Road racing report

Record field poised for Sugarloaf Marathon, 15K

Posted May 11, 2012, at 11:19 a.m.

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — The stock market should experience such growth.

The Sugarloaf Marathon and its accompanying 15-kilometer run will feature a record field for the third straight year when the 30th annual event is held on May 20.

A combined field of 1,328 runners have registered for the races, marking a tripling of the number of competitors in just the last five years.

The 2007 races had 410 participants, according to Ethan Austin, communications manager at Sugarloaf Mountain. That number has grown steadily since then, with 451 competing in 2008, 503 in 2009, 709 in 2010 and 1,009 in 2011.

Due to the growth of the races over the past three years, organizers were forced to move the registration deadline ahead nearly two weeks earlier than in previous years — to May 7 — in order to cap the number of runners.

The popularity of the race, held approximately five weeks after the Boston Marathon each year, stems from several factors — primarily involving speed.

Despite its mountainous setting, the 26.2-mile course along state Route 27 from Cathedral Pines Campground in Eustis to downtown Kingfield is primarily downhill, ending with a gradual 16-mile descent that helps many marathon runners record personal-best times.

The Sugarloaf race also serves as an official qualifying race for the Boston Marathon certified by the United States Track and Field Association, another primary motivator for many runners.

Patrick Moulton of Providence, R.I., and Amanda Labelle of Rockland are the defending marathon champions. Moulton led a field of 392 marathon finishers in 2 hours, 26 minutes and 9 seconds to win his Sugarloaf debut, while Labelle won her third straight women’s title in 3:03:34.

Neither is believed to be registered for this year’s race, Austin said.

The Sugarloaf Marathon features two long-standing course records, with the late Bruce Ellis setting the men’s mark of 2:18:38 in 1986 and Yoli Casas establishing the women’s record of 2:50:19 in 1987.

Defending champions in the Sugarloaf 15K, which runs from Ayotte’s Country Store along the marathon course in Carrabassett Valley to the finish in Kingfield, are Louis Luchini of Ellsworth (46:16.18) and Michelle Cook of Cumberland (1:01:03.1).

Luchini’s winning time last year was just four seconds off the course record time of 46:12.2 he ran in winning the 2010 race, while the women’s 15K course record is 53:09 set by Joan Benoit Samuelson in 1994.

Belfast’s James wins marathon debut

Ryan James’ goal was to run as hard and fast as he could — quite the ambition for a first-time marathoner.

But for the 19-year-old Belfast resident, who will be a junior this fall at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga., that ambition was success realized as he won the 13th annual St. Jude Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tenn., on April 28.

James completed the marathon in 2:32:47, more than seven minutes ahead of runner-up Steve Slaby of Tuscon, Ariz., who was timed in 2:40:16.

And while James — one of 19 members of the Berry track and field team who ran in either the marathon, half-marathon or 2.6-mile minimarathon held in Nashville that day — could not accept the $1,000 first prize, he did savor the victory.

“This was a run-to-completion, just run as hard as you can kind of thing for me,” James told The Tennessean after the race. “I was just here to enjoy the experience running by all the country bands and seeing Nashville for the first time.”

More than 27,000 runners started the Country Music Marathon, half-marathon or minimarathon, with James leading 3,925 finishers on a marathon course spiced up by some 50 country music bands that provided entertainment along the way.

James, whose longest training run for the marathon was 22 miles, gave much of the credit to his track coach at Berry, Paul Deaton, for helping him with his race strategy.

“I gave Ryan the most aggressive race plan out of everyone on the team because he asked for it. We’ve really been planning this for a full year,” said Deaton.

James transferred to Belfast Area High School after spending his freshman year at York High School. He ran cross-country and indoor and outdoor track throughout his high school career, serving as a team captain in all three sports. He was a three-time All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference honoree in cross country who twice qualified for the New England championships, and in outdoor track was part of Belfast’s KVAC champion 3,200-meter relay team in 2009 and the Lions’ KVAC champion 1,600 relay team as a senior in 2010.

As a freshman at Berry he ran both cross-country and track, competing in the USATF Club Nationals 10K in cross-country and setting personal records of 9:14.58 in the 3,000 and 15:31.81 in the 5,000.

He also won the 2011 Cincinnati Flying Pig Half-Marathon with a time of 1:13:25.

This year, he has established PRs in the 5,000 (15:28) and 10K (32:20).

James was the first non-Kenyan winner of the Country Music Marathon, and while his winning time was the slowest in race history, that did not detract from his satisfaction.

“It was an incredible experience,” he said. “I need to thank Paul, though. I could not have done this by myself, between Paul and everyone on the team, I was able to do it.”

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