BRUNSWICK — The stage was set for history at one of Maine’s most prestigious tracks, as Riley Masters of Bangor was looking to accomplish something no other Pine Tree State runner has done on his home soil: break the elusive 4-minute barrier in the mile.
With the sun setting amongst Whittier Field’s tall, landmark pine trees and a throng of track and field enthusiasts seated in Bowdoin College’s historic grandstand, Masters and Providence College runner Dom Channon put on a breathtaking show in the Maine Distance Gala’s main event.
Masters came up just shy, finishing his four-lap tour in 4 minutes, 3.47 seconds while Channon posted a winning 4:02.59.
Even though University of Maine senior-to-be Masters came up just short of his goal, he was quick to put things in perspective.
“The event’s terrific, you couldn’t ask for more, especially in Maine,” said Masters, who ran a sub 4-minute mile at Boston University in February of 2010. “Doing something like this was something that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s always going to be a goal of mine. It’s going to happen someday in Maine, it just wasn’t today, I guess.”
Masters’ race was one of 12 distance races that were contested, and they featured masters’ runners and local road racing standouts along with high school and college athletes.
Masters and Channon were paced, or “rabbited,” by fellow Bangor native Casey Quaglia, a recent graduate of Binghamton University, and Alex Moser of York, who just completed his freshman year at Maine.
“It was nice to have a current teammate and a former teammate out there rabbiting me,” Masters said.
The pace was set at 1:58 after the first half-mile. Masters and Channon subsequently completed their third lap in 3:01, forcing Masters to make a move.
“It was a lot slower than I wanted to get through. I was hoping more for a 2:58 or so,” he said. “I saw that, and then I looked up at Dom and saw he was laboring a little bit. I was here to break 4, I wasn’t here to win. I gave it my best effort. Maybe that move cost me, but no regrets.”
Channon, a native of New Zealand, was running on Maine soil for the first time, and really enjoyed himself.
“It’s awesome, I love the low-key passion of it,” he said. “It’s very relaxed. It’s good fun.”
This wasn’t the first time Channon and Masters have completed against one another.
“He’s usually quicker than me when we’re both in shape,” Channon said. “I haven’t beaten him on the track in either the 1,500 or the mile. We’ve raced a few times.”
The meet featured the same format as the old Maine Distance Festival, which was run until 2003, and after taking a minute to think about the history of the event and the athletes it attracted, Masters pointed out at how far he has come.
“Last time they had this meet I was still trying to be a pro baseball player,” said Masters, who played that sport growing up in his hometown.
Plenty of high school talent was on display as well, and Ben Plohr of George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill put together one of the best races of his young life in the boys high school 800 meters.
Plohr made a lethal move with just under 300 meters to go and steamrolled past South Portland’s Matt Clement, who had led much of the race.
“I’ve been working on it all year pretty much,” said Plohr, who won in 1:59.93 while Clement was third and Greely of Cumberland Center’s Nestor Taylor second.
“I was definitely tired, but I still had it in me,” Plohr continued.
This marked the second time Plohr had broken the 2-minute mark in the 800, and he was thrilled to compete in the meet.
‘“I thought it was a great opportunity and I was really excited to come here,” he said.
Plohr wasn’t the only Hancock County runner who excelled. Ellsworth’s Aleta Looker earned second in the girls 800 in 2:21.68, while fellow Eagle Brianne Dunn covered the 2-mile run in 12:06.97.
Their coach, Andy Beardsley, participated in the masters’ division of the mile and claimed fifth in 4:56.04.
Two former Beach to Beacon champions, Christine Reaser and Kristin Barry, took the women’s masters’ mile and women’s open mile, respectively.
Other winners were Catherine Hebson of Falmouth in the girls high school 2-mile and Jesse Orach of Gorham for the boys, Greely’s Kristen Sandreuter and Deerfield (Mass.) Academy’s Sam Belcher took the high school mile runs, and Josh Zolla of Freeport and Erica Jesseman of Scarborough won the open 2-mile runs.