miles when it started to get tough I tested her out, and then it was just a battle all the way.

“I didn’t want to be too polite, but I just had to grit my teeth and be like a little Jack Russell (terrier), nipping at her heels until the end.”

Diane Nukuri-Johnson of Burundi, who now trains in Iowa City, Iowa, was third among the women finishers in 31:51.2. Jordan Hasay, who trains with Flanagan at the Bowerman Track Club in Beaverton, Oregon, was next in 32:19.4.

Michelle Lilienthal, who moved to Portland from Minnesota shortly after competing in last year’s TD Beach to Beacon, set a race record in winning the Maine resident women’s division. The veteran marathoner was timed in 33:38.8 to break the previous mark of 34:16 set by Falmouth’s Sheri Piers in 2009.

Defending women’s race champion Erica Jesseman of Scarborough was second in 34:16.5 — 1.1 seconds faster than her 2013 winning time — while Piers was third in 35:45.

Karoki, who finished fifth in the 10,000-meter run at the 2012 London Olympics and clocked 26:52.36 for 10K on the track at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, this May, led eight runners who took off from the starting line at the head of a record-setting field of 6,494 runners from 14 countries, 42 states and more than 260 Maine cities who finished the race amid overcast, cool and humid conditions.

A 4:20 first mile thinned that eight-man pack by one, and a 13:43 lead time for 5 kilometers left just four runners still in contention: Karoki, Kibet, Kenya’s Patrick Makau and 28-year-old North Yarmouth native Ben True.

“The race went out pretty quick. I was surprised how fast we were going,” True, who lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, said. “I saw the 5K time and thought we had gone out pretty quick. I got a little hesitant at that point, and that’s when those two guys put a little gap on me.”

It soon became a two-man race for the lead between Karoki and Kibet as True and Makau waged their own battle for third place. Karoki gained ultimate separation at the end of a blistering 4:18 fifth mile before both leaders slowed near the finish.

“For the first 5K it was good, but the final 2K was very difficult,” Karoki said. “I wanted to go out with a fast pace early so my fellow Kenyans could not follow me.”

True finished third overall — the best-ever placing for an American man in the race — with a time of 27:49.8, nearly seven seconds ahead of the fourth-place Makau.

True’s time also was the fastest road 10K by an American since Mark Nenow ran 27:48 in 1985, according to Runner’s World. The only other American road 10K faster than those two times is the U.S. record of 27:22 that Nenow set in 1984.

“The way we went out, I expected (Karoki and Kibet) were either going to run a course-record time or they were going to start coming back to me,” said True, the former Dartmouth College All-American who was participating in the race for the first time since 2010. “They did start coming back, but it was a little bit too late.

“That was my one major error,” he added. “I should have really tried going with them and seen where I would have been. They didn’t finish too far ahead of me and they both collapsed at the end and were clearly exhausted, so it might have been quite a different race if I had put a nice surge with them in that middle part.”

Defending race champion Micah Kogo of Kenya finished fifth in 27:56.4.

Recent Dartmouth graduate Will Geoghegan of Brunswick won the Maine resident men’s title for the first time, placing 16th overall with a time of 29:53.

The 22-year-old Geoghegan, who will run at the University of Oregon next winter, improved on his second-place finish of a year ago by besting runner-up Jonny Wilson of Falmouth, who scored his fourth straight top-three Maine finish at the TD Beach to Beacon with a time of 30:26.9.

Henry Sterling of South Freeport was next among the Maine men in 31:39.4, followed by Robert Gomez of Portland (31:45.45) and Spencer McElwain of Bangor (31:46.4).

the Maine resident men’s title for the first time, placing 16th overall among the field of more than 6,000 runners with a time of 29:53.0.

“I wanted to be the top Maine resident, they luckily don’t count Ben True anymore,” said the 22-year-old Geoghegan in reference to the Maine men’s course record holder (29:10.3) who now lives in New Hampshire and placed third overall in Saturday’s race in 27:49.8.

“I was second here last year and thought it was attainable, and I also thought if I was feeling good I might be able to break 30.”

Geoghegan hadn’t run much competitively since suffering a fractured metatarsal this spring but still was able to the other in-state hopefuls in the field just two days after he returned from a trip to Ireland.

“This is my first serious race of the summer and I didn’t prepare for this the way I generally prepare for a race,” he admitted. “I haven’t really been doing any workouts, just distance runs because I just wanted to come in here and see what I could do and have fun because it’s such a fun event.

“With any race, once you’re a day or two out you’re as prepared as you’re going to be so you just have to relax and try to be mentally ready on race day.”

Geoghegan ran at a fairly consistent pace while averaging 4:49 per mile.

“I went out in 4:36, which was pretty fast, and I felt like every mile was getting slower so I ended up pretty close to that 30-minute barrier but I was able to sneak under it,” said Geoghegan, who will compete in indoor and outdoor track at the University of Oregon next season while pursuing a master’s degree.

“I wasn’t able to race at all this spring and started easy running again in mid-June so I’m still transitioning into doing my first workouts. I’ll probably be pretty sore after today.”

Jonny Wilson of Falmouth, a top-three Maine men’s finisher in each of the previous three TD Beach to Beacons, was second in 30:26.9, followed by Henry Sterling of South Freeport (31:39.4), Robert Gomez of Portland (31:45.5) and Spencer McElwain of Bangor (31:46.4).

Lilienthal is predominantly a marathon runner, having competed in the 2008 and 2012 U.S.Olympic Trials and already qualified for the same event in 2016, but she was looking forward to her second TD Beach to Beacon.

“Actually I think knowing the course is very helpful,” said Lilienthal, a former All-Big Ten runner at the University of Wisconsin who plans to run the New York City Marathon in November. “I hadn’t run it before last year, and this year having raced it before and done a couple of long runs on the course, just knowing the ups and downs and turns did help a lot. Usually I go by the mantra ‘ignorance is bliss,’ I don’t really want to know the course, but I think for this race particularly it was helpful.”

Jesseman, who missed the Maine women’s record by 0.6 seconds last summer, broke the old mark by 0.5 seconds this year.

“I’m very happy but I’m also a little disappointed because I wanted to break 34,” she said. “That was the ultimate goal but I just couldn’t do it.

“This was one of the smartest races I’ve ever run. I paced off a couple people, I had a game plan and I really don’t know how I could have tweaked it. I just didn’t have it at the end and sometimes that happens.”

Piers was third overall — and first in the Maine women’s masters division — with her time of 35:45.0, Kirstin Sandreuter of North Yarmouth was fourth in 36:26.6, followed by Kristin Barry of Scarborough (37:00.6).

Andy Spaulding of Freeport was the Maine men’s masters champion in 33:27.


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