Stephen Kosgei (28:28) & Wude Ayalew (31:55) Claim Titles at 2015 TD Beach to Beacon 10K; Former Oregon Standouts Eric Jenkins (28:50) & Alexi Pappas (32:56) Lead American Finishers

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By Jonathan Gault
August 1, 2015

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — It paid to know your way around at the 2015 TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Kenyan Stephen Kosgei ran this race four times from 2010 to 2014, and though he never managed to win (finishing 4th twice and 2nd twice), he learned the contours of the deceptively hilly course. Kosgei (also known as Stephen Kibet) put that knowledge to use on Saturday, pushing the downhill segments of the course and breaking rivals Moses Kipsiro of Uganda and Daniel Salel of Kenya to win Beach to Beacon for the first time in 28:28.

After a string of near misses, Kosgei finally earned his coveted title on Saturday

After a string of near misses, Kosgei finally earned his coveted title on Saturday

The women’s title also went to a Beach to Beacon veteran as Ethiopia’s Wude Ayalew won in her third attempt, beating Burundi’s Diane Nukuri by four seconds in 31:55. Ayalew missed out on making the World Championships team at 10,000 by five seconds at the Ethiopian trials on June 17, but she remained in fantastic shape and will now go for another win at the Falmouth Road Race in two weeks’ time.

2015 marked the first year Beach to Beacon offered American-only prize money (a total of $23,000 courtesy of sponsor Dunkin’ Donuts) and the result was strong domestic fields despite late withdrawals by Ben True and Emily Sisson. At the top of the podium were two former Oregon Ducks in Eric Jenkins (fourth overall in 28:50) and Alexi Pappas (fifth in 32:56). Though Jenkins was a Beach to Beacon rookie, Pappas has run this race three times now — she said the coastal Maine layout has served as her “10K education” after she debuted at the distance here in 2013 — and, like Kosgei, she used that to her advantage in outsprinting Liz Costello by seven-tenths of a second to claim top American honors and the accompanying $5,000 prize.

“There’s a park you enter and there’s this hill and it’s actually more than a half mile left in the race when you enter this park,” Pappas said. “In past years, I really didn’t do anything but race it, and this year, I was like, ‘You know what, I want to walk it,’ because visualization is a really big thing for me before races.”

Race recaps, results and video interviews can be found below. One of the best things about races like these is that, as a reporter, you get the chance to speak to a ton of different athletes. I tried to speak to as many people as possible this weekend and got updates on Maksim Korolev and Laura Thweatt below, in addition to the top finishers. If you want more, check out LRC’s pre-race conference coverage, where I spoke to Riley MastersWill Geoghegan and Abdi Abdirahman, among others.

Men’s Race

The men’s race took some hits after True, Stanley Biwott and Patrick Makau, among others, had to scratch from the race. And with defending champ Bedan Karoki racing at the Kenyan World Championships trials (he made the team at 10,000), the result was a very pedestrian pace through two miles (9:40) as nobody wanted to make the first move. As the men headed downhill after taking the turn onto Old Ocean House Road, Daniel Salel and Micah Kogo began to push the pace and the pack was cut to 10; half a mile later, it was down to the four foreigners, Salel, Kogo, Kosgei and Kipsiro, as the Americans seemed content to let them go and battle amongst themselves for the American prize money.

All except Jenkins, that is. Initially, Jenkins allowed a gap of almost 10 meters to form between him and the Africans but, realizing that he felt good after a slow first two miles, the 23-year-old worked quickly to catch the leaders and by three miles (14:13; 4:33 third mile), he was part of a five-man lead pack. Thirty meters back, Aaron Braun, Abdi Abdirahman and Will Geoghegan led the chase pack.

Salel grabbed the lead just before the leaders turned onto Shore Road, which, as the name suggests, offered the best views of the neighboring Atlantic Ocean. Kosgei responded to the move, however, and the top five remained inseparable at four miles (18:45; 4:32 fourth mile) though their lead over the chasers had ballooned to over 150 meters at that point. As the group approached picturesque Smuggler’s Cove, the pace took its toll on Jenkins and he dropped back, with Kogo joining him shortly thereafter. Kosgei, Kipsiro and Salel pressed on toward Fort Williams Park and with a mile to go, Kosgei went for broke, starting a hard move to the finish. Neither Kipsiro nor Salel could respond and Kosgei took it handily in the end in 28:38, the slowest winning time in the race’s 18-year history. Kipsiro just edged Salel at the line, 28:39 to 28:40, while Jenkins dropped Kogo for third, finishing in a respectable 28:50 (an improvement on his 28:59 track PB at the distance). Braun came home as the second American 38 seconds back, with Abdirahman and Geoghegan following in seventh and eighth.

Results

Place Time    Pace  Name                     Ag S Bib# City / State / Nat                  
===== ======= ===== ======================== == = ==== ================================ 
    1 28:28.2  4:35 Stephen Koskei Kibet     28 M    1 KEN                              
    2 28:39.7  4:37 Moses Kipsiro            28 M    4 UGA                              
    3 28:40.5  4:37 Daniel Salel             24 M    7 KEN                              
    4 28:50.0  4:39 Eric Jenkins             23 M   11 Portsmouth NH USA                
    5 29:07.5  4:42 Micah Kogo               29 M    5 KEN                              
    6 29:28.4  4:45 Aaron Braun              28 M   16 Alamosa CO USA                   
    7 29:36.7  4:46 Abdi Abdirahman          38 M   14 Tucson AZ USA                    
    8 29:47.6  4:48 Will Geoghegan           23 M   10 Eugene OR USA                    
    9 29:54.8  4:49 Riley Masters            25 M    9 Seattle WA USA                   
   10 30:03.5  4:51 Chris Solinsky           30 M   19 Williamsburg VA USA              
Record 27:27.7 by Gilbert Okari of Kenya in 2003

Quick Thought #1: The hills were the difference

In his post-race interview, Kosgei expressed joy after finally winning in Maine and said that he made a concerted effort to push the downhill portions of the course. He couldn’t have picked a better strategy as a knee issue meant that runner-up Moses Kipsiro wasn’t able to open up his stride on the downhills. Thus, Kosgei was able to pull away and Kipsiro had to wait until the course flattened out at the very end to move past Salel for second place. Kipsiro said that he’ll be back in New England in two weeks as he’ll be running Falmouth.

Quick Thought #2: Eric Jenkins’ next goal: try to get a tan

Jenkins was relaxed yesterday, but any idea that he was simply content to round out his season with a nice 6.2-mile stroll along the Atlantic coast was rubbished 2.5 miles in when he was the only American to respond to the moves of Salel and Kosgei. Jenkins went in with the goal of top American but was feeling bold enough to run with the big boys and proved that he more than belonged, dropping Kogo late in the race and finishing just 10 seconds back of Kipsiro and Salel. Combining his American and overall prize money, Jenkins will take home a cool $7,000 for his efforts today.

Jenkins is still undecided on who he will train with next year but said that a decision is coming soon.

“I haven’t wanted to do too much thinking so far,” Jenkins said. “I wanted to focus on running and just finishing out the season before really diverting too much of my attention away to the coaching. But obviously I’ve been thinking about it.”

Jenkins said he might take a trip to an island somewhere now that his season’s over with the goal of improving his tan, but that might be harder for him than breaking 13:10 in the 5,000.

“I like to think I can get a little darker, but I don’t,” Jenkins said. “I get really burned, really uncomfortable and the next day I’m back to pasty. But I’ll figure it out.”

Quick Thought #3: Catching up with Maksim Korolev

Korolev was only 17th here today, running 31:12, but I caught up with him afterwards to discuss his 2015 season and where his future lies. After finishing an impressive 6th at USA XC in February and qualifying for Worlds, Korolev felt burned-out and only finished one track race, placing sixth in the 10,000 at Pac-12s on May 16. Korolev was crushing workouts prior to World XC, including a set of 3×2-mile at 9:00, but could never get going on the tough World XC course, finishing 57th.

Korolev’s track credentials (13:42/29:13 PBs) aren’t in line with a guy that’s finished top-four at NCAA XC twice and made the U.S. senior team for World XC, but Korolev said that he still believes he’s capable of running well on the track. He has reason to be optimistic, as he was injured outdoors in 2014 and burned out after a cross season that stretched into late March this year. Both years, Korolev only finished one outdoor race — the 10,000 at his conference meet — and with more opportunities in 2016 and beyond, Korolev is confident he can drop his PRs significantly.

For now, it’s back to Stanford, where Korolev has a few credits left to secure his master’s. His training situation is very much up in the air and he said he doesn’t know exactly who he’ll be training with in the future, but he hopes to join a group in the near future.

Women’s Race

Like the men, the women started slowly despite decent conditions for running (high-60s and not too windy) and came through 5k in a pedestrian 16:10. By four miles, it was down to three women, with Ayalew and fellow Ethiopian Sentayehu Ejigu drafting off the tall figure of Nukuri. Nukuri made a concerted effort to drop both women and thought she had accomplished it until the final 400 meters, when the slight Ayalew blew by her. Caught off-guard by the move, Nukuri was unable to respond and had to settle for second in 31:59 as Ayalew took the win in 31:55.

The race for top American honors went down to the wire as Costello made a move just before entering the park with 1200 meters to go, dropping U.S. XC champ Laura Thweatt. She opened a gap on the other American with her at the time, Pappas, but Pappas kept fighting and the two battled for the remainder of the race, with Pappas pulling ahead for good just before the line.

Place Time    Pace  Name                     Ag S Bib# City / State / Nat                  
===== ======= ===== ======================== == = ==== ================================ 
    1 31:55.5  5:09 Wude Ayalew              28 F  104 ETH                              
    2 31:59.6  5:09 Diane Nukuri             30 F  107 BDI                              
    3 32:16.2  5:12 Sentayehu Ejigu          30 F  102 ETH                              
    4 32:56.5  5:19 Gemma Steel              29 F  100 Leicester GBR                    
    5 32:56.9  5:19 Alexi Pappas             25 F  106 Eugene OR USA                    
    6 32:57.6  5:19 Liz Costello             27 F  109 Newton MA USA                    
    7 33:18.4  5:22 Thweatt Laura            26 F  116 Superior CO USA                  
    8 34:09.0  5:30 Sarah Pagano             24 F  115 Bridgton MA USA                  
    9 34:25.7  5:33 Stephanie Dinius         25 F  118 Brookline MA USA                 
   10 34:52.5  5:37 Erica Jesseman           26 F  120 Scarborough ME USA               
Record 30:59.4 by Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya in 2010
Ayalew managed to dodge the finish tape (and race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson) at the finish

Ayalew managed to dodge the finish tape (and race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson) at the finish

Quick Thought #1: Elite athlete coordinator Larry Barthlow is proved right for the second year in a row

Last year, Barthlow talked up the chances of eventual men’s champ Bedan Karoki, and he did the same with women’s champ Wude Ayalew this year. Ayalew, whose 10,000 PB is 30:11, reportedly ran 31:00 for 10k in a tempo run recently and she showed that she was indeed in good form by winning today. Ayalew now plans to shift her focus on the All-Africa Games in Congo in September, where she is planning on running the 10,000 for Ethiopia.

Quick Thought #2: Diane Nukuri ran exceedingly well despite encountering travel difficulties

Nukuri actually ran eight seconds faster last year (31:51), as you might expect in a race led by Shalane Flanagan. But she was pleased with finishing second (even though she thought she had the race won 400 meters from the line) considering that she was stranded in Chicago on Thursday after a cancelled flight and didn’t get into town until late-Friday afternoon.

“I’m not disappointed at all….I’m happy with the outcome with the long day I’ve had the last two days,” Nukuri said.

Perhaps next year will be the year for the Iowa-based Burundian as she was third in 2014 and now second in 2015.

Quick Thought #3: Alexi Pappas feels at home in the 10K

Pappas ran her first 10K here two years ago and the past two years have served as checkups on how she’s faring at the distance. In 2013, she ran 32:56 for 10th (second American) and last year bumped that down to 32:32 for 7th (third American). Though her 32:56 this year was slower, so was the winning time and her result was her best-ever (5th, first American). Her performance makes sense; she ran a stellar time of 32:02 in her debut track 10,000 in May and wound up ninth at USAs.

“To really own it on both the track and the roads… it feels like I’m in my world,” Pappas said. “It’s awesome.”

Pappas still has work to do if she wants to contend for a spot on Team USA at the distance, but if she can continue making steady progress, she could have a shot a few years down the road.

The Eugene-based Pappas is going to be very busy this month. She’s finishing up production on Tracktown, a film she co-wrote, co-directed, co-produced and starred in, and will also return to race the Falmouth Road Race on August 16. After that, she’ll take a break from running before starting training again and submitting Tracktown to film festivals (Pappas’ dream is for the film to be shown at Sundance).

Quick Thought #4: Laura Thweatt is back to business

Thweatt said she was banged-up after her big win at USA XC in February, and though she healed enough to place second at the US 15K Champs and run World XC, her foot began bothering her again in April and she eventually developed a stress reaction. To add injury to injury, she hurt her knee in a fender-bender in late-May, forcing her to reluctantly shutter her track season.

Healthy again, Thweatt said her foot and knee haven’t bothered her since she began training six weeks ago.

“[Today] was a good start back,” Thweatt said. “Nothing spectacular, but it was solid.”

Thweatt added that that she’ll run a few more races in the late-summer and fall before gearing up for 2016, though she’s undecided about whether to focus on the 5,000 or 10,000.


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