CAPE ELIZABETH — Ben True figured a strategic sleight-of-foot might help him defend his title Saturday morning at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K.

True, a 31-year-old native of North Yarmouth, reached the open gate of Fort Williams Park closely followed by Kenyans Stephen Kosgei Kibet and Leonard Kiplimo Barsoton. Up the steep hairpin hill they went, headed for the back-of-the-park area where on non-race days dogs are allowed to roam off leash.

“I tried to do a coy little move there,” True said of the final, twisting incline. “I tried to punch it a little and slow down, to try to make them kind of stutter-step behind me.”

Barsoton may have been fooled, but not Kibet. He surged into the lead and held off True by one second to win for the second time in three years, in 27 minutes, 55 seconds.

“I just screwed myself over,” True said with a self-deprecating laugh. “I was really hoping that I could bide my time to come around the (final) corner and get a jump on him, but he just kept steadily picking it up, picking it up, picking it up, and I had nothing there to try and get around him.”

Both men earned $10,000 for their morning’s work, first prize for Kibet, 30, and second overall ($5,000) and first American ($5,000) for True, who spent much of July in Europe running shorter races on the track.

Barsoton, who finished in 28 minutes flat, earned $3,000 for third place.

“I accept that position,” said Barsoton, 22. “It was my first time to race on this course, so I (didn’t) know it was that difficult toward the (end). We climbed that hill, then I dropped back. But the race was good and I’m hoping to come back soon.”

Kibet was runner-up in 2014 in a time 13 seconds faster than Saturday and, as he did three years ago, collapsed on the green grass after holding off True, who placed third that year in a personal-best 27:50.

“That was the year everybody was on the ground and Ben was standing over four guys,” said Larry Barthlow, the race’s elite athlete coordinator. “(Kibet) was one of the carcasses waiting for the buzzard.”

Once again Saturday, True remained upright and reached down for a congratulatory handshake.

“I could hear him coming so I (kept) on running,” Kibet said of True. “He was just behind me.”

The race began under threatening skies and a temperature of 67 degrees. Leaden clouds obscured the sun. The air was moist.

A year ago, True enjoyed a comfortable 4:51 opening mile. This time, the pace quickened to 4:33 and remained about the same through the second mile onto Old Ocean House Road as a pack of 11 began to thin. By the time they reached Alewives Brook Farm and began climbing to the halfway mark, a gang of four emerged that remained intact beneath the arched firetruck ladders holding aloft the American flag on Route 77, and down Shore Road to the Pond Cove ocean vista.

Along with True, Kibet and Barsoton was Stephen Sambu, 29, another Kenyan.

“It was a very strong group,” Kibet said. “There were a lot of people cheering, ‘Ben! Ben! Ben!’ I like it because Ben is my friend.”

Mile 3 passed in 4:24 and Mile 4 in 4:31. Of the lead quartet, only Kibet took a drink at the Mile 4 water stop. Mile 5 arrived in 4:26 and into the rolling hills they went.

“Those are all really talented runners,” True said. “There were definitely quite a few surges that different guys put in that made me start questioning whether I was going to be able to hang on through the finish, but luckily I was able to hold on.”

Six runners wound up breaking 29 minutes. Sambu held on for fourth in 28:16, followed by countryman Clement Kiprono Langat, 25, in 28:42 and 40-year-old Abdi Abdirahman, whose 28:46 broke the 17-year-old masters record of Andrew Masai by 25 seconds.

Abdirahman, born in Somalia but raised in Arizona, is a four-time U.S. Olympian who earned prize checks of $3,000 as the American runner-up, $1,000 as the masters winner and $900 for sixth overall.

The other three American men to earn prize money ($2,000-$1,000-$500) were Aaron Braun, 30, of Flagstaff, Arizona; Jonathan Grey, 29, of Boulder, Colorado; and Mason Ferlic, 24, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Overall they placed seventh, eighth and 11th, respectively.

True, who had been questioning his 10K fitness after two recent workouts at home in western New Hampshire, is headed back to Europe for two more track races before returning to the roads this fall.

“I’ve been on 5K or 3K for the whole year, so it’s good that my strength isn’t terrible,” he said. “It was nice to know that all is not lost.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

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