Sunday, December 8, 2013
CAPE ELIZABETH - Construction of the 2.2-mile Shore Road Pathway has progressed to the point where significant sections have been paved, although several gaps remain.
Mainers running Saturday's 15th edition of the TD Beach to Beach 10K road race are apt to find similar gaps behind the leaders of their races-within-the-race.
Among Maine women, defending champion Sheri Piers of Falmouth is the clear favorite, not only to join Emily LeVan and Julia Kirtland as three-time winners, but also to challenge her own course record of 34 minutes, 17 seconds -- should the weather cooperate.
"I've been feeling good and I've been able to stay healthy," said Piers, 41, after putting the finishing touches on roughly 90 lasagna roll-ups she prepared for the traditional prerace pasta dinner she hosts for running friends. "I've had a few PRs this summer, so I think I should hopefully have a good day."
None of the previous seven winners of the Maine men's category have entered this year's race. Louie Luchini (2011) of Ellsworth and Ben True (2008, 2009) of North Yarmouth are both in London to watch friends compete in the Olympics.
That leaves the race open for a couple former middle and high school teammates from Falmouth: Jonny Wilson and Ethan Shaw. Wilson, 24, has been Southern Maine's most dominant runner in recent road races, winning at distances of 10K (L.L. Bean in Freeport), 5 miles (Yarmouth Clam Festival) and 5K (Sea Dogs Father's Day, Ocean Park). Shaw, 22, hasn't raced at all since graduating from Dartmouth College following a spring that included a fast 29:17 10K at an invitational meet in April in California. That's more than a minute faster than the best time for Wilson, a University of Richmond graduate.
"What we've seen over the last few weeks for those guys running on the roads is that Wilson's fitness level is a notch above everyone else's," said Dave Weatherbie, race president and former cross country coach at Cape Elizabeth High. "It'll be interesting if Shaw carried his fitness from outdoor track until now."
Shaw said he took some time off after his spring track season to focus on school and enjoy his last few weeks of college. However, he plans to continue his running career and has built up his mileage over the past month to where he expects to be competitive on Saturday.
He has finished fourth and fifth at Beach to Beacon with "mostly workout efforts" and could challenge his former high school teammate.
"I'm definitely not counting him out at all," Wilson said. "He's definitely talented enough."
Should humidity be a factor again this year, as it was in 2011, Wilson will welcome the heat. Running for five years in Virginia helped him acclimate to such conditions, and there were times last month when he would wait until the hottest part of the day to put in his workout.
"I've been hoping it would be a little hotter and more humid," he said, "just because that could play into my favor."
Should either Wilson or Shaw falter, expect Rob Gomez of Westbrook, Josh Zolla of Freeport or possibly Chris Harmon of Brunswick to close the gap.
Among Maine women, last year's runner-up, Erica Jesseman of Scarborough, finished a minute behind Piers at last month's Clam Festival 5-miler in Yarmouth and is building toward a fall marathon. Two-time champion Kristin Barry of Scarborough is a scratch.
The most intriguing challenger for Piers is Kennebunkport teenager Abbey Leonardi, a three-time Foot Locker cross country national finalist who will make her 10K debut.
"I'm excited to run," said Leonardi, who heads off to the University of Oregon later this month. "I can't really expect too much because I've never run a 10K."
Leonardi said Oregon coaches told her to use good judgment Saturday.
"They don't want me to kill myself, but I'm going to try to run it hard and competitively," she said. "If I'm a pretty good distance behind (Piers), that will be good because she's way faster."
Oh, and one more thing. According to Weatherbie, runners should stick to the roads and avoid the still-under-construction pathway.
"I expect that's where the spectators will be standing," he said.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: