CAPE ELIZABETH — Oh boy.

That’s what crossed Jesse Orach’s mind when he tried to stand up at the finish line of the Beach to Beacon 10K in sight Saturday morning. The 23-year-old Gorham native was leading the field of Maine runners when he collapsed from heat stroke.

“It kind of seemed like it was over for me,” said Orach, who finished first among Maine men in last year’s race. “Then, I felt someone pick me up.”

Compiled images by Staff Photographer Ben McCanna

Robert Gomez, Orach’s top competitor from Maine, helped him to his feet. Gomez, 34, of Windham held Orach up as they ran together to the finish line, and Gomez gave him a nudge over the line. Both men completed the 6.2-mile course in 31 minutes, 31 seconds.

“He ran a better race. He gave it more than I did,” Gomez said. “I didn’t deserve to win.”

Orach, who ran track for the University of Maine before graduating last year, is the first Maine man to repeat as champion since Ben True in 2009. And despite helping the competition, Gomez beat his previous best Beach to Beacon finish of third place in 2010.

Gomez said he stuck with Orach for the first mile before falling about 30 seconds behind, unable to keep up. He didn’t see Orach again until rounding a turn for the final stretch, where Orach lay in the grass amid a growing crowd of medical personnel.

“For a split second I kept going until I looked and saw it was Jesse,” Gomez said. “I couldn’t leave him there. In the running community, I feel camaraderie comes before competitiveness.”

Orach started feeling unstable with about a quarter-mile to go, which he said “felt like an eternity.” His legs gave out less than 100 yards from the finish. Gomez pushed him across the line, and Orach collapsed for the second time.

“It was scary. I’ve never seen him look like that,” said Orach’s mother, Brenda, who didn’t get to see her son win the Maine division in 2016. She wasn’t about to miss the race and came prepared with a sign reading, “That’s my boy!” with Orach’s bib number (30) on it.

“But this guy here, what he did was so selfless,” Brenda Orach said as she pointed to Gomez. “You don’t see that very often.”

After about an hour in the medical tent, Orach emerged, appearing weary-eyed and dazed, wrapped in a silver blanket. He said his core temperature peaked at 107.3 degrees.

“I’ve felt better,” he said, smiling. “There was a lot of pressure, which could have played a factor in how the race ended. I definitely liked the atmosphere better last year when I didn’t have a target on my back.”

Orach didn’t immediately know that he had won his second title, and said he got emotional while thanking Gomez for the support. The pair had only met each other the day before at the prerace press conference.

“I didn’t know what to say,” Orach said. “He got me to the finish line.”

Liam Simpson of Cape Elizabeth (32:22) finished third among Maine men.

Rich Hickey, a finish-line referee, said a runner may be disqualified for receiving physical assistance or providing it to another runner.
“So do you disqualify them both?” Hickey asked rhetorically. “We’re not going to disqualify anybody.”

For Maine women, Emily Durgin placed first in 34:43. The Cheverus High and recent UConn graduate from Standish will be joining a New Balance team that trains in Boston.

“This was actually my final year running as a Maine resident, so it’s a big honor,” Durgin said. “I wasn’t trying to run a fast race. It was a strategic race.”

Durgin was paced by last year’s champion, Michelle Lilienthal of Portland, who finished second in 35:11.

Lilienthal, 35, was competing without an injury for the first time in three years. A broken foot kept her out of the race in 2015, and she won in 2016 despite an Achilles injury.

“Going in last year, I was definitely on the upswing even though I was undertrained,” Lilienthal said.

“This year I felt super confident because I felt fit, but I just didn’t have that last mile. Emily made a move, and I was like, ‘You gotta go now,’ and it just wasn’t there.”

Lilienthal led for the first five miles before Durgin surged ahead.

“I just ran right behind her,” Durgin said. “I took off up that last hill and tried to hold on. That was kind of the plan and it worked out great.”

Tracy Guerrette of St. Agatha was third (36:43).

“I’m disappointed, but this race is like the Super Bowl of our running community here,” Lilienthal said. “Beach to Beacon will always be special to me.”

Taylor Vortherms can be contacted at 791-6417 or:

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