Saturday, December 7, 2013
CAPE ELIZABETH - Since she moved to Cape Elizabeth six years ago, Christina Kouros has always looked forward to the first Saturday of August.
Christina Kouros, training with spotter Eric Topper of Maine Handicapped Skiing, is the favorite to win the women's wheelchair division of the Beach to Beacon 10K this morning. Kouros, a Cape Elizabeth resident, made her 10K debut in June, finishing in 49 minutes, 20 seconds.
Photos by Glenn Jordan
Christina Kouros, 16, has raced in high school indoor and outdoor track, as well as Nordic skiing events.
THE BIG RACE
WHAT: The 14th Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race
WHEN: 8 a.m. today
WHERE: Cape Elizabeth
START: Route 77 near Crescent Beach
FINISH: Fort Williams
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.
(Continued on page 2)
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