Robert Gomez learned his lesson.
As a high school senior in the 2001 Class C state championship track meet, Gomez attempted to match strides with Patrick Tarpy of Yarmouth, the prohibitive favorite.
“I remember trying to go out with him,” said Gomez, now 27. “It was a painful experience for me.”
Gomez, then attending the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone after two years at Medomak Valley, finished second to Tarpy at 1,600 meters and third at 3,200 meters. Gomez now lives in Westbrook, after graduating from Bates College, and is working on a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Maine.
Last month Gomez entered — and won — five road races in Maine, all of them 5 kilometers long. He’s looking forward to Saturday’s 13th TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race, but he doesn’t plan on attempting to stick with Tarpy.
“I can only hope I’m a little smarter this time around in my race strategy,” Gomez said. “I have all the respect in the world for him. He’s put together quite the running resume.”
Tarpy, 28, went on to compete for Brown University, settled in Rhode Island and ran the 2007 Beach to Beacon as an elite athlete, finishing 13th overall in 29 minutes, 32 seconds. He moved back to Maine last fall after taking a finance job at Bath Iron Works and appears the prohibitive favorite for the state men’s title Saturday.
Neither of the potential challengers to Tarpy — Stanford graduate Louis Luchini of Ellsworth or Georgetown graduate Levi Miller of Belfast, who won the recent Clam Festival Classic 5-Miler — is healthy enough to run Saturday. Luchini has a problem with his foot and Miller with his knee.
Last month Tarpy won the L.L. Bean 10K in Freeport in a course-record time of 30:51 and spoke of hoping to break 29 minutes at the Beach to Beacon. Ben True of North Yarmouth, who will return in the elite field this weekend, set the Maine record last year of 29:10.
“Six to eight weeks ago I thought that was a realistic goal,” Tarpy said Thursday night. “But I’d be surprised if I beat Ben’s record. More likely I’ll try to get halfway on a pace to do that and see what happens. Of course, it could all go terribly wrong if I go out too, too hard.”
With Luchini and Miller out of the picture, Tarpy wasn’t sure who might challenge him. Race president David Weatherbie mentioned Gomez, Jon Wilson of Falmouth, Mike Bunker of Rockland and Phil Richert of Bar Harbor among runners looking at a potential finish near 31 minutes.
Richert, a Minnesota native and spring graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, works at Acadia National Park while he trains for the Twin Cities Marathon this fall. He won the Bridgton 4 on the Fourth in a 5:00 pace and encountered Gomez after discovering they both use the same online site for logging workouts.
“He’s been doing a lot of great training,” Gomez said. “I fully expect him to be in the mix on Saturday.”
Among Maine women, it’s hard to imagine anyone coming close to training partners and best buddies Sheri Piers of Falmouth and Kristin Barry of Scarborough.
Two years ago, Barry broke a 10-year-old record by winning in 34:37. Last year, Piers lowered the mark to 34:17.
This year, for the first time at Beach to Beacon, they’re both healthy and close to top form after taking a break in early July.
“This could be a day that we could push each other and help each other out,” said Piers, 39. “We’d both love to break 34 (minutes), but we don’t know if we’ve got that in us.”
Barry, 36, won the Clam Festival Classic at a 5:43 pace after skipping the 10K in Freeport on July 4. Breaking 34 minutes Saturday would require a 5:29 pace.
“I don’t know if it’s realistic,” Barry said. “It’s a challenging course. But that’s certainly the goal.”
And if it comes down to a kick?
“I don’t think either one of us would care who hit the mat first,” Barry said. “If we both run well, it doesn’t matter.”
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: