Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Jonny Wilson grew up in Falmouth with grandparents and a great-grandmother in Yarmouth.
Jonny Wilson, seen winning Bridgton’s 4 on the 4th race last year, will likely be pushed in Yarmouth by Josh Zolla of Freeport, Rob Gomez of Saco and Ethan Shaw of Falmouth.
2011 Telegram File
Naturally, the Yarmouth Clam Festival became a summer staple: the parade, the rides, the food booths, the music and the kids fun run.
"Ever since I did the fun run, I always wanted to win the big one," he said. "I think you could say that sparked my running career."
Now 24, Wilson is the defending champion of the Pat's Pizza Clam Festival Classic 5-Mile road race, scheduled to take place for the 31st consecutive year Saturday morning beginning at 8 on Main Street.
A 2011 graduate of the University of Richmond, Wilson is coming off victories at several other local road races this year, including the L.L. Bean 10K in Freeport, the Sea Dogs Father's Day 5K and 5K races in Springvale and Old Orchard Beach. He also won the Clam Festival Classic in 2008 but didn't run it in either of the next two summers.
Wilson expects competition from Josh Zolla of Freeport, Rob Gomez of Saco and fellow Falmouth High alumnus Ethan Shaw, a recent graduate of Dartmouth College. He'd also like to improve upon his winning time (24 minutes, 58 seconds) of a year ago, perhaps even joining Pat Tarpy, Matt Lane and Ben True among runners to break 24:30 since the course was recertified near the turn of the century.
The other defending champ is Erica Jesseman of Scarborough. Jesseman, 23, also won the L.L. Bean 10K and the Sea Dogs Mother's Day 5K this year but is still recovering from injuries.
"If I have a great race, that's great," she said. "But to me, this summer is just a building point. I'm doing a fall marathon (Hartford) and trying not to come back too soon, or too fast."
Jesseman pegged Dirigo Running Club teammate and training partner Sheri Piers of Falmouth as the prohibitive favorite. Piers skipped the recent Bean race in favor of the Peachtree 10K in Atlanta and wound up winning $1,800 as the female masters champion and 13th woman overall.
"It was great, but boy, that humidity was something else," Piers said of Georgia in early July. "It's like walking into a wall."
Piers said the Yarmouth race is a good indicator for Maine's most prestigious road race, the Beach to Beacon 10K, two weeks from Saturday. She usually subtracts 20 to 30 seconds from her Clam Festival time to gauge where she'll be at the 5-mile mark in B2B, before Shore Road's rolling hills come into play.
"It's actually a tough course," she said of the Classic. "It starts uphill, then goes down a little bit, then from Mile 2 to 3 there's a long straightaway and slightly uphill. You can see everything in front of you. That lead cop car looks so far away."
Race director Ron Pelton said he expects about 1,000 registrants and slightly fewer runners. As a nod to the typical heat and humidity, the race offers four water stops -- generous for a five-mile race.
"That's due in great part to the volunteers who return year after year," Pelton said. "We're very fortunate."
Proceeds from the race benefit a variety of local nonprofit organizations. The Clam Festival also includes a kids fun run before the Five-Miler, a canoe and kayak race Saturday afternoon and a professional bike race Sunday morning.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: