CAPE ELIZABETH — Halfway through Saturday’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K, Eric Jenkins was rubbing elbows with the leaders and thinking of raising his sights.

The 23-year-old from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, had entered the race for the first time with a goal of being the top American finisher, which brought a prize of $5,000 for the first time this year.

A slow early pace was to Jenkins’ liking, and when four African runners pushed ahead about three miles into the race, he strode along with them.

The fifth mile dashed Jenkins’ thoughts of victory, as the leaders accelerated to a 4-minute, 21-second pace on a downhill stretch to leave him behind. But he finished fourth overall in 28 minutes, 50 seconds to easily outpace his countrymen, picking up $7,000 in all (including $2,000 for placing fourth) to cap a tremendous racing season.

“I was expecting a really fast first mile because it’s happened before,” Jenkins said. “So to see it go slow (a 4:48 and 4:52 in the opening two miles), that was surprising. I was happy about it. Nobody wants to be dead after the first mile of a 10K.

“The strategy going in was to be with the top Americans and then at 5K, if I’m feeling good, then try and go for it and mix it up with the top guys. Those top guys made the move before the 5K, they had a couple of steps, so once you commit to it, you might as well stick on it.”

Among the American runners who didn’t stick with the lead group of five was Will Geoghegan of Brunswick, now living in Eugene, Oregon. Geoghegan was the top Maine finisher a year ago and 11th overall, but had a bigger ambition this year. It wasn’t to be. He finished eighth in 29:47.6, the fourth American.

“You always want to go with the moves. In hindsight, it was probably good that I didn’t. I wasn’t picking up places at the end anyway. I didn’t have much left,” Geoghegan said. “Those last couple of miles, I was just trying to run tough by myself and hold on to my position.”

Veazie native Riley Masters, who lives in Seattle, finished ninth in 29:54.8.

Jenkins won the 5,000- and 3,000-meter races at the NCAA indoor track and field championships in March and capped a terrific career at the University of Oregon by finishing second in the 5,000 and 10,000 at the NCAA outdoors in June. Now a professional, Jenkins finished fifth in a 5K in Belgium two weeks ago, a second behind North Yarmouth native Ben True, who took third place.

Jenkins decided the Beach to Beacon, with its new prize for U.S. runners, would be a perfect season finale, allowing him to spend some time training at home. True dropped out in order to concentrate on the upcoming world championships.

“I knew I was fit,” Jenkins said. “Once you start racing well and get the momentum going, it carries on. It was a nice little morning work.”

In contrast, Ben Decker of Yarmouth wasn’t even thinking about being the top Maine finisher. And even when he accomplished that, he didn’t realize it, telling a reporter at the finish line: “It wasn’t me. Silas Eastman was.”

Eastman competed at Fryeburg Academy, but is a resident of Chatham, New Hampshire. Eventually, Decker was corrected, and dumbfounded.

“I can’t quite put words to it, to be honest,” the 19-year-old said after finishing 35th overall in 32:48.5. “My dad (Byrne) was a really competitive runner in Maine and this is something that he always wanted to do. He came in second, I think, a couple of times. It’s something that’s always been in the back of my mind, but I certainly wasn’t thinking about it today.”

Decker, a standout soccer player at Yarmouth High School, just completed his freshman season as a runner at Williams College, so he can’t pocket the $1,000 prize that comes with being the top Mainer (race officials said it would take a few days to sort out who will get the bonuses). But the title was more than reward enough.

He has been running the Beach to Beacon since age 13, alongside his father.

“It was just nice to get the legs spinning again,” said Decker, who finished second in his hometown Yarmouth Clam Festival 5-mile race on July 18. “I had no idea that I was anywhere near the front. I just assumed that there were people who were running faster than me. Two years ago, I ran faster than this (32:41) and I wasn’t anywhere near the podium. I haven’t processed it yet, but I’m happy to be here. It’s an awesome surprise.”