BREWER — With a strong headwind greeting runners in the final mile and a half of Sunday’s Turkey Trot 3-mile road race, winning with a finishing kick was going to be a tough task.
But patience and a last-gasp surge were the proper tools for victory for Husson University cross country coach Jen Dagan.
Dagan used a strong finish to claim her first Turkey Trot title, kicking past Kristine Guaraldo to win in 17 minutes, 40 seconds over an out-and-back course on Dirigo Drive.
That was Dagan’s only lead of the afternoon.
“I’ve actually raced (Guaraldo) before and it was kind of the same scenario. She goes out quick so she’s a tough woman to catch,” said Dagan.
Guaraldo of South Portland was timed in 17:42, while Aleta Looker (19:15), Brianne Dunn (19:21) and Kate Goupee (20:33), all of Ellsworth, rounded out the top five women.
University of Maine junior Riley Masters of Bangor won his third straight Turkey Trot in 14:48, while fellow Queen City resident Adam Goode took second in 15:13.
Brendan Dagan, Jen’s husband, took third in 15:31, while Jason Kaake, another UMaine runner and a Bath native, was fourth in 15:51. Ellsworth’s Dan Curts rounded out the top five in 16:00.
The cross country season ended in disappointing fashion for Masters, as he had to drop out of the NCAA Northeast Regional qualifier about 2 1/2 miles in due to illness, but he more than made up for that on Sunday.
“I just took a week off and regrouped,” he said. “It just wasn’t my day, I guess. Everyone has off days. Just from the get-go I knew I wasn’t going to run to my full potential. Two-and-a-half miles into the race I saw Mark (Lech) off the side of the course and we decided to call it quits.”
Even running a blistering time just a few seconds off his Turkey Trot course record, Masters was relaxed and in control and just looking for a solid run to kick off his training regimen for indoor track.
“I just wanted to come here and have fun. I wasn’t even looking for a course record today,” he said.
Masters and Dagan both took home Thanksgiving turkeys, and Masters said he may attempt to cook it for his family’s upcoming feast.
He wasn’t really bothered by the wind.
“All I could think about was two years ago when it was so much worse,” Masters said.
Dagan held back patiently in the women’s race as Guaraldo took off quickly out of the gate, but Dagan kept closing the gap throughout the race, and when she saw the finish line and with Guaraldo only a couple strides in front, Dagan knew it was time to step on the gas.
“I wasn’t so sure until I realized how close the finish line was, then I realized I could catch her,” said Dagan, whose husband is on Husson’s cross country coaching staff.
Both runners didn’t have anybody to draft off down the stretch, as opposed to right after the turnaround point near the intersection of Dirigo Drive and Wilson Street.
“Neither of us had anyone around us to block the wind for us,” Dagan said.
The race, which celebrated its 29th running, serves as one of the top fundraisers for Brewer’s sophomore class, and runners and walkers alike went home with prizes, including Orono High School teacher and veteran paddler Jeff Owen, who took home more than $600 in cash.