PORTLAND – The son of Ellsworth’s Cheryl Higgins and the daughter of Scarborough’s Kathleen Jesseman did their mothers proud Sunday morning.
Each mother bestowed a blessing on her offspring to compete in the 12th annual Sea Dogs Mother’s Day 5K Road Race, and Louis Luchini and Erica Jesseman came away with a baseball-themed trophy, 2012 season tickets and the opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a Sea Dogs game later this season.
Luchini, a state representative from Ellsworth and former Stanford runner, won for the third straight year and fourth time since he set the course record of 14 minutes, 30 seconds in 2007.
“She said I could come here and run it because she knows I like this race,” said Luchini, who won by a comfortable 17 seconds, in 15:01. “I had to clear it with her but we’re going to celebrate later on in the week, depending on whenever we get out of Augusta.”
Luchini, 30, said he plans to be doing committee work today on the state budget before the Legislature formally reconvenes on Tuesday. His 2011 winning time was 18 seconds faster than Sunday’s, but Luchini has raced only once since September after a series of nagging problems that include an infected cut on his foot as well as ankle and Achilles issues.
“I just wanted to shake the rust off, because after seven months you forget what it means to hurt again,” he said. “That’s what you have to remember if you want to race well.”
The top six men all averaged a 5:06 mile pace or better. They stayed together for the first mile, then Luchini and Robert Gomez of Saco surged ahead.
Shortly before the second mile, Luchini assumed the lead for good, entering Hadlock Field through a door in the center field fence to conclude his race along the warning track, high-fiving young spectators along the left-field foul line as he loped toward the finish line near third base.
“This is such a fun race, with finishing on the field and all the spectators,” he said. “It’s a great time.”
Gomez wound up second in 15:18 followed by Judson Cake of Bar Harbor (15:35), Josh Zolla of Freeport (15:42), former winner Curtis Wheeler of Rockland (15:45) and Chris Harmon of Scarborough (15:51).
Like Luchini, Jesseman has had her share of injuries, including plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Most of her training has come on treadmills and trails.
“It’s been really frustrating,” she said. “I just haven’t been able to get in the training that I would like to get in. I felt like I was in shape, but (17:43) is definitely not my best time.”
Indeed, Jesseman, 23, won the 2011 Sea Dogs Father’s Day 5K over this same course in 17:05, good for 12th overall. On Sunday, 18 men finished ahead of her. Still, a rousing cheer erupted from the crowd when she entered the ballpark, and she was the first of 1,761 women who completed the course to receive a pink carnation.
“I wasn’t feeling my best (upon reaching Hadlock) and I knew it wasn’t a great time,” she said, “so to high-five people in the stands was really nice.”
Gabby Cyr of Fort Kent was the second female and 25th overall, in 18:25. Last year’s winner, Meredith Freimer of Portland, was one second behind and 27th overall.
The race began under slightly overcast skies and, unlike previous years, no cannon. (After three failed attempts to fire it, race director Howard Spear simply said, “Ready, set, go!”)
The record field of 2,603 finishers surged down Park Avenue, past the Portland Expo to the inspirational beats from five drummers from Taiko Maine Dojo of Portland. Forty-four runners pushed strollers and two pushed wheelchairs.
One of the former was Stacey Neumann, 34, of Scarborough. At least, over the final few yards she ran behind a red double jogger containing loquacious 3-year-old Rosa and snoozing 18-month-old Nico.
“My husband pushed them most of the way,” she said, placing a hand on the shoulder of Noah Perlut. “Right at the end I took them so I could run through the finish with my kids for Mother’s Day.”
Neumann could be excused for relying on Perlut. Last year, she pushed the stroller throughout the race. This year, well, they’re expecting a third child in October, so she’s four months pregnant.
“It’s nice when races are stroller-friendly,” she said. “And finishing with the kids, and I love how they give that flower this race is so much fun.”
Proceeds from the race – which raised more than $25,000 in each of the past two years and approximately $125,000 since its inception — benefit breast cancer research and treatment and will be split between the Maine Cancer Foundation and the Cancer Community Center.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: