A year ago, as the 19th TD Beach to Beacon 10K approached, Jesse Orach’s mom asked whether it was worth making the trip from Gorham to Cape Elizabeth to see her son run.

“I said it’s probably going to be hectic,” said Orach, 23, who had secured a bib only because a University of Maine track teammate’s mother had not needed hers, and transferred No. 5891 to him just before the deadline. “I didn’t go in focusing on (winning). All I cared about was collegiate racing.”

Of course, Orach wound up picking his way through the field and crossing the line before any other Maine man (excluding overall champion Ben True, a North Yarmouth native now living in New Hampshire), in a time of 31 minutes, 31 seconds.

Orach’s mom was proud, but a little miffed that she didn’t attend. She plans to be in the bleachers near the finish Saturday when Orach attempts to become the first Maine man to repeat as champion since True in 2009.

In the Maine women’s category, Michelle Lilienthal of Portland is seeking her second straight title and third in four years. Her primary competition is likely to be Emily Durgin, a recent UConn graduate from Standish who is joining a New Balance team that trains in Boston.

“Last year I had an Achilles injury leading up to Beach to Beacon,” Lilienthal said. “This year, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape.”

A 2016 graduate with a degree in chemical engineering, Orach wrapped up his MBA this spring and now works as a process engineer for the Verso paper mill in Jay. Last fall he won the America East cross-country title and this spring, in his last race as a Black Bear, he ran 30:21 for 10,000 meters on the track at UMass-Lowell.

In order to retain his collegiate eligibility last summer, Orach accepted only about $100 (for expenses) of his $1,000 prize money. The rest went to My Place Teen Center, the race’s designated 2016 beneficiary.

“Last year I started kind of behind everyone and just ran what was comfortable,” he said. “Now that I don’t have a collegiate season coming up, this race is one of the highlights.”

He said he has been running 5K road races “every other weekend or so” this summer and won all of them, most recently Emily’s Run (15:07) in Auburn, where he now lives. On Saturday, he won’t have the surprise factor working in his favor. Runners such as Rob Gomez of Windham, 2016 runner-up Liam Simpson of Cape Elizabeth and 2015 champion Ben Decker of Yarmouth will know all about the guy wearing bib No. 30.

“I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do now, to be honest,” Orach said of his strategy. “It feels good working your way up. At the same time, I want to take advantage of running with some high-caliber athletes that I don’t normally get to run with. Part of me wants to run with the professionals and part of me wants to take it slower.”

Gomez, 34, is coming off July victories in Bridgton (4 on the Fourth in 20:18) and Yarmouth (Clam Festival 5-Miler in 24:57). His best Beach to Beacon finish was third in 2010, when he ran 31:03.

“I’ve done this race enough times and I’ve got enough miles under my belt that it’s a fun race,” Gomez said. “Everyone in the Maine running community is there. I try to enjoy it.”

Lilienthal, 35, is preparing for the Chicago Marathon in October. Recent 5K road race victories include Ocean Park (16:40) in Old Orchard Beach, Moxie Day (16:52) in Lisbon Falls and Patriot (17:20) in Gray.

“With the field of Maine women we have here, it’s never a giveaway race,” Lilienthal said. “There’s so many talented women here.”

Former champions Sheri Piers (2009, 2011, 2012) of Falmouth and Erica Jesseman (2013, 2015) of Scarborough are also in the field, but Durgin, 23, is coming off excellent indoor and outdoor track seasons – including a 33:49 victory at the Penn Relays 10,000 meters – and was runner-up to Jesseman in 2015.

“The goal is to try to win the Maine women’s division,” said Durgin. “This will be my first race as a professional runner.”

Durgin, Lilienthal and Piers are the only Maine women who have declared their intention to start with the Elite Women at 8 a.m., 12 minutes ahead of the rest of the field. Unlike the Open and American prize-money structure, which relies on gun time, the Maine residents categories are decided by net time, meaning someone from the general field could conceivably place among the top three despite reaching the line more than 11 minutes later.

One person who plans to get to the line before any of the runners: Jesse Orach’s mom. She’s taking no chances this year.

“I think,” Orach said, “she’s going to try to get there early.”

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