CAPE ELIZABETH – Since she moved to Cape Elizabeth six years ago, Christina Kouros has always looked forward to the first Saturday of August.

Her street intersects with Shore Road, along the fifth mile of the Beach to Beacon 10K race course. Kouros would make colorful signs for friends or classmates running the race and gather with neighbors at the end of the street for a festive morning. They’d have food and drink and ring cowbells and wave their signs.

Of course, in a field of more than 5,000 runners, “it was hard to spot them when they went by,” said Kouros.

This morning, Kouros, 16, will be in the middle of the road. The signs will have her name on them. She’s competing in her first Beach to Beacon, and her neighbors will have no trouble spotting her.

She’ll be the girl in the orange racing wheelchair with its white CEHS stencil and blue peace sign and yellow happy face stickers. Only four other wheelchair athletes have registered for the race, including only one other female racer, defending champion Catherine Jalbert, 24, of Brewer.

Considering Jalbert’s time of a year ago (1 hour, 30 minutes) and the 49 minutes and 20 seconds it took Kouros, a rising junior at Cape Elizabeth High, to complete her inaugural 10K race in Boston in late June, the local favorite has a good chance to become the women’s champion today.

“It’s huge for her to be the local ambassador for this division, to get people reinvigorated,” said Eric Topper, a member of the B2B organizing committee who also serves at outreach director for Maine Handicapped Skiing, a former beneficiary of the race. “It’s always been a destination race, and that’s true for wheelchair participants as well. But what you lose in that is the sort of local champion for the community to get behind. The bottom line is, she’s going to win the women’s division.”

Early Thursday, Topper biked behind Kouros as she pushed her three-wheeled racing chair from town hall down Shore Road to where the course turns in to Fort Williams. Neil Williams, the Cape Elizabeth chief of police, followed in his car with blue lights flashing to provide a protective escort on the narrow, twisting ribbon of asphalt. Last month that asphalt claimed a patch of skin from Kouros’s left elbow when she crashed after swerving to avoid the access pipe to a water line barely visible to a driver and easily avoided by a cyclist or runner.

The accident happened shortly after the 4-mile marker on Shore Road, not far from the street where Kouros lives. The scab is much smaller, the memory remains fresh.

“It makes me a little more cautious,” she said, “because I know now that there’s a possibility that I can fall. So there’s always this thing that’s going to be inside of me now.”

She laughs softly and smiles.

“I’m just going to have to ease back into going faster.”

Kouros, who was born in India with one leg and adopted as an infant, broke barriers in Maine’s high school sporting world by competing in both outdoor track (in a chair) and Nordic skiing (in a sit-ski) for Cape Elizabeth. Organizers of the U.S. Paralympic program have their eyes on her. Beach to Beacon founder and Cape Elizabeth native Joan Benoit Samuelson met Kouros when both competed in the Boston Athletic Association 10K.

“Talk about inspirational,” Samuelson said. “Now she’s part of (B2B) in another way, which is great.”

Peter and Andrea Kouros and their other 16-year-old daughter, Anastasia, who’s also a junior at Cape Elizabeth, have been helping Christina train by going out with her early in the morning on bicycles — fore and aft — to ward off automobile traffic. They usually stay on Route 77, which has wide bike lanes, instead of traversing the narrower Shore Road or Old Ocean House Road.

Chief Williams provided Thursday’s police escort so Kouros could cover Shore Road one time before the race, and perhaps ease her concern about another crash.

Topper also urged Kouros to stop hugging the side of the road and stay closer to the double yellow lines, a much easier task this morning when the road is closed to automobile traffic.

“I understand why you’re training that way,” Topper said as Kouros pushed her way into the final hills, ignoring a postcard scene of the sun rising over the Atlantic as dark rocks in Pond Cove revealed themselves at low tide. “You’re trying to share the road with cars and stuff, but it’s time to stop thinking about that. The trick on race day is to be using the whole road.”

Kouros said her goal is to finish the race in less than 50 minutes. Regardless of her time, Topper thinks her involvement can both educate and attract.

When spectators see someone from New Jersey or Massachusetts win the wheelchair race, they appreciate the effort for one day. When they find themselves waiting behind her sister’s bicycle or Williams’s flashing blue lights, “Now people think, wow, that is true,” Topper said. “You have to train for this. You can’t just go out on the roads (in a wheelchair). … These guys from New Jersey, nobody had to deal with supporting them on hills and things like that around here.”

Topper said organizers of next weekend’s Falmouth Road Race are flying in 20 wheelchair racers to Cape Cod and paying their expenses.

“This race can be that,” he said. “What does it take to do that? How much sponsorship (money) do we have to raise? What does that budget look like for next year if we were to fly in 10 people and put them up? That already exists for the elites here.”

Perhaps, Topper said, Kouros will have a lot more traffic around her in future years, in the form of fellow wheelchair athletes.

“This division is at the crossroads of what Joanie had in mind,” Topper said, “that (B2B) is this elite race but also people’s opportunity to be their first race.”

After finally reaching Fort Williams Thursday, Chief Williams unlocked the gate to the old entrance near the pond and Kouros wheeled herself to the bottom of the last incline, the steep switchback that signals the end is near. Difficult? She shrugged it off.

“This hill probably won’t be,” she said. “But that last hill …”

She nodded her head in the direction of Shore Road’s final obstacle, the rise between Dyer Pond and Fort Williams.

“… that was hard,” she said.

Not to worry. This morning, perhaps more than anyone else wearing a Beach to Beacon bib, she’s likely to hear plenty of encouragement.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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Twitter: GlennJordanPPH